Griffin Expands Kid Friendly KaZoo Line at CES 2013

KaZoo Line GriffinGriffin Technology has expanded their line of animal inspired headphones, cases and accessories for kids. The line is called KaZoo, and it is easy to see how the “Zoo” part got into the name. It features adorable monkeys, frogs, penguins, lions, zebras, elephants, and pandas. Super cute!

KaZoo MyPhones come in two varieties and feature either a bright green frog or a black and white penguin with a yellow beak. They are over the ear headphones designed for children. The headphones have built-in volume-limiting circuitry that keeps the sound pressure down to levels recommended as safe for young ears. It caps at 85 decibels. KaZoo MyPhones sell for $19.99 from the Griffin website.

KaZoo for iPod Touch are cases made from durable, yet soft, silicone. It gives you easy access to the multi-touch display and headphone jack while protecting your iPod touch. Choose from a zebra, penguin, lion, elephant, or monkey. Each is priced at $24.99 on the Griffin website.

The KaZoo Aux Cable line are AUX cables that are designed to be used with an iPod. Each heavy-duty cable has a colorful animal on it and has strain relief built into each plug. These are priced at $9.99 on the Griffin website, and will become available in February of 2013.

The Capper Stylus is awesome! You can see it in the photo above. It is a colorful, removable, stylus that slides onto a regular pencil just like a typical pencil topper would. Put it on the eraser end of a number 2 pencil, and you can use the Capper Stylus on all capacitive touchscreens. It has been designed in three styles: an orange pencil, a blue rocket, and a purple ice cream cone. These will sell for $9.99 and will become available in March of 2013.

You can find Griffin at CES 2013 where they will be displaying their full line of products. Find them in the LVCC North Hall at Booth 5212.

Image by Griffin Technology

Kid Friendly Accessories for iPhone, Android, and iPod Touch at CES 2013

Nickelodeon AccessoriesGriffin Technology has partnered with Nickelodeon to create fun accessories for children’s mobile devices. The inspiration came from several of the popular characters that your child watches in cartoons that appear on the Nickelodeon channel.

The first three lines of cartoon inspired mobile device accessories for kids feature SpongeBob Squarepants, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Dora the Explorer. Each will be introduced at CES 2013. The products are slated to become available in Spring of 2013 at major retailers nationwide.

The SpongeBob Squarepants line includes a SpongeBob Folio iPad case with several characters from the show done in 8-bit style. (The nostalgic aspects of this one might appeal to adult fans of the cartoon as well as the kids!).

This line also has Faces for iPhone 5G. It is a case that looks like SpongeBob, and you can interchange six different eyepieces and three different mouthpieces to make customizable expressions. In the photo above, you can see the SpongeBob Woogie, a huggable, squeezable, five-legged plush SpongeBob doll that doubles as a protective case for iPhone, iPod touch, and Android devices.

The Ninja Turtle accessories include a Shell for iPhone 5 and iPod touch, which is made of a hard, durable, exterior that protects against impacts and scratches. The photo above shows the Folio for iPad that has Ninja Turtle artwork on the front, microsuede lining, and a loop to carry a stylus.

The Dora the Explorer line might appeal to preschoolers. This line includes a Dora the Explorer skin for iPod touch. It is made of a durable, yet soft, silicone that allows for easy access to the camera and all ports, controls, and connectors. As you can see in the photo above, it also features Dora herself on the back.

Griffin Technology is at CES 2013 where they are displaying their line up of products. You can find them in the LVCC North Hall at Booth 5212.

Image by Griffin Technology

This Message Will Expire in Ten Seconds

Poke AppFacebook has a new app called Poke. The name was inspired by the Facebook feature called Poke that has been a part of Facebook since 2004. The functionality of the app, however, is something that people are comparing to SnapChat.

If you log into your Facebook account you can select a friend to Poke. I’ve never entirely understood the purpose of this function, but I suspect it is used as a means to let someone you have “friended” … I suppose be reminded that you still exist and want to communicate with them. Whatever happened to a friendly message that starts with “hello”?

The Poke app, is not the same as the Poke feature in Facebook. The Facebook Poke app was released on December 21, 2012, and is a mobile app. Right now, it is only for iOS devices. One might assume that there could eventually be an Android version, (but there isn’t one right now). You can download it onto your iOS device for free.

The Poke app allows users to send a message, a photo, or a video to their Facebook friends who also are using the Poke app. Which, I suppose, can tell you which of your “friends” are using iOS mobile devices.

The message, photo, or video you send will last for a specific time that you set. You can have it appear for 1 second, 3 seconds, 5 seconds, or 10 seconds. Your friend (or friends, as you can choose to send something to multiple users, or groups, at the same time), must press the screen and hold it in order to see the message you sent. After the time expires, the message disappears.

It is easy to see why Poke is being compared to SnapChat. There is some concern that people will use Poke to send messages, photos, and videos, that are of the “not safe for work” variety, (since it has been said that people use SnapChat specifically for that purpose). Facebook sort of acknowledges this potential. It says:

If you ever see something you’re uncomfortable with, you can click the gear menu and report it.

