Cell Phone Accessory Reviews
Antenna woes led all of us iPhone 4 buyers to enjoy a free case on Apple’s budget. In my case, I chose the Speck PixelSkin HD (value $29.95 USD, see: http://www.speckproducts.com/iphone/iphone-4/pixelskin-hd.html).
Compared to my Belkin Grip Vue, the feel of the Speck case is slightly less bulky/heavy, but at the same time seems a tad flimsier. The gaps around the speakers are tight and permit for great quality sound, while the opening for the 30-pin connector will allow for most chargers and docks to still connect. The backing of the case is great for gripping, with volume and power buttons completely covered on the sides. Openings are left for the silence/vibrate switch and the earphone plug which also does not conflict with most sets of audio cables.
The case arrived precisely within the window that Apple had stated and overall I am satisfied. Hope the rest of you are enjoying your cases, let us know what you got and how you like them!
“Now this is a case.”
That’s the first thought I had when I put the Commuter case over the Nexus One. Yes, this was after using a ridiculously ugly, and flimsy, silicone skin on the device for a few weeks, but still, it’s not often that a case improves the look of a device. And I truly think that this case does that. There are a couple caveats that I’ll touch on later, but ultimately, if you’re looking for a good case for the (now discontinued) Nexus One, look no further.
The Commuter case doesn’t have a lot of frills. Like all others from the same line, this case comes in three parts: the silicone inner layer, the hard shell outer layer, and a slide-on screen protector for the 3.7″ AMOLED screen. Like a glove, the silicone case slides over the thin device, and in fact looks quite nice without even the outer shell on top. It emphasizes the volume rocker quite a lot, like a big ear sticking out of a narrow face, but ultimately that’s because the hard case increases the width of the device a little bit. The volume rocker actually works much better than it does sans case, as it is quite hard to use on the stock device, especially from within a pocket. The rubber is springy and always hits the target, which is exactly what it should be.
Along the top, the silicone provides snug covers for the 3.5mm headphone jack and the offers a nice rubber nub for the on/off button, which, like the volume rocker, is a bit difficult to press down without a case. On the botton, the silicone covers the microUSB port, which is my only real criticism of the case. The rubber fits inside the port so well that it is often difficult to remove, and when removed, it is usually impossible to insert the cable without holding the slit open with your other hand. I’d prefer the cover not be there at all, but since the silicone is cut from a single piece of rubber, its inclusion makes sense from a design perspective.
The hard shell provides protection for the back and sides of the device, and there is a hole where the volume rocker slips out. Beautiful design aside, the case leaves the form slender and usable. The screen is fully accessible and the device is extremely well protected. Because the device is not thick to begin with, the added centimetre or so of girth does not injure the clean looks. And, honestly, I prefer the black of the silicone/hard shell combo to the boring grey of the stock device.
The Commuter case leaves the device pretty much unfettered. It slips in and out of a pocket due to the plastic outer layer, and has performed admirably protecting the device from several drops. I have noticed, however, that the snug fit of the hard shell leaves little room for your thumbs to rest on the side of the device, and when typing, can make it difficult for a user with big digits like myself to reach the outer letters of the on-screen keyboard. This is not usually an issue, but hampers the ability to touch type on the Nexus One.
The screen protector is of good quality, and shouldn’t hurt colour reproduction or contract levels. Just be careful to prevent any air bubbles from forming when applying it, as it is a thicker, plasticky material that is prone to pretty serious air capture. If you are scared of scratching the screen, I would recommend skipping the included screen protector and instead purchasing one from BestSkinsEver.com or zagg.com. They are made of far more durable protection, and are fairly inexpensive.
Nothing much else needs to be said about this. Whereas I was hesitant to recommend the Commuter case for the BlackBerry Bold 9700 because of its added weight and bulk, the version for the Nexus One is a different animal altogether. Though I haven’t tried the other high-end cases from companies like Seido, I would be surprised if they are able to improve much on the design and quality.
Purchase the Otterbox Commuter case for the Nexus One at their website, or at participating retail stores.
BlackBerry leaks have been very light this week, but RIM has really picked up the slack with their official presence. The new BlackBerry 6 teaser video, BBM commercials and RIM’s Annual General Meeting definitely kept us entertained throughout the week.
