Melissa L Jones Photography: Blog en-us (C) Melissa L Jones Photography (Melissa L Jones Photography) Tue, 25 Oct 2016 04:19:00 GMT Tue, 25 Oct 2016 04:19:00 GMT Melissa L Jones Photography: Blog 106 120 Cases keep coming, but some are better than others

Last week, I started a review of the mass of cases I received with the release of the new iPhone. I focused on a couple of folio options and a couple of the tough cases. This week, I’m finishing the long list, and it has a wide variety on it. 

The cases left range from little protection to more than I expected. They come from X-Doria, Ballistic, Mujjo and CM4. They were all tested with an iPhone 7 Plus.

Let’s start with the leather options. Mujjo ( provides the Full Grain Leather Case ($41.93 retail). The case pops onto the back of the phone and provides a suede interior to protect the phone from scratches, molded corners and vegetable-tanned leather for the back that’s soft to the touch but sits on a rigid skeleton. The case has wide cutouts for the buttons, speakers and charging port. It has an upscale, executive look and feels nice in the hand. However, it offers very little protection for the phone. If you’re super careful with your phone all the time, this case will work. However, the rest of us may need more protection than what this one offers.


The next leather case I tried was the CM4 ( Q Card Case ($39.99). It has a silicone base with a leather pocket on the back to hold up to three credit cards. Though similar to the Mujjo case, this one offers more protection. The silicone encircles the phone, leaving holes for the speakers, port and mute button, rather than large cutouts. The leather pocket on the back holds three cards very tightly, but a single card has more space than I like. The Q Card Case has a clever design feature above the leather pocket — a slit that can hold the edge of a credit card, allowing it to serve as a kickstand to prop the case up for horizontal viewing. I think it’s fine for the iPhone 7, but the Plus has a bit more weight. I’d be concerned about the card bending after a while. Still, it’s a nice feature, and the case feels nice in the hand. 


The next case is from Ballistic ( and is called the Jewel Case for iPhone 7 Plus ($19.99 retail, currently on sale for $14.99). The Jewel case is all clear silicone, but it has some features that offer more protection than it first appears to have. It encloses the phone, offering holes for the speakers, port and mute button. The corners are raised and thicker, providing extra protection for corner drops. Tiny raised dots inside not only provide the outside with that jewel look, but they also cushion the phone from back impacts. The buttons are covered, and the edges are raised to protect the screen from front drops. The case shows off the phone well and is slim. The only problem is the case has an almost sticky feel. While it’s great for gripping the phone, it was a bit difficult to slip into a jeans pocket sometimes. Still, it’s worth the extra shove for something that provides great protection while showing off enough of the phone to make your friends a little jealous.


The last two offer great protection for slim cases. I had a hard time deciding which one I liked most. 


The first, once again, is from CM4, this time from its Silk Innovation line ( The Silk Armor Tough Case ($39.99) comes in smoke, crimson and clear (that’s grey, red and clear). It has a hard polycarbonate back that resembles a reflector. Textured rubber grips on the sides make it easy to hold the phone. It has holes for the speakers, port and mute switch, but the buttons are covered. Raised stripes of polycarbonate protect the corners, and the raised edges surrounding the screen offer protection from front-face drops. The amazing bonus to this case is the screen protector. It isn’t one of those annoying plastic things. This case comes with a tempered glass protection shield. It seems to work well against the touchscreen. An included kit provides instructions and materials needed to properly clean the screen and attach the screen protector. The package even includes a spare one, just in case. The protectors made for a great bonus and added to the impressiveness of this case.


Finally, I tried out the Defense Gear Case ($34.99) from X-Doria ( I admit, this one just looks cool, but those cool features also serve to protect the phone. The back of the case includes a molded metal plate that absorbs shocks. Clear cutouts provide a peak of the phone’s color as well as strips of color built into the case. Those strips curl into the sides of the case to provide extra shock absorption. The corners have raised pieces to protect against shocks, and the edges curl over the phone’s screen for protection from face drops. Though there is a hole for the Lightning port, the speakers are protected by channels that curve upward to project sound forward. The case is slim, but it offers a ton of protection. The textured sides provide a firm grip, yet with all this, the case remains slim. The only things it’s lacking is a cover for the screen. It’s definitely one of the best offerings, and the one I’m still using. 


Thought they cover a broad spectrum, most of these cases offer good protection. It’s hard to go wrong with any of them, though if I had a choice, the Silk or X-Doria would be the best choices for protective cases. 


That’s enough cases for a while. Wait until you see what I have next time. Get ready to step back in time! 

