Phone Case Review: Tech21 Evo Check – Is it the Perfect Case?

I have a love-hate relationship with phone cases.  I love the different looks and feel they can give your phone.  I hate that they make my phone bigger and cover up the beauty of my iPhone.  I have used many phone cases over the years.  In fact, some people (my wife) have accused me of having a phone case problem.  They (she) may be right.  I am always on the search for the perfect case.  The holy grail of phone cases that satisfies my every need (desire) in a phone case.  I have come to the conclusion, however, that such a phone case does not exist.  While my idea of a perfect phone case has changed and evolved over the years, as of right now, I have four basic desires when looking at phone cases, and they are as follows:

  1. Bulk. I don’t like cases that add a lot of bulk to my phone.  I like my slim, sleek iPhone and I would rather not turn it into a fat cow of a phone.  My only exception to this rule is when I am hunting Pokémon and need to sport a battery case.  Bulk is kind of unavoidable with those cases.
  2. Design.  My iPhone looks awesome, so the last thing I want to do is cover it up with an ugly case!  This one’s a no-brainer, but I have sometimes had to sacrifice on this point in order to better meet the other criteria.
  3. Protection. I spend a considerable amount of money on my iPhone, so of course I want to protect my investment.  A case that only serves to look good isn’t going to provide much, if any, protection.  Unfortunately, the more protection a case provides, usually results in more bulk.  So two of my criteria are working against each other.
  4. Grip.  I don’t like slick, hard phone cases that are prone to sliding out of my hands. To me that kind of defeats the purpose of having a case!

So in a nutshell, I’m looking for a case that provides good protection, isn’t bulky, provides some grip and looks good.  I think that’s probably what most people want in a case as well. (Unless you’re my daughter.  She only seems to care about number two.  But that’s for another blog post on another day.) Finding a case that meets all four criteria, however, can be a challenge.

I used to really like Otterbox cases as they provide some of the best protection you can get.  However, my tastes have changed a bit and I don’t care so much for the bulk they add to my phone.  I carry my phone in my pocket and Otterbox cases do not exactly work well for that, especially for bigger phones like the iPhone 6/7 and even more so for the iPhone 6/7 Plus models.  When I upgraded to the iPhone 6S from my 5S, I did not want to put an Otterbox on what was already a larger phone than I was used to carrying.  So, I began looking for a smaller form factor case that would still provide good protection. And that’s when I came across a company called Tech21.

Tech21 makes phone cases that are made from a flexible rubber material that provides excellent grip when holding your phone with one hand.  Inside the edges of the case is a material called FlexShock™ that I believe they invented (I could be wrong).  At any rate, this material is nothing short of magic.  I watched a YouTube video of a guy wrapping the silly-putty-like substance around his finger and smacking it with a hammer to demonstrate the shock-absorbance of the rubber.  I also watched a video review of the case on an iPhone 6 being dropped from a second-floor fire escape onto brick pavement and the phone was unscathed.  I was sold!

So I purchased one for my iPhone 6S and immediately loved it.  My phone still felt slim and sleek. It no longer felt like it was going to slide out of my hand, and, while the case was not the greatest color (brown), it looked better to me than an Otterbox.  Plus, I was happy to have found a case that satisfied three out of my four criteria!

Well, fast-forward a year and I just upgraded to the iPhone 7 Plus. Yes, I gave in and got the iPad mini of iPhones.  I found my self once again looking for a case, knowing that this phone was going to be even more difficult to fit in my pocket, let alone hold in one hand!  Naturally, I looked to see what Tech21 had in terms of 7 Plus cases, and was happy to find that they already had a line of cases ready to go for the 7 Plus.  And not only that, they now had more colors to choose from, including white, which I thought would go great with my gold and white iPhone.  So I purchased the Tech21 Evo Check iPhone case in white.

Now that I got all the boring background out of the way (sorry about that), we can move on to the what you started reading this for! I’ll break my review down into the same categories as my four criteria.

1. Bulk

One of the things I love about the case is that it is thin and lightweight.  It almost doesn’t feel like there’s a case on the phone.  My phone still feels thin and sleek.

2. Design

With the additional color choices, the case looks as great as it feels.  I’m often hesitant to get white iPhone cases as they usually don’t stay white for long, and then you have a dirty-looking phone case. Yuck.  But the white case I chose is actually clear rubber with the white being the FlexShock™ material underneath the clear along the edges. So the clear rubber protects the white from getting dirty and stained.  Plus, the clear back allows the gold design on my phone to show which I think looks really sharp. The case is also available in black and light pink.

