On Saturday 27th May {2017}, Smyths Toys Superstores around the UK will be hosting a family party. The family party is completely free and will be starting at 9 am and carrying on until 2 pm. So plenty of time to get yourselves down to your local Smyths Toys Superstores to join in.

Of course, there is going to be a few things to entertain the children, from face painting {for over 3’s}, a DJ playing some funky tunes and candy floss available for the children too. There will also be a number of special guests, such as; Shopkins Strawberry Kiss, Playdoh, and Smyths Toys very own Oscar making an appearance in selected stores.

There will be a free live raffle every hour on the hour in all stores between 9 am – 2 pm where you can be in with a chance to win a £50 Smyths Toys voucher to spend in-store. Lastly, for all children who attend the family party in any of the leading toy store retailers will receive a free goody bag {while stocks last} including some of their favourite toys; such as, My Little Pony, LEGO and play-doh.

If you have nothing to do this Saturday morning/afternoon – then perhaps pop along to your local store. It sounds like it’s going to be fun!

Disclosure: This is a collaborative post. 

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When my children were younger, planning their birthday parties were much easier. We hired out a local church or community centre hall, rented some inflatables, baked some cupcakes and we were good to go.

The older they get, however, those church halls & bouncy castles are no longer their thing. Although if I was asked if I wanted a bouncy castle at my next birthday {coughs…37!} I’d respond with a “HELL YEAH!”.  But apparently, the tween or preteen age of today have some sort of ‘street cred’ that has to be maintained. Last year, my eldest girl asked for a picnic style party in Belfast zoo, and we did just that. It was relaxed, no venue required and she had a really fun day hanging out with her friends.

This year, however, she turns twelve. This will be her first birthday celebrated from a High school perspective and it took a while before any of the ideas I had appealed to her. The first idea she liked was to have 8 of her closest friends join her for a party at We are Vertigo – which in fairness sounded like a pretty cool idea. Then the ideas kept changing and the weeks until her birthday got shorter & shorter. Finally, she decided on wanting to hire a party bus & having her friends back to the house for a party.

Her wish is my command!

I have booked her Hummer party bus {I’d like to see that try to park in our little car-filled cul-de-sac!} for an hour of disco lights, dancing and karaoke. Followed by a movie themed party at home with chocolate fondue, popcorn &hot dogs. It all sounds very grown up to me but now all I can think about is 12 girls, flushed from dancing spreading themselves out in my not-so-big living room, drinking, eating and giggling like the little school girls that they are.

Naturally, I’ve been scouring Pinterest for fun movie theme party ideas. It’s the place to go for inspiration! So with only a few weeks to go, I had best get sorted.

Twelfth birthday celebrations here we come! 

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Last night I stood on the scales for the fifth time in my fifth week of Slimming world. It’s quite daunting standing on those scales, isn’t it? More so if you know you’ve not been sticking to the plan – which I’ve been guilty of, 100%. I walked out with a 3lb gain. 3lbs! I was so unbelievably annoyed at myself. Did I really need that pizza over the weekend? Did I really need to eat the entire bag of popcorn? Kicking myself repeatedly for not doing more exercise – the list goes on.

So here I sit, feeling incredibly beaten, bloated {I think it’s almost ‘that’ time – the months are just mashing together lately} and hoping to gain back my mojo. I’m unsure how but I do know I want it back. I think that’s a good mental step, right? I hope so because, at the moment, that’s all I have.

Since starting the slimming world programme, my weight has been like a yo-yo. I had a great first week where I had a 2lb loss, then from there, it has been a weight gain, a loss, a maintain and then my biggest gain yet. I have bounced from 13st 1lbs, down into 12st and back up into the 13st region again. You can imagine the frustration. So right now I think it’s understandable to feel how I am feeling – however, in reality, I have no one to blame but myself.

My frame of mind just isn’t there and I am stumped how to kick-start it into gear again. My priorities are all aimed at my children, my husband and our home I have nothing left to give to myself. Or, by the time I have time to myself, I’m just too darn tired to do anything worthwhile. I mean, who wants to get on an exercise bike after they’ve put the kids to bed at night?

