Armadillo outdoor Bluetooth speaker unveiled

Outdoor Gear announced today a new outdoor speaker, appropriately named the Armadillo. The new speaker works with Bluetooth 4.0 to play your tunes outside without need of worry about the weather conditions.

The company describes the new device as “A larger version of its predecessor, the Turtle Shell®, the Armadillo is a rugged shelled boombox that will allow you to dig into the dirt and experience the outdoor terrain with your favorite tunes via AirPlay or Bluetooth. Ideal for camping and for the home, the Armadillo is shockproof, waterproof, allows for daisy chaining and provides a USB port for charging other devices.”

Details as to release and pricing were left vague with the release being set for “later in 2013″ and pricing completely non-existent (the Turtle Shell is $149). While the Armadillo looks good for a backyard party, I don’t see lugging it on a camping and hiking trip as a viable option. Perhaps if you park and stay at a campground then sure, but my son and I hike from place to place and camp, mostly backwoods, and packing light and moving quickly is a priority that these luxuries do not lend themselves to.

Westinghouse announces new Bluetooth speaker line

Just ahead of the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, longtime electronics manufacturer Westinghouse has announced a new lineup of bluetooth speakers. These are compatible with most every phone and tablet, as well as the iPod touch. The “unplug” series comes in four different models.

However, these tiny systems are more than just speakers. According to Westinghouse, the AIO model “charges the phone or tablet and offers a remarkable feature set, including AC and DC chargers, a MicroSD slot for additional music files or backup, and a built-in speakerphone, thanks to an internal microphone with noise suppression and echo cancellation for amazing call clarity.”

In addition, all but the lowest end model contain MicroSD card slots and the company claims 16-20 hours of battery life for each of the models.

The devices will range in price from $99 to $229 with AIO, 200 and 300 becoming available sometime in the first quarter of this year. The Unplug 100 is available now.

Update On Belkin “YourType” Folio + Keyboard For iPad 2 & iPad 3

Belkin Bluetooth Folio KeyboardRecently I purchased a Belkin “YourType” Folio + Keyboard for my iPad 2. The unit operates via Bluetooth. When I initially began using it I noticed there was a rather prominent problem with rather frequent lost or multiple keystrokes when a given key was only hit once. I didn’t know if this was a Bluetooth problem, or a problem with iOS 6 taking too many CPU cycles on an iPad 2. An iPad 3 might not suffer from the same lost keystroke problem when connected to a Bluetooth keyboard since it comes with a faster processor with much improved performance.

So, I started a bit of troubleshooting. One of the things I suspected might be stealing CPU cycles was app notifications. My one and a half year old iPod Touch really became sluggish after installing iOS 5 on it. I was able to mitigate the sluggish iPod response problem somewhat by turning off push notifications for the vast majority of apps. So, I turned off all of the push notifications on my iPad 2.

Turning off all push notifications did seem to help, but did not entirely fix the problem. I started experimenting with typing old standby typing phrases such as “Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their country.” This phrase seemed to type in just fine with no lost keystrokes. But then when I started typing other things, I noticed the lost keystroke problem immediately reared its ugly head once again.

What could the problem be? What about that automatic spell check that is enabled by default in iOS 6? Could that be an issue? I went into the iPad settings and turned off the automatic spell checker, along with the automatic correction feature, as well as eliminating the sample shortcut that comes with iOS 6, and that helped out even more.

For good measure, I also went through and deleted as many apps as I could that I really don’t make use of on my iPad.

Since my iPad 2 is WiFi only, I also have an external “Dual” GPS unit that connects to the iPad via Bluetooth so I can use the iPad as a GPS device with apps such as TomTom, USA Atlas (Hema) and Co Pilot. I noticed if I turn it off while I’m using the Belkin Bluetooth keyboard, it helps reduce the occasional lag problem even more.

All of these things combined have improved the Bluetooth keyboard response dramatically. There are still a few dropped keys now and then, but at this point they are much less frequent to the point where the keyboard is now quite usable.

It’s likely that had I never upgraded the iPad 2 beyond iOS version 4, there likely wouldn’t be a Bluetooth keyboard lag problem. Why is it we seem to always scream for the latest iOS updates, but then ultimimately end up annoyed by poor performance?

