Apple’s Special Media event last week was chalked full of new product announcements and improvements to their current hardware and software lineups. There was so much to talk about that it was easy to miss the importance of any one announcement over another. For those of us especially interested in the iPad Pro, there were some really awesome accessories that were also announced. We already talked about the Apple Pencil, and what we think having a dedicated drawing tool for a professional device like the iPad Pro could accomplish in the hands of talented iOS developers. Now its time to shift gears and put the spotlight on the Smart Keyboard–a new keyboard Apple specially designed to integrate seamlessly with the iPad Pro.
I’ve been using the charger that came with my iPad Air 2, but it has only one USB port, whereas I carry four devices on me on a daily basis: my iPad, iPhone, Apple Watch, and Sony camera. I charge most of my gadgets on a daily basis, and although I have enough power at home, it becomes a bit of a hassle when I’m outside.
I was reading a Wirecutter article on multi-USB Port chargers the other day when I stumbled upon the $20 ChargeTech charger. It’s worth mentioning the ChargeTech was not their top pick (due to price), but they had nothing but good things to say about it otherwise.
It’s just a little bigger than the tiny cube charger that comes with iPhones, but its prongs can fold in. But that alone wouldn’t be enough reason to buy another charger.
The real draw of the ChargeTech is its dual USB port, both of which feature 2.4A of power. That means this little charger is able to provide enough power for two iPads, simultaneously. That feature, combined with the amazingly small size, has me absolutely sold on this product.
I’m picking up two right now: one for me and another for my dad. Expect a review in the coming weeks, once I’ve had a little time to test.
When it comes to keyboards that are compatible to use with my iPad–I have always had a soft spot for the Apple Wireless Keyboard. It’s a great combination of a full size keybaord that’s not too large, but still feels sturdy and comfortable to type on. One drawback, though, is that with the Apple Wireless Keyboard, you have no practical solution to use it with your iPad when a flat working surface is unavailable . If you want to work on your iPad in a car or any other circumstance where your lap is the closest you are going to get to a table, I have found that your best options are keyboard cases that provide all-in-one solutions.
While there is absoulutely nothing wrong with this use case, I wanted more options, and I wanted at least one of them to include the Apple Wireless Keyboard. When I discovered the Nimblstand I was intrigued by the possibility of finally being able to type on my lap without compromises. The Nimblstand is very lightweight (less than 0.5 lbs) becasue it is made out of recycled materials–so carryong it around isn’t a burden.
The upcoming Phorm iPad case is touting the ability to add tactile typing to the iPad on-screen keyboard experience – as shown in the video above. It’s said to take typing on the on-screen keyboard to another level, and it does look quite impressive.
It’s got a few notable limitations though – it will only fit the iPad mini initially, and it’s only designed to support the built-in Apple keyboard (not the new 3rd party keyboards allowed in iOS 8).
The company behind Phorm is Tactus. They’re set to release the product this summer and pre-orders are available now at GetPhorm.com
Remember that ZAGG InvisibleShield Glass protector I wrote about in December? Well, I finally decided to take it off my iPad Air 2 yesterday. I initially bought the shield for the extra scratch protection it could provide — the idea being that ZAGG’s tempered glass might be harder than the glass that Apple uses. This certainly seemed true for scratches, because after a month of abuse, the face of the shield still seemed flawless. However, the same couldn’t be said of the side, which looked like it had been chipped a bit; that part surprised me because I have never dropped this Air 2.
But it wasn’t this minor cosmetic damage that sealed the deal for me. It was the way the shield seemed to work against the design of the Air 2. The extra glass definitely increased the amount of glare, which took away from the crisp right-at-the-surface effect of the iPad’s laminated display. Then there was the negative effect the thicker glass had on TouchID. My theory is that the slight increase in distance between my thumb and the TouchID sensor decreased reading accuracy, so I was getting a lot more failures with the ZAGG shield on than I did without it. Taking it off has been a breath of fresh air, and the sensor is now back to being extremely reliable (much more so than on my iPhone 5S). I had a few commenters back in my December post that called me out on this issue, but after a month of use, I know that this protector did affect TouchID experience.
I plan to keep the Glass around in a drawer in case I send it in for replacement, but I likely won’t install it again; I now know definitively that I prefer the naked iPad screen.
Apple Store in San Francisco, via Harry McCracken.
This is a very nice move by Apple Retail – showcasing laptop style keyboards for the iPad. As Apple Insider reports, tech journalist Harry McCracken spotted this display at a San Francisco Apple store recently, and I think it looks great. And it’s an excellent idea to show off what’s available for the iPad in this area.
Also, it’s particularly good to see this now, while we’re bombarded with TV ads for the Microsoft Surface Pro line of ‘tablets that can replace your laptop’. I’m so, so sick of those ads – and their way overblown claims about the Surface and the bashing of either the iPad or MacBooks in most of them.
