Two Months With an Apple Watch

Glimpses of the Apple Watch life. Image credit: Ariane Coffin.
Glimpses of the Apple Watch life. Image credit: Ariane Coffin.

I’ve had my Apple Watch for almost two months now and I’ve got to say that, overall, it’s been a really positive experience. Interested in getting one? Itching to read a post about an Apple product just so you can write a long-winded response about how Apple fans are idiots because Android had better products months before Apple’s new iThing for a fraction of the price?

Then this is the post for you!

Why I Wanted It
1 – Notifications. The Apple Watch doesn’t work without an iPhone, but they can communicate via Bluetooth (range of about 32 feet) or via a wireless network. At home, instead of having my phone on me at all times to keep up with the world, the idea is that I could leave my phone in a central location and have the Watch warn me of only the important stuff. I felt that could allow me to be more reachable in case of emergencies (work, health, or “I’m at the store, do you want me to get wine?” texts from my husband) while still spending overall less time on my gadgets in front of my kids.

Yes, I’m aware of how ironic it is—getting more gadgets to spend less time on gadgets.

2 – Health tracking. I had a Fitbit Zip (basically just a pedometer) that I was very happy with, in terms of counting steps and letting me compete with my friends as motivation. I found the idea of the Fitbit Charge very attractive (step counting, sleep tracking, heart rate monitoring) but I couldn’t get behind the limited style options. The Apple Watch is, well, shinier.

3 – Map directions. I had heard that the Watch could give you directions: It would tap one way to tell you to turn left, a different way to tell you to turn right. This seemed like a really cool idea to me.

4 – Yes, because it’s the latest iThing. I’m a sucker.

Why I Didn’t Not Get It
I hesitated a while before getting a Watch. My reasons for getting a Watch were good, but not oh-my-gosh-I-so-totally-need-this good. Meanwhile, I was really scared of getting stuck with a product I didn’t like. In the end, I realized two things:

1 – I don’t need it to be perfect. Reading the Apple Watch review from The Oatmeal helped me understand that a smartwatch won’t turn our lives around the way the smartphone did. The Apple Watch is, ultimately, more of an iPhone accessory than a new gadget of its own right. Somehow making it sound less useful removed some of the pressure in my needing it to be perfect. Weird, huh?

2 – I’m not committed to it. Unlike the iPhone, I have no contract forcing me to use this thing if I don’t like it. When I buy an iPhone under contract, I know I will need to use that phone whether I end up liking it or not. I need a phone and not using it isn’t really an option. But the Watch? I don’t need a Watch. Or a watch, for that matter. I can wear it all the time, some of the time, none of the time, sell it off to the highest bidder on Craigslist, etc… who cares!

So, with my fear of commitment appeased, I clicked the purchase button on the Apple Store online. It told me delivery would take 2-3 weeks, but to my surprise Apple delivered the package two days later with overnight delivery. I had my Watch three days from the date of purchase.

Life With My Apple Watch

Let’s see how it lived up to the reasons why I wanted it.

Your typical email notification on the Apple Watch. Image credit: Ariane Coffin.
Your typical email notification on the Apple Watch. Image credit: Ariane Coffin.

1 – Notifications really did help me disconnect. I love my phone and it helps me stay sane. It has helped me stay connected to friends and family during the mind-numbing hours of rocking a baby to sleep, breastfeeding, or just when the kids are busy playing on their own and I can finally catch a five second break for myself.

On the other hand, I know I check my phone too often. I know that when I check my work emails, which I need to do, I will almost always mindlessly gravitate toward social networks apps shortly thereafter.

With the Watch, I receive notifications for emails, text messages, and phone calls. That’s it. You could set it up to do much more, or much less, but those are the only notifications I wanted. The Watch will vibrate when I get a notification and if I raise my hand to glance at the screen right away, the notification will display on the screen without touching a single button. If it’s an urgent email, I go find my phone or get on a computer to read the whole email body and respond. In the case of a text message, it prompts me with options to reply or dismiss the notification. If I click reply, I can dictate my response to Siri or use one of the default responses.

This process has helped me streamline everything I get during the day, and I love it. Love it.

Apple Watch tracking the number I've stood up at least once. Image credit: Ariane Coffin.
Apple Watch tracking the number I’ve stood up at least once. Image credit: Ariane Coffin.

2 – Health tracking is “meh.” I have to admit, this one has been disappointing to me.

Yes, it’s tracking my steps just like the Fitbit Zip. Unfortunately, there’s really no social aspect to the Health app. I also don’t like the Health user interface; it looks pretty but it’s hard to filter the data if you’re looking for specific information. How many steps did I do yesterday? *Squints at the graph, between 6,000 and 8,000, maybe?* And seriously, what’s with the circles, Apple?

Yes, it tracks my heart rate, but as it turns out, I really have no use for this information. It was fun for about a minute (hey look, my heart rate is 68 right now!), but it quickly lost its novelty factor. Maybe this information is important to you if you’re training or have a heart condition, but it’s not for me.

In addition to the Health app on your iPhone, which gathers data from both your phone and your watch, there’s also the watch’s activity tracker native app that will show you three things: Move, Exercise, and Stand. Move tracks the number of calories I’ve spent moving, Exercise the number of minutes spent exercising (although I still don’t understand how it determines what counts as exercise), and Stand the number of hours during which you’ve stood. Don’t get that last one wrong, it’s not the cumulative number of minutes you’ve spent displayed in hour units. It’s the number of hours during which you’ve stood at all. That means you can sit from sunrise to sunset, but as long as you’ve stood up for a moment every hour, it’ll say you’ve stood up 12 hours. It’s kind of ridiculous. Health has pretty low expectations.

Overall, for my needs, the step counting works well, but all the other “health” tools have been mostly useless.

Apple Watch giving me directions. Image credit: Ariane Coffin.
Apple Watch giving me directions. Image credit: Ariane Coffin.

3 – Directions surprised me with some awesome features. I’ve used the Watch to give me directions while driving a number of times now, and I’ve got some mixed feelings about it. The Watch will vibrate to tell me to turn left or right. Tap-tap-space-tap-tap-space-tap-tap for left and twelve consecutive taps for right, also known as “Why am I feeling a second heartbeat?” for left and “Why won’t this thing stop vibrating?” for right. Because it only vibrates when it’s time to turn without warning, and because the taps can be hard to distinguish while driving on a bumpy road, traveling by vibration is not as exciting and practical as I thought it would be. Unless you’re hearing-impaired, you’re better off using the Siri’s voice commands from your iPhone instead.

That being said, there is one unexpected feature I absolutely love: Your watch will display information about your next turn and how far ahead it is. This means if I miss what Siri said, I don’t have to wait for her to repeat it again later. I can just glance at my watch. Plus, if the instructions are to drive three miles on Sepulveda and I want to know how far along I’ve gotten so far, I can glance at my watch and it will show me. This is immensely practical when you’re in slow traffic and lose perspective of how far you’ve gotten.

I took a couple of day trips to L.A. with the Watch and I loved having that feature while I drove. I enjoyed it much better than trying to see the maps on my phone or the navigation system.

Yes, I do customize the face of the Watch every day to match my outfit. Image credit: Ariane Coffin.
Yes, I do customize the face of the Watch every day to match my outfit. Image credit: Ariane Coffin.

4 – It’s a shiny new gadget and people are very curious about it. I’ve only bumped into a very small number people who own a Watch, but I’ve received many, many questions. What does it do? (Hum…) How much did it cost? (It costs less than most people think it does.) Does the band come in black? (I don’t know, check the Apple Store.) How’s the battery life? (I wear it all day—from 5 am to 11 pm—and I’ve rarely gotten below 50% battery life. I charge it every night while I sleep.) Is the band comfortable? (It won’t make your skin sweat as much as the plastic bands from the 80s, but it’s not as comfortable as wearing nothing.) Do you like it? (It’s been worth it so far.)

I’ve had so many people asking me questions about my Apple Watch that now I’m answering every question assuming they’re asking about the Watch. It’s been the source of a few embarrassing moments. I’ve had people at work ask me vague questions like, “How do you get notifications?” and then I start blabbering about my Watch just to realize they were asking with respect to something else entirely, like my code or Outlook. Oops.

So in the end, people have said the Watch is just a notification center like it’s a bad thing. As far as I’m concerned, yes, that’s mostly how I use it, but I love it for that. Some features, like health tracking, have left me ambivalent at best. Meanwhile, I find new and unexpected features every once in a while that make me glad I got the Watch. I’ll be interested to see where Apple goes from here.

A Thermal Camera for Your Mobile Devices

See heat in the dark with the Seek thermal camera for smartphones. Image credit: Seek Thermal.
See heat in the dark with the Seek thermal camera for smartphones. Image credit: Seek Thermal.

Thermal cameras are, by and large, prohibitively expensive for the average Joe. However, there is a new product which caters to the mostly untapped consumer market. Here’s the Seek thermal camera, an add-on for your smartphone.

Seek thermal camera. Image credit:
Seek thermal camera. Image credit:

The uses for a thermal camera attachment on your smartphone are amazingly varied:

  • Finding your pet in the yard after sunset: I have a neighbor who stands outside tapping on a can of food with a fork for 20 minutes every evening, trying to call his cat inside for the night. I bet he could use a thermal camera. I bet I could use him using a thermal camera.
  • Scanning a dark, empty parking lot or park for perps: If you find yourself walking through an empty public space in the dark on a regular basis, as I often did walking through campus at 3 am during grad school, a thermal camera—and a can of Mace—could bring you some peace of mind.
  • Scanning your yard for animals before taking out the trash: For those of you who keep posting bear videos on Facebook. Don’t let them surprise you!
  • Find drafts and leaks in your home: Comes in handy for slew of home improvement projects.
  • Scanning your kids while they sleep: I always wondered if my little ones are too hot or too cold at night. Am I underdressing them? Overdressing them? Are their feet too cold? Will they wake up if I try to feel them? (The answer to the latter is always yes.) While surface temperature is not true body temperature and a thermal camera will never replace a thermometer, having a thermal camera is a little bit like gaining a mom superpower.
  • Find boats or people overboard at night: If you’re a boat person.
  • Night tag: Okay, so perhaps this application alone doesn’t validate the price tag, but let’s call it a perk!