Belkin “YourType” Folio + Keyboard For iPad 2 & iPad 3

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Not long after I purchased my iPad 2, I ended up finding a Bluetooth keyboard case combination on a discount table at a Flying J truck stop priced for $15 dollars. For that low price, I figured I couldn’t go wrong.

Unfortunately, you do get what you pay for. The keyboard quality was very low. It was extremely difficult to type on the rubberized keys — actually no better than the virtual iPad keyboard.

So, I did some looking around online for Bluetooth iPad keyboard reviews and ended up getting a Belkin “YourType” Folio + Keyboard.

Typing on the Belkin keyboard is much easier than the experience I had with the other keyboard. The keys on the Belkin seem to work a bit better and have better overall placement for touch typing.

The Belkin keyboard does not replicate the experience of typing on a good computer keyboard. Also, there seems to be a problem with some occasional lag from when keys are pressed, or even key presses that are missed or ignored. I figure this problem is likely caused by iPad 2 performance issues, and not the Belkin keyboard itself since I experienced the same issues with the prior inexpensive Bluetooth keyboard.

It’s possible that I just have too many apps installed and they are stealing CPU cycles. My iPod Touch, which has an even slower processor than my iPad 2, also suffers occasional stuttering and delays just with everyday use. Turning off push notifications does seem to help this problem on the iPod and may help out on the iPad. The next step would be to start deleting unused or underused apps to see if CPU cycles can be freed back up for improved Bluetooth keyboard performance.

The functionality as a case seems to work as expected. The iPad 2 itself fits snugly in the sleeve. There are cut outs for the on/off switch and volume control, as well as for both the front and rear facing cameras and the home button. It comes with a micro USB charging cable, but you will have to provide the USB charging port.

If I can clear up the Bluetooth lag problem, the Belkin “YouType” Folio + Keyboard would make for a good typing experience for the iPad.

BTR006 Bluetooth Audio Receiver Review

BTR006 Bluetooth ReceiverA2DP Bluetooth rarely comes as standard in cars except on prestige marques, but most new vehicles at least come with a 3.5 mm audio socket on the audio system for plugging-in mp3 players. If you want a quick and cheap way to upgrade the car’s audio to Bluetooth, take a look at he BTR006 Bluetooth Stereo Receiver.

The BTR006 is a small plastic rectangle just a few millimetres deep (45 x 33 x 8 mm). It has only one button for on/off, an activity LED, a DC power socket and a 3.5 mm audio jack on the end of short lead. It’s a doddle to use: charge up, connect the jack into the 3.5 mm audio socket, pair with smartphone and starting playing music from your smartphone through the audio system. Simples!

Audio quality is perfectly acceptable given that it’s Bluetooth anyway and the receiver successfully paired with every device I tried it with. The receiver supports both Bluetooth 2.1 with both A2DP and AVRCP.

There’s an internal battery that’s good for 12 hours according to the spec, which is probably about right based on my experience. I get a whole week of podcast listening which means somewhere over ten hours based on weekly commute and other travel. Contrary to some reviews, it is possible to charge and use the device at the same time. The confusion arises as connecting the charger does turn off the BTR006, but turning it back on again lets the receiver charge and play at the same time.

One of the best features is that it automatically powers off when the Bluetooth connection is lost for a few minutes so the battery doesn’t run down when the car is parked and not in use. Obviously the receiver has to be turned back on, but that takes seconds to do.

BTR006 Installed in Car with Velcro

Unless there’s a convenient nook or cranny in your vehicle, the BTR006 will hang down from the audio socket, especially as the lead isn’t very long. Of course, the easy solution is to use Velcro, with a small strip on the back of the BTR006 with a matching strip on the dashboard. The BTR006 can be easily detached for charging at home or in the office via the supplied USB charging cable. Here’s what it looks like installed in my car….yes, I probably should have cleaned the dash before taking the picture.

Note that the BTR006 does not have a microphone so it’s not possible to use it for hands-free calls but regardless this is an excellent buy to play music through your car’s audio system via Bluetooth.