NOBODY!!! That’s who…

So, those are my Slimming world struggles. As for how I plan to get my butt back on track? I’m going to take a shot at positive thinking, using my smart fitness tracker more and to really try and exercise more as a whole. I don’t want to overload myself and take on too much, but I hope to finally get on the exercise bike my husband and I bought a few months ago and also get back into running too.

Wish me luck!

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It’s been quite a while since I have shared a round-up for my amazing #Developinglife Instagram feed. Life is just crazy nuts and getting the time to do anything but work, eat, sleep and keep the kids happy has swallowed me whole. But I am fighting back! I am trying to regain a little bit of time back for me to share more with you guys and hopefully starting these round-ups again is a good start.

If you’re new to the Developing life IG feed, welcome! This Instagram community is for any image; whether it’s your kids, a new home, your gorgeous pets, literally anything! I have been popping in & out of the feed over the last few weeks when I have had the chance and I am literally so chuffed that we are passed 21,000 photo link-ups and I am just utterly thrilled by that number. I can remember starting this IG community and feeling so excited when we reached over 100 photos shared and here we are with over 21,000! Bonkers – but thank you so, so much that even when I’m being gobbled up in life you guys still continue to use my hashtag, join in to create this wonderful community together. You’re all bloody marvellous.

I’ll kick things off with this gorgeous, GORGEOUS Pregnancy announcement from RawChildhood – I mean, how stinkin’ cute is this? Congratulations Jade on the new little bundle arriving this November. What an exciting time! Eeeek!

 

One of my next favourites is this utterly fabulous capture from Amy_EverythingMummy – doesn’t this photo just make you smile! I love it. Kudos to Mama for capuring it!

Can we just take a moment to just lush over this gorgeous little beach tot? I mean…this is just photo perfection right here. An absolutely stunning capture from PaigeandtheTeaparty.

Those are my three favourites from this week – Weren’t they adorable! Thanks so much for everyone joining in, keep using that #developinglife community hashtag! – much love to you all and I’ll see you again soon for another round-up!

D xx

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Today I encountered the realisation that I do in fact have, a fournager. Who even knew that was a thing!? I sure didn’t. But let me tell you it is a painful, painful truth. 

Over the last week or so my youngest child. My fifth and final little bubba has evolved into what can only be described as a demon child. We experienced the terrible twos. Those were as terrible as you imagine them to be {however ours were heightened due to an undiagnosed tongue tie}. We also experienced what it was like to have a threenager {with speech delay}. I thought the terrible twos were bad. Being three clearly adds a little oomph behind those tantrums.

Living through that third year of her life was more painful that her second. I have the stress lines to prove it. I know her speech delay wasn’t something that could be helped but man…breaking through that communication barrier took time, a lot of time and a huge dollop of patience on everyone’s part. But we got through it together.

Nowadays we appeared to be on the other side {or so we thought!}. She can communicate now {very well} and even though she still has a few pronunciation issues we’re tackling those. However, it seems we were naive to think she was done throwing us those curve balls because lately, she has developed this unwaveringly ballsy and defiant attitude to everything.

Literally, everything!

I am fully on board with changing the word ‘stubborn’ to ‘headstrong’ and all that jazz, but this fournager thing is an entirely new experience in this house. It’s surprising to me because I have four other children but not once have I encountered a fournager until now. She gets annoyed at things that used to annoy her when she was two. For example; not getting the right cup, or being annoyed that she can’t wear her Batman tee {with cape – it’s all about the cape} to preschool or if she can’t catch a ball. The inability to catch a ball {which was thrown up the hill by her big Brother} resulted in this capture…

I mean…seriously? You do have to laugh {or you’ll cry into a big old glass of southern comfort!} however lately I have been meeting her defiances and infuriating need to whine and whinge about anything and everything; with an eye roll.

The sky is blue {queue the whining}, the grass is green {whinge, whinge, whinge}, her right shoe just has to go on the right foot {the beginnings of a category five meltdown}. Eyeroll. I’m not even sorry either. I think when you get to this stage and you have been through it all before and know they really have nothing to be upset about – it’s met with an exasperated, bored-of-listening-to-the-same-old-moanings eye roll. We’re only human after all!