The Seek thermal camera uses a 12 micron sensor and produces a 32,136 pixel image that is 206 pixels by 156 pixels. Each pixel represents a temperature measurement—anything from -40 to 330 degrees Celsius can be accurately measured to a fraction of a degree, according to their specs—and the color scheme of the image is customizable in the app.

The app offers a gamut of settings and tools, but there is also a development kit available for programmers so you can hope for more apps using Seek in the future. Those apps could offer specialized tools for certain uses, or I can imagine really cool games that could make use of this 6th sense.

The hardest part about using this gadget is actually having it with you when you need it. It’s not likely you’d keep it on your phone all the time, so how do you keep it on your person in case you find yourself in a dark parking lot? The camera comes with a hardy plastic case that’s perfect for throwing into a purse or bag. The case also has a metal ring, presumably to add to a keychain like I tried, but the whole thing ended up making my key set way too bulky for my need. If you know you’ll only use it for a single purpose, like checking the yard for wild animals before letting your dog out at night, you could also give the camera a permanent home near the door. You’ll definitely want to decide where you’ll be storing it, though, or else suffer the consequences: Where is that darn camera? Yes, I have already lost it multiple times.

Another inconvenience that I experienced was that the camera didn’t fit with my phone case. So every time I wanted to use the camera, I had to take my case off and put it back on again after. My husband didn’t have this problem; the Seek fit on his iPhone 6 Plus with the Apple silicon case. Mine was an iPhone 5 with a Speck wallet case.

Minor inconveniences aside, the Seek can be a great toy for the gadget lovers or a very practical tool if you have a need for it. You can always find additional uses for it once you have it, but it’s much easier to validate the purchase if it solves a frequent problem in your life too.

Seek is available for Android and iPhone and retails at $199.

GeekMom received this item for review purposes.

Build a Sensational Wall Collage With CollageMo!

Look at that collage! Image: Maryann Goldman
Look at that collage! Image: Maryann Goldman.

Recently, I had the opportunity to try out CollageMo from Lamplighter Games. CollageMo is an iOS app for your iPad or iPhone that allows you to turn your photos into gorgeous wall collages. As an advanced amateur photographer, I have thousands of photos to choose from, and I couldn’t wait to get started and see what I could create.

You can use pictures from anywhere. CollageMo is able to import pictures from the photos stored on your iPhone or iPad, as well as Facebook and Instagram. CollageMo also plans to add support to get photos from your computer. For me, the photos I wanted to use were located on SmugMug. I downloaded the photos I wanted to use from SmugMug to my computer, and then I used another app called PhotoSync to move the photos to my iPad.

Choosing which pictures you want to include is the only hard part of this whole process. I spent at least three hours deciding on a theme and picking out my best photos in that area. I decided to go with flowers, butterflies, insects, and owls… all outside stuff.  Most of my best photography is of nature.

Before you start building your collage, of course, you’ll need to decide what wall in your house will showcase your beautiful creation. I chose the wall above the love seat where my guy and I sit all the time. The available space is approximately 5 ft.wide and 3 ft. tall, so I wanted the collage to be centered in that area. I decided to use a template with nine pictures that is 3 ft. wide and 1.5 ft. tall.  The app shows you how the collage looks centered over a brown couch, and that is helpful, but I would still recommend that you use a tape measure to make sure the collage dimensions are going to fit well in the space of your choice. You don’t want to end up with something too small or too big.

The CollageMo app is easy to use. You get to pick anything from a single shot to large, elegant templates. You can drag the pictures around within a given template, crop images as necessary, and even change the template to see how your images look in several layouts. You can even create a magic collage by pointing CollageMo to a group of pictures and allowing it to fill in the template for you.

I recommend that you pick a template that you think you want to use and start adding photos to fill it out. You’ve got to start someplace, right?!? Sometimes the photo you want to use doesn’t fit well in the available square or rectangle, so you may have to move things around and play with the layout a bit. Sometimes the photos don’t work together as a group as well as you’d hoped. I went back several times to look for additional photos to try. I guarantee, though, that you’ll get excited as you see your beautiful pictures come to life in your collage.

CollageMo picture selection process. Image: Maryann Goldman
The CollageMo picture-selection process. Image: Maryann Goldman.
photo 1 (1)
The CollageMo app and my collage. Image: Maryann Goldman.

When you’re happy with your collage, go ahead and place your order. You’ll get an order summary email indicating when your collage should arrive. Mine came quickly in less than 2 weeks.

When your collage arrives, check to make sure there’s no damage. The HD Metal Panels are just gorgeous! Wow! And the way they are mounted on a foam background for shipping and hanging prevents corner damage during shipment. I was so pleased that everything arrived intact. Besides the panels themselves, you’ll receive an instruction sheet, a bag of aluminum pins, some foam spacer squares, and a paper hanging template.

What's in the box. Image: Maryann Goldman
What’s in the box. Image: Maryann Goldman.

Take your time to familiarize yourself with all of the instructions. The paper instructions will direct you to a video and additional pictures and instructions online. After spending about 10 minutes reviewing the materials and the write-up, my guy and I were ready to do the install. It took us about an hour total, so make sure to give yourself enough time for the install when there won’t be a lot of distractions.

We started by centering the paper template on the wall with some painter’s tape. You’ll need a good tape measure too.

Getting the wall ready step 1. Image: Maryann Goldman
Step 1: Getting the wall ready. Image: Maryann Goldman.

As directed, we pushed the aluminum pins into the template. You only push them in far enough to score the wall in this step. Remove the pins and paper and then insert the pins completely.

Getting the wall ready step 2. Image: Maryann Goldman
Step 2: Getting the wall ready. Image: Maryann Goldman.

Now you are ready to remove part of the foam backing off the photo panels. The idea is to leave the hanging square(s) on the panel, but to remove the outer edges. The foam is perforated, so once you start it, it comes apart pretty easily. We were extremely careful not to allow our fingers to touch the images.

Getting the pictures ready to hang. Image: Maryann Goldman
Getting the pictures ready to hang. Image: Maryann Goldman.

The instructions state that you should put foam spacers on the backs of the smaller squares. This will keep the images straight on the wall.

Small images need foam support. Image: Maryann Goldman
Small images need foam support. Image: Maryann Goldman.

In no time at all, we were ready to stand back and enjoy our new collage!

Even the cat approves. Image: Maryann Goldman
Even the cat approves. Image: Maryann Goldman.

The hanging system truly is easy enough that anyone should be able to get the collage mounted on their wall correctly. You even get that professional looking shadow around the images.

It is important to note that this collage is flexible. You can always add more pictures to the collage or swap out pictures to give your collage a new look.

I’m so pleased with my new collage that I’m already looking at building another large collage for the wall over my bed!

The CollageMo single panels start at $15.99, with collages starting at $63.99. The HD Metal panels really are impressive, and I am convinced that even the larger collages are worth the money.

GeekMom received this item for review purposes.

MyCharge Talk & Charge Batteries Simplify Charging While Using Your Phone

MyCharge iPhone
MyCharge Talk & Charge for iPhone, Image: MyCharge

There are a lot of choices when it comes to keeping your phone charged when you’re on the go, but they don’t all make using your phone at the same time easy. Awkward cables, the need to switch cases, or bulky charging units can make it all but impossible to use your phone while it’s getting juiced. The MyCharge Talk & Charge devices finally take care of that problem.

Available in two flavors for either the iPhone 5S/5C/5 or for phones with a micro-USB port, these battery packs are slim, lightweight, and roughly the size of your average phone. They have built in cables that let you plug them in while the battery itself stays out of the way, tucked snug against the back of your device. There are even little rubber feet so that it won’t scratch your case or phone.

MyCharge Talk & Charge for Micro-USB Devices, Image: MyCharge

You can still easily hold your phone for texting, emailing, or talking without the battery getting in the way. It makes your phone thicker, but it doesn’t make it unusable or force you to unplug and stop charging. It also doesn’t require you to swap out your case since the built-in plugs work with whatever case you usually have on your phone.

The iPhone version will provide an additional 13 hours of talk time with a 3000mAh lithium ion battery. It’s also capable of pass through charging and will charge your device and the battery at the same time. It measures just 4.9″ x 2.4″ x 0.5″ and weighs only .26 pounds.

MyCharge Micro USB
MyCharge Talk & Charge for Micro-USB Devices, Image: MyCharge

The micro-USB version also has pass through charging and will provide an additional 18 hours of talk time with a 4000mAh lithium ion battery. It measures 5.0″ x 2.5″ x 0.4″ and weighs the same trim .26 pounds. This one does double-duty with the addition of a USB port that will allow you to charge a second device at the same time.

Both also have an LED readout so you know how much charge is left in the battery. Simply press a button and the four lights display the charge in easy-to-read 25% increments so you won’t be caught off guard when it’s empty.

Image: MyCharge

Using these on my phone, I found that they quickly became my favorite battery packs for a couple of reasons. The biggest reason is that they are so darn small and easy to use. It seems that as soon as my phone runs out of juice and I plug it in, that there are ten different reasons that I need to use my phone.

It’s awkward with a big cable and an even bigger charger. This one is so small it was still easy to hold my phone in one hand for texting. It was also small enough that I could easily hold it to my ear to talk without having the battery hanging awkwardly.