Just when everything was calm again, Steve Jobs brought BlackBerry news back to life by attempting to pull RIM into Apple’s faulty antenna situation. Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie usually aren’t the type to respond to other Smartphone companies, but in this case, they felt it was necessary to put Steve Jobs in his place. Antennagate is so newsworthy, even people who normally don’t follow Smartphone news were talking about it and passing phones around, attempting to ‘death grip’. Hit the jump to see what you may have missed this week in BlackBerry.
The BlackBerry 9700 is a thin phone. I find it to be largely the most comfortable, pocketable phone currently on the market. Yes, there are more powerful devices out there: the iPhone 4 has recently become the de facto leader in industrial build quality and design.
So I prefer to wear the 9700 naked. I have tried a lot of cases for the phone, and none have really kept the phone slim and usable enough to justify the added weight. The Otterbox Commuter case for the Bold 9700 is about the best combination of strength, durability and good looks that I’ve found for the eponymous BlackBerry device.
The case, like all Otterbox Commuter and Defender series cases, is split into three parts: the screen protector, the silicon surrounding and the hard shell. The silicon usually covers the entire housing while the shell slips over it and protects the more important areas of the phone.
The Bold 9700 version is particularly well suited for this purpose as the phone itself is not exactly made to be dropped. There is a saying in the industry: “It’s a good thing BlackBerrys are easy to replace, because their quality control sucks.” This is particularly true about the newer devices. It seems that ever since RIM moved their manufacturing process to China, the quality of their devices has decreased. The trackpads wobble, the battery covers slip off, the side buttons creak. It’s just not what it used to be.
And most BlackBerry users tend to use those colourful silicone slip-ons. Those are not only ugly, but when dropped from a fair distance, are not going to sufficiently protect the device. The Otterbox Commuter case adds a fair amount of weight and thickness to the phone, but because it’s pretty thin as it is, it doesn’t reduce the pocketability.
The quality of the materials is top notch. The silicone is flexible and sturdy; never once have I seen any of the flaps on the movable parts of the silicone tear or break. As well, the plastic shell is lightweight and extremely precise. I do have some issues, however, with the fact that because the silicone piece includes flaps that cover the various holes, including the headphone jack and charging jack, it emcumbers easy entry. When removing the flap from the headphone jack, for example, it often involves using two hands to pry it from inside the hole itself, and getting the headphone into the jack involves holding the flap back while you try to maneuver it in over the excess silicone. There’s almost too much of a good thing. I don’t feel these flaps are necessary, and often cause undue frustration when inserting the charging cable at the end of a long day.
A benefit, however, to having the hard shell on the phone is the slightly extra width it gives the phone when holding it to type. As most Bold 9700 owners know, the phone is narrower than its predecessor, the luxuriously-sized Bold 9000. As a result, the keyboard had to be narrowed too. The Commuter case actually widens the phone by a couple millimetres, allowing you to hold it and type more comfortably with your thumbs. Probably not an intended benefit by Otterbox, but certainly welcome if you’re longing for those Bold 9000 days.
Overall I would recommend the Otterbox Commuter case for anyone who’s ever dropped his phone or missed her Bold 9000. You’re going to feel a lot safer with it on.
The Otterbox Commuter case for Bold 9700 is available for $34.99 on their website or at many affiliate retailers.
- Great manufacturing quality
- Three-part system, includes screen protector
- Makes phone very durable
- Widens phone slightly for more comfortable thumb typing
- May add too much bulk for some people
- Charging and headphone holes are too difficult to open
- Screen protector is of questionable quality and value
I’m sure most of you BlackBerry users have seen a charging pod at some point. If you’re anything like me, you probably thought, “Yeah, it looks cool… but would I really use it?”
The answer is yes.
I quickly got sick of trying to plug my charger into that little Micro USB port on my Bold 9700. It can be a cumbersome task at times, and it looks ugly lying on your desk, alone. I ordered a charging pod and have never been so happy with such a small purchase. It’s just so convenient to be able to simply place my BlackBerry right onto the pod, and leave it. It doesn’t take any more effort than placing my BlackBerry on a table. I also love being able to quickly snatch my BlackBerry out with one hand. I definitely get ‘Cool Points’ for that.
The hardest part is deciding whether to keep your pod at work or home. Its small enough that you can take it back and forth with you, or after a while you might decide that you need two of them. You can purchase the Desktop Charging Pod for the Bold 9700 from our store.
You can also check out The Cellular Guru Store for charging pods for other BlackBerry devices, as well as other Smartphone accessories.
