Like every year, the end of the Summer and beginning of Autumn is an incredibly busy season for me as a tech editor and writer. From new phone launches to the endless barrage of ways to protect or stylize those new phones, there’s simply no shortage of cool gear and tech to cover. While I don’t have the time to go into detail on every little thing I receive, some things are still very worth talking about.
This week, I’m going to peruse my inventory of things I’ve been sent but haven’t had the time to individually cover over the past few weeks. From AGM’s latest rugged phones to Tecno’s literal work of art, Dbrand’s latest troll skin for Pixels, and Toy Story cases that’ll have the inner child in you screaming for joy, there’s plenty to behold in this week’s From the Editor’s Desk.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Pixels
It might sound silly, but my personal favorite things on the desk right now are the Teenage Mutant Ninja Pixel skins I got from Dbrand. I had previously purchased the mock TMNT skins that Dbrand posted about after the Pixel 6 launch last year, but those skins had one big problem: they really weren’t the right colors.
That’s because, like most other things Dbrand does, the TMNT skins were more of a gag concept than a specially designed product. In other words, Dbrand already had green, orange, purple, blue, and red colors that were close enough to get the point across.
This year, things are very different, and Dbrand even went so far as to come up with a new branding for the line — hence, the TMNP logo. TMNP-branded skins from Dbrand are actually Pantone color-matched to be as authentic to the current Ninja Turtle green skin color, and each of the Turtle’s four individual colors are likewise palette-accurate.
You can see the difference in the image below. The old, pastel colors are on the right while the new Pantone-matched TMNP skins are on the left.
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Looking at the new skins next to the old ones on my Pixel 6 Pro shows all the difference you’ll need. These new skins look exactly like you think they should and, since they’re that nice matte Dbrand vinyl, they add a noticeable amount of grip to an otherwise slippery set of phones.
If you’re a TMNT fan and absolutely must have your Pixel 6, 6 Pro, or 6a look the part, I wholeheartedly recommend Dbrand’s TMNP skins. They’ve even got leather skins (opens in new tab) if that’s more your thing.
If just skinning your phone and leaving it caseless makes you nervous, pick up one of Dbrand’s Grip cases and select the TMNP skin that works with the Grip case, that way you get the best of both worlds.
I like very, very few cases and typically prefer my phones naked as the day they were manufactured, but Dbrand’s Grip cases are extremely well built, feel comfortable to hold, and don’t add the bulk that some other cases do. Plus, they’re grippy as heck, as the name implies.
CASETiFY Toy Story houses
If you’re someone who drops your phone a lot or has an occupation that’s regularly a hazard for your black mirror of choice, you need a tough case. Problem is, most tough cases are ugly. Thankfully for you, CASETiFY makes tough cases that are actually pretty.
A few months ago, CASETiFY shipped me some special edition Star Wars cases (opens in new tab) that I adored because they successfully meshed great design with a tough case, and the company’s special edition Toy Story cases are no different.
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In my pile are assorted cases for the Galaxy S22 Plus and the Pixel 6 Pro, all of which are identical physical case designs to the Star Wars cases I previously used, albeit with very different visual flair. Still a Disney-owned brand, but much more colorful than the last set of special edition cases I got from the company.
My favorites are the Buzz Lightyear and Woody cases, which feature the characters surrounded by transparency that gives them a lovely 3D cut-out aesthetic. All of the cases feature a number of layers that help add to the overall quality feel of the build. I would feel very comfortable with my phone being dropped in any of them because of the obvious quality of the case build and design.
Tecno Camon 19 Pro
Let’s face it, China and India get all the coolest phones. From the bevy of foldable devices that aren’t Samsung-branded to the impressive number of affordable phones with unique hardware features and designs, these phones are just so much more interesting than anything most US customers will ever get a chance to actually use.
Case in point, the Tecno Camon 19 Pro. It’s a $275 phone that has a uniquely artistic back that changes color in sunlight. Sure, the phone looks nice enough in its totally white shell with black outlines, but the phone really comes to life in the Sun and actually looks like a work of art by famous Dutch artist Piet Mondrian.
Aside from fanciful looks, the Camon 19 Pro is actually a rather impressive phone in and of itself for the mere price of ₹21900. It’s got a MediaTek Helio G96 SoC and 8GB RAM inside, a 6.8-inch display with a teardrop camera cut-out on the front, a large 5,000mAh battery that lasts an easy 2-days on a single charge, and a 3.5mm headset jack on the bottom.
