Posted in Opinion, tagged accessories, apple, Bluetooth, Handhelds, headphone jack, ios, ipad, iphone, Smartphones, TUAW, Universal Serial Bus on November 12, 2013 |
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Some thoughts on a recent article at TUAW (The Unofficial Apple Weblog) discussing the wide variety of contemporary accessories that iOS devices (specifically the iPhone) that use the headphone jack as the portal of interaction with your device. I have to admit, when pondering accessories that require input into an iOS device the sole physical portal that I (or most people) consider is the data sync port- that flat slot for Apple’s formerly iconic 30 pin connector on older devices, or the tiny jack used by newer Lighting cables. Apple has had a few adaptors for the data port for quite some time; for instance the misleadingly named camera adaptor has long been used for a variety of uses thanks to its USB port and SD card slot. Most accessory makers interact with iOS devices the way that Apple likely thinks is most appropriate- wirelessly via Bluetooth or wifi.
But for those inventive few that prefer a hardware connection there’s another option- the headphone jack. It has quietly acted as a means of interaction since the iPhone 3GS, allowing users to first play/pause/skip audio tracks and answer phone calls (and act as a microphone). As with most useful tools those with imagination will find new and inventive uses for it, as the TUAW article shows- from a laser pointer to a “smart” thermometer that via an accompanying app will provide more than just temperature. These various accessories use the audio port as both a means of input and external control of other devices.
As many medical device have become more computer based it’s easy to imagine devices like the iOS ecosystem providing even more broad functionality via hardware accessories. The ultrasound equipment that I use for cardiac and vascular imaging are essentially just specialized PCs; they run Windows XP embedded and have the same software that their accompanying PC reading stations use. The only differentiating factor is the specialized input hardware. In a similar vein my primary care physician has forgone the traditional EKG cart for a laptop with a specialized input accessory and software; the functionality is identical but the now digital platform can provide a great deal more flexibility while being more cost effective. The power afforded by an iPhone or iPad has grown exponentially since their introduction; given the right input hardware and app development they could likely be used as lower cost components for many everyday devices used in healthcare.
So let’s hear it for the visionaries that see the potential in devices like the iOS lineup. Their inventiveness might benefit you more than you realize.
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Posted in Uncategorized, tagged accessories, apple, Battery charger, clever, crafts, Eastern Time Zone, funny, Handhelds, ios, iphone, Record producer, smartphone, TUAW on July 22, 2013 |
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A quick tip of the hat to TUAW (the Unofficial Apple Weblog) for a recent article bringing two great things (Etsey and iPhone accessories) together for one awful expose. Head on over for the most obnoxious iPhone accessories available on Etsey.
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Posted in Reviews, tagged accessories, apple, Bluetooth, Brydge, gadgets, gift, ipad, keyboard, technology on December 29, 2012 |
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After a long busy holiday season we’re back! Healthcare is one of the few careers that can actually be busier during the holidays, hence the lack of posts.
Like all technophiles new gadgets and accessories were on the top of my Christmas want list, and I wasn’t disappointed. The crown jewel of my accessory desires arrived just after Christmas- my new Brydge iPad keyboard. I’ve written before about this Kickstarter-funded gem, but hadn’t had a chance to jump on the bandwagon before the campaign had ended. Thankfully the manufacturers opened up for preorders in time for the holidays.
The concept behind the Brydge is enticing: an aluminum-bodied Bluetooth keyboard for your iPad that holds your tablet securely via a hinge, providing the same instant sleep functionality as Apple’s Smart Cover. The Plus model even provides speakers built into the keyboard’s chassis, touting improved volume and sound quality over the iPad’s integrated mono speaker.
I’ve been using a Zagg Folio keyboard case for about a year now and have been satisfied overall. The case provides adequate protection and access to all ports, and while they keyboard isn’t full sized it was comfortable to type on and provides a far better experience when typing extensively than he iPad’s on screen keyboard. The shortcomings were what inspired me to want to upgrade to the Brydge: a chassis that wasn’t plastic (making the keyboard somewhat flexible when typing), and a way of securely holding my iPad. The Zagg Folio propped the iPad in a slot backed by the case. This worked well provided that you placed the case on a stable surface and didn’t move it; picking up the iPad or moving it the wrong way would slip the iPad out of the mounting groove and cause the whole setup to collapse like a house of cards.
After unboxing two things stood out about the Brydge: it’s comparative sturdiness and mass. It feels remarkably better constructed than any other keyboard I’ve sampled (the manufacturer touts it as the only one with a completely aluminum frame). The tradeoff for this soundness is added mass, as the Brydge also feels heavier than any of its competitors. The combination of the iPad and Brydge not only look like a MacBook Air, it’s similar in weight too. While it’s still relatively light and easy to carry, I wouldn’t want to hold it in one hand while trying to type with the other as you can when typing via the iPad’s screen keyboard.
The Brydge cradles your iPad securely via two hinge points that have been redesigned from the original Kickstarter model in order to be forward compatible with newer models of iPads. The hinges still work on the same principle; the clips hold your iPad via a combination of elastic grip and friction courtesy of silicone inserts inside the hinge clips. The unit comes with two sets, one for the iPad 2 and a second for the two latest versions. As new models of iPad are introduced Brydge will offer additional custom shims to accommodate them, allowing the sturdily-made Brydge to be a long term solution for your tablet.
