April 12, 2012
In a recent Switched On column about the iPad, I talked about how Apple can lavish “a level of favoritism that Google and Microsoft can never have for any given device running its licensed software.” Keeping the software consistent has been one of the hallmark’s of Apple’s iOS device appeal, but there is also something to be said about keeping the industrial design relatively consistent as Apple has done between the iPhone 4 and 4S and now between the iPad 2 and third-generation iPad. I don’t expect that this will be the last form factor revision for either device although Apple has stayed very faithful to the current designs of the iMac and Mac Pro line for years.
Particularly for these mobile products, keeping a consistent form factor amplifies the advantage that Apple has versus competitors in the accessory-rich tablet and smartphone markets. Obviously, every case-maker breathed a sigh of relief when it saw the dimensions of the latest iPhone and iPad did not stray from the previous generation. But there are also a large number of keyboard clamshells, stands, mounts, clips, docks and all manner of other accessories. By preserving continuity across iDevice generations, Apple may forfeit some excitement that comes at the differentiated shape of a new thing, but it gains in preserving the consistency of the platform (in the broadest sense) with a device that hits the ground running in a ready-made accessory ecosystem, one where the hardware may even be optimized ahead of the third-party software.
Tags: Accessories, Apple, continuity, ecosystems, form factors, industrial design, iPad, iPad 2, third-generation iPad
March 23, 2012
Clearly, a $120 keyboard add-on for RIM’s PlayBook won’t be enough to immediately reverse the fortunes of RIM’s tablet, a product that now bears the burden of carrying RIM from the glory days of the BlackBerry 7 legacy to its future of BlackBerry 10.
Indeed, the peripheral, at best, brings the PlayBook closer to par with integrated keyboard offerings designed for products such as the iPad and ASUS Transformer line. Nonetheless, the PlayBook keyboard in its neat little netbookesque shell, should appeal to RIM’s core; many of these folks are QWERTY junkies. It always struck me as a serious omission that RIM did not provide a keyboard companion for the PlayBook. Of course, its 7” display creates design challenges in terms of making an effective input device that matches the width of the device.
But in case you were hoping that RIM had shifted its marketing focus away from the enterprise, a decision that led to shipping the device with the consumer-unfriendly first version of BlackBerry Bridge, there’s little to report. The video showing off the accessory demonstrates… Citrix client.. It’s not even clear from the video if the keyboard works with the kind of native Playbook apps that RIM is so ardently seeking to woo, much less RIM’s own, recently upgraded Docs to Go suite that is a nice differentiator for the device.
Tags: Blackberry, BlackBerry 10, netbook, PlayBook, QWERTY, RIM
June 9, 2011
One sign that an ecosystem has momentum is when products from separate companies serendipitously complement each other. Such has been the case for the iPad this month. Today, on Les Paul’s birthday, Avid announced Scorch, a companion product to its Sibelius suite of music notation products for the PC. Scorch can perform such handy tasks as transposing or editing music or showing the fingering of a section on a piano keyboard.
Since the app reads and edits Sibelius files, full resolution is preserved regardless of the resolution, and Avid claims that zooming in and out is as smooth as jazz. The app also includes a sheet music store with hundreds of thousands of downloadable scores, many of them free. A few features I’d like to see would include conversion of PDFs into editable scores, and being able to simplify scores for leaning songs. (The app can already adjust tempos as a learning aid.)
The app is debuting at $4.99, but will eventually go up to $7.99. It also has a Music Stand mode that presents sheet music with minimal distractions for performances. Now, if only there were an easy way for performers with something a bit more portable than a piano to take the iPad on stage with you.
Well, what do you know? There is! Earlier this month, IK Multimedia started shipping the iKlip, which allows you to attach your iPad or iPad 2 to a microphone stand, where it can be a complement to the company’s iRig microphone. iKlip is $39.99 direct and can work with an iPad or iPad 2, although some adapters are required for the latter and could cost extra depending on when you bought it..