Although for now…we can do nothing more than ride it out. Stand firm against her demands & tantrums and try to find the very thin line between her temper and her extremely headstrong personality. To nurture that trait and help her tie in her feistiness, her creative and very funny little nature with a dash of compassion. She’s going to be ball breaker for sure, just like her older Sister. God help anyone who messes with them! 

Here’s to all of us Parents raising strong woman! 

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I have lived in Northern Ireland for most of my life and there are still so many places that I haven’t visited. I find that crazy. Northern Ireland isn’t the biggest of islands so it’s surprising to me that so much of it is still a mystery. However, recently I was offered the opportunity to visit and have a little shopping experience at Rushmere Shopping Centre, in Craigavon all ahead of National Children’s Day on Sunday 14th May. 

I had never been to Craigavon before and it was so nice as a nondriver, for it to be so easy to travel to with public transport. We live in Whiteabbey, so after a quick train ride to Great Victoria street station, we then hopped on a Portadown express bus and voila, we were there in about 50 mins. Such a smooth and easy trip {especially with an eight & four-year-old tagging along!}. An even bigger bonus was the bus dropping us off at Rushmere Shopping centre itself. An absolute win in my book.

Our first glance of the shopping centre was from the bus station entrance, so we walked round to the front of the store for a look-see before popping back inside for a little nosy around the shops.

Rushmere Shopping Centre I was given the task to shop with my children in mind, for clothes, toys & games for the summer. I absolutely love shopping for my children and it is even something I tend to do even when I don’t intend to do it. You know what I mean, don’t you? You go out with intentions to buy yourself some clothes, but end up coming back with all sorts for the children and nothing for yourself. The story of my life. But then again, their clothes aren’t going to be small for long. And they’re so much cuter when they are small.

At first glance, I thought Rushmere Shopping Centre was lovely. Quite big, very spacious and I especially liked seeing these really comfy seating areas. I also really liked how they had added the trees around the edges that give the illusion when you are seated that you aren’t in a busy shopping centre. A real bonus when you’re trying to rest for a five minutes before you continue your shopping.

Rushmere Shopping Centre

Rushmere Shopping Centre
Rushmere Shopping CentreIn fact, talking about seating, I don’t think I have ever seen so many seating areas than I did in Rushmere Shopping centre. A definite thumbs up because I could count on one hand {one hand!} how many chairs there are in our own local shopping centre. But in Rushmere there are loads. Kudos Rushmere! 

Rushmere Shopping Centre

Rushmere Shopping CentreAs we strolled around the shops I heard the kids gasp, and being a family of geeks I knew it had to be something cool! And it was. I figured they had spotted someone dressed up as a superhero or something but no, they spotted a T-47 Rebel Alliance Snow Speeder {as seen in the Empire Strikes back} – we also heard that it was due to be manned by its pilot, Emerald Garrison {in full costume} the day after our visit. Gutted! That would have been a pretty cool thing to see. Did you see it?

Rushmere Shopping CentreI shopped around for clothes for my two younger children and I have to say, I’m usually a Primark and a H&M junky. So I was happy to see an H&M store but sad to not see a Primark. It pushed me out of my comfort zone to shop in stores that I normally wouldn’t shop in; like Sainsbury’s & Dunnes Stores. I did manage to get some new clothes for the kids & some summer games for us to play outdoors.

Luckily, just across from the shopping centre is a gorgeous known as Craigavon Lakes and it truly is beautiful. We were really lucky with the weather too; so we walked over, sat down, and enjoyed the sunshine as well as playing with a few of our new toys.

Rushmere Shopping Centre
Rushmere Shopping Centre Rushmere Shopping Centre Rushmere Shopping Centre Rushmere Shopping CentreAs soon as we bought these beautiful pink shorts {from the boy’s section in Dunnes} & gorgeous little summer shoes {also from Dunnes}, my little girl just had to put them on. We had a really fun time shopping around Rushmere Shopping Centre and loved being able to make a day of it thanks to Craigavon Lakes just across the road that we will definitely be going back for a visit soon.

Disclosure: I was kindly given a gift card to attend Rushmere Shopping centre and to share my thoughts and experiences. All thoughts, photos and opinions are entirely my own. 