The Talk & Charge batteries also didn’t run hot, which many batteries do especially when you’re charging and using your device. And they charged quickly, giving my phone a healthy charge in a very short time, again, while I was using it, too.

Image: MyCharge

These are small enough that you can carry them anywhere and are perfect for tucking into your purse or bag just in case you run low. They’re also great to have on hand in case the power runs out and you need to make sure you still have your phone ready to use.

The MyCharge Talk & Charge for iPhone and micro-USB retail for $59.99 each and are a great solution for those looking for lightweight phone charging that doesn’t hamper your ability to actually use your phone.

I received these products for review purposes.

Tiny Hands Apps Puts the Joy of Learning in Toddlers’ Hands

Image: Tiny HandsAs the mother of two kids in a very tech-connected geek household, apps are often on our minds. Which is why I’m so excited to share Tiny Hands Apps, our sponsor, with you.

Our daughter, the youngest, is only two. And while she’s fascinated with the iPad and certainly wants to use it like her brother does, there’s not much out there that caters to her. Generally speaking, it’s too complicated for her—and to be honest, I don’t just want to throw her the iPad to keep her busy when it’s not something that’s helpful for her.

That’s where Tiny Hands Apps comes in. Tiny Hands Apps are designed with toddlers in mind, from top to bottom. They’re educational and fun, and go beyond being just apps—really, they’re developmental apps. Everything is designed with a great deal of thought, not just a bunch of bright colors and sounds. In fact, Tiny Hands Apps are put together with certified child psychologists and produced in such a way to be exciting and interesting but never compromising on the content.

Even better? There’s no ads. No pop ups. No network access. Your littlest curious kiddos are free from the advertising crush that we so often see in games. It’s a gateway to learning without interruption.

Image: Tiny HandsA great example is Tiny Hands Raccoon Tree House. Your toddler sees a friendly raccoon character, and a story to go along. But you’ll know that it’s far beyond that. Tiny Hands Raccoon Tree House includes sorting, classifying, hand-eye coordination, concentration, vocabulary… and so on.Image: Tiny Hands

But that’s just the beginning. The world of Tiny Hands Apps is full of bright and colorful fun, learning about the world and all that’s in it.

We all know that it’s almost impossible to avoid technology—and we certainly never would want to. But we always want to make sure that we’re delivering the best quality to our children, both appropriate and exceptional. If you have a toddler who’s ready, we can’t think of a better place to start than Tiny Hands Apps

You can see the full lineup of Tiny Hands apps at the iTunes store, and follow them on Facebook, too.

This post is sponsored by Tiny Hands Apps.

Tracking Pixel

Late to the Game: Carcassonne

Carcassonne © Z-Man Games/Coding Monkeys
Carcassonne © Z-Man Games/Coding Monkeys

One of four games described by Tabletop host Wil Wheaton as the “pillars of classic European-style board games,” Carcassonne is a modern classic released back in 2000. The aim of the game is to collect points while building towns, monasteries, roads, and farms in the French countryside. It is a simple game to introduce with a wide and varied range of available expansions, the first of which (“The River”) is generally packaged with the base game. Carcassonne is now also available as an app for iOS and Android, so I took a look at both to compare their pros and cons.

Carcassonne © Z-Man Games/Coding Monkeys
Carcassonne © Z-Man Games/Coding Monkeys

The App Game

1. For those new to the game, a tutorial mode teaches you how to play. Newbies might also benefit from the ability to switch off fields/farming (Carcassonne‘s most complex scoring mechanic) at least for their first few games.

2. The app keeps track of the remaining tiles. This not only means that you get a handy countdown in the corner that lets you know just how many tiles are left in the virtual stack, but it also introduces another useful feature. Because the game knows exactly which tiles are remaining in the stack, when you place your current tile on the table, it automatically looks at the layout. If you have created a space in which no remaining tile can possibly be played, an X is scratched into the table surface. This happens before you commit to laying down your tile, so you can see if, for example, placing that tile will mean a city can never be completed and choose to place it elsewhere. If you’d rather play without this feature, it can be switched off.

3. The app also shows you all of your options for placing a tile by shading each available location. This makes it much faster to check your possibilities on a large map, rather than spending time figuring out where you can play on this turn.

4. When placing tiles, the app shows you the different options you have for placing meeples. This stops farmers accidentally being placed in occupied fields where boundaries are difficult to follow.

5. One of the biggest headaches of Carcassonne comes at the very end of the game, when farmers are being counted. Working out the boundaries of each farm can be very time-consuming, depending on the layout of the final “board.” The app automatically calculates the value of each farm, including splitting points when multiple farmers share fields.

6. The app has several modes to play. You can choose to play against computer opponents who vary in difficulty and tactics, or you can go online and play against friends or complete strangers. There’s always someone to play against, even if it’s only a bot.

7. The app also introduces a brand-new game-play mode: Solitaire. Unlike traditional Carcassonne, the Solitaire variant asks you to build a settlement on a budget of 1,000 victory points. The settlement must have cities and roads in every size, from two to six tiles, built in consecutive order. Placing tiles costs points based on their location.

8. One of the biggest bonuses to the app is its price. The basic game costs $9.99/£6.99, with expansions ranging from $0.99/69p to  $1.99/£1.49. Meanwhile, the physical base game stands at $25/£20, with expansions costing around $15/£13 each.

1. By the end of the game, Carcassonne can become a sprawling mass of tiles. Because of the limited screen size (and shape), this means it’s difficult to see the whole “board” at once, which can lead to either a lot of scrolling or reducing the tiles down to microscopic size. This is especially true when playing on an iPhone or iTouch.

2. There are significantly fewer expansions available than for the board game. However, the numbers are rapidly increasing (a new expansion—“The Phantom”—was launched just a few days ago), meaning this could soon become a moot point.

Carcassonne Board Game © Z-Man Games
Carcassonne board game © Z-Man Games

The Tabletop/Board Game

1. The board game generally comes with “The River” expansion as part of the standard base game (it is a paid expansion on the app), meaning instant variety is included for your first purchase.

2. The range of expansions is much wider: bridges, princesses and dragons, inns, abbeys, traders, and more are all available to turn your Carcassonne from a small settlement to a mighty civilization.

3. Playing on a tabletop makes it much easier to see entire board at once.

4. The big draw of a physical game is the ability to play with a group of friends; it’s kind of what the whole resurgence of tabletop gaming is about, after all. Taking the game along to play with friends and family or to public gaming days allows you to connect with people in a way an app never could.

1. The biggest issue with the tabletop game is simply its cost. At more than double the cost of the app for the base game and with some expansions costing over seven times more in physical form than as in-app purchases, it is difficult to justify the additional cost—especially for those of us on a budget. There is also the issue of storage, a pain known well to those of us with large board game collections and small houses.

2. As much as the nature of a tabletop game lends itself to community and playing with others, for those of us who live apart from friends and family, this can be a drawback, meaning we can only play on rare occasions.


As usual, there is no “best” option because different options will suit different people best. With a much cheaper price tag, a flexible range of options to change your game-play depending on how you want to play, and simplified game-play, the app is a robust addition to your app library.  Indeed Carcassonne is a rare case where the benefits of the app vastly outnumber those of the physical game. However, there will be many cases where the physical game is a better option, especially for those who play regularly in groups. Hopefully, this will help you decide which option is best for you.

GeekMom received these items for review purposes. 

Giveaway: Logitech PowerShell Controller + Battery

Image courtesy of Logitech, used with permission.

Everyone needs a portable cell phone charger. How many of our cell phones have died before we were able to get to a charger? It’s the worst.

And most of us in the GeekMom community would never say “no” to a case that turns our iPhone into a console-style game controller. I have personally been cursed with thumbs that refuse to play nicely with my iPhone, so playing games on it is…tricky.

So here comes Logitech, reading all the things in our hearts and minds. They created the PowerShell Controller + Battery, which lets you play games on your phone with real controller buttons while charging your phone battery at the same time.

Mind. Blown.

The list of iOS 7 games that are compatible with the PowerShell is extensive. LEGO The Lord of the Rings? Scribblenauts Remix and PAC-MAN? Plus the battery will just about double the life of your iPhone’s battery while you’re playing. The PowerShell is compatible with the iPhone 5, iPhone 5s, and iPod Touch (fifth generation), but it is not compatible with the iPhone 5c.

And Logitech is giving away one PowerShell Controller + Battery to a GeekMom reader. To enter our giveaway just login to the Rafflecopter widget below with your Facebook account or email address (use a valid email so we can let you know if you win). You can then like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for up to two entries! If you already like/follow us it will still enter you in the giveaway. A winner will be chosen at random at the end of the contest (March 7th, midnight ET). Their name will be posted right in the Rafflecopter widget in this post, so you can check back to see who won.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Review: If I Ran the Rainforest Ebook

If I Ran the Rainforest © Oceanhouse Media
If I Ran the Rainforest © Oceanhouse Media

At four years old, my son is starting to develop a strong interest in the wider world around him. He is particularly interested in geography and learning about the different kinds of places there are around the world. The Cat in the Hat e-book series is a great fit for curious young children and the latest edition to the library teaches children all about rainforests.

If I Ran the Rainforest sees the Cat taking Sally and her brother Dick on a journey to a rainforest to learn more about them. What I really love about this book is that whilst keeping the tone simple and sticking to the classic Seuss rhyming style, the book doesn’t dumb down the facts. Inside, children will learn about:

  • The four kinds of rainforests, what they are called, and how they differ from one another
  • The four floors of the rainforest and the creatures who live in each one
  • The basics of transpiration
  • Animals and plants of the rainforest including information about their lifestyles and diets
  • The humans who live in the rainforest and how they survive there
  • How the floors of the rainforest form an ecosystem
  • A very brief discussion on the destruction of rainforests
Thing 1 and Thing 2 teach us about transpiration © Oceanhouse Media
Thing 1 and Thing 2 teach us about transpiration © Oceanhouse Media

There was enough information contained in the story that I was able to learn some new facts too, such as the name of the plants that grow on trees high in the rainforest canopy. Potentially tricky new words like these are written and sounded out clearly; these plants are shown as “e-pi-phytes” and the tallest trees in the rainforest written down as “e-mer-gents.”