(Melissa L Jones Photography) Apple Ballistic CM4 Mujjo Silk Innovation X-Doria cases iPhone iPhone 7 Plus protection Tue, 25 Oct 2016 04:18:41 GMT
Protection or wallet? Four companies make their cases for iPhone 7 Plus With a new phone comes new cases. Naturally, I’ve been inundated with cases, and it’s been quite a task to wade through them. This week, I thought I’d talk about the heavy-duty and wallet options. We’ll tackle the lighter side next week. All of these cases were tested on the iPhone 7 Plus, but they are available on the iPhone 7 as well. 

First up is the X-Doria’s Engage Folio Case ( The case comes in black, white pink and black carbon and retails for $29.99.

The case includes a hard, clear polymer back and a leather front. The inside of the front flap is suede and has two slots to hold credit cards. A small piece of metal in the center of the right edge of the polymer connects with a magnet inside the front flap to keep the flap over the face of the iPhone. The suede protects the screen from scratches, while the polymer protects the back. 

This is a nice case, though the card slots are a bit tight at first. The other minor issue is the suede picks up lint and hair VERY easily. It only took about a week of general use, putting it in a pocket and using it around my home (where I have cats) before it got to looking messy and needed cleaning. (You can see it in the photograph.) 

The suede is a little problematic, but otherwise the case served its purpose. The clear back shows off the phone nicely, and the flap stays in place, for the most part. The case does its duty and is worthy of consideration.

The other wallet case I tested was the Folio Wallet Case from Silk Innovation ( The case comes in black onyx, champagne (beige) and rose gold (pink) and retails for $24.99. 

The case has a full wallet inside, not only offering four card slots but also a pocket in the back for cash. A hard polymer shell attached to the back leather piece holds the phone. The leather wraps completely around the phone, and the edges extend beyond the hard shell, offering extra protection. A suede spine offers enough flexibility to set the shell on the wallet portion, basically turning the case into a stand for setting the phone upright horizontally. It also has a leather wrist strap and an elastic band that folds over the back of the case to keep the folio closed when you’re not using the phone.

I must say, of all the cases I’ve tested so far, this is by far my favorite. It’s very clever and detailed on the design, taking protection, practicality and aesthetics all into account. The slots work well, although the bottom slot is a bit tough to use if the other three have cards in them. However, a bit of stretching over time likely will fix that. The back pocket is a great bonus. The fact that it can double as a stand to watch videos is another great detail, as is the elastic band. Even the leather is well thought out, with a smooth, hard leather on the outside making it easy to slide the phone in and out of a pocket, while the suede allows for the kickstand positioning. This is definitely a case I’ll be using again in the future, and my top recommendation. 

Next, I checked out a couple of cases that offer heavy protection. These are the ones you want if you have a nasty habit of dropping your phone often, getting dirty or just not being kind to your electronics. 

The first one is the Otter Box Defender ( This case comes in blue, teal, purple and black and retails for $59.95 for the iPhone 7 Plus. 

The Defender offers a hard inner shell with foam backing on the inside to protect the back of the phone. The front has a plastic screen protector and a special plastic that covers the home button and allows the fingerprint scanner to work even when covered. The shell is then covered by a silicone outer shell that offers extra drop protection. Flaps cover the Lightning port and the mute button, and the silicone includes covers for the buttons. 

The hard shell is a bit difficult to open. The tabs on the sides help open it, but the connectors at the corners make it hard to open. However, once open, it’s easy to sit the phone in the shell and close it. The outer portion goes on very easily. 

The Defender is bulky, no doubt about it. It’s hard to fit into a pocket, and the silicone exterior doesn’t slide easily, making it even more difficult. That aside, the case is built to protect, and it certainly has features that do that. I wasn’t worried at all when I dropped the phone in this case. It may be bulky, but the protection is there. I just wish there was a lanyard or an easier means to carry it. 

Finally, I tried out the Kraken A.M.S. Case from Trident Case ( This case comes in black, teal or crimson (a dark pink). It retails for $39.99.

The Kraken case is basically the opposite of the Defender case. The phone sits in an inner silicone case, then that case is placed inside an outer shell. That shell includes a plastic screen protector with cutouts for the ear speaker, front camera and home button. It has a loop on the back for a lanyard, though one isn’t included. It also includes a metal kickstand on the back that can be taken off or flipped around so the phone can be propped up horizontally. 

As far as protection, the Kraken is solid. The inner case provides great shock absorption, and the built-in screen cover keeps the screen from getting scratched. I like the flaps covering the ports and buttons, and I love the kickstand. The lanyard loop is great, if you have a lanyard. One isn’t included, and I’m not sure why. Would it be much more to throw one in?

I love the Kraken and have always loved them. They’re well thought out, usually, and offer nice bonuses in the design. However, I was surprised that there were a couple of flaws in this one, one of them pretty glaring. 