Available from Amazon for around £15 or $28 – just search for BTR006. Disclaimer – I bought this device personally.

IDAPT i1 Eco Universal Charger Review

The Idapt i1 Eco is the portable member of Idapt’s family of universal chargers: by using the same interchangeable tips as the dual and triple versions, the usefulness of the system is extended from the home to the car and travel.

Idapt i1 Eco Universal Charger

If you aren’t familiar with Idapt, their system offers a wide selection of charging tips that are snapped into a charging station which has anything from one (i1 Eco) to three (i4) changeable charging points. The benefit is that the charging station can be uniquely customised to your mobile device usage. For example, your phone might have a micro-USB connector, your iPod has an Apple connector and your Nintendo DSi has its own connector. By using the relevant tips, all three devices can be charged at once. Geek News Central reviewed the Idapt i4 earlier in the year.

Within this context, let’s take a look at the i1 Eco. Out of the box, you get a the i1 unit itself, a mains power connector, a USB power connector, a car USB adaptor and three charging tips – mini-USB, micro-USB and Apple.

Idapt Charging Tips

The main unit takes only one of these at a time, but there’s an additional full-size USB port on the side, so two devices can be charged simultaneously.

The i1 Eco can be powered either from the mains or from a USB power source: the cables interchange at the lime green coloured multi-connector. As you can see from the picture below, these are standard connector types, namely micro-USB and IEC “shotgun”.

The power transformer is incorporated into the body of the Eco 1 so there’s no “wall wart”, only an ordinary plug on the end of the cable. The advantage of this will become clear shortly and when buying the i1 Eco, UK, USA or Euro mains plugs can be specified.

Power cable

At the other end of the Eco 1 is the socket for the charging tips. These pop in and out and are exactly the same as the ones used in the tabletop models, which is handy if you have invested in a range of tips.

Tip Socket Tip Inserted

The USB socket on the side is used to charge a second device via a cable, which is best used for tablets or other larger devices which can be unwieldy to connect on the end of the i1 Eco.

i1 Side Shot

As might be guessed from the name, it’s intended to be a green charger. The packaging is all recycled cardboard and the body of the i1 Eco is made from recycled plastic. Even more unusual is the presence of a power button on the side of the i1 Eco, which is there to help save energy.

Most consumer electronics chargers don’t have an on-off switch and most gang extension sockets don’t have on-off switches either, which means that to fully turn off a charger, it has to be pulled out of the socket, which is pretty inconvenient and most of us don’t bother. The chargers continue to consume power even when there’s no device being charged and this power is completely wasted.

The i1 Eco eliminates this problem by having an on-off switch and by automatically powering off when the recharging gadgets are fully charged. This is a great feature and as a result, no power is wasted when gadgets are connected but fully charged and the Eco 1 can be safely plugged in all the time.

Overall, it’s all very clever, useful and green to boot!

Are there any downsides? There are a couple but nothing too serious. First of all, the USB car adaptor that goes in the cigarette lighter socket is a bit flimsy and lets the overall package down. For comparison, the Griffin PowerJolt is a far better adaptor.

Secondly, the auto-power off feature is sometimes a bit over-enthusiastic. On occasion I’d connect up my tablet (Motorola Xoom 2 ME) to charge and I’d come back later to find that the i1 Eco had switched off while the tablet was still only part charged. Other times it worked perfectly with the tablet and I had no problems with other devices (Bluetooth headset, mp3 player, ereader). To be fair, the included literature does mention that some smartphones can be incompatible with this feature so I guess this includes tablets too.

Update: Idapt contacted me to say that with troublesome devices, simply hold the on-off button down for about a second when turning the charger on and this reduces the auto-off sensitivity. I carried out some further testing of the i1 Eco with the tablet and can confirm that this solution works so problem solved. Thanks, Idapt.

The i1 Eco is a clever and flexible portable charging solution that will particularly appeal to those who have already bought into the Idapt way and have a full set of charging tips.

The i1 Eco is available from Idapt for £19.99 and extra tips are mostly £5.95.

Thanks to Idapt for providing the i1 Eco for review.