The app has the option to switch between “read to me” and “read it myself” options so it can progress with your child as they get better at reading alone. You can also choose to record your own narrations, perfect for parents who are frequently away and unable to read bedtime stories themselves, or for other relatives who are not around as often as they’d like. Tapping on objects causes the word to be spoken aloud and words in bold, e.g., equator, can be tapped to see a simple definition.

This is another great release from The Cat in The Hat’s Learning Library and one that will be of use to children at a variety of levels from curious toddlers to grade-schoolers needing a basic introduction to the subject for homework projects. It makes learning fun and that’s one of the best things we can ever hope to do.

GeekMom received this item for review purposes.

Toca Boca: Mayhem and Makeovers

Not too long ago, I organized all of the icons on my iPhone and realized that I have a menu page that consists entirely of Toca Boca apps. This prolific developer makes so many apps that captivate both my 3-year-old and my 8-year-old (not an easy age span to bridge). Two recent additions to their app catalog are no different, Toca Cars and Toca Hair Salon Me.

Toca Cars lets you cause all kinds of motor mayhem in an adorable cardboard town. First, you choose whether you want to be a boy driver or a girl driver, but they’re both pretty punk rock so they’re both fun to play. Then, you choose whether you want to drive on an existing course or create your own. The preexisting course and the course that you can create are made up of roads (naturally), ramps, buildings, streetlights and signs, and puddles of paint.

Screenshot of the awesome paint puddle action.

This is not the app for you if your kid likes everything neat and orderly. Your car follows your finger, and unless you’re taking it super slow, you’re going to cause some damage to your adorable town, crashing through signs and driving through puddles. Actually, the puddles are the favorite part for both me and my daughter because you can leave colorful track marks in your wake. It’s also fun to jump the ramps and crash into things when you land. It’s a little tricky to line up your car right, but super satisfying when you do. Toca Cars might have a narrower appeal than some of their other apps, but for kids who like their car play with just the right amount of destruction, this is perfect.

I believe my kids play the various iterations of Toca Hair Salon more than anything else given the sheer volume of colorful character makeover head-shots that appear in my photo album. My daughter in particular loves styling the hair of the different characters, trying out all sorts of crazy colors and looks. Now, with Toca Hair Salon Me, she can try it on herself. It would be cool with a static picture, but the app goes the extra mile. After you take or upload a photo, the app asks you to mark the location of the eyes and mouth. Why? So it can animate you. My daughter giggled as she saw her own face react to the different hairstyles she was trying out.

My daughter’s avatar smiles at her two-toned hair.

Like the other Hair Salon apps, you can grow the hair longer and cut it shorter in a variety of ways. You can wash it, blow it dry, straighten it, and curl it. There’s also a rainbow array of hair dye colors. I happen to have pink hair at the moment, so my daughter enjoys trying out different colors for me to try. It’s like Cher in Clueless taking Polaroids of her different looks. I may well take one of the headshots from this app to my hairdresser on my next visit.

Toca Hair Salon Me is worth picking up even if you have one of the other Hair Salon apps. It’s so delightful for kids to immerse themselves in the experience. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go try out Toca Labs with the kids based on GeekMom Kelly’s review.

GeekMom received a review copy of Toca Cars

Getting to Know Romo The iPhone Robot

Romo is a personal robot that uses an iPhone or iPod touch as its brain. Image: Romotive.

The robot revolution is upon us. Whether you want an R2-D2, Dalek,or a Bender is up to your own discretion. However, Romo is an easy, family-friendly way to introduce some of the wee ones to the wonderful world of robots.

Romo is a smartphone-controlled personal robot, which can be found at Brookstone and Amazon. He can’t clean the floors or make fries. Romo is more like a family pet, with none of the mess. He’s also a nifty learning experience, both for the robot and its user.

On the surface, Romo seems a lot like your basic smartphone-based toy. However, as you play with Romo, he’s actually learning. In other words, while it may seem like you’re just playing a few simple games, you’re actually programming. This is called the “training” phase. Romo also has telepresense features. This means you can talk to family members through Romo, whether you’re on the other side of the house or the other side of the world.

Romo. Image: Romotive.

The actual Romo product is just the robot’s base. No batteries are necessary, as it charges up via an included USB cable. However, to make magic with Romo, you’ll have to supply an iPhone or iPod touch. Currently, there are two versions of the Romo: one is compatible with the fourth-gen iPod touch, the iPhone 4 and 4s, while the other works with the fifth-gen iPod touch and the iPhone 5/5C/5S. For testing purposes, I used my trusty iPhone 4.

If you don’t want Romo to suck up all of your iPhone’s battery life, you’ll want to charge it via the aforementioned USB cable. As the base charges, a light will flash on the front. It can take about six hours to get Romo fully charged. Once it’s ready to roam, that light will turn solid and you can expect about 2.5 hours of playtime. While you’re waiting for the device to power up, download and install the free Romo app via the iTunes App Store.

Once everything is ready, secure your iPhone into Romo’s docking station and launch the app. After a little introductory “movie,” you’ll be asked to help Romo train for “his time here on Earth.” This is where the playing/programming comes in, as well as where Romo will start to adapt to all of your surroundings.

Parent company Romotive has said that one of the goals with Romo is to help get kids excited about computer science and software development. Well, mission accomplished. As Romo learned and unlocked features, my 7-year-old son fell in love even more with the little guy he named “Rover.”

At present, Romo has about 12 different “missions,” which can unlock new abilities. These missions vary from getting Romo to react to being picked up to getting the robot to chase a ball. There are options for sound, motion, and even “expressions.” Although the number of missions seems low, each one can take time—which my son certainly didn’t seem to mind one bit!

Of course, Romo isn’t all fun, games, and wacky faces. He can also be used as a security device, which is pretty darn cool. If you’re willing to leave your iDevice docked in Romo while away, you can view your home using the iPhone’s camera. Of course, this does require another iOS device or a computer for the viewing. However, you can also use that second device to control Romo remotely. So not only can you see whether or not the dog is sitting on the couch, you can actually follow Fido around the house to make sure he isn’t eating any shoes or Lego bricks.

Romo is designed to get kids interested in computer programming, software, and robots. Image: Romotive.

As mentioned, you’re going to need two devices to use those features, which may not be doable for a lot of families. And if you think you finally have a use for that old iPhone, think again. See, Romo is sort of fussy about who he plays with. That’s a nice way of me saying that he’s not going to work with your next smartphone, unless you like getting the same old operating system. There’s an iPhone 4/4s Romo and one for the iPhone 5 and the two don’t play nicely with each other. If you want to keep Romo in your rotation, you can expect to spend $149.99 for the upgrade.

It’s also important to note that the telepresence doesn’t work with the iPhone 4. This kept me from checking out those features during my review. It’s something I didn’t notice in the fine print before I agreed to take Romo into my home, so it may be something you’ll miss.

That slight difference could definitely sway your decision. See, Romo is sort of expensive. For $150, I want something to clean my floors. Well, at the very least, I want it to work with my next iPhone. However, Romotive is working on fixes, upgrades, and additional features for the New Year.

When you factor in the security features, Romo is absolutely worth the money. A basic Dropcam video camera has the same MSRP and doesn’t move around the house or teach the kids about the basics of robots and programming. If you’re still clinging to the iPhone 4, the price tag may be a bit more difficult to accept. Still, there’s no arguing with the fact that Romo was insanely popular in this house. My son always lit up at the mere mention of hanging out with “Rover” for the day. His reactions were even better than the ones we programmed into our Romo.

GeekMom received this item for review purposes.

On Babies, Glasses of Water, and the Peril of iPhone Ownership

Håkan Dahlström – CC BY 2.0 via Flickr

Post sponsored by Protect Your Bubble; opinions and stories my own.

When my son was two years old, he was fascinated with every device in the house. But none took his fascination as much as my cell phone. Any chance he got, he tried to grab at it, talk at it, throw it, spin it, crash it. I’m not sure what it was about it (especially considering how little I talked on it) but it was a magnetic connection.

Then one day: the inevitable. I was working from home, typing away and trying to get some client work done, when he swooped in and, in one quick motion, dropped my phone directly into the full glass of water beside me. It was one of those slow-motion responses. It took a few heartbeats for me to even realize what had happened, and when I went to retrieve the phone I knew that I wouldn’t get there fast enough. In my head, all I could see was water seeping into every little circuit and wire.

I did what everyone does in such a situation. I trolled the internet and tried some of the remedies I’d heard: stick it in rice, let it air-dry. And while it briefly did work, eventually it just died. And I had to, out of contract, pony up for another phone.

Thankfully, these days, I have options. I also have a more expensive phone–and that new iPhone is indeed looking appealing. My son is now seven, and my daughter isn’t quite two–but she’s already absolutely besotted with my iPhone 5. She reaches her little fingers toward it whenever she can, and more often than not I find it streaked with little fingerprints (or, slightly larger one, when the boy finds it unwarranted).

Screen Shot 2013-09-11 at 9.50.30 PM
Bubble and Squeak from Protect Your Bubble

And even more thankfully, there exists something that costs less than two Starbucks lattes a month and, to the relief of many, ensures that your phone doesn’t end up costing you top dollar. Our sponsor, Protect Your Bubble, is insurance for your tech. Which, considering how much it’s used in most geek households, totally makes sense. Their iPhone coverage is cheaper than many carriers‘ (starting at $7.99/month) and it covers accidental damage, loss and theft (which most carriers don’t even bother with) and provides fast replacement. That’s a pretty sweet deal, especially if your tech has anywhere near the focus it does in my house. It’s nice to worry less, especially when there’s so much else to be anxious about.