The most glaring error is in the cutout at the top of the screen protector for the ear speaker and the front camera. The cutout is fine for the speaker, but it’s just a tad too narrow, and the edge actually cuts right through the middle of the camera lens. It’s so close, it’s blurred out and hard to tell at first, but you will notice a blur in the center of all your front-camera photos. That’s the edge of the cutout. 

I’m not sure if the dimensions Apple gave them were off, or if it’s just a manufacturing error, but it’s a pretty big boo-boo. It just about renders the front camera useless. Of course, the easy fix is to take some nail clippers and cut away that small piece on the left of the cutout, but you shouldn’t have to do that. Hopefully, it’s a flaw that will be fixed quickly.

The screen protector has another issue, which it’s had for a while. Because it sits slightly away from the screen, it’s not hard to get dust and dirt in that big hole at the bottom for the home button. Having seen this in the 6/6s cases, I was hoping they’d improve this for the 7 cases and use a different plastic instead of a hole, like Otter Box does with the Defender. Unfortunately, the hole is still there, as is the dirt issue. 

Of the two protective cases, I would say it’s a toss-up. The Kraken offers a few more features, but the Otter Box has a better front screen cover that lets in less dirt and doesn’t interfere with the front camera. 

So far, I’m impressed with the case offerings. The Silk Innovations Folio Wallet Case is still my favorite, but we’ll see what next week holds when I take a look at the lighter-protection cases. Stay tuned! 

(Melissa L Jones Photography) 7 Apple Box Defender Engage Folio Innovation Kraken Otter Plus Silk Trident X-Doria cases iPhone mobile review tech Mon, 10 Oct 2016 04:18:04 GMT
Tech Spotlight: The Good, the Bad and the Recalled Welcome to the new Tech Spotlight! 


For those of you familiar with this column, I will still be reviewing new products. But here, there are no rules or regulations…so I’m tossing in a few bonuses. I’ll offer some news blips and my take on the latest tech talk, as well as reviews and opinions. So let’s get started.


Here’s something you don’t see every day…the CEO of Samsung took to the Internet to apologize for the deficiencies of the Samsung Galaxy Note 7. For those who haven’t heard, the Note 7 phone sold prior to Sept. 15 has been recalled by Samsung and warned on by the government because of the risk of the batteries overheating and catching fire. Yes, they actually catch fire. Reports of them even causing homes and vehicles to burn have come to light. According to the posting Sept. 21, Samsung had received 92 reports of batteries overheating in the U.S. 26 of those were associated with burns, and 55 with property damage.


So the CEO has apologized and promised repaired products would hit the market very soon (this week or next). While the situation is not a great one, it’s good to see a company stepping up and admitting to the error, rather than trying to sweep it under the rug. Especially a company that normally makes such great products. I’m not going to lie, I was very impressed with the S7 phone. The S7 Edge was nice, though I still think the Edge thing is a bit overrated. 


Hopefully, they’ve built a better battery for the Note 7, as the new ones are rolling out as we speak. So if you jumped on the Note 7 purchases early, head to the store and find out how to trade up for a fixed phone. And major kudos to the CEO for stepping up. (OK, he stepped up after the government announced the recall, but it's still a step up from what most companies do.) 


Speaking of better batteries, that brings me to this week’s review. 


I will be honest, I’m coming off a hate/hate relationship with my iPhone 6. I had battery issues with the 5, and they weren’t improved much for the 6. For that reason and because, well, I was under contract, I passed on the 6S upgrade, though I hear they did improve things.


So the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus hit the market last week. Given the struggles with my iPhone 6 (which could partially be fixed with a compete restore, I suspect, but I was in no way enthused about that doing that nightmarish task anytime soon), I decided to jump on the Apple wagon and upgrade. Being a camera nerd as well as a tech nerd, I wanted the one with two lenses. Yes, I got the iPhone 7 Plus. Rose Gold, if you were wondering. i didn’t have the patience to wait until November for the Jet Black. Besides, I always keep mine in a protective case (we’ll get to those next time). 


The first thing I wanted to check was the battery power. The phone actually came to me fully charged, which was a nice surprise. I hooked it to the computer, told it to restore from the backup of my old phone the earlier day, and voila, I was ready to go. 


Well, mostly. For some reason, the backup left off all my playlists and some random apps. Very random. The 3,000+ photos I pulled from my old phone had no trouble reloading, though, much to my chagrin. I really hoping manually managing those would keep that from happen, but no go. So I have a few things to clean off.


Back to the battery. I didn’t charge it the first night, because it still was fully charged. I charged it a bit the next day, then left it. I ended up not charging it that night. It lasted through the next day, when I charged it again. In short, I’m getting nearly two days of use out of one charge. Granted, that’s mostly social media, streaming audio and email and Internet, which isn’t too harsh. Lots of video watching and use of LTE definitely has a bigger impact, but that’s expected. So far, the battery gets a thumb’s up. We’ll see if that holds true a year from now.