3. Protection

As I’ve already stated, the FlexShock™ material lining the inside edges of this case provide excellent shock absorption so if you drop your phone, the impact shock is absorbed by the lining and not passed onto your phone.  I can’t attest to this personally as I have yet to drop the phone with this case on (see the next category). But if you’re curious, just search YouTube and you’ll find a plethora of videos of crazy people throwing their phones with Tech21 cases on them across rooms with tile floors, cement, etc. with no harm to their phones.  The edges of the case also provide a small lip around the front of the iPhone so you can lay it face down on a table or counter with no fear of the screen getting scratched.

4. Grip

The rubber material that the case is made from has a nice “grippy” feel too it.  Some complain that it can get greasy if you’re hands are sweaty or oily, and they’re correct. However, I’ve never had anything on the case that couldn’t be quickly and easily wiped off on my pants or shirt (don’t judge me).  The material provides great grip in your hands.  I can hold my iPhone 7 Plus in one hand with no sliding whatsoever.  I can even tilt the phone to more than 45 degrees without holding onto it and it doesn’t slide off my hand (see images below).

So for now, my search for the Holy Grail of phone cases is over. Measuring by my criteria, the Tech21 Evo Check phone case is, in my humble opinion, as close to the perfect phone case as you can get.  It’s the closest I’ve ever found, anyway.

Product Images:

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Phone Case Review: Tech21 Evo Check – Is it the Perfect Case?

iPhone 7 Plus Portrait Mode Reviewed

With the recent release of the newest iPhones, the iPhone 7 Plus is sporting dual cameras, one wide and one “telephoto” lens for bringing you a little closer to the action.  Taking advantage of the dual cameras, Apple announced that it was working on a “portrait” mode where the camera software would use the two lenses to determine depth in a photo and thereby create photos with blurred backgrounds, emulating the type of images you can get from a DSLR.  Being a photographer who also loves shooting awesome pics with my iPhone (at least I think they’re awesome, anyway!), I was very intrigued by this new feature.  Enough so that I pulled the trigger on switching to the larger form factor plus model of the iPhone 7.

This past week Apple released iOS 10.1 beta for developers and I was excited to see that it included the new portrait mode update.  My initial reaction to the first photos I snapped with it was one of shock at how well it worked.  The “fake” shallow depth of field looked pretty natural in most of the candid shots I took with it.  The first shot I took was of myself, blindly pointing the camera at my face and pushing the button.  When I turned the phone around and looked at the camera, I was shocked.  Shocked first of all that I actually framed the no-look selfie pretty well, but mostly that the image looked amazing!  The blurred background made my face pop out just like a DSLR shot would do. See the image below.

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First shot I took using the new “Portrait” mode on the iPhone 7 Plus

My mind was flooded with the possibilities this was going to open up.  As one who shoots photos with his iPhone a lot for social media and other uses, I am always looking for new tools to take the photos to the next level.  Now don’t get me wrong, this isn’t going to render DSLRs useless.  I will not be using this to shoot portraits for my clients.  But as far as my hobby photography, this will definitely allow me to leave my bulky gear at home more often.  For instance, Friday night we went to a local high school football game.  I normally lug my camera gear along, but this time I left it at home and only took my iPhone.  Even though I didn’t have my DSLR, I was able to capture some really great images using the portrait mode.  Notice in the example below how the background is blurred out reducing distraction and making the subjects in the photo pop out. The blurring is not perfect around all the edges, but you have to look pretty hard to see the imperfections.

 

Processed with Snapseed.
Candid photo shot using iPhone 7 Plus “Portrait” mode

 

But I did wonder just how well this would perform on a photoshoot, so I convinced my wife to go out with me on a photo shoot.  She’s been my photo subject for many a photo shoot, but this was the first time I left my DSLR at home.  In the end, my belief that this would not replace DSLRs was confirmed, but also confirmed was my belief that this would allow me to leave my heavy gear behind more often.

iPhone 7 Plus on a Photo Shoot

Limitation 1: Speed
The camera in portrait mode performed well all in all, but it did have limitations.  The first limitation I noticed was that it’s not the fastest at taking successive shots.  Each shot takes a few seconds for the processing to complete and save the image, thereby limiting how quickly you can fire off shots.  As my wife was moving and changing her poses, I often missed great shots because the phone wasn’t ready to take another shot yet.  This is not a problem with a DLSR as they can fire off many shots per second to get those split-second moments that pass by.