What I really like about both these products is that they really show off the advantages of the iPad form factor. The iPad’s sleek profile makes it almost perfect for use on a piano, for example (although a larger screen would be helpful for scores).
Tags: composers, engrabers, engraving, iKlip, iPad, musicians, notation, performaing, sheet music, Sibelius
May 22, 2011
Apple has not been shy about promoting its Smart Covers as a key accessory for the iPad 2. A reengineering of the functional but uninspiring rubbery folio case for the original iPad, the colorful covers can be folded into a triangle to prop up the iPad to a comfortable angle for viewing or typing. But Apple isn’t the only company looking to bring iPad-inspired design back to computers. Accessory-maker AVIIQ has released a few pricey flat-folding laptop stands. The least expensive of these is the $40 Portable Quick Stand (PQS), which dispenses with the extended surface of the pricier models.
The PQS does not create a confidence- inspiring presence out of the box; in fact, it easily tips over without some weight atop it steadying it. This became a practical issue as I’d often have to reorient it if I needed to remove it to reposition it. However, with its rubbery cladding on either side, the stand stays put underneath a laptop. My main concern with the product was whether the gap in its folding angles would pinch fingers as they got caught manipulating it, but the “give” in the product’s sides prevents any discomfort. I also found the angle a bit extreme; unfortunately it is not adjustable.
The shiny plastic PQS is easy to slip into a laptop case. However, having seen many clever devices to prop up a handset or tablet, I think there’s room for improvement — something with a mire rigid form and more flexible angle.
Tags: accessory sunday, AVIIQ, laptop stand, smart covers, ventilation
December 22, 2010
I recently had an interesting discussion with a company hat is planning un releasing a useful iPhoneiPad accessory at CES that works with, of course, an app. The company was wondering whether it should charge for the app. Certainly, while most apps — particularly first-party ones – that work with iPhone-related devices have been free, e.g.,, the Sonos Controller, the Monsoon Multimedia Vukano app, and the Peel application – some have charged separately. A good example of the latter approach is the outlandishly priced Sling Remote app. Logitech also mysteriously has left Squeezebox control to two strong third-party apps.
This company, though, wasn’t looking to gouge. Rather, it was concerned that if it made the app free, that those who didn’t purchase the hardware would be scratching their heads and give it a low rating. This raises some interesting questions. For example, should Apple enforce those who rate an app that requires hardware to have purchased that hardware? I’d argue yes. Alternatively, manufacturers should have the option to make iPhone apps available only with a code that is obtained with the purchase of the product and is then linked to their Apple ID.
Tags: apps, comments, dock connector, peripherals, ratings
December 20, 2010
The Mophie Juice Pack Air was an accessory that received praise for the iPhone 3G and 3GS. And while the iPhone 4 has good battery life in general, there are always those who will want more, particularly since – for all the nice, extra access touches for things such as screen orientation lock that we’ve seen in iOS 4.2 – it’s still a hassle to turn off features that drain the battery such as Wi-Fi or Bluetooth.
I was a bit disappointed when I checked out Mophie’s new Juice Pack Reserve and Boost for iPod and iPhone. They felt cheaply made, particularly the dock interface extension which sometimes would stick. butt the company has returned to form with its flagship iPhone charging case. The Juice Pack Air complements and can charge the iPhone 4 from a standard microUSB connector. It also includes a four-LED battery meter.
I still have a few quibbles. I’d like to see the cutouts for the buttons at more of an angle to make them easier to press even though this might sacrifice a bit of protection. Also, the top part of the enclosure can come loose if you are trying to grab it out of a tight pocket. Still, the Juice Pack Air is a great option to provide abbot 70 percent more battery life to he iPhone 4 and a great choice for those who are willing to trade its svelte profile for going the extra mile.
Tags: accessory sunday, battery life, external battery, iPhone 4, juice pack, mophie
December 12, 2010
Since the iPad was released, there’s been much excitement about add-on keyboards using either Bluetooth or its dock connector. (So far, only Apple’s Keyboard Dock has taken the latter approach, and it’s not a particularly travel-friendly item.) The iPad helped inspire me to write an ode to to the old Stowaway keyboard originally developed by ThinkOutside.