What’s there to say? I have a phone, I need to protect it. Protect it from what? Scratches? Sure. Drops? Definitely? Dropping it in the toilet? Probably not.
But everyone seems to have different requirements for their phone cases. Some people don’t really care for protection, and use cases merely to adorn the phone. I’m talking about those girls whose phones are blinged beyond recognition; where you doubt whether they understand what a case is for in the first place. And don’t get me started on those multi-coloured silicone cases.
But there is a large group of intelligent people who recognize that, after spending hundreds of dollars on a phone, it is in his or her best interest to keep it clean, scratch-free and working.
The SmrtCase iPhone is one of those cases. While not exactly a beast, its “gimmick” keeps it feeling fresh and useful while maintaining the iPhone’s core attractiveness. The idea behind it comes from the fact that there is a curved back on the iPhone that leaves some space between the phone back and the case. Deciding to design a case to utilize this space seems only natural. Not to mention the fact that some people are less likely to forget their cell phone at home than their wallet. And say you’re going out and don’t have a lot of space; stick your debit card and a $20 in the slot on the back of the phone and you’re good to go.
SmrtCase thought ahead, too. They knew that sliding a card in and out of your iPhone would scratch the screen, so they included a clear, reusable sticker that sticks to the back of your phone, absorbing all those nasty scratches.
But you have to realize that when you buy this case, you’re not getting an Otterbox Defender, or something of its ilk. You’re getting a fairly lightweight polymer shell, that may protect your device from a couple feet, after that, you’re on your own.
I have to say, though, the SmrtCase is a fairly unassuming iPhone case; it almost disappears when you install it. It is barely visible when you look head-on at your device, and adds only a couple millimeters of thickness on the back.
It is disappointing, though, to see that SmrtCase didn’t increase the size of the card holding slot. I could easily stand it being extended another few millimeters, which would make it much easier to install two full-sized cards. As it stands, you’re limited to one thick card and maybe a business card or a folded-up bill.
SmrtCase is not trying to hide the shortcomings of its cases. They acknowledge that they live in a niche market. But I have been using it on a regular basis, and basically love it. It’s just hardy enough to put my mind at ease in case I drop the phone, and understated enough that I don’t feel the extra weight.
To be sure, this won’t replace my Otterbox case for heavy-duty activities where I’d be concerned about exposing my iPhone to the elements, but this case is almost good enough to replace a wallet on those nights when less is more.
For more information, check out SmrtCase.
While I’ve never been fond of putting a case on my BlackBerry, I have to admit that I was intrigued when I first saw the SmrtCase Glide. The idea behind the case is much like any other case, where being thin, light, and unobtrusive are key. However, the SmrtCase Glide quite literally has a card up its sleeve because the case allows users to carry with them a credit card, ID card, business cards, and any other cards you can think of.
The SmrtCase Glide does a good job protecting my phone while managing to stay fairly thin and sleek. While SmrtCase claims that the Glide will hold two plastic cards and one ID card I found that even loading up two plastic cards makes retrieving them difficult. One card really offers the best experience as far as sliding the card in and out of the case. They have also been nice enough to include a plastic shield to protect the battery door against the cards sliding in and out. While this may seem unnecessary, I was surprised to see how buggered up the shield was after using the case for a few days.
The case itself is made of semi-flexible plastic and wraps around the back of my Tour. While the case offers good protection of my phone it is a tad bulky, but then again I’m not one to use cases so I’m a harsh critic. The plastic also seems pretty cheap, and I would have loved to see a soft-touch coating on the case. My single biggest beef with the design of the SmrtCase Glide is if I use the card slot for holding any standard-sized card, it covers the camera. The flash remains uncovered but if I want to take a photo with the case on and being used as it is designed to be used, I will at least have to slide the card out partially to clear the camera lens. This seems totally crazy to me but maybe the folks at SmrtCase were banking on people rarely using their cameras. I also had some trouble with the size of the cutout for the microUSB port. It is just a little too small to allow the connector to fully click into the port. I can get my phone to charge, but if I bump anything the cord tends to pop out.
Overall I like the idea of being able to stow away a couple cards in your smartphone’s case. It’s a really nice system when you don’t want to carry your wallet just so you can have your ID and a credit card on you. That said, I still feel like the case could have been planned a little better, including a larger hole for the microUSB and perhaps pushing the card slot lower allowing for use of the camera while holding cards.
