4 Last-minute gift ideas

Posted on Dec 16, 2012 in Hints, iPad, iPhone, Opinions, Reviews

Last-minute gift recommendations

Still haven’t found that perfect gift? Here are a few last-minute ideas for new products that I’ve had a chance to give or receive this year.

1) Sony Xperia tipo – low-end Android 4.0 smartphone: €100

While I’m not really an Android fan, I do understand that not everyone is willing to spend close to €650 on a smartphone. If you have a family member still using a feature-phone, the Sony tipo is a decent, affordable Android phone for a first-time smartphone owner. If you’re in Europe, you can use this SIM-unlocked phone with any cheapo provider.

Sony xperia tipo

Sony tipo at Amazon.de

Sony tipo at Amazon.com

2) tizi beat bag bluetooth speaker: €79

(Full disclaimer: this is an equinux product, so I’m completely biased.)

We researched a lot of bluetooth speakers while developing tizi beat bag, and I can honestly say that I’ve yet to hear one that offers more bang for your buck.

Nice and loud, very nicely balanced sound, bass reflex-chamber for some moderate (but not exaggerated) oomph, replaceable li-ion battery for ~10h listening on-the-go, bluetooth support for all your smartphones, laptops, tablets, etc, aux-in jack for anything that doesn’t have bluetooth…

If you already own our tizi TV receiver, you’ll also be glad to hear that it uses the same tizi battery, so you can easily swap.

And it has a snazzy handle, so it’s ideal for grabbing to use in the kitchen, out on your balcony, at your next garden party…

tizi beat bag at Amazon.de

3) Fender Squier USB & iOS Stratocaster: €199

I saw the Fender when it hit the Mac sites a few weeks ago, but wasn’t able to find much information about it. My amazing boss heard me raving about it and decided to get one for our office instrument collection.

It looks like any regular full-sized Squier strat, except that it has an additional back plastic panel on the back and a mini-USB and headphone port at the bottom of the guitar. In the box you’ll find a regular USB cable and a 30-pin cable for iOS devices.

And it’s amazing: plug it into your iPad, fire up Garageband and start jamming away. The guitar plays really nicely and the flexibility that the iPad offers you is great.

You’ll need a lightning adapter to use it with the latest generation of iOS devices, but it works fine.

Squier USB strat

Available exclusively from Apple’s online store.

4) Gordy’s Cameras straps: ~€15-25

Ideal for any camera and photography enthusiast, Gordy makes incredibly durable and robust leather cameras straps. They are all hand-made and look and feel much more substantial than the stock straps that come with most cameras. Plus you don’t feel like such a tourist with one of Gordy’s excellent wrist-straps. There is a wide selection depending on personal preference and camera model, so you may want to do this one as a voucher and let your giftee choose the colour and exact model.

gordy's camera straps

Gordy’s camera straps

That’s all folks! Granted, not the longest list you’ll find on the interwebs this time of year, just a few personal recommendations for products I’ve enjoyed.

Happy Holidays!

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Review: Simplism Flip Note Case for iPhone 5

Posted on Oct 22, 2012 in iPhone, Reviews

With all the reports of the iPhone 5 being more prone to scratches than its predecessors, a lot of people are looking for good cases. I’ve tried a few plastic-shell style cases, but none of them have been particularly great. In fact, a lot of them seem to be based on rumored specs, rather than the actual dimensions (they refer to ‘new iPhone 2012’ rather than ’iPhone 5’).

In contrast to other cases, the Simplism Flip Note style for iPhone 5 is a wallet-style case designed to fit your iPhone 5 perfectly. It has a plastic mould to hold your phone, a slim leather cover, and two pockets to store credit or business cards. The case is available in red, beige, tan and black.

Fit and finish

This case is really well made – the materials all feel great and it fits the new iPhone extremely precisely. There’s no overlap or gap along the edges, unlike some of the other cases I’ve seen so far.

The peach wood finish on the front adds a bit of tasteful trim to the elegant leather design and bears the stylish Simplism logo.


