Mike Becky

Tag Archive for ‘Accessories’

BackPack by Twelve South ➝

The BackPack is a simple little shelf that mounts to the back of your iMac, perfect for hiding external hard drives or other small peripherals.

I bought a couple of them last week — one went on the back of my old iMac and the other went to my mother-in-laws for her iMac. Both of them will be hiding an external hard drive for Time Machine. They’re easy to install, sturdy, and keep your desktop nice and clean.

I should have bought these years ago.

➝ Source: twelvesouth.com

What Kickstarter Can Teach Us About iPad Hardware Needs ➝

Ben Brooks:

However, there is one good thing about Kickstarter: it shows you what people want. Create a project, get a prototype, put it on Kickstarter (or Indiegogo, I am using those interchangeably here) and you’ll instantly know if there is a market for your product. With that in mind, I searched both services with the phrase “iPad Pro”.

Oh my.

My goal was simple: to figure out what people feel is missing, from a hardware perspective, with the iPad Pro. Surprisingly, I can lump almost all the products I found into three categories: Pencil accessories, cases, and speakers. Let’s take a look at some of what I found, and why there is (or isn’t) a market for such things — and see what we can glean from all of this.

What a brilliant idea. I never would have thought to take this approach when looking at untapped potential in the iPad accessory market. And I think accessory makers would be wise to use this strategy when determining what products would be worth developing in the future.

Logitech Create: The First Third-Party Keyboard for iPad Pro ➝

From Logitech’s press release:

Today Logitech announced the Logitech CREATE Keyboard Case for iPad Pro, developed closely with Apple to leverage the new Smart Connector. As a result, Logitech will bring to market the first ever third-party keyboard compatible with the iPad Pro Smart Connector, eliminating the need to power on, set up or charge the keyboard – it is always ready when you are.

I’m not a keyboard case kind of guy, but this one actually looks more usable to me than Apple’s.

Apple Details How it Tests Accessories Sold in Retail Stores ➝

From the recently publish Tested by Apple web page:

Each case design for iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch has to go through a series of tests before it reaches the Apple Store. So you can be sure the case you buy is a perfect match for your iOS device.

I wish every retail store cared this much about the quality of the products they sold.

The Secret Apple Watch Port Should Probably Stay Hidden ➝

Jeremy Horowitz, regarding third-party band makers use of the Apple Watch diagnostic port:

Stop before you spend $250 to order an accessory that might never arrive or work properly. […]

While conspiracy theorists will come up with all sorts of explanations for a hidden port, the two key reasons for the Apple Watch to have it are for diagnostics and performing guaranteed reliable firmware updates.

I would avoid buying any accessories that use the Apple Watch’s diagnostic port. That is, unless you fully understand that it might not work at all or will eventually stop working in the future.

Bear Motion for iPad Review

Bear Motion Sleeve

I ordered the Bear Motion iPad sleeve after spending hours researching for my recent piece, Essential iPad Accessories. The sleeve had nearly 150 reviews on Amazon with an average rating of 4.6 out of 5 stars. It looked like I had found the perfect iPad sleeve to fit my needs, but I couldn’t have been more wrong.

The Bear Motion sleeve arrived last Wednesday and I was immediately turned off when I opened the box Amazon shipped it in. The sleeve came in an extremely cheap looking, peggable, clear plastic package that has no mention of what product it contained aside from a barcode sticker on the back and the Bear Motion logo along the top. This is the kind of packaging you’d expect to find on a “tablet sleeve” at a dollar store that has the build quality of something you’d find at a dollar store.

I didn’t want the poor packaging design to taint my opinions of the sleeve, though — it’s not like I’ll have to interact with the packaging beyond the initial opening. But then I broke the plastic and got my hands on the actual sleeve, and I found all my misgivings to be true. Here’s how I put it early last week before the sleeve was delivered:

My biggest concern is about build quality. Let’s be honest, $10.99 is a pretty low price. I just hope I’m more inclined to describe it as inexpensive than as cheap.

After spending nearly a week with it, I can safely describe the Bear Motion sleeve for iPad as cheap.

The first sign I saw of its cheap design (aside from the packaging) was actually in the sleeve’s weight. When I picked it up out of the box I was amazed at how light it was. Which would have been a good thing if the materials used in the sleeve felt as though they could protect my iPad from a tumble. But, the lack of weight was actually an indication of absolutely zero additional padding throughout the entire sleeve — save for the thickness of the outer layer of felt which feels nice to the touch, but I can’t trust to protect my $599 iPad.

The inner lining is quite nice, though. It feels very soft and I would never worry about it scratching my device. But, it’s the only layer between the iPad and the accessory pockets. I could never have any peace of mind keeping more hefty accessories inside the pockets with such a thin layer between them and the iPad. I can just imagine dropping the sleeve fully loaded and finding a completely shattered iPad screen because of the impact between it and the accessories in the other pockets.