Not too long ago I wrote an in depth review of the Plantronics Voyager Pro bluetooth headset, and for the most part praised it for being everything I wanted/needed in a headset. Well, Aliph (another company who does not like to be outdone by competition) caught wind of this article and sent me a Jawbone ICON to review for myself, and let’s just say I’m still smiling.
The “less is more” strategy has really worked for Aliph. They are notorious for simple, yet effective packaging of all their headsets. They favour smaller, primarily recyclable plastic casing over the popular-yet bulky cardboard box design that is generally standard in the industry. The product is showcased hanging in mid-air; it is truly a triumph of style and substance. The add-ons are hidden in the bottom of the case and help you customize it as much as you need to make it comfortable. Aliph wants the device to just disappear on your ear. Customizations include: different sized ear buds, optional ear loop for those not daring enough to let it rest freely, and the now industry-standard Micro-USB charger.
So, I’ve told you what will catch your eye about the Jawbone, but what about arguably the biggest selling feature of the ICON….
This is what sets Aliph’s Jawbone ICON way ahead of the competition (and let’s just say it’s a tough market). For such a small headset, it fits very well in your ear and comfortably against your face to activate the noise cancellation feature. Its predecessor, The Prime, which though thinner and more lightweight, would constantly lose balance on your face, negating its noise cancellation capabilities. I find that the Jawbone’s biggest strength is also its biggest weakness: its shape. I am fortunate enough to have smaller ears, making it easier to fit (or adapt for that matter) most headsets without the added ear hook. On the other hand, for those with larger faces or ears, it may be difficult to keep the headset in a comfortable position against the face.
For all you that are frustrated with having to buy a new charging accessory every time you buy a new device/headset, rest assured Aliph feels your pain. They have incorporated Micro-USB charging capabilities into this headset, so unless you are using an iPhone, your car charger WILL work if your ICON dies during the day.
Enough about how it looks, let’s get down to the nitty gritty, the reason for you to shell out hundreds of dollars for the headset.
The biggest allure to this headset is the Military Grade NoiseAssassin 2.5, which, model to model, has been perfected as a proprietary technology to eliminate background noise when placing and receiving calls! And wow! It really, really works. I found myself numerous times walking through a blustery wind, and the call went on as if I was at my desk. I found it to work much better than it did with the Jawbone Prime, although both use the same NoiseAssasin technology.
As for the battery life, where most companies boast 6+ hours and fall far short, Jawbone boasts 4.5 hours of talk time. It does, however, speak to you and let you know battery life left in minutes and if using an iPhone, it has an indicator on screen (ONLY on iPhones right now). Though, to me this doesn’t seem like much, the headset is like a personal assistant when on your ear. Aliph created a site called MyTalk which allows ICON users to register and completely customize the headset to their liking.
Have the desire to be James Bond for the day? You can customize the voice to that of a British woman speaking to you, Q-esque. Other features of MyTalk include: Jott, Facebook, Twitter and 411 integration. Yes, you read that right, update your Twitter status without touching your device. Score.
Before I go further, I will say that this headset has changed my negative bias towards Jawbone. I’ve used each and every one of their headsets and have left unhappy with each, for a variety of reasons. They seem, however, to have gotten to the root of the issues because the ease of use, functionality and overall sound quality went above and beyond what I had expected. If this is the future of Jawbone’s headset line, kudos to them.
I love it, have been using it for a few weeks now after reluctantly giving up my Plantronics Voyager Pro (which I reviewed not too long ago). Jawbone has always positioned their products as quality.
The ICON is no exception.Follow me on twitter
I don’t know if any of you saw the story a while back about some of the people of Korea using sausages to control their iPhones in the cold weather (apparently they’re remarkably similar to fingers), but I’ve got great news! Now you, too, can have you very own sausage-stylus! (I’ll take “Sentences I never thought I’d write” for $1,000, Alex)
The folks over at Gizmodo (specifically Rosa Golijan) will be testing out these super meats, which are available for the low, low, loooooow price of $1.
