A couple of good iPhone car mounts

Cradle
I've recently found this to be a very effective windscreen mount for my iPhone. The main thing I like about it is the way it's adjustable so it will grip your phone regardless of what kind of case you use. Because it grips the phone at the sides, it's compatible with the extra tall iPhone 5, and also most other types of smartphone.

Another good iPhone mount I've used is the Griffin Windowseat. The thing I found really useful about this one is the long arm which was perfect for my Mazda 2, in which the bottom of the windscreen was a long way away from the front of the dashboard. The cradle size is adjustable so you can use it with a case on your phone, but possibly not with some of really bulky cases. This was designed prior to the iPhone 5 release and is more suited to the earlier iPhone models up to and including the iPhone 4S. I don't think it would fit an iPhone 5.

BookBook case by Twelve South

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A few months ago I posted an article (The Rules) about how to look after your iDevices and make sure they don't get lost, stolen or smashed into little pieces. We spend a lot of money on our iPhones and iPads, and I don't mind spending a bit more on a decent case to provide some added protection. I'm very fussy about which case I use, and there are four primary factors I take into account when choosing which one to buy:

1. It should offer good protection. In the case of my phone, it needs to be protected if it is dropped, so something that will absorb impact (especially around the corners) is necessary. iPhones and iPads are both prone to picking up scratches on the back and on the screen, so protection can be good there as well.

2. It should look good. For better or for worse, we spend a lot of time looking at these devices on most days. I don't need a fashion accessory, but I don't want to spend all day looking at something ugly. An Apple device is a beautiful thing. If you're going to clothe it, you should clothe it in beautiful clothes.

3. It should feel good. One of the things I love about Apple devices is that they feel so good in your hands. Few companies pay so much attention to how a device feels when you hold it: the tactile sensation of every surface, every button push. Putting a case on your device can completely ruin this experience, so I like to make sure I get a case that feels good to touch. I also prefer cases that allow you free access to the device's buttons. (Some cases add their own buttons on top of the device's buttons, which rarely feel as good when pressed.)

4. A case should be practical. A good case will add functionality to your iPhone or iPad, without compromising how you use your device.

For my iPhone, the BookBook by Twelve South has been the perfect solution. Here's why:

It offers excellent protection all around my iPhone. Nothing is going to touch the back, sides or corners, and the wallet part of the case folds over the screen when the phone is not in use.

It looks great. A simple, understated, olde-worlde book design. No bells, no whistles.

Because it's made of real leather, the BookBook feels good in your hands.

It gives access to all the iPhone's buttons as well as the headphone and charging ports. The iPhone 5 version has a hole for the camera and flash but the version for the iPhone 4/4S unfortunately does not. If you want to use the camera on your iPhone 4/4S you have to push the phone up so it pokes its top outside the case.

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The case is very practical because it's also my wallet. There's space for cards and paper money. I don't need to carry much stuff around with me, so this does the job perfectly.

My main criticism of this case is that you can't easily access the volume buttons on your phone when it's folded shut in your pocket. This is a minor quibble, however, and irrelevant if you're using Apple's headphones with the built-in volume control. It also doesn't have space for lots of money and none at all for coins, so if you like to carry oodles of cash around you might need to rely on your pockets or a proper wallet.

I love my BookBook. It looks and feels good and it protects my iPhone. As it doubles up as my wallet it also makes my life easier on a daily basis.

There are many cheap imitations going around (not real leather, poor design etc) but the BookBook by Twelve South is the original and best.

At around £50 it's not the cheapest iPhone case in the world, but for me it's worth every penny. As it's made from real leather, it's also very hard wearing. My girlfriend has been using one on her iPhone 4 for over two years and it's still going strong.

If quality matters to you, make sure you get the real deal, not a dodgy rip-off. The links below are the best prices I could find on Amazon and are for genuine Twelve South BookBooks:

Twelve South BookBook Leather Case for iPhone 4/4S

Twelve South BookBook Leather Case for iPhone 5

You can also get the BookBook for iPad:

Twelve South BookBook Leather Case for iPad

And for iPad mini:

Twelve South BookBook Leather Case for iPad mini

There are BookBooks out there for MacBooks and MacBook Pros as well.

I've only ever used the iPhone version but, the iPad and MacBook versions also get great reviews on Amazon.

Belkin releases Lightning car chargers

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Belkin has released two new car charging accessories featuring Apple's Lightning connector. These are for use with the iPhone 5, iPad Mini and Retina iPad (4th Generation).