The speakers in the model I ordered didn’t impress me; they perform as billed by offering better volume than the iPad’s integrated speaker, but as most small laptop-style speakers the sound quality isn’t the best. The speakers add about $30 to the price of the Brydge, while I don’t regret getting the speaker-equipped Plus model those that want premium sound would be better served with a specifically designed accessory like a Jawbone Jambox.
The user experience so far has been very positive; the keyboard (like all iPad-specific keyboards) is a bit small, but I am accustomed to the size and have been able to touch type as effectively on it as my iMac’s keyboard. The keyboard sports iPad-specific function keys for common tasks, like screen brightness, copy/paste, and control of audio apps. The only complaint I have so far concerns the right shift key (the one I tend to use most often)- it’s been reduced in size to accommodate the arrow/directional keys, making it hard to press. I’ve accidentally hit the up arrow key several times while typing this post, but I assume that I’ll grow accustomed to this quirk quickly.
Another minor concern is the lack of case to protect the iPad’s back casing. When using the Zagg folio my iPad was covered from every angle; the Brydge protects the screen of the iPad when closed but lacks any protection for the aluminum shell when closed. The construction of the hinges prevents the use of just about any but the slimmest of cases; the best option would likely be a skin or Zagg’s Invisible Sheild, but neither provide much impact from drops. To address this concern I chose a padded messenger bag style sleeve; the ability to carry a sync cable and other small items made the choice an easy one.
In closing, the Brydge is every bit as useful as the Kickstarter campaign’s video made it out to be. It is very soundly made, comfortable to type on, holds my iPad securely enough to make it feel like a defacto laptop, and provides a sturdy and well balanced base to allow typing in just about any setting, from desktop to lap (as I’m currently using it). While far from the least expensive keyboard, the Brydge definitely matches the aesthetic and spirit of Apple’s design, and looks perfectly at home paired with the iPad.
Addendum: While the original Brydge was a choice of either the keyboard ($180) or the Plus model sporting speakers ($220), the manufacturers have expanded their lineup to include a version encased in a polycarbonate shell. The polycarbonate version also has the speakers but is a much more affordable $150. The organization had all three models on sale for the holidays; as of the day after Christmas the sale prices were still posted on their webpage; if you act quickly you may still be able to take advantage of the discounts.
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Posted in Reviews, tagged accessories, accessory, apple, BassJump, BookArc, case, iMac, ios, iphone, MacBook, MacBook Air, Twelve South on June 10, 2012 |
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Twelve South is the maker of the BookBook iPhone case reviewed earlier and has had an impressive lineup of accessories for iOS devices for quite some time now, ranging from cases to power supplies. While their iOS-focused products were what originally caught my eye, their offerings are much more comprehensive.
I was first introduced to some of their other products via an email from the company touting their iMac/iPad fusion device HoverBar. This simple yet clever accessory mounts your iPad to a flexible arm attached to the base of your iMac, turning it into a second workstation or monitor (via apps like Air Display). Don’t have an iMac? No worries, the HoverBar clamps securely to any any steady surface of similar thickness, like a cabinet for kitchen iPad usage or podium for giving lectures.
If you’re one of the many that have purchased a MacBook Air but want more presence out of the ultra slim laptop’s speakers Twelve South offers the BassJump. This USB-powered subwoofer promises to dramatically improve your Mac’s sound quality. While advertised for Apple’s ultra book, it’s listed as compatible with any of their Mac lineup including the Cinema Display and Thunderbolt Display. While I’m happy overall with the quality of sound that my iMac produces, I’m tempted to invest in a BassJump to better enjoy my ever-expanding iTunes library.
Have more than one device that needs charging? The PlugBug is for you- this simple but elegant device replaces the wall outlet portion of your MacBook’s power supply and adds a USB port, allowing you to charge both your laptop and an iOS device at the same time. The PlugBug’s USB port offers 10 watts, allowing it to charge both the iPhone and iPad (anyone using an iPhone wall charger to attempt to recharge an iPad knows the frustration of seeing the dreaded “Not Charging” warning after plugging your tablet in).
Even the 11 inch MacBook Air has plenty of power for a majority of computing tasks, but sometimes you need some extra screen or crave a full keyboard and mouse. Whether you use one of the newer Thunderbolt ports or a DisplayPort output to drive your larger monitor, running your laptop in ‘clamshell’ mode with a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse/trackpad is a quick and easy way to change that laptop into a desktop. Twelve South makes the effort simpler and elegant with the BookArc. The BookArc is a laptop stand holding your MacBook Air or MacBook Pro vertical freeing desktop space and keeping your power, monitor, and any other cables securely in place whether connected or ready for the next time you need the desktop experience.
Lastly, Twelve South improves both the aesthetics and long term condition of your MacBook with the SurfacePad. The SurfacePad is a leather covering for the palm rest areas of your MacBook, shielding your laptop from the dirt and oils of your hands and providing a more comfortable place to rest your hands. The soft, padded SurfacePad is touted to make long term usage of your MacBook ergonomically easier and more comfortable without interfering with the closing of your laptop’s screen or its auto sleep function on closing.
As I’ve mentioned I’m not only fascinated by new technology, I’m an absolute sucker for something that’s both functional and clever. Twelve South embodies Apple’s commitment to product aesthetics and the equation of design to function. While I’ve collected a respectable library of accessories over my Apple blogging time, few have produced products that I’m as impressed with as Twelve South.
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