To learn more about our sponsor Protect Your Bubble, and their offerings, you can visit their website or follow them on Twitter and Facebook.

App Camp For Girls Goes Live in August!

Girls learn how to brainstorm, design and build apps from women developers and designers. (Image courtesy of App Camp for Girls)

In mid-July,  12-14 year-old female campers attending the beta App Camp For Girls in Portland, Oregon, were hard at work building iPhone apps, and taking occasional hula-hooping breaks.

At the same time, App Camp For Girls concluded a successful Indiegogo campaign, raising over $100,000 to further opportunities for girls to gain hands-on programming experience. (GeekMom featured App Camp For Girls in a June “Fund This!” roundup.)

Next month,  from August 19-23, App Camp For Girls will kick off its first official AC4G session, after using beta and alpha sessions to refine the curriculum.

Camp Director Jean MacDonald envisions the camp as a “weeklong session [covering] the process from brainstorming an app idea to marketing the finished app.”

The goal, MacDonald says on AC4G’s campaign website, is simple:

App Camp For Girls wants to address the gender imbalance among software developers by giving girls the chance to learn how to build apps, to be inspired by women instructors, and to get exposure to software development as a career.

AC4G sponsor UI Stencils, donated iPhone 5 interface stencils for campers to create realistic mock-ups of their app ideas. (photo courtesy of App Camp for Girls.)

I must say, I’m jealous of Portland for many things, but this takes the cake. I’ve already asked AC4G founder Jean MacDonald what her plans for world domination are, in hopes that she’s bringing the program to the East Coast soon.

“We plan to give our full attention to the expansion plans after August. We are focused on making this second week of camp great, and having a “reproducible” program that we can use as a basis to grow,” she said. “Wherever App Camp For Girls goes next, there will need to be at least one woman iOS developer who has the time and enthusiasm to devote. That is a very scarce resource, and we’ll be working hard after August to identify potential volunteers.”

How much interest has App Camp For Girls received from potential campers?

MacDonald says, “The interest has been much higher than I expected. Over 30 girls were interested in our first “beta” session in June. They all found us via word-of-mouth and Facebook. We originally thought we’d have to do a bit of camper recruitment, contacting teachers and schools, but that wasn’t necessary. We are starting off small, so we can focus on the curriculum and make sure we have a program that works as we envisioned. So our first two sessions, we’ve only had 12 campers. As we expand, we’ll have to do more outreach, I’m sure, especially to reach the girls who don’t already self-identify as nerds or geeks.”

Highlights of the beta App Camp For Girls session, according to MacDonald:

For the girls, the highlight has been to see an app that they designed and developed working on an iPod touch. Our goal has always been to get to that point, so the girls could experience the sense of accomplishment and be inspired to learn more and go further after camp was over. They literally cheered when we told them at the final camp pitch session that they would all get a copy of The Big Nerd Ranch Guide to Objective-C! They really want to learn to code. We gave them an introduction during camp week, and now they know what they need to learn.

Another highlight for the campers was having the chance to work and have fun with a group of like-minded girls. Several mentioned that they’ve done technology programs before, but they were one of few or even the only girls in the group. At App Camp For Girls, they could let down the hair, so to speak, and not be intimidated by having lots of boys around. According to their surveys, they were surprised at how much fun they had during the week.

One of the coolest App Camp For Girls Indiegogo donation perks was a $25 level mix tape by The Doubleclicks. The fantastic duo has not stopped there in support of AC4G. They’ve taken the slogan “There Are No Fake Geeks, Only Real Jerks” from their “Nothing to Prove” video and turn it into a t-shirt, with profits benefiting App Camp For Girls.

For more information about App Camp For Girls, visit their website and Indiegogo page. App Camp For Girls was recently featured in the New Yorker.

In addition, Jean MacDonald has also posted a request on Twitter for 15″ and 17″ MacBook Pros for App Camp For Girls.

Dear Jean and the App Camp For Girls Team, please hurry up and bring App Camp For Girls to the East Coast!

Sena Leather Cases Keep Your Tech Safe in Style

Magia Wallet for iPhone 5, Image: Sena

Sena produces a line of beautiful leather cases for phones, tablets, and laptops that look good, keep your tech safe, and provide functionality beyond the usual cases.

The Sena Magia Wallet, designed for the iPhone 5, is a leather case with a magnetic closure that doubles as a wallet. It has three slots for credit cards on the inside as well as a pocket that runs the length of the case.

Your phone stays in place with what they call Magia Tape. It’s basically a large, sticky rectangle on the inside of the case that adheres to the back of your phone. It’s a little disconcerting thinking your phone is just taped in place, but once your phone is stuck it really doesn’t budge.

Magia Wallet for iPhone 5, Image: Sena

You can still take your phone out of the case and there’s no residue left behind. It re-sticks to the case just as easily. You  have to pull pretty hard to get it to come undone, but this is a good thing since you don’t want it coming unstuck on its own. I felt very confident that my phone wasn’t going anywhere.

The credit card slots and storage pocket are just enough to keep you from having to bring a separate wallet when you’re running quick errands. I did find the credit card slots a little tight, and although they loosened up a bit due to the leather stretching over time, getting three cards in there was difficult, so I ended up just using it for two.

The magnetic clasp is a nice feature allowing easy access to your phone, but it does add to the thickness of the case. You might find it a little bulky for slipping it in your back pocket; more than once the clasp caught on my pocket.

Magia Wallet for iPhone 5, Image: Sena

Since there’s nothing covering the front of the phone when the case is open, you do risk scratches when you turn it face down. If you’ve ever had your phone out for a text conversation and wanted to leave it out for easy access, but facedown for privacy, it can be a bit of a problem.

On the plus side, the the ports and buttons can be accessed with the case closed and you can easily take pictures with it, too. I was concerned that the small opening for the camera might cause a shadow or even reflect when using the flash, but it worked without a hitch.

If you’re tired of having a wallet in one pocket and a phone in the other, this is a great option to combine the two. It’s nice to have everything in one place, especially for running errands or on a day out with the kids at an amusement park or a fair.

Magia Zip for iPad, Image: Sena

I also tried out the Sena Magia Zip for iPad. It works with the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th generations of the device and it turns your case into a folio that puts everything you need for work right at your fingertips.

The iPad secures to the case with the same Magia Tape that’s found in the wallet and it sticks just as well. The case comes with a stylus and has four credit card pockets and an I.D. pocket. There are also two medium pockets and one large pocket for holding extra things like receipts or business cards.

Magia Zip for iPad, Image: Sena

Much like the wallet, the slots for the credit cards are tight, but they do loosen up a little over time. The whole thing zips closed, so if you have larger papers that you need to tuck away you can put them in there and be sure you won’t be leaving a trail on your way back to your office.

It’s also got a handy built-in stand that pops out from the back of the case. The stand is completely recessed when it’s closed so it doesn’t add bulk to the design but is still strong enough when open that you can use your iPad without pushing it over accidentally.

The Magia Wallet for iPhone 5 retails for $54.95. The Magia Zip for iPad retails for $119.95. Both are stylish cases that will keep your tech safe and provide extra functionality to make your life easier.

Disclaimer: I received these cases for review purposes.

Butterfingers! Part One: Road Testing iPhone Cases

Candy Shell From Speck

A few years ago, my husband gave me an awesome case for my iPhone 4. It was made by Speck, and it was durable, clean looking, and best of all – it had a slot along the back that was big enough for my credit card, drivers license and my ID from work. To put it professionally: It totally ruled.  When you work for NBC Universal, you can’t get anywhere without your ID I’m sure some of you out there have jobs like this where you need an ID to get by a front desk, swipe for the elevator, swipe to open doors, use for security–on and on.  Many people wear lanyards or those little clip things with the retractable ID leash you attach to your pocket. I loathed both of those things, and so, having my ID in my phone, and being able to just swipe my phone instead of pulling a card out of my pocket or purse made my life easier.

So many people have commented on this case – co-workers, cashiers, waiters, et cetera, that I thought it might be a good idea to share it on GeekMom, as well as highlight some other great cases for both the iPhone and iPad that I’ve road tested.

So let’s start with that fabulous CandyShell Card from Speck:

I’ve already described a lot about what I like about this case, so let me just add that as a mom, this case has streamlined my life. It’s one less bag to carry, and only one thing to add to the diaper bag, as opposed to a phone plus wallet. I can run errands without having to lug my huge purse around, and I’ve said goodbye to the days of turning around to go back home and get my phone. I cannot leave the house without my phone. Because now, this is simply not an option. There are too many things on the leaving the house checklist wrapped up in my phone. If you’re wondering why credit cards don’t get demagnetized, it’s because there’s a thick rubber backing protecting them. So don’t worry.

If you’re nervous about carrying your cards around in your phone, but still want a durable, shockproof case, then consider any of the awesome bright candy shell phones from Speck. In general, you can’t go wrong with a Speck case. They’re marvelous and fun.

The Q Card Case

Q Card Case by CM

Next, I gave the Q Card Case by CM a try. This promised the same kind of ease and convenience as the Speck case in that it has a little wallet area in the back. It’s also got the added bonus of a more flexible leather opening. The leather gives after a while to give you enough room for 3 cards and a little bit of cash. That’s very nice for a small purse on a Mom’s Night Out, I have to admit, and while I initially worried that it would get too loose, it didn’t relax so much that I worried about things falling out. I loved the look of the leather flap too, more so than the Speck – but the one thing I didn’t like was that any card or ID I put in there was a little more obvious. The outside flap on the Speck case covers more of the card, so it doesn’t scream, “Hello! I am carrying credit cards so why not steal my phone kthxbi.” But not so much that I wouldn’t continue to use it.