So how many of you would’ve loved one of these when you were buried in snow a couple weeks back? (By the way, the first link has a video!)Follow me on twitter
In my years of being in the cellular industry I’ve been fortunate enough to sample many a headsets. Some have been amazing while others just downright awful and it seems with the safe driving law coming into effect in Toronto, manufacturers are pumping out headsets so fast its really hard to do your homework on which is best value for the dollar. With this being said I have decided to do my loyal readers a good deed and write a review on one that has totally impressed me on every angle The Plantronics Voyager Pro
Click More to read my hands-on review
Lets start with the first thing that catches our eye…
Speaking on past packaging tendencies only; Plantronics didn’t didn’t seem to put effort into it. My last headset the Voyager 520, seen to the right lacks the professional “eye-popping” pizazz as its successor the Pro. Though, in defense of Plantronics, they made it very clear they were NEVER aiming for a fashion oriented box. As you can see by looking at the 2 side by side, in my opinion the Voyager Pro packaging screams try me. Instead of using too much box to maybe compensate for something the headset could be missing, they packed everything into a smaller package. It is packed with the standards that for the most part will all be commented on later in the review: A Micro-USB charger, 3 changeable ear gels,and an instruction manual.
Now that i’ve explained what will catch your eyes first let’s move on to another defining characteristic of the Plantronics brand…
One thing that Plantronics has always been known for is their unique way of designing their headsets. While other manufacturers are focusing on making them smaller and more compact, Plantronics seems to be going bigger, but don’t let that sway your thoughts it is extremely comfortable and light weight. It ergonomically fits around your ear to provide balance and stability when put into different situations. The microphone is no different. It positions up and down easily to accommodate different cheek bones and facial structure. Seeing that I have used many styles of headset, I have found that using the “in ear” style suits me better, this being said Plantronics also includes 3 different interchangeable ear gels based on the size of your ear.
One thing you may ask me? How do i charge it on the go? Well, your in luck. Plantronics hopped the micro-usb bandwagon with this headset. Meaning, if you own any more recent smartphone and have a car charger, you can charge the headset on the go (should it die) and avoid one of those pesky fines while maintaining safe driving.
With all that being said lets get into the REAL reason most people choose their headsets….
One of the biggest annoyances of any new headset is learning to pair it with your device. With some you need to press multiple buttons for several seconds to get the light blinking the right consecutive blinks or it just wont work. (if you are confused, so am I, and i just typed that) There is one button and one button only. The POWER button, simple. Press and hold it the first time for roughly 5 seconds and boom light goes blue and you are ready for pairing thats Quickpair technology for you. Impressed? I know I was. Now on to sound quality. The microphone with its 3 layer stainless steel Windsmart technology is fantastic, it screens the intrusive wind noise when on a call and works better than advertised. To test this feature I actually drove on the highway with my window down and the person I was speaking to couldn’t tell if I was at the office or in a car. This is a HUGE selling feature for us sales people who spend a large portion of our day driving and rely on a good headset. Another great feature of the microphone is its built in AudioIQ2 noise cancelling technology which intelligently separates your voice from the wind to deliver clear sound to your listener. And if all this wasn’t amazing enough, the inbound sound quality is just as good. The speakers automatically work with the AudioIQ2 feature to ensure sound/call quality is the best it can possibly be. Think stereo sound in one ear, whether in a conference or in a quiet room.
On to the battery life. While most claim 6 to 7 hours continuous talk time, I find this to be a pretty outlandish number. Rarely have I ever made a FULL day on ANY headset with regular to above average talk time (again, thats just me and this is my review :p). Well, this headset without a doubt wont disappoint. I’ve gone 2 days with above average talk time without having to plug it in and guess how it reminds you to charge? With just a weird blinking light that you will never see? (Never really understood that, if it’s on my ear how am I going to see a blinking light?) Or an annoying beeping sound? Nah, a british womans voice speaks to you (whether on a call or not) saying “Please Charge”. I think this is ingenious, being a man I generally need to be consistently told to do things or ill just forget (sorry guys its true). So kudos goes to the inventor of that.
Now to summarize….
So the Plantronics Voyager Pro is well packaged, very user friendly, and has an overall comfortable deisgn. I think you can generally assume from this review that I love this headset. I own and have used a Jawbone, Jawbone Prime, and BlueAnt V1 among many others so you can trust this review to be unbiast. It’s price point is positioned at a fair $99.99 depending on where you look (I didn’t link my store because its not ready yet, but expect it to be in there) which is reasonable compared to others in it “Premium Category” which can fetch upwards of $149.99 and more.
Now on to you my readers do you own a Voyager Pro? Do you agree with what i’ve said? Leave a comment and let me know.
I’ll leave you all with a little Plantronics promo video of the headset in action