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It’s just over a month away from my 37th birthday. Thirty-seventh birthday! Jeez – how has that snuck up on me? Do you remember being eighteen {I do – just about} and thinking how insane it would be to be in your thirties? Then BOOM! You’re on the higher end of your thirties and thinking where in hell the last twenty years went!

Welcome to my world. Because as for those last twenty years and where they went? I have no idea. I mean, I guess I have a fair idea which is covered in newborns, dirty nappies, sleepless nights, a lot of heartaches, some travelling, a marriage, a divorce, finding new love, getting married {again} and basically existing. 

Turning 37 feels like a pretty huge deal to me. It’s one year closer to forty and even though I’m not quite there yet, it’s something that feels incredibly unavoidable. Because that milestone is going to happen! Do I do anything particularly special for my birthday? No, not really. I think you get to a stage where it’s a day like any other day. Also, my eldest girl celebrates her birthday just a few days after me, so I guess all of my celebratory feels get aimed towards her. 

However, what better way to distract me from my impending birthday milestone than by putting together a birthday wishlist. On that wish list, I have things like a handbag of holding, some new converse, the cutest scissors Bunny organiser, some white glazed rose earrings, a cactus pen holder, a mug, a wire ‘Laugh’ sign and lastly, a Boho style scarf hangar – which is just super pretty! 

My Birthday wish list
It was quite hard choosing those gift ideas because I think I am getting to that age where I don’t really want or need anything. I mean, there are loads of things I would like but whether we have the room or actual practical need for them is an entirely different matter. Because I am literally coming down with unused stationery books and pretty pencils! So I decided to go for lots of little things to replace currently old or outdated things.

I mean, we all need a cactus desktop organiser in our life! Right?

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A few weeks ago we were very kindly sent out the Beauty & the Beast – Enchanting Ball Gown Belle to review, from Hasbro. We aren’t usually ‘doll’ fans in this house but my little girl was only recently introduced to Beauty & the Beast {in preparation for seeing the latest adaptation of the movie} and she’s fallen in love. I mean, how could she not! Belle is one of my all time favourite characters and it’s lovely that my little Annabelle loves her too. 

The Enchanting Ball Gown Belle is a beautiful doll and the resemblance to Emma Watson, the Actoress who played her is impressively accurate. I don’t think I have ever seen a doll look so much like the live character portraying them in the movie.

She is wearing the infamous gold gown from the live action performance and even though it is a little different from the iconic dress from the original movie, it is still a stunning gown.

Enchanting Ball Gown Belle
Enchanting Ball Gown Belle
Enchanting Ball Gown Belle
Enchanting Ball Gown Belle
Enchanting Ball Gown Belle
Enchanting Ball Gown Belle
Enchanting Ball Gown Belle
Enchanting Ball Gown Belle

Enchanting Ball Gown Belle
This enchanting ball gown Belle comes with a hair piece, necklace and a pair of shoes. Belle has nine articulations in total on this doll and that makes her fun for posing her into different ways and this helps my daughter bring her imaginative play to life a little, too. I have seen a few other sites state that this doll cannot stand on its own, but by the photo above you can see that it can. It’s not an easy feat sadly, so not ideal when little ones are playing with it – but overall it’s a beautiful doll.

The price of it, however, isn’t something that I would personally pay and mainly because I think for a standard size doll, £30 is a lot to ask for. Maybe that’s just me. I think if the doll sang a few snippets of some of the iconic songs or something then £30 would be a price I would consider paying.

Disclosure This product was sent to me from Hasbro for the purpose of this review. All thoughts, photos and opinions are entirely my own. 

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May is the fifth month of the year in the Gregorian calendar. The first six Star Wars movies were also released in May!

It wasn’t just National Star Wars day on May 4th {which just so happens to also be my Husband’s birthday!} but it is in fact Stars Wars month. Yeah, you heard me. Month! There are millions of us, and not just in a galaxy far, far away, who love Star Wars that having it celebrated for just one day is not enough. 

Whether you’re a fan of the original trilogy or still trying to get over what happened in The Force Awakens {like me} which is definitely a movie I cannot stop watching! Chewie is without a doubt my favourite character in the entire franchise.

Hallmark Star wars
To share the love of Star Wars month I have teamed up with Hallmark UK to share with you guys their amazing range of Star Wars goodies. They have everything from an insane range of cards for all and any occasion.