You can turn your Android into an iPod, but why?

Not long ago an app called Idrod surfaced in the Google Play store. What is this you say? What if I told you it was an app designed to make your Android look exactly like an iPod? You may say “cool!”, but I say “why?”. Before you begin your attack please hear me out and then you can hurl your insults.

First of all I get it — nostalgia. After all, the iPod is fast becoming yesterday’s device. Sure, it is largely credited with turning Apple around when the company was on the brink of failure. It solidified Steve Jobs’ place as a genius of design and marketing, although the latter should be considered the biggest part given that Apple didn’t invent the MP3 player.

Second — yes, the app is very cool. It’s well done, looks authentic, has lots of options, etc., etc. There are plenty of people who still want an MP3 player, although those numbers are quickly dwindling. And, yes, the iPod is the all-time classic in the field.

But, and here is my point, who stores music on their phone these days? In 3+ years with Android handsets I have never once transferred a single song to a device. I own more than 80 GB of music, but every bit of it is available for streaming from anywhere via Google Music. In fact, it’s also on Amazon Cloud Player as well, just for a backup to the backup. If I grow tired of all of that then I have Pandora to fall back on — I even pay them $4.99 per month for ad-free service. Those who don’t care for Pandora have countless other choices like Spotify and Rdio to choose from.

My real point isn’t to make fun of Idrod — it’s a very cool, well done and a good looking app. It’s more to wonder why this, or any other MP3 player app, is even necessary today. Do you have an answer? By all means, let me know.

An Airbus A380 Flew Over My House

My husband has been using a really fun app called Plane Finder. Today, he discovered that an Airbus A380 flew over the house. He heard a loud plane outside, and wondered what kind it was. Plane Finder had the answer!

Plane Finder picks up ADS-B plane feeds that are used by both commercial and private planes to transmit information. It has the name of the plane, its position, callsign, status and more. Plane Finder’s own servers then add some more information. They give you the departure airport that the plane came from and the destination where the plane is headed. Select one of the little planes on the map and you will get a picture of what the plane looks like.

The Plane Finder app is free, and is compatible with iPhone and iPod touch. There is also a version that works with Android devices. If you have an interest in planes, then this is the app for you. Right now is the busiest travel season of the year, so there should be plenty of opportunity for you to use Plane Finder to find out what kind of plane is flying over your house.

Pinkfroot is the company that makes Plane Finder. They also make a free Ship Finder app that tracks ships. Both Ship Finder and Plane Finder update when Pinkfroot has more stuff to add to it.

Android Apps Accelerate

When I got my first Android phone a bit over two and a half years ago, an HTC Evo from Sprint, the Android Marketplace was a confused and confusing place. The Apple App Store had the clear advantage. Android apps that did exist then were often clunky.

A lot has changed in two and a half years. Today, the aptly renamed “Google Play” store contains Android apps that very often match their Apple app counterpart in both they way they look and in their functionality. Google Play also contains a lot of other content for sale, including magazines, music and movies.

My HTC Evo had a limited amount of primary memory, so it was effectively limited in the number of apps that could be installed. As a result, I mostly ignored the app store because I couldn’t install anything new without giving up some other app or combination of apps in order to free up that memory. I experimented with apps mostly on my iPod and iPad. Since replacing my HTC Evo with a Samsun Galaxy S3, which has no similar memory issues, I have been experimenting with new apps like mad.

What I’ve found is that for the vast majority of apps I use on my iPod and iPad, there are Android versions of the same app. So, I am able to use apps right on the Galaxy S3 such as Flipboard, Skitch, MyRadar, Adobe Photoshop Express, etc., etc., etc. In other words, most of the apps that I use on my iPod and iPad now have Android versions of the same app that function, look and act the same as the iOS version(s).

The Google Play store is better organized than it used to be. One of the major advantages of Android over iOS devices is that the apps can be set up to automatically update without any user intervention. The automatic updates function like clockwork. One you’ve installed dozens or even hundreds of apps on a device, there are always several apps per day that have updates. With iOS devices, the update process must be initiated manually. Let your iOS devices sit a more than a day or two without updating them, and the apps needing updates rapidly escalates. With Android, the updates simply happen automatically and leave a pull-down notification of their success.

Apple still has a clear advantage when it comes to iPad apps versus the confusion that still exists in the realm of Android tablets. However, when it comes to phone devices such as the Galaxy S3, the app advantage once enjoyed by iOS has greatly lessened.

Competition is a wonderful thing for the consumer. It makes products far better. The explosion of hand-held computing devices and fast broadband wireless networks is resulting in a continuing explosion of future possibilities and possibilities realized.

Review of Spider + App by Brainium Studios

Lately, I’ve become a bit nostalgic for some aspects of what computers were like in the early days of the internet. Remember when PCs used to come with one, simple, solitaire game installed? I spent countless hours playing with the virtual cards on my computer even though I had a perfectly good deck of real cards that I could have been using. There was something relaxing about playing solitaire on my computer, and it was nice to not have to put away the cards when I was finished.