This one comes with a removable USB cable; handy if you have another device which uses a different connector: Belkin 2.1A Micro Car Charger with Removable Charge/Sync Lightning Cable for iPhone 5, iPad Mini, iPad 4th Generation

This one is slightly cheaper and has the cable permanently attached: Belkin Lightning Car Charger for iPhone 5/iPad Mini/iPod Touch 5G

Supplies of these are currently limited as production is being ramped up. The links above will take you directly to Amazon where you can check availability and order.

Excellent protection for your iPad

A common dilemma that comes along with owning an iPad is how to protect it from scratches and bumps. Being incredibly thin and light are two of the best things about the iPad. Putting it inside a case only adds bulk and weight. A case also prevents you from using the handy iPad dock when charging.

I use the fantastic Miniot cover as a similar solution to Apple's Smart Cover for iPad 2. The Miniot offers the same functionality as the Smart Cover but is infinitely better looking and nicer to touch. However, this only protects the front of your device and leaves the back exposed.

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A great solution I found recently is iCarbons. I bought their White Carbon Fiber skin for my iPad and I love it. It's a thin, tough coating that sticks onto the back of your iPad, giving plenty of protection without adding noticeable bulk or weight. Fitting it is simple when you follow the instructional video on their website. Now I can put my iPad down wherever I like without having to check for the presence of abrasive substances which will scrape and scratch my beautiful device.

I also like the look and feel of my iCarbons skin. The iPad's smooth aluminium finish is hard to beat, but I actually prefer the look and feel of my iPad with its new skin. Its appearance is more interesting and I like the feel of the textured surface and the fact that it is not so cold as the aluminium.

Importing from the US, including postage, my iCarbons skin for the back of my iPad (you can get them for the front as well) cost a mere $25.90, or around £16.56 of your English pounds. Excellent value!

Staying charged on the move

If you're an ADI who uses an iPad during lessons, you've probably already thought about how to make sure you've always got battery power when you need it. Here are some tips that might help:

Starting every day with a full charge is, of course, a good idea.

It also makes sense to have a charging device in the car to fall back on if you need it. There are a few of these out there, including the Griffin Powerjolt (which I use) and the the Belkin Micro Car Charger. Both of these are dependable brands and both devices are available from Amazon (links below). The Griffin Powerjolt is going for only £8.99 at the time of writing, which I think is a bargain.
Griffin GC23092 PowerJolt (2Ax1 USB) Charger for iPod / iPhone / iPad - Black
Belkin - Micro Car Charger adapter 2100 mAh + ChargeSync cable for iPhone/iPod/iPad (F8Z689cw)

Belkin also supply a USB Car Charger adapter, which is available on Amazon for only £2.70. You’ll have to supply your own cable, and it doesn’t specifically claim to support the iPad, but at that price maybe it’s worth a shot anyway...
Belkin USB Car Charger

Here's another tip for keeping your iPad going during lessons: don't get the new iPad (the one they're calling "3rd generation")! I just upgraded my iPad 2 for one of these and, although I'm happy with it, I'm noticing one major drawback: the battery really struggles when the screen brightness is turned up high. For lessons during the day, I usually have the brightness turned up to the max. Obviously, this is always going to tax the battery more than a lower setting, but the new iPad seems to be particularly power hungry when bright is what you need. Having said that, the Retina display is absolutely fantastic, and I always have my charger on hand in the car should I need it.

Miniot iPad Cover

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One of the most fun things about the iPad 2 is the optional magnetic Smart Cover which snaps on and off with a satisfying click, automatically waking the device when you open it, then sending it to sleep again when closed.

I like the Smart Cover, but overall I find it unsatisfying because of the way it clings to your device even when you don't want it, flapping around and getting in the way. It's also not the most elegant looking piece of kit, especially when compared to the iPad itself.

I was extremely pleased, therefore, to receive for Christmas a Miniot Cover in smoked oak. This is a beautiful alternative to the Smart Cover, made from real wood and hand-crafted in the Netherlands.

I like the way the Miniot Cover is much less reluctant to let go of the iPad. For example, when using it as a stand, if you want to pick up the iPad and leave the Miniot behind, it is easily done with one hand - just give the Miniot a little nudge with one finger and it'll disconnect. If you're using an Apple Smart Cover as a stand and you want shot of it, you need to get both hands involved, pulling at it to get it to separate.

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When rolled up, the Miniot stays in position. It doesn't flap about like the Smart Cover, which needs to be constantly adjusted if, for example, you're using it to prop the device against your knees.