Those ads pitch the Surface’s keyboard as some sort of miraculous new innovation for tablets, when the fact is there’s been a huge range of high quality 3rd party keyboard options for the iPad for years now – including some stellar ones that attach as a case. Nearly all of them costs less than the $130 Surface keyboard, which does not come free with the $1,000+ Surface devices.
It’s also good to see this in Apple stores just to raise general user awareness of these keyboard options for the iPad. I need to go take a look at my local Apple store and see which manufacturers’ keyboards are being featured. I hope and expect to see Logitech and ZAGG among them.
After several posts discussing my continued curiousity in the Pencil stylus, I decided to just put my money where my mouth was and buy the darn thing for $50 USD during the Black Friday sale. I bought the Walnut version so that it sticks to my iPad’s Smart Cover, and also because I find it a little smarter looking.
I’ll definitely be testing it out over the next week or two, so stay tuned for a review. I’m a really big fan of the Paper app and I can’t wait to combine it with Pencil for a more natural drawing (and erasing) experience. After my recent disappointing experience with Penultimate and the Jot Script, I’m hoping the Pencil has what it takes to make drawing and sketching on my iPad more fun.
Given that software keyboards are still buggy as hell, I’ve really had the chance to put the Logitech Ultrathin to use full time, and the conclusion in my iPad Ultrathin review still holds true for me.
The battery has never died on me, and I only remember having charged it once in the last eight weeks. The rubber feet are still sticking nicely to the bottom of the case, which is a good sign of overall durability. There’s really no downside to using this particular case with my Air 2, even though it’s technically designed for the original iPad Air. Most of all, the keys are still a delight to use. They’re springy, responsive, and very comfortable in continued use.
The only thing I still want changed at this point would be a sort of auto-wake switch in the form of a pressure sensor or a magnet. Credit really goes to Belkin for inclusion of that feature in many of their keyboard cases, and it has me hooked. Undocking the iPad from the keyboard and having Bluetooth automatically disconnect just feels like magic. It’s a great piece of smart design that makes the keyboard work for me, instead of forcing me to conform to the keyboard. If Logitech could add that feature to the next version of the Ultrathin, I think this would be a real 10/10 design.
Here’s a really cool accessory I read about on Tools and Toys: the Kingston MobileLite Wireless Flash Reader. The iPad lacks any sort of expandable storage, but the MobileLite allows you to work around this by pairing with over Wi-Fi. Once paired, you can use the MobileLite’s USB port or card reader to access files on your SD cards, USB sticks, or external USB hard drives. I like the choice of going with Wi-Fi over Bluetooth, since the connection speeds are much faster over Wi-Fi.
Not only is this a great way to shunt extra movies or pictures from the iPad to an SD card, but it’s also an interesting way to get local files from a USB drive onto the iPad itself (where you can then open them in an app like Word for iPad). I also really like that this is an accessory that works with the storage devices you likely already own, instead of being a locked-in, proprietary storage unit + case.
The MobileLite accessory also features a little battery for extra charging, but that feature is probably really meant for iPhones. If you’re interested, you can find the MobileLite for $40 on Amazon.com (or NCIX.com for Canucks).
I’ve written about the Pencil stylus before, and it still seems really, really cool. Not only is it custom-built for one of my favourite drawing apps, Paper, but it recently expanded its support with a FiftyThree SDK. That means you can now use the Pencil with other awesome apps, like Noteshelf (for notes and diagrams) and Procreate (for sketches and paintings, with layer support),
The only thing keeping me from buying a Walnut Pencil (which will stick to my Smart Cover) are tales of the rubber tips breaking within the first weeks of use. There are enough negative Amazon reviews centered around the rubber tips that it does seem like a real product flaw, as opposed to a few outliers who happened to get bad Pencils. I realize that you can purchase more rubber tips for the stylus, but I’d prefer not to have to do that. I’ve tried to reach FiftyThree to get some answers, but I haven’t heard anything back from them thus far.
If any iPad Insight readers have any feedback to share, please do hit us up in the comments. I’m really eager to see if this is an actual issue, or whether I should take my chances and hope FiftyThree honour their 30-day guarantee.
I’ve taken to tying my Lightning cable up before putting it in my bag, but what I really should invest in is a retractable Lightning cable like this one from Scosche (which I read about on Tools and Toys).
I’ve purchased a few retractable 30-pin cables for myself from various sources over the years, and paying for quality in a cable does seem to make a difference. The cheap $3–5 cables I’ve bought from places like Monoprice or USBFever.com do work, but they just don’t have nearly the same level of click and polish. The default price is $25, but you can get it for as little as $15 on Amazon depending on the sale.
I’d also note that I think these retractable cables are plain superior to having a long Lightning cable in your bag. You save space, save any hassle of tangles, and the cables usually extend far enough for me to use wall chargers and laptop USB ports without any issue.