What about the rest of the phone? Well, the screen is gorgeous. Sharp, clear, bright, easy to see and navigate, it utilizes the pressure touch features introduced in the 6s and 6s Plus, only it works a lot better. The only issue I found was a slight lack of sensitivity in the bottom left corner, so I had to hit something more than once on occasion, but it may just be my particular phone. 


The touch sensitivity has a lot more options now, especially with certain apps. Previous, adding pressure to your touch would do cute things like preview a picture or website. Now that developers have had time to really play with the option, it does a lot more. For example, you can not just open an app but navigate immediately to some of the app’s more popular features. Pressure touching the Fandango app, for example allows you to open the app or go straight to the Movies or Theaters section. A pressure touch on the Amazon app will allow you to track a package or start searching for a product right away by activating voice commands. 


The pressure touch and screen aren’t the only things making this phone so much easier to navigate. The biggest factor is the speed. It’s so much faster than the 6, and faster than the 6s. The speed is evident, from loading apps to loading websites. It’s the real key to the phone’s improvement.


The camera is a nice bonus. It’s bumped to 12 megapixels with an F/1.8 aperture, which gives it a lot better look in low light. The camera also has optical stabilization, so you get less blur from your shaking hand. Even the front-facing camera has a boost, with the previously anemic camera bumping up to 7 megapixels. The iPhone Plus users get a bonus with a second camera built into the back - a telephone lens that provides 2x optical zoom and 10x digital zoom. The optical is nice. Digital zoom, of course, deteriorates the image by digitally blowing it up. While the new iPhone’s digital zoom is improved from the previous phones, it’s still not as good as an optical zoom. Still, it’s a nice feature to have. 


So, that brings us to the big, noisy elephant in the room — the headphone jack, or in this case, the lack thereof. I’ve heard the “this is going to kill Apple” comments. Frankly, I heard the same thing decades ago when Steve Jobs introduced an iMac without — gasp! — a floppy drive. The gloom and doom came out then, as well. How many computers do you see coming out today with floppy drives? Exactly. 


Let’s dispel a few things. First, yes, they introduced wireless headphones and, yes, they’re expensive ($159 retail) and, yes, they don’t come with the phone. However, the phone still comes with headphones, and they’re even wired headphones. The headphones connect with the lightning jack, so they’ll work just fine with the phone. The phone also comes with a lightning to headphone jack adapter. Yes, it’s small, and yes, I’m surprised I haven’t lost it yet. But it is available from Apple if you need to replace it, and it’s $9. Chances are, third-party manufacturers will soon have them out cheaper than that. Oh, and the phone still works fine with wireless headphones. Don’t panic. Really. 


Luckily, the included headphones fit well and get great sound. The lack of a 3.5mm jack also allows room for a second speaker, so the sound from the phone is even better. Even phone calls sound better over the phone receiver. I noticed how clear it was when talking to a family member recently. On top of that, the phone is also splash and water resistant. 


Bottom line, the new iPhone 7 is definitely a step up from the iPhone 6s and a MASSIVE upgrade from the iPhone 6. If you’ve been waiting to upgrade, this is worth it. link to Samsung recall:



(Melissa L Jones Photography) Melissa L. Jones Tech Spotlight column mobile opinion review tech products technology Mon, 26 Sep 2016 04:29:01 GMT
Welcome Welcome to the online gallery featuring some of my best work. 

I have had a love for photography all my life. I used to play with my parents' cameras all the time. My first camera was a Kodak Disc. Using my father's old SLR camera, I got a true taste of photography in junior high school as a member of the yearbook staff. 

In the late 1990s, I purchased my first SLR camera and learned film photography. I graduated to digital with the purchase of a Fuji Finepix S5100, a "point and shoot" that included a manual mode, where I learned how to adjust my settings. In 2010, I joined a group called the Photographic Society of Northwest Arkansas, which gave me a chance to learn my new Nikon D3000 camera alongside fellow amateur and professional photographers. I have learned more with this group than I ever would have learned on my own. 

As you will discover on this site, my interests are somewhat varied, but I specialize in nature and weather. I do have another special interest — old iron bridges, unique pieces of history that, sadly, are disappearing rapidly from the landscape. I recently showed an exhibit of bridge photos in the Baltz Gallery at PSNWA, and I will show a similar exhibit in July at the Bank of Fayetteville on the downtown Fayetteville Square. 

Over the years, I have had people ask about my photos and how to purchase them. It is for that reason that I have created this site. Thank you to everyone who has supported me over the years, and I hope you enjoy the images you find here. 

Melissa L. Jones

(Melissa L Jones Photography) Melissa L. Jones images photography website Sun, 21 Feb 2016 03:03:04 GMT