Like the Smart Cover, the Miniot employs magnets to automatically wake and sleep your device when you open and close it, as well as to hold itself in place. When it's covering the screen, you simply lift it off and the display springs to life. You can then place the cover aside, or curl it back on itself to provide a stand. When curled, its internal magnets produce a very satisfying sound and feel as they lock into place.

The Miniot is by no means the cheapest cover you can buy for an iPad 2, but it is undoubtedly one of the finest. Such a beautiful, refined device deserves to be complemented by an equally beautiful and refined cover, so I feel these two are the perfect match for each other.

Miniot also make an all-over case for the iPad 2, as well as a couple of iPhone cases. You can find more information on their website: http://www.miniot.com

Who Wants a Stylus?

"Who wants a stylus?" That's what Steve Jobs said back in 2007 when he revealed the first iPhone to the world. He went on to say that the best pointing devices are the ones you're born with - your fingers, and I totally agree. You shouldn't need a stylus to operate a hand held device.

But I do want a stylus. When I use Road Pad to draw on an image of a junction, I use a stylus to help increase the accuracy of my lines. Fingers are fine for pushing buttons, scrolling, panning and zooming, but drawing is very hard to do accurately without a good stylus to help you.

I also use a stylus when using Mock Test. The boxes on the mock test form are just a little small for fingers and I find it much easier to hit the right ones with a stylus. Of course, I could have made the test sheet display larger on the screen but I wanted it to be the same width as the screen in landscape mode in order to minimise the amount of scrolling you need to do.

I'm writing this post because a good stylus is hard to find, and I want to point you towards a couple of my favourites.

The Acase Capacitive Stylus is a simple but good stylus which works well and doesn’t cost too much. Last time I checked, it was only £7.99 on Amazon. A bargain!

If you want something with a little more functionality, and are prepared to pay a little more, I’d recommend the BoxWave Capacitive iPad Styra. This has a stylus at one end and an ordinary pen at the other end. Again, it’s a good stylus and I find having the two items in one to be very useful.

Both these styluses work well with the iPad and iPhone. They also help to reduce the amount of fingerprints left behind on your screen.

TIP: When using a stylus with an iOS device, avoid using it to push the home button as this will shorten the life of the stylus.

Expert Shield

Having recently got myself an iPhone 4S, I wanted to get a good screen protector for it. For the last year and a bit, I used my iPhone 4 without screen protection and ended up regretting it after it picked up a few scratches front and back.

The Apple Retina display is a wonderful thing to behold, and I’m a big fan of the iPhone screen’s responsiveness when you’re tapping away on it. I wanted to make sure I got a screen protector that wouldn’t spoil the joy of using my phone, so I did a fair bit of research and read plenty of reviews before making a decision. There are a lot of screen protectors out there and they range in cost from a couple of quid to over £20! In the end I went for the Expert Shield Screen Protector. The price is good at only £7.95 (plus postage), it covers your iPhone front and back, and people online had nothing but good things to say about it.

Having used it for a couple of days now, I think I made the right choice. Like a good pair of shoes, you know you’ve got a good screen protector when you don’t even notice it’s there. As for the protection it offers: obviously it’s not going to save me from a broken phone if I drop the thing on concrete, but it’s clearly giving good protection against scratches, and probably more. Even though you should never do it, I did manage to drop my iPhone 4 a couple of times. Fortunately it survived, but I wish I’d had something like this over the screen to prevent the scratches.

These things can be tricky to attach, but I found the Expert Shield to be reasonably hassle free. There’s no fancy ointments involved, you just make sure the screen is clean, line it up, stick it on, and smooth out any bubbles. You can take a few goes at it if you don’t get it all lined up perfectly the first few times. Once you do get it lined up, though, it just disappears. I put mine on literally as I took the phone out of the box, so I didn’t even have to clean it or anything. Nice and simple!

MobileMount on Kickstarter

Kickstarter is a great way to help finance exciting new start-ups, while at the same time getting your hands on some cool stuff.

The MobileMount is a "suction cup mount & kickstand for mobiles/tablets". Looks like it'll be really handy in the car, where I still don't have a decent mounting system for my phone. This doesn't bother me most of the time, but when I'm trying to navigate with the TomTom app it's a pain. I've pledged $40 to the project, which means I'll be one of the first people to get a MobileMount when they start rolling off the production lines.

If the full amount of money required for the project isn't raised, the project will not be funded and no money will change hands. Read more here about how Kickstarter works.