So far, variations of most keyboard-case combos have met with pretty poor reviews due to the mushiness and membrane-like quality of the keyboard. The ZAGGmate, though, offers individual keys. They would also be mushy enough to earn the ire of any reviewer if they were on a notebook, but they’re an improvement over most of what’s out there as well as, of course, the existing screen-based keyboard . While I’ve seen some people sail along on its smooth surface, I find myself making at least as many errors as I do on the iPhone’s keyboard. Perhaps that is due to less frequent use.
The ZAGGmate allows the iPad can be stored inside its aluminum housing to protect the screen. However, this leaves the back of the device unprotected. ZAGG, of course, will be happy to sell you an Invisible Shield to fix that problem, but you can also throw the combination in a standard 8” netbook slipcase for further protection. The makers of the ClamCase have updated their site to note that its product will be shipping soon. At least until then, though, the ZAGGmate is a great companion for the iPad, which I have taken to use at conferences due to its long battery life and variety of note-taking applications.
Tags: Bluetooth, ClamCase, input, Invisible Shield, iPad, keyboard, protection, zagg, ZAGGmate
November 28, 2010
At the recent CES Unveiled show in New York, Audiovox was mostly showing off its forays into mobile electronics with hints of some cool new stuff to be released at the January show, but the home to all that is RCA this side of TV sets was also showing off a few accessories. Among these was a travel charger with an integrated shelf for a handset, portable media player, a different spin on an idea we’ve seen before.. I gave it a spin with the idea that it might replace my go-to traveling surge protector, the cleverly designed Monster Outlets To Go.
Like some of the more recent Outlets To Go products, the RCA has USB ports (two of them, in fact) in addition to three outlets. Ad you probably won’t be surprised to learn that it can be found for less than the Monster Cable competitor. However there were a few issues. First, while Audiovox includes a little shelf, it only works if the outlet has the grounding prong on the bottom. Worse, the adapter for slimmer devices didn’t seem to be securely attached to the adapter. More seriously, the USB port would not charge te Sprint Overdrive mobile hotspot that I’d brought, and the prongs do not fold in, which makes a product that is already too bulky to be a travel product even more bulky.
Tags: Audiovox, Monser Cable, Outlets To Go, RCA, shelf, travel
August 23, 2010
There are products that make it and products that don’t. And then there are a few that exist in a vaporous limbo. The latter seems to be the case for Jook, a tiny and somewhat promising proximity-limited music sharing gadget with social networking ties. It debuted at CES 2009 – yes, more than two and a half years ago. An initiative of gaming peripheral maker Razer,.Jook’s Web site is still intact – frozen in time without any update or explanation as to whether it has been subject to extended gestation or cancelled.
Perhaps the company was concerned about legal action from the RIAA. But a similar product did come to market – the i2i Stream from Aerielle that allowed someone to share audio with people up to 30 feet away. Or perhaps the company figured that the illuminated Jook would have trouble competing with a simple headphone splitter cable.
Tags: Aerielle, i2i, jook, music sharing, proximity, Razer
April 25, 2010
Keynamics attracted fans with its Aviator laptop stand that could pack up to take minimal space and yet offered flexibility for a variety of laptop use cases such as airline seats. They followed up that device with the Element. Whereas some iPhone stands are so small they can fit in your wallet, the high-stepping Element hoists your iPhone far off the surface while providing pass-through cut-outs for cables. It’s price is pretty lofty, too, at $29, so Keynamics is promoting that it will work with an array of other cell phones and larger devices.
Keynamics’ site also motes that the device will support the iPad, something I was tempted to try given the product’s sturdy build. And while it technically can hold an iPad, I wouldn’t recommend it as the iPad’s center of gravity is simply too high to support the relatively narrow support of the Element. It will work, but it’s just a bit too easily toppled, at least in portrait orientation.
Tags: accessory sunday, aviator, keynamics