Navigon MobileNavigator iPhone app review

I’ve been using a Garmin nüvi 1300 GPS unit since April last year and I am fairly happy with it. There are couple of things I’d love to have though:

  1. Ability to plan route on either Google Maps or Garmin software and send it to the GPS unit. (I can’t with my Garmin because it doesn’t support that. More expensive models do support storing routes.)
  2. Live traffic updates so I can, at least, avoid traffic jam. (Garmin has an accessory that receive traffic update via radio. It also requires an annual subscription fee.)

I ran into a 45 minutes traffic jam 3 weeks ago on my way to work that had really no reason being there and it became the impetus of searching for better alternative. After a bit of research on the interweb I settled on trying out the Navigon’s MobileNavigator for iPhone. To mount the phone in a suitable location in the car, I opted for ProClip mount which I’ve heard good things about it.

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Quick review of Twelve South – Compass

Ever since I got the iPad, I’ve been on the look out for a stand. There are a few out on the market but none of them take my fancy either because a) cost too much, b) too clunky, c) too flimsy. That is until I heard of the Compass from Twelve South.

Positive:

  • Good price point at $39.99
  • Solid metal construction
  • Nice packaging
  • Two orientations – Easel and Typing
  • Can be folded into a carry-able shape and size
  • Keep iPad high enough so connector can be attached while use in easel mode
  • Include a travel case

Negative:

  • Heavy due to metal construction
  • Grippy “rubber” not as well-fitted/well-constructed as the metal part.
  • “Rubber” is not grippy enough to hold iPad in place in Typing mode. At least with my iPad, it slides down very slowly until it reaches the desk.

Despite the heavy weight, I’ll definitely take it with me the next time I travel so I won’t need to hold the iPad with my hand to watch videos or read books.

More photos of the Compass on Flickr.

Apple iPad case, pleasantly surprised

I bought the Apple iPad case on the Thursday before my iPad arrival Friday two weeks ago. My original plan, after much research on the Internet, was (and still is) to get the Case-mate’s Nylon Flip case for everyday transportation and some kind of silicon case for when I take it to the gym. However, since the Case-mate case is out of stock then and still is now, I had to make do with the Apple case.

My expectation of the case was no. Especially after watching the video announcement of the iPad. The style is less elegant than some of the cases out there on the market, especially in Apple’s standard. And it looks pretty thick on the video.

However, once I opened the box at home and put my iPad in, I was very surprised by how thin the material really is. The case fits around the iPad like a second skin and provides good protect against general everyday use and scratches. The more grippy material also makes holding the iPad feel more secure.

There are a few downside to this case. First, dust collect around the edges of the screen, making the gorgeous iPad screen looks like it hasn’t been cleaned in weeks. The tight fit that makes it way better than other very thick cases out there, also means it is very difficult to take off. I much prefer to use the iPad ‘naked’ in the apartment when I don’t have to protect it from the environment. But taking the case off requires considerable force and create the potential of damaging the iPad every time I take it out.

I certainly don’t feel the $40 I spent on the case is wasted but I still think a two cases solution will be more effective for my usage. Now if only Case-mate produces more Nylon Flip Case…

7 days review of Kindle DX

A few weeks ago the stupid side of me left the Kindle 2 in the seat pocket on the flight back from Atlanta to LaGuardia. Leah bought me the Kindle DX as a birthday/X’mas present to replace the Kindle 2. After using the DX for 7 days, here is what I’ve found so far.

Good:

  • Larger e-ink screen, longer reading between page flip
  • PDF reading — printing web pages into PDF allows me to read longer articles on web sites while working out in the gym.
  • Auto rotation — allowing to operate the Next/Prev Page buttons with either hand
  • Not as large as it looks in pictures
  • Amazon case for DX with magnetic clasp
  • Keyboard feels better to type on — pill-shape, raise keys are so much nicer than the round keys on the Kindle 2

Bad:

  • Larger and heavier — still manageable with backpack but not coat pocket-able.
  • Not as many choices in cases

And the Ugly:

  • Doesn’t come with case, despite increased probabilities of damaging the huge e-ink screen

Extending iPhone battery life

Since my first iPhone, I’ve never had any issue with its battery life. As long as I get access to the charger by the end of the work day the battery life on the iPhone 2G or 3G have been perfectly adequate. That is until I started working on a project down in Atlanta and my weekly commute now extends to around 6-8 hours, depending on flight delays.

I began looking for battery extender for my iPhone. Initially I wanted a battery extender that can charge the iPhone 3G and 3GS, as well as possibly the Kindle. This means the ability to attach different cables to the battery. Also the ‘green’ side of me wanted a solar charging battery so that it’d be possible to charge the battery up using solar energy alone.

Unfortunately after perusing iLounge’s extensive list of battery extender reviews, it was pretty obvious that there weren’t any battery out there that would satisfy my initial list of requirements. The closest one is the IceTECH Solar i9005. With its large solar panel, large battery capacity (2500 mAh), and large collection of connector tips, it would be ideal. The only issue is it doesn’t currently support the iPhone 3GS, as Apple in its infinite wisdom has changed something with regard to charging on the 3GS.

So the search was back to regular battery extender. There are plenty of options out there but none of them really excite me. At least not at the price they are charging for. That is until I came across MonoPrice’s iPhone backup battery. With a rather large capacity (2200 mAh *) and very affordable price (~$15, depending on quantity purchased), it is perfect.

It arrived two weeks ago and I have so far used it twice. From about 10-15% charge in the iPhone, it would take about two hours to fully charge the phone from the backup battery. During that time, I was able to continue to use the iPhone with podcast playing in the background while online twittering and browsing. The only thing that is annoying is the ‘cyclon’-like blue LEDs in the front which move from left to right during the charging process (both from main to battery, and battery to phone). They are very bright and very distracting while using the phone with the battery attached, especially in a dark backseat of a taxi! To charge the backup battery, simply plug the iPhone cable to the bottom of the battery and charge it just like the phone. Unfortunately the battery does not pass the data through to the phone so you can’t sync with iTunes while charging both the phone and the battery.

But overall, the MonoPrice iPhone backup battery is priced just right and perform as advertised. High recommended if you are looking for a simple backup battery for your iPhone.

* For comparison, iPhone 3G battery capacity is 1150 mAh which means the MonoPrice battery can potentially charge the iPhone from 10-15% charge to full twice!

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