I usually prefer shell-style cases on my iPhones, so I was a bit hesitant to make the switch to a flip case. The iPhone is something you take out and use all the time, so any extra steps could potentially be a hassle. I had tried a pouch-style case on my iPhone 4, where you could pull the iPhone out, but quickly gave up on it since it proved to be quite annoying to pull your iPhone out every time.

So how did the Simplism Flip Note fare?
The flip turns out to be quite convenient in everyday use. Your iPhone is really protected from bumps and scratches, but you can easily flip open the cover to use it with one hand.

The back cover actually bends in the middle in order to act as a stand (more on that later), which also makes it comfortable to hold the iPhone with both hands whilst typing. Your right hand can hold the iPhone between the plastic shell and leather flap for easy typing.

It’s a little bit unwieldy when you hold it up to your head for phone calls, but since I tend to use the headset that’s not really much of an issue for me personally.

It’s worth noting that the flip opens to the right rather then to the left. That takes a few moments to get used to, since most books tend to open the other way, but after the first few tries it feels quite natural.
Update: Simplism have clarified that the case opens to the right so you can access the iPhone buttons on the left — makes sense!

Other features

As mentioned above, the back of the Flip Note can fold over, allowing you to use the case as a convenient stand. This works quite well in practise and is useful for FaceTime, watching movies or TV shows (as seen here with our tizi+ digital TV receiver for iPhone and iPad).

The Flip Note also comes with a handy cable clip.


This is the a great case for the iPhone 5 and one of the first truly elegant cases that complement the new design. It offers easy access to all ports, protects your new iPhone perfectly and is practical in everyday use as well.

I’ve found it great when going out as I can store my bank cards and a few notes in the case with my iPhone and don’t need a bulky wallet.

Overall: Recommended

Shop for Simplism Flip Note for iPhone 5 on Amazon.

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Lightning wirecutters

Posted on Oct 5, 2012 in iPhone, Opinions

“Snips by Flickr user Sarae

When iOS 5 introduced wireless syncing, many people stopped connecting their iOS devices to their PCs and Macs altogether. But the dock connector and 30-pin accessories have meant that docking solutions have remained very popular for other accessories such as speaker docks, car connectors and other accessories.

Products like tizi and tizi+ started a trend of wi-fi based accessories and Apple’s continuing improvements to AirPlay and the slowly growing number of AirPlay devices have increased that trend. However the additional cost and slightly unfamiliar setup have meant that simple docking accessories have still been far more popular overall.

However the new lightning connector seems set to introduce a tectonic shift in favour of wireless accessories and audio devices: most users will be unwilling to invest in 30-pin accessories that are now seen as “legacy” or “outdated” technology (despite Apple’s insistence that they will support both connector technologies for some time).
At the same time, there will be many households that have 30-pin AND lightning-based devices (e.g. a new iPad and iPhone 5), so switching to lightning connector-only devices isn’t an option either.

Already the number of bluetooth-based AD2P-compatible devices seems to be increasing and manufacturers with wi-fi or bluetooth-based accessories and know-how will have an advantage for the foreseeable future. Newer standards like AirPlay and Bluetooth 4.0 will make these new accessories easier and more efficient to use, which should improve ease of adoption.

The lightning connector will push consumers towards wireless accessory standards. I for one welcome our new wireless future: the ubiquitousness of accessories like tizi+ on my home wireless network is far more convenient than conventional 30-pin accessories, so let’s hope we can cut some more wires in the next few years.

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Prepaid 3G data in Malaysia

Posted on Aug 21, 2011 in Hints, iPhone

We went to Malaysia for our honeymoon a few weeks ago. We had booked hotels and internal flights for the first five days of our holiday, but wanted to be somewhat flexible so needed to book more hotels and flights on the go.

Getting a SIM card and choosing a carrier

I spotted a Maxis booth in Kuala Lumpur International Airport and headed over to purchase a prepaid SIM card and data plan. Maxis, Celcom and DiGi are the three largest providers in Malaysia and from what I have read, Maxis has the best 3G coverage. Their prepaid plans are marketed under their brand “Hotlink“, and you can find shops selling Maxis/Hotlink top-ups all over Malaysia.

