Tag Archive for ‘Jambox’

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.

My Favorite Things

A week or two before Thanksgiving I always end up getting the same email from family and friends — “what do you want for Christmas this year?” To which I generally reply with “I don’t know, I’ll try to come up with a list for you.”

I’m a terrible procrastinator and my girlfriend typically ends up having to give everyone suggestions on what gifts I would like each year — which I really appreciate. But this year, and every year before it, I go into the holidays determined to come up with a list of stuff I want. And, I always end up unsuccessful in my list making endeavor. Each year there’s less and less stuff I actually want. Especially since I’ve been so particular about the things I’ve wanted for so long that I can’t even ask for upgrades to things I already have, because I still have the one I want.

So I’ve decided to compile a list of the things I own and love, intermixed with a few things I want or always want more of, in hopes of helping someone out there get their family off their back or help someone get an idea of what to purchase for the geek in their life.


Jawbone Jambox: I received one for my birthday this year and I use it even more often than I thought I would. I’ve tinkered around with various speakers for my iPhone and this is by far the best. The long battery life and the ability to use it wirelessly are among it’s best features. But, I also love the charming voice it uses to tell me it’s in “pairing mode” or what the current battery charge is.

Apple TV: I’ve been using the Apple TV since the first generation and it’s been the core of my media setup (which I will continue to write about soon) for just as long. An AirPlay receiver, a Netflix streamer, a YouTube viewer, and more content providers added often enough to say so. It really is the most elegant internet-connected media device I’ve ever had the opportunity to use. I’ve been pounding the Apple TV drum for years and don’t see any signs of stopping. It’s my favorite thing in the living room.

iTunes Gift Cards: If you’re not using an Apple device by now you’re probably doing something wrong. And, what better way to make use of that Apple device than by purchasing apps or media for it. Everyone can always use an iTunes Gift Card.

Twelve South Compass: I’ve had the Compass for years and it’s my favorite iPad stand. I’m sure other, more “hip” stands have been released since then, but the Compass is still my go to. It’s compact and has two different heights depending on how you’d like to use it (of which I regularly use both) and comes with a soft case for travel.

Tom Bihn Ristretto: I have the older version of the Ristretto for my 11-inch MacBook Air and I really love it. It’s compact, stylish, and spacious enough to carry all of my gadgets while traveling. The older version I had did have some issues because contents could fall out if the bag was ever turned upside down (even while snapped closed). But, the latest version of the bag prevents that from happening by including a zipper to contain items in the smaller compartment. It’s a little bit more expensive than a lot of other bags but there’s a lot to be said about the quality of the materials used and the good feeling from knowing that your bag was made in the US.

Apple EarPods: I know they aren’t cool-guy headphones that audiophiles want, but they fit my ears well and sound good enough to me. I really enjoy having the in-line controls and microphone and mine have even lived through a few trips in the washer and drier without skipping a beat. I keep my iPhones for two years before I get a new one but always have to replace the headphones after about one year of use. So, they usually end up on my wish list at some point during the year.

Apple Lightning Cables: I have dozens of iPad and iPhone chargers laying around the house but I only have two Lightning cables (the one that came with my iPhone 5s and the one that came with my girlfriend’s). The iPhone 5s’ battery life is incredibly good but I do find myself at times wishing I had a charger nearby that could actually charge my current iPhone, which usually results in heading into the bedroom to take the cable from the charger next to my bed. Which I later have to search for when I head to bed because I forgot where I left it. Having a few extra Lightning Cables in the house would come in handy.

Logitech Harmony One: I can’t imagine running my home theater setup without a universal remote. And, that’s a considerable statement coming from someone who typically watches all of his media with an Apple TV. But, a universal remote makes everything so much easier. Having to switch inputs on both an audio receiver and the television whenever you use a different device is just far too much fiddling around. Especially if I want the ability to hand a houseguest the remote and trust that they’ll be able to figure things out without the need to ask a bunch of questions. And, the Logitech Harmony line of remotes is by far the best universal remotes available. The Harmony One is the model I have but Logitech also makes other, cheaper models if you interested in going that route.

Apple Time Capsule: Let’s face it, backing up is important and no one does it. The Time Capsule makes it easy. Just turn on Time Machine and stop thinking about it. In the past there has been some question about the reliability of Time Capsules but I’ve had mine for years and never had a problem accessing a backup.

Kitchen and Home

Chicago Cutlery Knives: Everyone needs a good set of knives and my recommendation is Chicago Cutlery. Their relatively inexpensive, durable, well balanced, and sharp. There’s nothing like dicing an onion with a Chicago Cutlery knife. I almost always reach for their Santoku — its a great general purpose knife. So, if you’re just going to buy one I’d suggest their 7-inch Ashland Santoku knife.

Kitchen Aid Toaster Oven: It’s no Breville, but I’ve used this toaster oven for two years and it’s my favorite appliance in the kitchen. It’s much quicker at pre-heating than our full-sized oven and helps keep the heat in the kitchen down during the summer months. The reviews on Amazon aren’t overwhelmingly favorable but I’m not quite sure why. In terms of price compared to performance I think this toaster oven is on par or better than the vast majority of it’s competitors. I’m firmly opposed to the use of microwaves in kitchens — I think that they make food rubbery and unevenly cooked. And, the typical extra 15 minutes that it takes to cook is well worth the better tasting food that comes out of it. If I was to suggest one thing to purchase to upgrade your kitchen I would snap-suggest a toaster oven.