Today, many of the “time-waster” games have gotten rather complex. I’ve grown tired of the games that require you to get online, log into Facebook, and hope that your friends will send you enough “virtual stuff” to complete the quest, build something, or advance in the game. It started to feel very tedious.

Recently, I asked my friends to suggest an easy, “time-waster” game that did not require me to log into Facebook every time I wanted to play it. The game that got the most mentions was Spider Solitaire. I now use a Mac, and a brief search of the App Store revealed a game called Spider + that was created by Brainium Studios.

The app costs $1.99 on the Mac App Store. The version for iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad requires iOS 4.0 or later, and is free. The Android version cost $0.99. You can find a quick link to whichever version works best for you through the Brainium Studios website.

I am really enjoying this app! The cards make a flicking sound as they are placed. If you move a group of cards from one row to another, it makes a soft, “shh” sound. The game is very relaxing! You can customize the design that appears on the back of the cards, and the background the cards sit on, by choosing from a few different designs, or by selecting an image from your computer.

The game keeps track of how long it took you to win in the last game you played, and your best (and fastest) time completing the game. It also shows you how many moves it took for to you to complete the last game, what score you earned in that game, and a total of all your scores. The cards shuffle quickly, and I haven’t had any glitches or bugs at all. I highly recommend this game to those of you who long for the days when you could easily spend a couple of minutes playing with virtual cards.

FiiO E6 Headphone Amplifier Review

The FiiO E6 is small headphone amplifier designed to improve the listening experience from personal music players and smartphones. With a couple of equalisation settings, the E6 can enhance the bass range to counteract the high-frequency tendencies of digital compression.

FiiO E6 in Retail Packaging

In the box, there’s the E6 itself, two clips for attaching the E6 to clothing, a USB charging cable and two stereo 3.5 mm cables, 12 cm and 75 cm. For hooking up iDevices, an Apple connector-to-3.5 mm jack is available to buy. There’s also a small instruction manual.

FiiO E6 Contents

The E6 is 40 x 40 x 9 mm, approximately the size of an Apple Nano. The main features are a mini-USB port for charging, two 3.5 mm stereo sockets (one in, one out), a volume rocker and an on/off slider. There’s a small LED on one side, but until the E6 is powered up, you might mistake it for a reset hole.

The E6 is quite light as the case is plastic. Coincidentally, the finish was a good match for from my Sansa  player and could easily be mistaken as a complementary accessory, but clearly that feature depends on your particular mp3 player!

Sliding up the on/off switch turns the E6 on, with a blue LED illuminating the silver corner. The volume rocker switch turns the volume up and down and as this is an amplifier, it’s possible to exceed the volume of the original device, so mind your ears. The battery life is given as around 10 hours which would be in line with my experience of the E6.

On the back, there’s a small pinhole LED showing the equalisation – off, red, blue and lilac. Each further upwards push of the on/off switch steps through to next setting. According to the manual, the four settings are equalisation off, 3 dB boost, 6 dB boost and -3 dB boost, i.e. reduction, but the effects are more subtle than simply amping up or amping down.

Generally, the equalisation boosted the bass while reducing the treble and while my personal preference was for the first setting, both were very acceptable. The equalisation was done well, in that while the balance of frequencies was being adjusted, the clarity was still there. Although reduced in significance, the higher frequencies weren’t muddied and the overall impression was of greater warmth.

A small amount of background hiss was only noticeable between tracks when using the earbuds in quiet surroundings. When using over-the-ear headphones, it couldn’t be detected.

Currently priced at £18.99 from Advanced MP3 Players, the E6 is an inexpensive personal amplifier. It might have a budget price but the E6 punches above its weight, counteracting the tinniness of digitally compressed sound with depth and feeling.

Most of testing was carried out with Sennheiser CX-300 earbuds, Sennheiser eH1430 headphones and a Sansa e250 mp3 player.

Thanks to Advanced MP3 Players for the loan of the E6.

RSS Talk IOS App

I was talking to a friend early this morning about what I’d like to see in an RSS reader app. As a truck driver, I’ve got endless listening hours. I want an RSS reader app that can use text-to-speech and read articles to me in a non-stop fashion.

To my surprise, my friend told me that such an app already exists in the iTunes App Store. It’s called RSS Talk. It comes pre-populated with a variety of different mainstream RSS feeds, in addition to the ability to manually add feeds of the user’s choosing. RSS Talk sells for $1.99 and has very positive user comments. I immediately downloaded the app and gave it a try. It really does work as advertised! The female voice is very clear and natural. It does a great job of just reading the article and completely avoids reading non-article elements that most text-to-speech schemes end up reading such as formatting tags.

This is one of those rare apps that brings the best elements of hardware and software together in an easy-to-use app form. Once it is started playing there’s no need for human intervention. It makes the perfect reading companion, enabling me to listen to all of those RSS feed articles I’ve been subscribed to for years but rarely have time to actually read.

This app is a buy!


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.