This case is thick and protective without making my phone feel like a brick, and easy to slip in and out of a wallet or purse. I hate rubberized phone cases that get stuck in pockets. Hate may be too strong a word, but you’re the one reading about iPhone cases, so maybe you feel me on this. ::fistbump::

The Pantone BookCase

Pantone Bookcase – Scarlet Sage 6

I’m not going to even pretend I don’t sometimes hand my child an iPhone at a restaurant, just so I can have an adult conversation. I totally do this.  I could pretend that I only do this kind of thing when we’re on long car trips or plane rides, or that she only plays with toys that I hand carve from wood pieces that I up-cycle, but please.

I loved this Pantone case–it’s sleek and pretty, and has a nice texture. True to its name, it has a book-like feel to it–and best of all, you can use the case to prop up the phone for landscape viewing. The texture of the case keeps it from slipping and collapsing–something I appreciate since, hello, I am in the middle of a rare adult conversation and don’t want to keep readjusting the screen. The drawbacks? While sleek, this case is not super shock proof, so I wouldn’t allow a 2 year old to just toss it around. And unless you’re a fan of the Pantone color wheel, which certain color geeks are wont to be, you may not like the Pantone logo and color strip on the cover.

The X-Doria Kick

X-Doria Kick

If you’re looking for shock proof, the X-Doria Kick might be the one for you.  I loved how super light this case was–and I can tell you, as a bona fide spaz that has dropped her phone more than once, this case is shockproof. I wish I could just tell you that I think it’s shockproof, but sadly, I am not super graceful.

The kickstand is sturdy and great for FaceTime or watching media on your airline tray table. (See above for confession about other occasions where I also use kickstand like features on iPhones.) Good, simple, functional case.

Obex iPhone Case


The Obex Waterproof Case & Holster

Look, I’m not a sporty lady. My husband affectionately calls me “City Mouse.” I’m not a girly girl–it’s just that I’ve never been camping. We recently went on a trip to Yosemite, and for me, being out in nature, and witnessing those mountains and forest was a revelation. While we were there, we stayed at a place where you can rent a cabin and have room service delivered to your door, so don’t worry–I still technically haven’t been camping. But I did actually do a couple of honest to God hikes while we were there, and I tried out the Obex. See, I look at a phone case like this, read the specs, and I think, “What the heck are people doing that they might drop their phone in a lake?”

But when we hiked up to some of the falls, the spray was so heavy that I was glad to have the waterproof case! It does come with a holster that seemed secure to me, but I don’t know, I feel kind of dorky wearing a holster. Maybe that’s because I was around for the decade of pagers and didn’t feel like kicking it 90s style.

I hope this helps you narrow down the field a little bit. Sorry I didn’t get to any of those cases in those mall kiosks, though I totally have my eye on that giant rubber monkey one. In my next installment, I’ll run through some great iPad covers that I’ve also been putting through their paces.

Mobile Phone Diagnoses Worm Infections

Scientists use an iPhone to diagnose intestinal worms.
Via Morguefile

And you thought your iPhone was only good for playing Angry Birds. In Tanzania, scientists recently used a mobile phone equipped with a makeshift microscope to diagnose intestinal parasites. It’s still a work in progress – in one test, accuracy didn’t quite reach 70%, shy of the 80% desired for a diagnostic tool – but the idea has potential. The method is significantly cheaper than using a conventional microscope, not to mention more portable.

Want to know how you can help cure the neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) that infect more than a billion people worldwide? This compelling video from End7 features Tom Felton (Draco Malfoy in the Harry Potter films) and shows just how easy it is.

PureGear Cases Protect Your iPhone With Rugged Style

PureGear PX360 iPhone Case
PureGear PX360, Image: PureGear

The PureGear PX260 and PX360 iPhone cases protect your phone from the bumps and bruises of everyday use with rugged styling that’s easy on the eyes.

Especially with the introduction of the very slick looking iPhone 5, no one wants a case that just adds a bunch of bulk that detracts from the look of their phone. The PureGear PX260 and PX360 combine the need for protection with the desire for something that still looks good.

Continue reading PureGear Cases Protect Your iPhone With Rugged Style

My Son’s iPhone Pinewood Derby Car!

Introducing the “Mobile Mobile!” It’s good looking, isn’t it? But is it fast? Photo: Patricia Vollmer.

This weekend, young men around the U.S. are whittling, sanding, carving, painting and weighing their 5-ounce Pinewood Derby cars in hopes of taking first prize in the Boy Scouts of America Cub Scout Pinewood Derby. As this post goes live, my youngest son — a 2nd grade Wolf Cub Scout — will be racing his iPhone car, called “The Mobile Mobile”, down the 32-foot tracks hoping for the blue ribbon!

The Pinewood Derby is a celebration of physics at its finest. It’s a great way to bring STEM and maker concepts into fun competitive play. This Wired article covers the basics of Pinewood Derby physics <snicker> complete with equations.

I know this car design isn’t original. GeekDad featured a reader’s iPhone car in 2010, and I even came up with a Pinterest board with several variations to choose from. My son wanted his car to be the precise size of an iPhone, but the Cubmaster and I had to explain to him why that wasn’t possible (the axles would be too narrow). The Cubmaster also explained that by preserving the original car dimensions as much as possible, there would be more weight to help the car gain momentum.

We put “wing” looking panels on the sides of the car (with space cut out for the rear wheel wells) and rounded the edges.

Our son spray painted the car silver while I printed an iPhone image in the dimensions desired. He then Mod Podged the iPhone image onto the top of the car. We even put an Apple sticker on the underside for good luck!

We’ll let you know how the car does. Our sons’ Cub Scout Pack’s Pinewood Derby is January 19th.

AppCrayon: Fine Motor Skills Technology

Image from DanoToys

The AppCrayon by DanoToys is the first stylus I’ve ever seen with a triangular shaft designed by teachers and therapists for use by kindergarteners still working on their pencil writing grips. The stylus is plastic, slightly over sized and has a bit larger tip then most styluses making it perfect for kids. This stylus feels very much like a triangular crayon, but looks different enough that a child should confuse a real crayon for the stylus on the screen. Its designed with a small loop on the back to attach to a lanyard or hook if there are worries about misplacing it. The stylus is completely universal so even though it was designed in conjunction with an Apple app, the stylus can be used with over 300,000 apps and is compatible with nearly every touchscreen device. The AppCrayon was designed by educators for educators. DanoToys offers a special discounted classroom pack for teachers interested in using them in their curriculum.

My son has problems with his fine motor control, he can only fist-grip writing utensils. We’ve worked with him in therapy, but with crayons and pencils he gets easily frustrated when using a tripod grip, because he doesn’t have enough wrist and finger strength to create marks on a writing page. My son also adores his iPad time. When I found this stylus in my pre-holiday shopping adventures, I thought it might be worth a try for him. In conjunction with the AppCrayon the DanoToys team has developed a free app for Apple devices to practice letter writing, AppCrayon. A second Apple app, Little Sky Writers, runs at $1.99 on the Apple App store, but with three levels of difficulty, three airplanes to personalize, and voiced by by comedian and star of Nickelodeon’sTM Big Time RushTM Stephen Kramer Glickman, it’s well worth the cost. There is a $.99 Little Sky Writers if you plan to use the app on only on an iPhone. Once your child has mastered the game, they’ll receive a certificate of completion and the option of posting it to your Facebook page.

When I sat my son down with the stylus and app for the first time, he was completely enthralled as I had expected. New things are exciting! I was impressed how he really had to think about how to hold the stylus and while I did have to remind him a few times how to hold it properly, he managed to keep a tripod grip for nearly an hour. I was highly encouraged! After buying a second stylus, the first one having been destroyed by one of my boys biting the rubber tip off because they thought it was food, I carefully watched my son use the stylus. With each use he would revert to the fist grip but would correct himself as if the stylus war more comfortable in the tripod position. I’m overjoyed at the sight of seeing him writing correctly. Of course this isn’t a true fix to his grip issues, but it is a great way to reinforce the proper grip anytime he plays on his iPad.

I’d highly recommend the AppCrayon for any child with a touchscreen device, especially for young ones still practicing a proper pencil grip.

iPhone 5 Review – What's Up and What's Not

iPhone 5 and 4s  image:
iPhone 5 and 4s image:

When the new iPhone 5 was announced, I immediately wanted one. I’m not an Apple computer person, but when it comes to their phones and other devices, I’ve found them to work well for what I need.

Part of my job involves purchasing and setting up company phones for employees. I was curious to know how my new iPhone would hold up to my previous model (4s) as well as another popular smartphone, the Samsung Galaxy S3.

What I found might surprise you (I know it surprised me). After comparing it to my iPhone 4s, the tests proved the iPhone 5 was superior in many areas including processor speed and battery life. Once I compared my iPhone 5 to the Samsung Galaxy, I realized Apple has a long way to go to get the iPhone 5 up to speed in a few areas including toughness and battery life.

Let’s talk about what has changed in the iPhone 5. The most noticeable (or just advertised) differences include a larger screen, new connector, faster processor, and better headphones. On top of all that, the back of the phone is now made of an aluminum backing instead of glass (I’m still baffled why anyone would make the back of a phone out of glass, but I digress)

I love the new earphone design  Image: Dakster Sullivan with an iPhone 5
The new earphones actually stay in my ears Image: Dakster Sullivan, taken with an iPhone 5

Apple claims the processor is twice as fast in the new iPhone as it was in the 4s model. To test this out, I put both of my phones next to each other and had them open up Angry Birds. My iPhone 5 was noticeably faster. I also did a test searching for Disney through Safari. My iPhone 5 once again left my 4s in the dust. The camera shutter also appeared to work a little faster than in the 4s.

