Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Hardware Review: Dexim P-Flip™ Foldable Power Dock

Sometimes your iPhone needs a bit of a power boost to make it through the day, just like it’s owner might need a cup of coffee or a shot of the latest energy drink. The Dexim P-Flip™ Foldable Power Dock is small, powerful external battery that will get you to the end of the day and then some, with a few extras to make it a great value.

The P-Flip is an external 2000 mAh battery charger and claims to provide up to 6 hours talk time, 10 hours video/gaming or 40 hours music. My real world tests were consistent with this claim. Folded up it’s about the size and thickness of a business card holder, 2”x3” and weights about 9 ounces.

It’s designed to be used as an iPhone 4 stand for Facetime conversations or simply a convenient way to use the phone while charging via its USB mini cable since it can provide power to the iPhone 4 while charging. I was able to use the P-Flip while holding the phone up to my ear, but it was a slight bit awkward. I kept this in my pocket and used it for an extra power boost while taking a break for lunch or dinner while on the road.

Included with the P-Flip™ is a clear bumper case to provide a tight fit in the stand for an iPhone 4, but the device works fine to charge a naked iPhone or while using some of the other popular iPhone cases. However, if you use a full wraparound case for your iPhone you’ll most likely need to remove it while using the P-Flip. No big deal given the number of naked iPhone 4s I see in the wild.

Dexim boasts that they also provide a free alarm clock iPhone app that’s designed to compliment the P-Flip. The idea is with the P-Flip you can use it as a replacement for your standard beside clock. The app works fine but doesn’t really take advantage of any special feature of the P-Flip. Nothing negative, but it’s more a marketing gimick than providing anything useful.

If you need a bit of a power boost throughout the day and run your iPhone 4 naked or with a minimal bumper, the P-Flip™ Foldable Power dock is a great option.

Pros: Powerful, lightweight and easy to use.
Cons: Need to use either their bumper or a minimal case

8 out of 10

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Hardware Review: Chargeblock XL

When you need an extra boost of power for your iOS device during the day, the Chargeblock XL delivers with a classy balance of form and function at an excellent price. In the short time I’ve had this product to review, it has become my go to charger that I seem to carry everywhere with me, and so should you if you ever need a little something extra to make it through your iOS day.

The Chargeblock has an impressive 1500 mAh of power which provides up to 19 hours of audio and up to 5 hours of talk time, yet weights a little over an ounce. The ergonomics of the device are outstanding. The shape and size of the charger is similar to that of a cigarette lighter and fits easily into a pocket, purse, or laptop bag. Unlike a cigarette lighter, the top case that protectors the 30-pin connector is detachable and might get lost over time, which is a minor annoyance.

Unlike any other external battery charger for the iPhone I’ve ever tested, the Chrgeblock was 100% usable while talking on the phone. It unobtrusively added a curved bottom to the phone and didn’t fall out during conversations. More than once I forget that it was an add-on to my iPhone and not part of it. Incidentally it worked great with my iPad as well.

The charger uses a series of 3 red lights to indicate the charge status. Around the edges is six blue lights that “dance” around the device while charging. This was a cool sci-fi feature but did get somewhat annoying while charging in a small hotel room. I had dreams of Cylons and Colonial Vipers.

This charger has become a trusted companion that I carry with my practically everywhere! If you’re looking for a few ounces of iOS power to get you through your day, the Chargeblock XL is all you need.

Pros: Excellent capacity, balanced design and affordable
Cons: Wish they made an energy drink to help the iOS device user get through the day

Five out of Five

Article was republished by the Lawrence Apple User's Group 2.0 here as well as other groups listed on the right

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Software Review: Cloud Pull

When Google suffered a major outage recently and temporarily lost customer files, I, like others, saw the signs of a storm coming. Cloud Pull helps you weather the storm and keep your cloud-based information backed up. It is a simple program that is simply indispensable.