The helpful staff at their sales booth had a micro SIM cutting tool and configured the data plan for me using the “day plan” option, which comes with 500MB of data a day. I assumed it would auto-renew and the total cost would be about €20 for 2.5 weeks.

My wife booking hotels on the iPad at Kuala Lumpur airport with Maxis 3G and personal hotspot

Pick a data plan

It turns out that the day plan needs to be renewed every day after exactly 24 hours, which is a bit annoying after a while. Plus, if you forget you’re charged by the megabyte, which will quickly wipe out your prepaid credit.

Fortunately, while topping up credit in a mobile phone store in Melakka, the dealer recommended I switch to the “internet broadband 1 week” plan instead. I think it’s intended for laptop users with USB 3G sticks, but it worked fine with the iPhone as well. The one week option comes with 1.5 GB of data, which should be more than enough for casual use on holiday.

Coverage & Cost

Coverage was brilliant, with 3G service and full bars nearly everywhere we went – the only time I couldn’t get 3G was on a tiny tropical island 45 minutes off the mainland. There’s no way we could have travelled around as much as we did without a data plan and access to TripIt, TripAdvisor, Agoda.com and other services.

Overall I think I spent about 120 ringgit on the SIM card and various top-ups (about €28/ $39). That’s a bit more than necessary, as I lost quite a bit of credit the first few days due to not renewing the day plan in time.

Don't forget your iPhone SIM tool

Worth it?

If you’re planning a trip to Malaysia, I’d definitely recommend picking up a Maxis/Hotlink prepaid card for your stay. Hotel wifi was often flaky and sometimes only available in rooms near the reception desk, so I ended up using Maxis 3G almost everywhere. Be sure to look up the best data option on their website – the day plan is easiest but not necessarily the most affordable.


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Multi-touch vs. multi-touch: the new iPod nano

Posted on Sep 7, 2010 in iPhone, Opinions, UI Design

Apple recently introduced their 6th generation iPod nano, the first non-clickwheel nano. Instead, the new nano uses a multi-touch interface that’s similar to the interface found on the iPhone, iPod touch and iPad.

But just how similar is the nano’s multi-touch interface when compared with the real deal? Let’s look at some of the typical actions you might want to do:

As you can see, some of the most important actions use different multi-touch gestures on the iPod nano then they do on real iOS devices. If Apple sees the nano as the device that will introduce people to multi-touch, it seems like a curious decision to not unify the gestures across all multi-touch platforms.

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Grassroots UI Innovation

Posted on Apr 6, 2010 in Featured, iPad, iPhone, UI Design

When Apple introduced the iPhone and later the iPhone SDK, they established a series of UI metaphors, interaction models and conventions, that have served as a template for nearly all third party apps. Gestures such as swipe to delete, or UI elements such as springy lists are simply expected.

Apple has done such a great job of establishing best practices for nearly all types of UI interactions that it’s not often you see news kinds of UI interaction introduced by third party developers.

But when Atebits introduced Tweetie 2, it also introduced so-called “spring reloading”. Basically if you pull down past the end of a list, causing it to spring back, you can refresh the current list of tweets.

Many reviewers noted the ingenuity of this design, as it effectively turned a habit of many users (namely playing with the springy lists) into a useful feature. This design has since been adopted by several other applications and seems as though it may become a de facto UI convention on the iPhone OS.

Here is the original Tweetie 2 design:

Foursquare is basically a straight up copy:

This is Gowalla’s take on it – the logo appears to let you know you’ve pulled down far enough:

And the Wikipedia app Articles uses the design to lock or unlock your screen orientation:

It’ll be interesting to see if this convention is adopted by more applications going forward – or if Apple will even perhaps add it to their own apps. But at any rate, it’s nice to see good UI innovations from a third party developer being adopted by others. I can’t wait to see what Atebits and others come up with for the iPad.

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