The new lightning connector has received a lot of attention because of how drastic the change is. Every accessory you own for your old iPhone will no longer work with your new one. If you’re new to the iPhone, you’ll have to wait a little bit before manufactures can catch up and make accessories to include this new adapter. To top it off, the adapter that takes it from the new connector to the old 30 pin costs $30 and it won’t support ‘iPod Out’; a feature that allows you to control your device through the accessories controls (such as your dashboard or stereo system). On the upside, my iPhone 5 appears to charge much faster than my 4s.

Continue reading iPhone 5 Review – What's Up and What's Not

Review: Griffin Beacon Universal Remote for iOS or Android

Image source: Griffin

There are a few ways to turn your phone into a remote control — an instantly appealing idea since most of us lose our phones far less often than we lose the remote. The Griffin Beacon makes it both relatively cheap and quite easy to do so for your entire home theater setup with either an Android or iOS phone or tablet.

To use the Beacon with iOS, you just download the Dijit remote app from the iTunes store (free) and connect your device through Bluetooth. The Beacon itself looks like some kind of modern art sculpture from a Japanese garden. The base looks like your average black entertainment device, less than 4″ square, but atop it sits a shiny, red-black, rounded rock. You press the rock down until its blue light flashes, which indicates its connection to your device.

Image source: Dijit

The setup is similar for Android devices (any running version 2.3.3 or later). You download Digit from the Google Play store instead, of course. Ratings are better for the iOS version–some Android reviewers have had trouble with the Bluetooth connection and setup. Like many apps, it either worked perfectly or not well at all, earning mostly reviews on each end of the spectrum.

My Beacon had no trouble finding most of my devices in its list of hundreds of thousands, and the one that it didn’t find was easy to set up through prompts for selecting make and device type.

The Beacon connects over Bluetooth, which on some phones can be more of a battery drain than on others. Know your phone and know whether you should keep the plug (or spare battery) nearby. As for the Beacon itself, Griffin says that you should get eight weeks of battery life. I got significantly less than that, and other users have reported similar problems. When you’re used to a couple of AA batteries lasting in your TV remote forever, that can be annoying, and the Beacon doesn’t have an AC adapter. (Of course, some enterprising users have figured out how to make one.) Just remember to keep rechargeables handy. You almost certainly have enough other devices that need them as well!

The actual remote portion of the Dijit app is not a thing of great beauty, but it is functional, and in the end, that’s what matters. There are simple choices for your remote, and you can adapt them to your personal choices by adding or deleting buttons.

Once you’ve got it all set up, you’re ready to use your one-stop remote control. You can add a television guide that will help manage your channels and DVRs by entering your ZIP code and selecting the correct broadcast provider.

Overall, I have had a positive experience with the Beacon and the Dijit app. Setup was easy, and it works well at what it is meant to do. That said, others have reported significantly more trouble. Amazon reviews are occasionally ecstatic (presumably people who had the success I did) with a lot of one-star reviews, most of which have to do with the battery-eating and some who had trouble with Dijit. If you’re willing to deal with regular battery changes and are looking for an attractive universal remote solution, I recommend giving it a try.

The Griffin Beacon lists for $79.99 but as of this writing is available on Amazon for $38.35 for iOS devices or $41.96 for Android:

I received a Griffin Beacon for review.

TMNT Backpack Review and Giveaway!

TMNT on Nickelodeon  Image Courtesy of Nickelodeon
TMNT on Nickelodeon Image Courtesy of Nickelodeon

ThinkGeek has some amazing stuff. One item I’ve had my eye on for a while now, is the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle backpack. It’s 16″ x 18″ of pure half-shell awesomeness. Perfect for everyday use, it also doubles as the perfect halloween (or cosplay) accessory.

TMNT Backpack  Image: ThinkGeek
TMNT Backpack Image: ThinkGeek

The main shell compartment is big enough to comfortably fit the average size laptop and still have some room to spare. One of the pockets in the main (and only compartment) also has some zippered organizing pockets designed into it. The TMNT’s signature logo is sewn into the padded mesh back.

The backpack also comes with one of each of the turtles masks, so you can go all turtle crazy while sporting it around town.

While I might have claimed this backpack for myself, my son is excited to try it out himself. Maybe he will trade me back my ThinkGeek AT-AT messenger bag for this one. Ummm….

Nice and roomy inside!  Image: ThinkGeek
Nice and roomy inside! Image: ThinkGeek

Are you a Turtle fan and ready to rock this new school year? Well, here’s your chance. We are giving away an awesome prize pack to one lucky reader. All you have to do is leave us your favorite turtles quote before midnight on Saturday, October 6th. The winner will be randomly selected and announced on Monday, October 8th.

Important stuff: Please make sure you use a valid and frequently checked e-mail address when leaving your quote in the comments.

Now, you don’t think we would send you an empty backpack do you?

Nope. It will also include some other great back to school products including:

ThinkGeek: Pi by Numbers Tee for Kids, Available in sizes S-L (6-16)
Valued at: $12.99 Continue reading TMNT Backpack Review and Giveaway!

Ion iPics to Go Review

Left: Originally a regular 4x6 image. Right: Originally a 35mm Negative / Images: Dakster Sullivan
(Left): Originally a regular 4×6 image. (Right): Originally a 35mm Negative / Images: Dakster Sullivan

Ion’s iPics 2 Go gives iPhone users (3GS to 4S) the ability to take their cherished photo memories from paper to digital. With the help of a free app and a little black box, you can transfer your hard copy memories into digital treasures.

When I opened the box and saw how simple this device was, I started to have my doubts. You can’t get much simpler than this.

The box itself just a simple black box with a spot to place your iPhone and a slit in the bottom to slip either a 3×5 photo, 4×6 photo or 35mm negative slides. The light in the box runs off of AA batteries (included) which allows you to work anywhere, without needing a power strip to turn it on.

I really appreciate this feature because I like to work in the middle of my bedroom floor and having power cables stretched over the floor is a safety hazard with my son running around.

After downloading the free app, I did some digging and found a few baby pictures of my son that needed transferring and got to work. To start, choose the photo you want to scan and place it in the corresponding plastic frame, slide it into the box, in the app, select the type of media you are converting and then hit the camera button to take the picture. The app can fix some of the quality issues on its own, but you may need a stronger program to do more extensive repairs.

The quality wasn’t the greatest, but it wasn’t the worst I’ve seen either. I decided to chalk it up to the quality of the negatives and pictures, instead of blaming the device itself. For the price ($49.99), it’s not a bad little iPhone accessory. If you want to catalog all of your 4×6 photos or negatives onto Facebook, this should do you just fine.

Being the picture hog that I am though, I’m not ready to use it as a means to get rid of all my paper photos just yet.

You can purchase Ion iPics 2 Go on Amazon and select retailers nationwide.

Side note: Since the iPhone 5 is going to have a taller screen, this device will not work with any iPhone model above the 4s. 

In exchange for my time and efforts in  reporting my opinion within this blog, I received a free review sample. Even though I receive this benefit, I always give an opinion that is 100% mine.

iBattz Mojo Armor Battery Case Review

iBattz Mojo Armor Battery Case / Image: iBattz website
iBattz Mojo Armor Battery Case / Image: iBattz website

I’m always worried about my son draining my iPhone battery with too much Angry Birds (or myself with too much Facebook and e-mail), so when I had the opportunity to test out a new battery case I jumped on it. On a busy day, I can drain my iPhone battery pretty quickly, so having an extra battery on hand for it is a must.

Since, I’ve already seen the Mophie Juice Pack Pro in action, I was curious to see how well the iBattz Mojo Armor battery case would hold up.

According to iBattz website, the iBattz Armor Battery Case will provide the iPhone 4 with up to 80% extra battery power and 70% extra battery power for the iPhone 4s. With the use of “fast charge” technology, the iBattz  will recharge your iPhone in around 90 minutes.

Continue reading iBattz Mojo Armor Battery Case Review

Hi, My Name Is Dakster and I Have Nomophobia

I told you rebels...NO!! / Image: Savanna Kiefer
Nooooooo!! / Image: Savanna Kiefer

As with most technology, when smart phones first came out they were supposed to make our lives easier and less stressful. After having three different types of phones, I think that it’s actually the opposite. With every phone upgrade I’ve had, my life seems to get more stressful and I become more afraid of losing or being without it (aka…nomophobia).

I’m not sure when I developed my fear of losing my phone or being without it started. All I know is that now, I freak out if I walk away without it. Don’t get me started on how I feel when my husband forgets his at home and I can’t reach him all day (can you say…dog house?).

My first cell phone was a Nokia 5190 / Image: Wikipedia
My first cell phone was a Nokia 5190 / Image: Wikipedia

I received my first cell phone when I was in high school. It was a basic phone and its only feature was the ability to make and receive phone calls. I never worried about a missed e-mail, texting, or checking Facebook because those features were either not available or popular. If I forgot my phone, the only stress I was under was from my mother for nothing being able to reach me.

A few years later, I got a job where a company Blackberry was provided. I loved it. I could finally check my work e-mail anywhere and surf the internet when away from my computer. I enjoyed being able to take pictures and forward them to anyone with a few clicks. One problem…my stress levels jumped! All of a sudden I was no longer off the clock because I was constantly checking my e-mail out of fear I would miss something that was important.

Continue reading Hi, My Name Is Dakster and I Have Nomophobia

ioShutter: Control your DSLR with your iPhone

ioShutter: remote control your DSLR (Image: Photojojo)

I sometimes wish that my iPhone was my remote control for everyday life. I want it to do everything for me, or at least make life easier. Ever since I started taking an interest in photography, I’ve wanted to be able to link my iPhone to my DSLR camera to extend my reach and take self portraits. As you can imagine, I was thrilled when I received a review copy of the ioShutter cable to try for myself from Photojojo (a photographers haven of awesomeness)!

