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Smartphone Projector 2.0 is cute, but not exactly functional

Ever wander through a store and see something on a shelf that you know can't possibly be as cool as it looks, but you buy it anyway because you just have to know? That was me this weekend in my local Books-A-Million, a store that has slowly transformed over the last five years from a decent bookstore to a decent toy store that also sells books sometimes. As I wandered up the main path through the center of the store, having just retrieved the last copy of Neil Stephenson's Seveneves (opens in new tab) — which you should absolutely read, by the way — three odd little boxes caught my eye. They all said Smartphone Projector 2.0 on the side, and claimed you could put your phone in the box and have a little theater powered by your phone.

Here's what you get in this weird little box, and how well it works.

Lets start with the things this kit does right. The outer packaging makes no promises and shows you exactly what you are getting. The description couldn't be more simple — take the box out, insert the lens, insert the phone, adjust until you get a clear picture. On the right side of the box you see two people sitting next to one another in perfect darkness watching a movie from this projector, and on the left side of the box you see a photo of a phone with an invitation to hold your phone up to the box to make sure your phone isn't too big for this kit. Smartphone Projector 2.0 supports most big phones, so there's a good chance your phone will work just fine.

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Smartphone Projector 2.0

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Smartphone Projector 2.0

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Smartphone Projector 2.0

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Smartphone Projector 2.0

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Smartphone Projector 2.0

Removing the outer packaging reveals a cardboard box with a slightly smaller cardboard box within. As the instructions command, you slide the lens into the cardboard tube at one and, and place the grippy material laying in the box at the other end. The smaller box slides into the bigger box, but otherwise there are no moving parts here. Outside of the old timey print on the box itself, this is an ordinary piece of cardboard with a fairly standard lens on the other end.

This is about the experience you should expect for $30.

The instructions on the inside of the box are a little more complicated. There's an app you can install to force your orientation into a reverse landscape, which will flip the image to counter the flip that happens when the video is passed through the lens at the other end of the box. It's a fairly generic app that doesn't get in the way of actual media playback, though, so it's not a big deal. Crank the brightness on your phone up to 100%, stick the phone in the box running your video of choice, and slide the smaller box into the larger box until you get the focus you want on the wall you are projecting on.

Even with the brightness at 100% on our Samsung Galaxy S7, you don't even see anything on the wall you're projecting on unless all of the lights are out and it is perfectly dark in the room you're in. It might have been a little different if there was a way to force Samsung's crazy sunlight brightness mode, but at regular 100% brightness it was too dark to get a picture. The audio is muffled by the box you put your phone in, and if you want to do something like pause the video you basically have to set all of this up again when you hit play. There are notches in the sides of the box for you to run power to the phone, but that's about it.

Smartphone Projector 2.0

This is about the experience you should expect for $30. It's a cute thing that was fun to do with my kids, but hardly something I'd do instead of just watching a video on my phone unless I was doing something like building an epic pillow fort in the living room. It's a silly gift, and a fun thing to do once or twice, and that's exactly what I expected when picking it up.

See at Amazon (opens in new tab)

Russell is a Contributing Editor at Android Central. He's a former server admin who has been using Android since the HTC G1, and quite literally wrote the book on Android tablets. You can usually find him chasing the next tech trend, much to the pain of his wallet. Find him on Facebook and Twitter

  • An epic pillow fort sounds like a plan for the Memorial Day weekend coming up. Posted via the Android Central App
  • that's a cutsie idea with your kids (not judging if you have none) and i was halfway about to buy it but the amazon reviews are way too low for me to spend 30 bucks. 10 maybe 5 definitely.
  • So, for sound quality it is pretty obvious you need a bluetooth speaker. I have like 5 of them at my house, so, it's not like there is a shortage of those. Second note, just by looking at it, you can tell it runs off your phones light source. That is bad all the way around. The light is not even close to a cheap projector bulb. A phone has a max of like 400 nits which is like 40 lumens, which if you look around you can find a cheap projector with more than 1000 lumens. granted, even with all that, it would be a cool gift for a kid. :)
  • The BT speaker as noted, a smart watch app to pause and play, and a linked app to turn off all your smart lightbulbs.... Posted via the Android Central App
  • I thought these were cute when I first saw them, but knew it would not be great because physics ;)
    I was still kinda curious, and now I know! It would be neat to do a powered mini-projector round up, as I've seen a few with OK output that you can hold in your hand. Those would be nice for long trips, but as more hotels go to flat screen TV's, I find it easy to bring an HDMI cable and plug your phone straight in to watch movies.
  • Better to just get a cheap Pico projector than this. They can be bought for about £40 on Amazon. They still need a darkened room but will be more useful than this. Posted via the Android Central App