Bear Motion Sleeve Closed

Which brings me to the closing mechanism — one button on the face of the sleeve and another on the sleeve’s flap are connected by a leather string that you wrap around the two. It works well and stood up to the intense shaking I put it through in order to test whether or not it could come undone by itself. The two buttons are attractive and the mechanism for closing is easy enough to interact with.

But, I’m not fond of how the sleeve looks when it’s closed. The two outer ends of the flap tend to bow-out from the sleeve’s body instead of sitting flush against it. This could go away over time as the fabric gets worn down from use. But with all of the other problems I have with it, it’s not going to stick around long enough for me to find out.

I’ve already requested a refund through Amazon, but it looks like I might have to pay shipping to return it to the seller. This is far from ideal since it means I might be out around $8 in the transaction. But, at least the money is going to UPS (a company I actually like) instead of the sellers of this terrible iPad sleeve.

I suppose I wrote about the Bear Motion last week because I was excited that I could have finally found a sleeve that suited my needs. But, I also hope my hesitance to endorse it came across loud and clear in the way that I wrote about it. Everything I saw — from the reviews on Amazon to the product images — indicated that it was going to be a great sleeve, but that just wasn’t the case. Instead, we have a cheaply made sleeve with plenty of poor design decisions.

Sarah Guarino Reviews Inateck’s Felt Sleve for iPad Mini ➝

This is one of the sleeves that kept cropping up while I was doing research for my piece on Essential iPad Accessories from last week (although, I was obviously more interested in the iPad Air model). I mostly ignored it because the strap that secures your iPad inside of the sleeve is only held on with a magnet which I thought could come loose and allow your iPad to spill out onto the floor. I also wasn’t a fan of its lack of accessory pockets which are a necessity in any sleeve I was willing to consider.

Essential iPad Accessories

I’ve spent several weeks with the iPad Air 2 as my primary computer, now, and thought this would be a good time to share some thoughts on what I would consider to be the most essential iPad accessories. I’ve purchased a few of these products already while others are on their way or will be purchased when the need for them arises. All of these items are what I would consider to be the best of all of the most essential categories — stand, Bluetooth speaker, charger, drawing stylus, and sleeve.

Compass 2 for iPad

Compass 2 by TwelveSouth

I’m still using the original Compass by TwelveSouth that I purchased nearly five years ago for my first-generation iPad. But, every review I’ve read claims the sequel to be even better than the original. It’s built out of a sturdy aluminum with rubberized feet and  has rubber pads and strips along every point at which the iPad would come into contact with it. The stand can be set in two different positions — laying back on its shorter flip-out leg for more comfortable typing or standing up in a vertical position which is great for viewing media.

My two favorite features of the Compass is that it actually holds your iPad up off of the surface it’s sitting on — which is great for use in messy places such as the kitchen. And, it’s great for traveling as it can be easily folded up into a compact size and comes with a handy carrying case.

Even though one of my Compass’s feet is a bit wobbly, I’m still in love with it. And, I guess that’s the kind of wear you’d expect from an accessory you’ve been using for over four years. When my Compass eventually bites the dust, I wouldn’t hesitate to purchase the Compass 2. TwelveSouth designed a great product that’s needed very little revisions over its relatively long lifespan.

The Compass 2 is available in silver, black, and red for $39.99.

Jawbone Jambox

Jawbone Jambox

While not strictly an iPad accessory (I use it just as often with my iPhone), a Bluetooth speaker is an incredibly useful device that I use for music, podcasts, and the occasional episode of Boy Meets World with my fiancée while we eat lunch.

The Jawbone Jambox might not be the cheapest Bluetooth speaker on the market, but it is my favorite. It has great battery life, good sound quality, and is loud enough to fill my (admittedly small) apartment with the latest Against the Current EP. It’s a brilliantly well designed and very simple piece of hardware (that every other competitor seems to be copying these days), with just three buttons along the top and a single switch on the side. It gives great audio cues letting you know it’s turning on or off and even speaks to you when the battery is low or to declare “Jambox is in pairing mode. Waiting for device to connect.”

The Jambox travels well because of its compact size and even comes with a nice felt carrying case to protect its audio-in jack and speaker grill. I’ve taken it on road trips, to a friend’s house for music during board games, and even to outdoor gatherings. It’s handled it all well and everyone who interacts with it has commented on its superb build-quality and impressive volume (considering its small size).

I’ve been using the Jambox for nearly two years and it’s another device that I would gladly purchase again if I ever needed a replacement. Although, next time I think I’ll go for something a little more colorful than my current all-black model.

The Jambox starts at about $100, comes in several colors, and is available in three sizes — the original, MINI Jambox, and BIG Jambox.