Hallmark Star wars
They have gift bags, a bottle shroud, which is something I have personally never seen before – but it was pretty awesome being able to present my Husband with a birthday cider dressed as Darth Vadar. I mean, that’s pretty cool, right? Not to mention their adorable range of Star Wars Itty Bitty’s.

Star wars day Hallmark
Hallmark Star wars
Itty Bittys UK Hallmark Star Wars Day

These little guys are insanely cute and Hallmark UK have such a fun range that there is something for everyone – whether you are on the light side of the force or the Dark side, Hallmark UK have your Star Wars needs are covered.

May the force be with you, Young Padawan.

*This was a collaborative post with Hallmark UK.

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A few weeks ago lots of friends around the UK mainland were receiving their school placement letters. While here in Northern Ireland we still had a few weeks of waiting to endure. I was envious but I knew our turn would come round soon enough. 

The morning of April 28th was when I stalked our postman. Like, fully stalked his arrival. Not creepy at all, right? As soon as I saw him walking into our street I was tempted to run out and ask him for ours ahead of schedule. But I held my ground. Only just. Pacing back and forth waiting very anxiously on his arrival. As soon as he walked in front of our house I opened the door to greet him. His response was “Are you waiting on the wee letters from the schools?”, which of course my reply was “Yes!”. “Well, it’s in there!” he said with a cheeky wee wink. I grabbed my mail and ran inside. I immediately called to my husband to come in so we could open it together.

As soon as he sat down next to me it became clear to me that this was it. This would be our final ‘Primary school’ placement letter. Our last one. That was a shock to the system but excitement took over the bittersweet moment and we ripped that envelope open.

Dear Mrs Butler,

Blah, Blah, Blah, we are pleased to inform you….

YES!
She got into her first choice school! I actually got up, cheered and lunged at my husband to hug him. Then we had that moment of clarification. Our little bee is going to school. Actual, start of her educational journey-making new friends-learning new things…school. This is when things took an emotional dive.

It’s a pretty tough thing to accept when your final child gets that school acceptance letter. It means her babies days are in the past, her toddler days are long since gone and she is growing upfaster than we’d like. Everyday reduces her needing us and increases her independance and even though that’s not a bad thing, but for the parent on that final ‘little-one’ journey, it can be pretty bittersweet.

So for now, I’m going to hold onto her being four for as long as she will let me. I am going to help her with things that she still needs me for and ask to help her with things that perhaps she no longer needs help with. Because in no time at all we’ll be buying her school uniform and waving her off on her first day of school.

Did your little one get the school placement you hoped for?

D xx

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Over the last month, I have been reviewing the Samsung Galaxy S7 mobile phone with Three and I have to say, I’m in love. I’m a Samsung {& android!} girl at heart. I adore their phones and prior to my Samsung Galaxy S6 finding its demise down the toilet I’ve been using a Sony Experia N5. You can imagine my pain. 

I had heard great things about the S7 and I was excited to see and test it for myself. Thankfully, I didn’t have to wait too long and I was holding it in my hands before I knew it. Just holding the S7 was beautiful. Samsung mobiles {in my opinion} just feel really nice to hold, even for small hands such as mine.

If it’s not been made apparent before now, I’m a bit of a fangirl when it comes to what mobile phone I use and I need it to excel in specific features for it to appeal to me i.e the camera. However, after this last four weeks using the Samsung Galaxy S7, everything about this phone made me happy. 

Appearance

When the S7 arrived I didn’t see any initial difference in its appearance when compared to my previous Samsung Galaxy S6, and that was fine by me.  I loved the look and feel of the S6, so it was nice to have that familiarity with the S7. However, the one thing I did notice was the curved sides of the screen. The S6 has quite a rigid feel to it whereas the S7 feels so much nicer to hold and all due to the addition of these curved edges. Nice move Samsung!

Samsung Galaxy S7 Review It has a 5.1-inch screen and the quality of is just pure perfection. It’s bright, colourful and sharp making it {in my opinion}, pretty darn perfect. Watching anything from Netflix, YouTube looks amazing and playing games too is a real treat. Mario Run is one of my current favourites to play! Could you watch a show or a movie on a 5.1in screen happily? Of course, you could! 