Cloud Pull by Golden Hills Software is available directly from the developer and from the App Store and will backup both your Google Documents and your Google Calender for up to 10 different Google Accounts. It’s like Time Machine for Google. At any interval you select (every hour up to every day) Google Pull will download all your Google Documents and Google Calendar and keep them on your computer for a minimum of 30 days and indefinitely if you wish. Not only does it backup the current version but it also backs up any revisions. The folder structure is identical to that within your Google account, respecting which items appear in home and which are hidden.

Once downloaded to your Mac, you can then restore them directly from the off-line database Cloud Pull utilizes. This was great for when I was working offline on a plane. I had my entire Google Document collection available to me. Because Google Pull supports multiple accounts, you can have your browser open to one account while still reviewing documents in another account. It even supports QuickView so you can easily find the document you need. If you work offline with your documents, the program can’t put the document back into Google, however. You’ll have to upload the file to Google manually or copy and paste your changes. This isn’t the end of the world, but something to consider when you restore a document via Cloud Pull.

The UI is straightforward and includes a menu icon that uses green indicators to show your accounts are safely backed up and used a red indicator and exclamation point to warn you of problems. Usually it’s a temporary glitch, but I appreciate the early warning system and how similar it is to Apple’s Time Machine.

At $24.99, the program is a bit pricey, and of course you can manually download your Google Documents to back them up, but Cloud Pull makes it automatic so you are much less likely to lose data. While Cloud Pull doesn't back up your Gmail, this can easily be done via a third party email client and contact synchronization is built into Address Book. Cloud Pull fills a gap for those of us wanting easy backups of the "office style" documents we create on the web. If you use Google Documents for serious work, then you owe it to yourself to get this program. $24.99 is a small price to pay for piece of mind for when the cloud leads you astray.

Pros: Backups up your Google Documents and Calenders automatically and protecting your information in the cloud.
Cons: Can’t restore files back to Google

10 out of 10

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Hardware Review: Technocel PowerPak XT

The Technocel PowerPak XT is a combination USB charger and external battery pack that I highly recommend as a great combination for anyone who travels and needs a little extra power boost now and then. Because it has a USB port and a AC power plug, you can charge your iPhone (or iPad in “slow-charge “mode) and charge the device’s own battery at the same time.

Ironically, the device comes with a variety of USB adapters to charge mobile phones but not those made by Apple--you’ll have to bring your own cable for that. The PowerPak has a 1600 mAh internal lithium ion battery which claims up to 4 1/2 hours of extra talk time. Actual usage was consistent with this claim as my iPhone charge went up by 50% after the Technocel was drained.

The device is about the size of a Macbook charger (sans cables) and can easily fit into most pockets. It has a matte finish and curved edges making it powerful and visually pleasing (and won’t grind into your leg while in your pocket). Carrying an iPhone charge cable with you could be annoying though - I used the Scosche Flipsync portable charger to avoid this problem.

Technocel claims the device can hold its charge for a year. While I couldn’t test that, I did leave it fully charged and unplugged and still got the 50% increase in my iPhone 4’s battery when I plugged it into the PowerPak XT.

Four red LEDs indicate the current capacity left in the battery or whether the device is charging, depending on the situation. Knowing how much of a charge is left in the external battery is always helpful

This is a smart design as it replaces the standard iPhone charger but also provides you a extended battery pack for just a bit more space and size. Because it’s a pass through USB charger, you can use it in a variety of combinations to charge other devices either with the included USB cables or those provided by the manufacturer.

Pros: Universal design provides charging and battery backup at the same time
Cons: Doesn’t come with iPhone charging cable

8 out of 10

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Sunday, June 12, 2011

GigaOM: Why Square Has the Credit Card Industry on the Run

In this article for Gigaom/TheAppleBlog, I review Verifone's recent claims about Square's security and how I'm not worried about it

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Gigaom: Apple’s Joint Venture and the Plight of the Third-Party Partner

In this Gigaom/TheAppleBlog article, I examine Apple's continuing tenuous relationship with third party providers of service and content

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

GigaOM: In-App Purchases and The Smurfberry Affair

In this post for GigaOM/TheAppleBlog, I address concerns about in-app purchases and children and accurately predict federal inquiry into the problem