Limitation 2: Distance
The second limitation I immediately noticed was the distance you are limited to.  You can’t be too close to the subject (about 2 feet) and the subject needs to be within 8 feet.  So that leaves about 6 feet of “wiggle room”.  I found it difficult to be able to get back far enough to take full-body shots as it uses the longer of the two lenses.  I could get far enough away to get mid-calf-up shots though.  But this is understandable, as the effect is pretty minimal when you get that far away from the subject, so I can’t really fault it for that.  But it is another reason that this feature will never replace a DSLR.

Example Images From Test Photoshoot

In the end I did manage to get some pretty publish-worthy photos using just my iPhone, which you can see below.  Again, the blur effect is not perfect along edges (especially hard edges) and you often get a bit of a halo around the subject.  But, unless you’re looking for it or zoom into 100%, you’re not going to notice it.  I did edit the photos for color, but all edits were done on my iPhone using Snapseed.  Click on each image to see a larger version.

In conclusion, I have to say I am very pleased with the performance of the new camera on my new iPhone 7 Plus and even more so with the new portrait mode.  DSLR killer? No.  Great addition to my always-on-me camera? A resounding YES!

iPhone 7 Plus Portrait Mode Reviewed

365 Project – Week 3

365 Project – Week 3

Fourth of July 2015

Thankful for the freedoms we have in this country. Praising God for all the blessings He has given me, not the least of which is my family and friends!

Gallery

Ten of My Most-Used iOS Apps

I thought I’d write a little about my most “essential” apps. I’m always on the lookout for a good app, and at present have over 230 apps installed on my iPhone. I would probably be shocked (and maybe a little embarrassed) to find out what small percentage of those apps I use on a regular basis. So, in trying to determine which apps I would consider “essential” I asked myself, “If my iPhone was erased, which apps would be the first to be reinstalled?”

There are a lot of apps out there that I think are cool and use from time to time, but really only a small handful that I use on a regular basis. So, for what it’s worth, here are ten of my favorites (in no particular order).

AppAdvice ($1.99) – I use the AppAdvice app pretty much everyday. It is one of my main sources for all things Apple. It has daily news articles, app reviews, etc. If there’s news in the world of Apple, they’ll have it. The app also has a sweet section called “AppGuides” which have the top apps in various categories. They break apps down into four categories: “Essential”, “Notable”, “Decent” and “Beyond”. Looking for the best app for stargazing or searching for a job? You can find them in AppAdvice.

Apps Gone Free (Free) – This app is also made by the people at AppAdvice and is simply a daily listing of apps that previously cost money but are currently free. I have gotten a hold of a LOT of paid apps at no charge thanks to this daily-updated app.

20120930-190705.jpgGoodReader ($4.99) – GoodReader is an app I use a lot to manage documents from PDFs to image files to other document types. I can open files directly from e-mail into GoodReader using “Open With…” and then the documents are automatically saved for later reference. You can also password protect folders of documents within the app which makes it nice for downloading PDFs of our monthly bank statements and keeping them secure from prying eyes.

Springpad (Free) – I use Springpad to keep track of a lot of things. I can create “notebooks” within the app which can include all kinds of information like checklists, notes, images, voice memos, etc. And the best part is your free account can also be accessed from a computer through a web browser making it easy to update your information from just about anywhere you are. You can also share notebooks with other users which worked out really well this summer when my wife and I were making lists of stuff to take to our youth camp. We could both add items (or check them off) from our phones and the other one would see the changes almost instantly.

20120930-190715.jpgJotNot Pro ($1.99) – JotNot Pro is a “document scanner” app. Basically, you take a picture of a page and JotNot turns it into a pdf in your phone that you can print, e-mail, etc. You can “scan” multiple pages into a single pdf document with ease. This is one of the apps I found with the help of the AppAdvice app. I use it quite a bit to make digital copies of documents to e-mail to others or even myself for safe-keeping.

20120930-232148.jpgChrome (Free) – I downloaded the Google Chrome browser the day they released it in the App Store. I’m a big fan of Chrome on PC so I was anxious to try it out on my iPhone. It did not let me down. Using my Chrome sign-in username and password all my desktop bookmarks were instantly available on my phone, and any bookmarks I make on my phone are available on my desktop. I can even see what tabs I have open on my desktop or phone and open them up as well. Love it!