Anker 20W Dual-Port Charger

Anker 20W 2-Port USB Wall Charger

This is the first accessory on my list that I don’t actually own. ButI have been keeping my eye out for a nice two-port wall charger that I could use with my iPhone and iPad when traveling, and this is my current front-runner.

Whenever my fiancée and I take a road trip to visit my family in Pittsburgh we end up taking at least three chargers with us — one for each of our iPhones and one for the iPad. You might assume that I would be better suited with a charger that can support three or more devices, but that’s not the case. My fiancée and I both prefer to have our own iPhones on our own side of the bed so that we can get to them more easily in the middle of the night, set separate alarms, and be able to use them before we fall asleep without having to ask the other to plug their phone in.

The Anker 20W charger has some fancy amp-adjustment technology they call “PowerIQ” that they claim identifies the device plugged into it and adjusts the amperage it delivers to charge it as quickly as possible. It sounds like an interesting pitch, but truthfully I just want a compact accessory with two USB ports I can plug my gadgets into when I travel. And, anything beyond that is just a nicety.

The Anker 20W 2-Port USB Wall Charger comes in black or white and is available for $12.99.


Pencil by FiftyThree

I’ve been known to beat the anti-stylus drum, but the Pencil by FiftyThree isn’t made for use throughout the entire interface (although, you could use it for that if you felt so inclined). The Pencil is designed to be used for drawing. It connects with the iPad over Bluetooth which allows Paper (FiftyThree’s drawing application) and other apps which support Pencil to ignore input from your palm and tell the difference between the Pencil’s tip and eraser ends.

It features pressure sensitivity, great battery life, and built in magnets to keep your Pencil and iPad together in the gold and walnut models. It’s very comfortable to use and has been very responsive during my time with it. My fiancée has had mixed results with it, though. She’s had the occasional Bluetooth disconnect and situations where Paper misinterprets input as if it was coming from a different source — smudging when it’s supposed to draw or drawing when it’s supposed to erase. But, those problems haven’t cropped up more than a few times and are easily remedied with Paper’s rewind feature.

I don’t have much experience with other styluses, but I’ve been quite happy with the Pencil. I’ve used it for jotting down ideas, quickly building checklists, and my fiancée has spent hours drawing with it. It’s not the cheapest stylus available and it’s extra features aren’t supported by every application, but if your drawing app of choice is supported, I think it’s well worth the price.

Pencil is available in graphite, gold, and walnut with pricing starting at $49.95.

Bear Motion for iPad Air 2

Bear Motion for iPad Air 2

Update: I wrote a review of the Bear Motion and it wasn’t very good.

The last accessory on my list is also one I haven’t used yet (Amazon tells me to expect it here tomorrow). But, it’s the best iPad sleeve I’ve been able to find after hours of searching. There was a few key pieces of criteria the sleeve had to adhere to: it needed to be as slim as possible while still having enough room to house the iPad (obviously), a TwelveSouth Compass, the Pencil by FiftyThree, and a pair of earbuds. The Bear Motion looks like it will be up to the task. I’d also like it to hold a charger and a USB to Lightning cable, but it wouldn’t be a deal breaker if I had to put those in another bag while traveling. I suppose I’ll have to wait until tomorrow to see how much it can actually hold.

The other reason I was drawn to this particular iPad sleeve was its design. It’s made out of a very attractive felt and features a leather string and button mechanism to keep it closed. Many of the other sleeves on the market that had similar design aesthetics didn’t also feature pockets for small accessories — if the sleeve didn’t have pockets I didn’t even bother investigating any further.

And, it was also surprisingly difficult to find an iPad sleeve that completely covered the iPad — many of them only had thin straps while others relied on friction alone to keep the iPad inside of the sleeve. These weren’t even considered, I can’t risk my iPad falling out of its sleeve while I’m walking around or while it’s in a larger bag with other items.

The Bear Motion for iPad Air 2 is available for $10.99 (and also comes in sizes for Samsung tablets, MacBook Air, Kindle, and iPad Mini if you’re interested).


Of the lot, the Anker charger is the only accessory I haven’t yet put my money behind. But before I do more traveling this summer I’ll probably pick one up to simplify packing. Personally, I think this covers the gamut of accessories that most iPad owners should own or at least consider owning. You’d be hard pressed to find someone that owns an iPad that didn’t feel the need to purchase at least one of these accessories during the lifespan of their device.

I’m extremely excited to get my hands on the Bear Motion sleeve later this week. The last iPad sleeve I bought was a simple Incase sleeve with no pockets that I purchased on an impulse before a trip in 2010. I’m hoping I’ll be happier with this one than I was with the last, which just didn’t suit my needs. My biggest concern is about build quality. Let’s be honest, $10.99 is a pretty low price. I just hope I’m more inclined to describe it as inexpensive than as cheap.