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Tecno’s HiOS is based on Android 12 and looks very similar to Vivo’s OriginOS — that means a very iOS-inspired interface with various Android elements like a vertical app drawer tossed in — and is incredibly full-featured in every single way.
A trio of cameras sits on the back, and while one of them is just a 2MP depth sensor, the quality of the photos and videos from the phone are surprisingly impressive given the price, although nighttime photography could use some work.
Tecno also outfits the camera software with a metric ton of modes, many of which are super fun to use in random situations. Take the Sky Lab mode, for instance, which adds interesting effects like clouds, a twilight glow, the Aurora Borealis, or even an entire galaxy to the sky around you.
There’s also a bunch of different other photo and video modes, like the Short Video mode, which has a little over a dozen different filters to shoot your video with. Film mode offers a handful of preset options that combine filters and audio to help you shoot something a little more interesting right off the bat without having to edit the video later.
The one thing I’m really not crazy about, though? The fingerprint sensor. While it’s side-mounted and located in the power button — that’s my personal favorite kind of fingerprint sensor — I found that it wasn’t very good at its job. Most of the time, I’d have to unlock the phone with my PIN because the sensor would outright fail to recognize my print. Odd for a dedicated sensor like this but it definitely wasn’t a good experience.
AGM Glory G1S
I’ve heard smartphones referred to as modern Swiss Army Knives because of their ability to basically do anything you need, but AGM’s Glory G1S takes this description to the next level. This phone packs an infrared camera, thermal imaging camera, dedicated Zello push-to-talk key, and even a laser pointed inside its extremely rugged frame. Yes, it has a laser pointer on the top of the phone!
As is the case with many rugged smartphones, AGM’s Glory G1S is encased in what can probably be best described as a permanent Otterbox-style case that’s got a very grippy, rubbery texture to it. The corners are raised for maximum drop protection, and there’s little chance you’d do any harm to the device unless it was dropped display-down on top of a pile of rocks. There’s even a slot on the bottom-left corner that you could thread a lanyard through for extra safekeeping.
All the ports are covered by a rubber gasket, including the phone’s 3.5mm headphone jack and the microSD card slot. On the left is a bright orange key that matches the orange highlights around the frame and can be used as a push-to-talk key for the popular Zello app that’s preinstalled on the phone.
While most of this phone’s design works incredibly well for its intended audience, I’m not sure most people will be happy with the surprisingly dim display. It’s basically impossible to see in direct sunlight, which is probably not a great thing given the intended audience usually works outdoors.
The phone’s main 48MP Sony IMX582 camera isn’t going to win any awards when taking photos or videos, and there’s no telephoto lens here to speak of, so zooming in isn’t great, either. But the auxiliary cameras are the real draw with the phone’s camera system, anyway.
In addition to that main camera, you’ll find a night-vision IR camera and a separate thermal imaging camera on the back, as well. The night-vision IR camera shoots in black and white and can be accessed via the regular camera app as its own mode. It works very, very well and picks up all sorts of light from sources that our eyes can’t see.
The thermal imaging camera is controlled via a totally separate app that’s pinned on the home screen’s quick bar at the bottom by default. This camera can be used to take photos and video, with AGM claiming it’s the best thermal imaging camera you’ll find on a smartphone.
I haven’t used enough smartphones with this feature to corroborate those claims, but I can say the AGM Glory G1S provides absolutely superb thermal imaging with what appears to be very accurate thermal measurements. To test, I used a surface-scanning thermometer on my forehead and it matched what the AGM Glory G1S measured by 0.1 degrees Fahrenheit.
The software side of the house doesn’t have much to talk about. You’re looking at mostly stock Android 11 with a few custom quick toggles added — like a quick toggle button for the phone’s bizarrely fun laser pointer — but relatively few additional options. One of the few customization options here is the ability to set the side key to perform one of a handful of different functions, including a push-to-talk key, launching the camera, toggling the laser pointer, or controlling audio playback.
It’s powered by a Snapdragon 480 and a big honkin’ 5,500mAh battery, so expect to get several days out of a single charge unless you’re constantly using the thermal imaging camera. A Snapdragon 480 won’t run more than just the basics, though, so keep that in mind before jumping in.
If you need a phone that doubles as a Swiss Army Knife, AGM has you covered. With a thermal imaging camera, Infrared camera, and even a laser pointer up top, this rugged smartphone is sure to get you through any problem and last several days on a single charge.