Zik Parrot by Starck Headphones

Announced earlier in the year, but launched tonight, the Zik Parrot by Starck headphones are seriously aspirational, coming with touch control, motion activation, active noise cancellation, NFC and Bluetooth connectivity. And of course, being designed by Philippe Starck, they look pretty cool too.

Zik Parrot By Starck

Aimed squarely at smartphones users and designed for listening on the move, the outside of the cans is touch-sensitive and recognises gestures, so swipe forwards to skip a track, swipe up or down to adjust the volume and if you take the headphones off, the music will automatically be paused.

Smartphone owners with NFC-enabled smartphones can pair their Zik and phone together simply by touching the two devices together. Bluetooth A2DP is supported and there’s also a 3.5mm audio socket for audio purists. The active noise cancellation insulates the listener from the outside world while DSP enhances and enlarges the music.

Complementary smartphone (or tablet) apps for iOS and Android are available from the applicable app stores.

Price – to be announced.

 

JayBird Headphones for Sport

JayBird SportsbandTo be honest, I’d never heard of JayBird headphones until I came across them on the DAD Audio stand at Gadget Show Live. However, having listened to their pitch, I’d consider a pair for use at the gym or during sport. Why? Because JayBird specialise in headphones and earbuds that are sweat-proof and difficult to dislodge.

On show were two Bluetooth headsets, the Sportsband and the Freedom. As you might expect, the Sportsband is a traditional headband model with modern styling (shown left), whereas the Freedoms are earbuds (show below) with a twist.

Jaybird FreedomsKeeping earbuds in during exercise is a constant problem, and the Freedoms solve this problem but having a cunning in-ear hook that latches onto part of the ear. This ensures that the earbuds stay in the ear no matter how active and sweaty the wearer gets.

If you are in the UK and are interested in picking up a pair, JayBird headphones are sold online by DAD Audio. Both models are currently £99.

To learn more, listen to my interview with Stephanie at the Gadget Show Live.

IDAPT Universal Multichargers at The Gadget Show

The need to charge today’s mobile gadgets on an almost daily basis is one of the downsides of faster processors and bigger screens. Although companies like Palm have tried to introduce inductive charging, most gadgets need to be simply plugged in. This leads to the proliferation of wall chargers and a mess of cables.

IDAPT‘s solutions bring order to the chaos with multi-device chargers that have interchangeable charging tips to suit the device being charged – smartphones, portable game consoles, tablets, digital cameras, even rechargeable batteries.

The i4 can charge three devices on top with a fourth on the side (right) and the i2+ takes two on top (bottom left). The i1 eco is a portable charger (middle) and only charges one device but is made from recycled plastic.

IDAPT Charging Units

The bright yellow IDAPT S1 Universal Speaker is shown below with an iPad but it’s device agnostic and uses Bluetooth rather than the device connector to transmit the music. I’ve been looking for a decent speaker dock that works with something other than an Apple device so I’ll be taking a hard look at this one.

IDAPT Loudspeaker Dock

I chat with Myles Pomfret, IDAPT’s country manager at The Gadget Show Live to find out more about these versatile chargers.

World Pride’s Spy Gadgets

Bluetooth WatchWorld Pride is unlikely to be a name that you’ve heard of, but once you see a few of their gadgets in the video, you’ll recognise them from the gadget stores and catalogues. Jeffrey and Jamie chat with Jim.

The team at World Pride visit factories in Asia and try to spot cool gadgets that haven’t yet made it to market in the US. They then work closely with the factory to refine the product for US consumers. On show here are examples of gadgets that World Pride has already brought or will be bringing to the market.

One of the watches in the interview has a Bluetooth receiver and when someone rings your mobile phone, the watch will display the name or number of the person calling. As Jamie mentions, great if you are in a meeting and want to know if you should take a call.

Other gadgets include a pen and a watch with a video camera built-in and finally, there’s a miniature digital camera. It’s only about an inch wide but it looks like a tiny point-and-shoot camera while still taking 5 MP pictures and HD video.

Interview by Jeffrey “Austin” Powers of Geekazine and Jamie “007” Davies of the MedicCast and the Nursing Show.

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