The ioShutter is billed as “cord/app combo that lets you control your camera’s shutter with your iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch’s smarty-pants iOS brains” (from Photojojo). The ioShutter cord will cost you $60 at Photojojo or other retailers, but the “lite” version of the iPhone app is free. While this price is about double the cost of a normal wired shutter release cable, it does give you a more control in terms of the pictures you take. The ioShutter lite app includes a free timer, time lapse controls, programmable bulb, clap sound trigger, and shake activated trigger. The $9.99 Pro version adds an ability to schedule pictures via iCal, run time lapse for days, set a dB level for the sound trigger feature, and program your iPhone’s movement sensors to do different things.

The ioShutter is compatible with iPhone G3 and beyond, iPod Touch g4 onwards, and all iPads. There are three versions of the cable. The E3 version is compatible with Canon, Pentax, Samsung, Hasselblad, and Contax cameras. The N3 version is compatible only with Canon cameras and the Nikon version to be released Fall 2012 (DC2 model). Make sure to check the website and get the cable that is compatible with your camera, they are all dependent on which cable port is built into the camera.

So, what did I think of it? I like the features, but its not what I was hoping for. I was most excited about the clap shutter feature, thinking that it would allow me to take pictures from a further distance away. Unfortunately, the cord is only about three feet long, and I think my iPhone mic only has a one to two foot range. This means you have to have a very short focal length in order to take a clear image of yourself. I suppose that the Pro version might have been better since I could change the decibel level of the snap or clap that the shutter would react to. I will say that when I was close enough to trigger the shutter with sound it did indeed work as expected, even searched for and found the new focus point before taking the shot. This was the same issue I ran into for the shake feature. You had to be very close to the camera in order to hold your phone and control it. I really think the next version of this should be a wireless version with a bluetooth or radio transmitter between the phone and camera.

I was impressed with the responsiveness of the shutter taps, and would likely use this when photographing large groups using a tripod. The ioShutter cable would give me enough mobility to take pictures while getting everyone’s attention (something you know can be difficult when you are behind the camera).

The ioShutter cable is very useful for doing long exposure pictures. As you know I’m an astronomer by trade, so taking star pictures is always something I’m trying to attempt. Long exposure pictures at night are not easy. Any shake ruins your picture, even the tiny shake that comes from touching the on-camera trigger, so using a trigger cable is a must. The programmability of this feature allows the photographer the ability to step away from the camera and not worry about the image being taken at the right time. Again, this would be nice with a wireless feature so that you don’t have to leave your iPhone out with your DSLR on a cold night.

The best part about ioShutter is that modes can be combined to create truly awesome photos. You can start a timer with a snap, shake your phone to start a time lapse exposure, or use a timer to trigger a pre-programmed long exposure.

All in all, I LOVE the ioShutter cable and app combination, I just wish it were wireless. I’ll admit even though the cable didn’t have the self portrait abilities that I was hoping for, I was able to use it to try out a new shoot location on a railroad nearby. It was a nice portable accessory to include in my camera bag.

New myCharge Power Banks: More Options for Staying Fully Charged on the Go

Peak 6000 Rechargeable Power Bank, Image: myCharge

If you depend on your phone and use it constantly, then you’re also constantly worrying about its charge. The latest entries in the myCharge line of power packs offer the same easy, portable power but with improved functionality and a greater variety of options.

I first reviewed the myCharge Power Bank 6000 about two months ago, and it quickly became one of my favorite products. It was easy to use, lightweight, portable, and allowed me to charge multiple devices at once. Through convention season and family vacations it has been indispensable.

Recently, myCharge introduced a new line of battery products. They’ve improved on their existing line with new features and better functionality to address a variety of charging needs. Let’s start with one that targets Apple users.

The Sojourn 1000 is a 1000mAh Lithium Polymer battery that is designed to charge either your iPhone 4S, iPod Touch 4th generation, or iPod nano 6th generation. It’s very small, measuring about 3″ x 2.5″ and just half an inch thick. It also includes a lanyard so you can hang it from a bag or purse for instant access.

Continue reading New myCharge Power Banks: More Options for Staying Fully Charged on the Go

Braven 625s Bluetooth Speaker Review

Avengers Assemble! This is one mean speaker.  Image: Dakster Sullivan
Avengers Assemble! This is one mean speaker. Image: Dakster Sullivan

I might be an Apple junkie, but I’ve never been fond of wireless speakers. To be honest, I never saw the point in them. They all seemed like one more thing to keep track of and, inevitably, keep charged. But that was before I was given the chance to try out the Braven 625s Bluetooth 3.0 speaker. Now I can’t imagine listening to my music any other way. Between the ease of setting it up on my devices and the clarity of the sound coming from it, I am sold.

When I first got the speaker, I wasn’t that excited. Since I have an Apple TV, I don’t usually use my iPod or iPhone for music while at home. Instead, I stream it from my computer directly to my TV. The day the speaker arrived, I sett up on my iPhone just to experiment. Once assembled, I turned off my TV and started up my “Strength in Myself” playlist. Right off the bat, I knew something was different. When the music started playing, I was immediately surprised at the sound quality. Later, I received a phone call, and instead of talking on my iPhone, I let the call come over the speakers. I was able to hear the caller and have them hear me without any issues.

Side View  Image:
Side View Image:

Even though it will never see the outdoors, this speaker was built for the adventurer. The outside is padded with a shock absorbing material and it has its own little USB flashlight that you can attach.

By holding down the up and down volume buttons you can go forward or backwards in your playlist. If a call comes in and you want the speaker to answer it, just press the phone button and the speaker takes care of it. Pretty simple.

One of my favorite features is the battery light. When it blinks white the device is telling you that it’s at 100%; blue  means it’s at 50% and Red means 10%.  This is handy because some of my other wireless devices wait until they are almost dead to tell me they need charging. The different colored lights on the speaker will keep me from going without it when I really want to use it.

Continue reading Braven 625s Bluetooth Speaker Review

iHome iP76 Color Changing Speaker Tower Review

Last week, iHome released the newest addition to its line of Apple products: the iHome iP76 color changing speaker tower. The system comes complete with Bluetooth capability, remote, and a wide range of color changing choices to play with. I was given the opportunity to receive a review sample, the day before they were released into stores.

iP76 with my living room blinds closed / Image: Dakster Sullivan
iP76 with my living room blinds closed / Image: Dakster Sullivan

Being the Apple junkie that I am, I was really excited about my new iHome tower. Something that surprised me from the get-go was the weight and feel of the tower. Physically, the device is light and easy to move around the house. I wouldn’t say the feel of it is cheap, but it’s not as “expensive feeling” as some other audio equipment I have handled in the past.

I plugged in my iPod and started up one of my favorite playlists. The sound quality was pretty good. When it comes to the bass, I didn’t notice much. Since I don’t care for a lot of bass anyway, this doesn’t bother me at all.

The device has several great features including auxiliary output. It’s also compatible with most iPod devices. This part helps me out a lot because I have an older iPod that I like to use sometimes.

Continue reading iHome iP76 Color Changing Speaker Tower Review

LifeProof Adds Floating LifeJacket for Their Waterproof Case

LifeProof LifeJacket, Image: LifeProof

It’s summer, and that means it’s time to get outside and have some fun. It also means water, either at the beach or the lake or just running through the sprinkler on the front lawn. We all want to capture those moments, especially when we have kids, but it can be a risky endeavor. Phones do not like water and tend to sink to the bottom of things like lakes, which makes snapping the perfect picture very risky. LifeProof has two great solutions to the problem of taking your iPhone into less-than-friendly environments.

I reviewed the LifeProof iPhone Case a few months back, and it’s proven to be a fantastic case to have this summer. It protects your iPhone from dirt and water and still lets you take pictures, talk, and otherwise use your phone just like normal. I’ve taken it to the beach and pool and gotten some great pictures. My only complaint has been that I worry about dropping it and watching it sink like a stone if I’m in deep water. The latest edition to the LifeProof product line, the LifeJacket, removes that worry by encasing your iPhone in a bright orange float.

Continue reading LifeProof Adds Floating LifeJacket for Their Waterproof Case

iPhone Stun Gun Case — Protection or Trip to the ER Waiting to Happen?

Yellow Jacket Stun Gun Case / Image: Indiegogo
The final product will have a cap over the electrodes on the top of the case. / Image: Indiegogo

The Yellow Jacket iPhone Stun Gun case is exactly as its name implies. It’s a case for your iPhone that has a built in stun gun feature. With a 650K volt stun gun built in, this is not a case to be taken lightly by its user. Currently just an Indiegogo project, the Yellow Jacket has already made its minimum goal to start production.

Imagine this for a minute….you get a call and go to answer it. Instead of pushing the incoming call button, you get the shock of your life and stun yourself. I guess the makers of this case anticipated that exact same scenario because in order to use the stun gun feature, you must bypass the safety switch and rotate an electrode cap. Yellow Jacket’s website claims this should only take about a second to complete.

The shock is described as “incapacitating and capable of inflicting pain and injury” (I guess calling it a stun gun wasn’t enough to tell people that).

Coupled with the iPhone, the total weight of the case and phone will be around eight ounces. The thickness will be comparable to the Otterbox Defender and Mophie Juice Pack at around one inch in thickness. The battery that supplies the stun gun its juice can also provide your iPhone with an additional twenty hours of battery life.

I didn’t see anywhere on their page that said the screen would be fully protected from drops.

It should be noted that before traveling with any kind of stun gun device, you should check the local laws to see if they are allowed.

What do you think about this device? Do you see any potential safety issues or are you already wondering when you can get your hands on one? Let us know in the comments section.