The front and back casing of the Samsung Galaxy S7 are covered in Gorilla Glass 4, which make the phone feel super nice to hold in the palm of your hand. Giving the overall look of the S7 a really sleek, clean look.

Functionality

At first, I was a little confused where to put both my sim & SD cards but after a quick google search, my confusion was cleared up. Due to this model being on loan, the eject tool wasn’t present in the box. However, using a pin worked just as well. Gently pushing the pin down into the little hole made the tray eject from the slot.Samsung Galaxy S7 Review
Samsung Galaxy S7 Review Setting up the S7 was lots of fun {How nerdy of me, I know!}. But there are lots of security choices to consider using; the fingerprint scanner was a new feature for me to try so I decided to go with that one. Underneath the slightly bigger home button on the bottom of the screen is an impressively fast and very accurate fingerprint sensor.

My curious nature meant that I tried to see if the fingerprint scanner was as secure a measure as Samsung intended it to be and believe me, I tried to trick the sensor into believing it was my fingerprint! It turns out unless it’s your actual print, the phone will not allow you access. So I conceded in my attempts and saluted the fingerprint scanning security measure.
Samsung Galaxy S7 review
It’s water resistant with an IP68 rating, meaning, your phone could sit in 1m of water for up to 30mins without getting damaged. Unlike my non-waterproof S6 that fell down the toilet for about 2s and completely died on me, {I’ve still not got over the loss!}.

I have always found Samsung phones to be quite a hardy bunch and it took quite a few accidental drops {usually when in the hands of my toddler} to gain a broken screen. Sad times. The Samsung S7 did meet a drop or two {Sorry Three!} but the toughness of the handset did not disappoint, much to my relief! 

I appreciate the ‘always-on’ feature which allows features such as the clock, date & time etc to remain on without the entire screen staying lit as the phone remains locked.

The only thing I dislike about the Samsung Galaxy S7 is the placement of the speakers on the lower right-hand corner. They are easily covered therefore dulling the sound. 

Camera

The drop in megapixels on the S7 was my first initial shock. The S6 has a 16mp camera whereas the S7 has a 12mp camera. Surely the more update the phone, the more megapixels you’d get. This was my hope because the camera part of any phone is a real selling point for me personally. However, all became very clear after a little research and the reason why Samsung decided to reduce the megapixels in S7 was to enhance photos being taken in low-lit environments. Therefore there may have fewer pixels, but the 12mp it does have are much larger.
Samsung Galaxy S7 Review

The S7 takes great quality photos in low-lit environments. Usually, images taken in those conditions are horribly grainy and just unusable in my opinion. So having a great result in dim-lit conditions was amazing to see.

Initially, however, I didn’t notice the megapixel difference, it was only when I zoomed into an object within the image that the difference became clear. Photos taken in daylight look amazing. The results are bright, crisp and colourful which is always a winner. The macro feature is excellent and I loved being able to use this feature because the camera would provide me with the same depth of field that my DSLR would {which is also 12mp}.
Opening my camera app has never been faster. Being able to double-tap the home screen to be taken to my camera is a funky little feature. Having children that I just love to photograph {if you’ve seen my Instagram feed, you’ll know I have an addiction!}. So getting to my camera super fast to capture a fleeting moment is a key priority for me. The camera feature is packed with extra features too. I really like it’s layout out because you can just fire away in automatic if that is where you feel comfortable. You can access other features such as pro, which allows you to fiddle with the ISO and focus point metres.
Samsung Galaxy S7 review
Samsung Galaxy S7 review
There is also a live broadcast option, which I didn’t get to use and that allows you to beam videos straight to Youtube. A pretty sweet feature if you’re a vlogger! The front facing camera has 5mp and it also comes with a wide angled lens, allowing you to fit more into your frame.

Overall thoughts

I love this phone. It looks & feels great. The battery life is good. The camera app is excellent with fast auto-focus and impressive low-lit performance. The security features give you peace of mind {the fingerprint scanner still impresses me}, it charges quickly and it is all round a wonderful phone.

Disclosure: I was sent this device from Three, on loan, to review, all thoughts, photos and opinions are entirely my own. 

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