20121001-002440.jpgHanDBase ($9.99) – I have been using HanDBase since back in my Palm Pilot days. I was using HanDBase before smart phones even existed and Palm was king of the PDA world. Palm PDAs are all but a memory, but HanDBase is still going strong! In a nutshell, HanDBase is a personal database app. You can create any kind of custom database or use one of the many templates created by other users. One of the things I currently use it for is to keep track of what praise songs we sing in our youth group as well as what dates each song is sung on. And I know I haven’t even scratched the surface of what I can do with this powerful app.

20120930-232600.jpgSnapseed ($4.99) – Snapseed is a great photo editing app that’s quick and easy to use. It has some pretty cool filters as well as image enhancement features. It’s not a one-stop-shop photo editor, but it is a valuable tool in my photo-editing arsenal.

20120930-190721.jpgRadarScope ($9.99) – There are some decent free weather apps out there that include radar, but I haven’t found any app that does radar better than RadarScope. Yeah, it’s a little pricey as far as iOS apps go, but it’s worth the price in my opinion. It features lots of different radar types available, animated radar, and up-to-the-minute alert boxes are displayed on screen as well. Simply tap on an alert box to get the details on the alert. Another cool feature is the storm track display which shows the likely path of storm cells along with marks estimating the time it will reach locations. This is my go-to app during our stormy summer months.

20120930-232726.jpgFlixster (Free) – When I want to see what movies are showing in my local theaters and check the times, Flixster is the app I rely on. I can mark my theaters as “favorites” so that they’re always easy to find when I want to browse show times. Flixster has a lot of other features, but honestly I pretty much just use it to look up show times.

There are a lot of other apps I use on a fairly regular basis, but these apps probably see the most use outside of the built-in apps like mail and maps as well as usual apps like Facebook, Twitter, etc. Now it’s your turn…outside of the “usual suspects” what apps do you use most often? Let me know in the comments!

Ten of My Most-Used iOS Apps

What’s So Wrong With Apple’s New Maps App?

Seattle’s Space Needle in 3D in Apple’s new maps app.

There has been a lot of buzz criticizing Apple’s new maps app that replaced Google’s map app. I personally don’t see what the big deal is. Sure, there are fewer points of interest on the map, but that will get better over time. And besides, I never used Google’s map to locate a point of interest anyway. I would search on Google for the address and then put it into maps to see where it was. Apple’s maps app will do that just fine. And in addition, Apple’s app will give me turn-by-turn navigation to get there. Google maps never did that for me. I used turn-by-turn on a recent several-hundred-mile trip and Apple’s maps app got me there perfectly. And the estimated time of arrival was only off by a few minutes. And the nice part was that I turned my screen off (I was plugged into power the whole trip) and anytime I needed verbal directions the screen would turn on and Siri’s voice would tell me what to do. Once I made the necessary turn, the screen shut itself back off! I was very impressed and pleased.

The criticism got bad enough that Tim Cook actually published an apology for the poor performance of their new map app. He even suggested alternative map apps people could try in the meantime. Again, I don’t see what the problem is! I think maybe Tim’s strategy is to get people to try those other map apps so that they’ll see that by comparison, Apple’s is the superior product!

Much of the criticism also seems to be centered around the 3D maps having errors in some rendering of roads and buildings. At this point the 3D imagery seems more of a “toy” or “gimmick” to me than anything that’s useful enough to where I care about glitches here and there. I personally am dumb-founded at the beauty of the 3D imagery that they have right! I say give Apple a little more time and they’ll improve the maps app. It won’t be long and people will forget all about the initial glitches. I do admit that I miss Google Street View, though!

What’s So Wrong With Apple’s New Maps App?

Buyer Beware: Black iPhone 5 is Easy to Scratch

Photo Credit: AppAdvice.com

Heads up for anyone planning to upgrade to the iPhone 5.  It is being reported that the black iPhone 5 is pretty easy to scuff up (dubbed “Scuffgate”), and some are even coming new out of the box already scratched up.  The black iPhone has a black slate coating on it that, when scratched off, reveals the silver aluminum underneath, making for a not-so-pretty looking phone.  The white iPhone is prone to the same scuffing, but since it is white, the scratches are less noticeable.

When and if I ever upgrade to the iPhone 5, it looks like I’ll be getting a white one!

Source: AppAdvice.com

Buyer Beware: Black iPhone 5 is Easy to Scratch