Life Factory Water Bottle: I bring a water bottle with me to work everyday and this is the one I use. It does have a bit of a problem where some water will get around the edge of the bottle while traveling with the standard cap. But, Life Factory has released two new caps that should help eliminate that problem. I own one of the flip caps and have been considering one of the straw caps because drinking with a straw is so much better for your teeth when drinking things other than water.

SodaStream: This is the one item in this list that I do not own. But, if you’re a fan of Merlin Mann you know that you should probably own one. Who wouldn’t love home-carbonated water?

Any American Apparel Shirt: I’ve been a fan of American Apparel shirts for several years and they’re wonderful. More specifically their Tri-Blend t-shirts are the most comfortable shirts I’ve ever owned. They’re basically the only kind of shirt I want to wear for the rest of my life. If you’re looking for shirts with nifty designs I regularly feature shirts on Geek Tees that are printed on American Apparel.

Pens: I’ve carried a pen in my pocket every day of my life since I was 14-years-old. It’s a habit I picked up from my father that I continue to this day. I personally have been using the Zebra F-301 in blue for the past few years and have been more than happy with it. The ink refills last about 6-8 months for me and can be found for about $2 online.

Holstee Upcycled Wallet: For the past two and a half years I’ve been using the Upcycled Wallet by Holstee and it’s held up incredibly well (especially considering it’s made out of newspapers and plastic bags). It’s thin and holds exactly what I need — nothing more, nothing less. Which is what I looked for in a wallet. I didn’t want something that was unable to hold everything I needed but also didn’t want something that would encourage me to carry too much junk with me at all times. I wrote about my Holstee wallet on minimal wallet earlier this year and what I said then still holds true: “As long as I’m still able to purchase them, I don’t expect myself to want a different wallet ever again.”

Braun Cruzer Face: I hate shaving, I think most men do. It’s time consuming and the cost of shaving creams, razors, etc. add up over time. So, when I “shave” I typically just trim down to stubble, I think it looks better than clean shaven and takes me quite a bit less time in the morning (you don’t have to go quite so slow when your not running a blade across your face). I’ve used the Braun Cruzer Face as my go to shaver for nearly two years and haven’t found anything I dislike about it.

Board and Card Games

Ticket to Ride: One of my favorite board games. It’s easy to learn and fun to play. It has enough strategic depth to keep hardcore board gamers happy while still being easy enough to allow newcomers to enjoy the game as well. If you’re interested in dipping your toes into euro-style games I suggest starting with Ticket to Ride. And, with several expansions available I’m sure you’ll be playing Ticket to Ride for years to come.

A Good Deck of Cards: There’s nothing more versatile in the world of card and board games than a simple deck of cards. QueensRummy, and Spoons are a few of my favorites but there are countless games to play with a simple deck of cards.

Skip-Bo: This is one of my favorite games this year, and it’s a game that everyone knows how to play. But, did you know there are team rules? Your partner sits across from you and during your turn you can play cards from their discard piles or stack as if they were your cards. The winning team is the first to use all of the cards in both of their starting stacks. It’s incredibly fun and changes a lot of how you play (like deciding to discard a different card then you normally would in order to give your partner more options on their turn). Learning the team rules was really what made me want to start playing this game again, a game that we always had laying around but I was never excited about playing. Now, I want to play it all the time.

Sorry!: Another game that had a lot of life added to it by learning a new variation. Growing up the version of Sorry that we played simply involved flipping over the top card on your turn and doing whatever the card said. But, this past year I learned about playing Sorry with a five card hand and play in teams. Similar to Skip-Bo, playing on a team basically allows you to move your partner’s pawns as well as your own with the winners being the first team to get all of their pawn into each of their color’s home base. Because of the new variation that I learned this year, Sorry was probably my second most played game behind Skip-Bo. I even went out and purchased a Sorry board after midnight on the night I learned how to play the new variation. I didn’t even have any more time to play that night, but I couldn’t wait any longer to have a Sorry board at my house to play whenever I wanted to.

Dutch Blitz: The first time I played Dutch Blitz I was hooked. It’s like playing a game of Skip-Bo with up to three other players in which each player’s turn is happening at the same time. Saying that the game is fast paced is an understatement, it’s the quickest game I’ve ever played. Which is not to say that the games don’t last long — each round could last anywhere from 1-5 minutes — but the speed at which you have to flip through your wood pile, build on your post piles, and build on the table’s dutch piles is faster than any other game I’ve seen. You have to move quick to win and if you blink you’ll find yourself losing in a hurry. That might not sound like a raving endorsement but each round is exhilarating and leaves you wanting to play more. I’ve been playing Dutch Blitz for nearly ten years and I’m always up for a game.

Electronics, kitchen, home, board games, and card games. I’m not sure if I’ve ever had a gift on my wish list that didn’t fit into one of those categories. So, get shopping or find something to ask for from your friends and family.

Jawbone Offers Water-Resistant Option for Jambox ➝

Jawbone is now offering a water-resistant option on their original and Mini Jambox. When ordering a Jambox from Jawbone’s website you’ll be given the option to add Liquipel 2.0 water-resistant coating to your Jambox for an additional $50.

I’ve been using the original Jambox since I received it as a gift for my birthday in June. It’s probably my third most used gadget in the house (behind my iPhone and MacBook Air). It has great battery life and is plenty loud enough for my use. I love bringing it with me when I visit family so we can listen to music while playing board and card games around the dining room table.

(Via Engadget.)