Apple of Our Eye: Seven Accessories Apple Users May Want to Know About
There was a time when Apple users got little love from third-party manufacturers. When the MacBook Pro was first released, there were only cases and sleeves to be found. That all changed with the advent of the iPad, and ever since, there has been a flood of accessories on which Apple users can feast.
Part of the problem was the proprietary nature of Apple itself. It is not known for being the most open-source-friendly company, and making products that are MFI (made for iPhone, iPad, and iPhone) or Apple certified is a badge of honor that most manufacturers want on their products. Of course, there’s also a long list of accessories that are made for Windows products that can be used with Apple products, but products made specifically for Apple devices are in a league of their own.
With so many choices, how do you choose the top products? You don’t. This list represents items that I think are essential, that will expand your productivity or increase the entertainment value of your device, or simply seem cool enough to mention. We could do one of these each week, in fact—so many new products come in all the time that fit those parameters. For now however, we would like to introduce you to:
ZAGGKeys FLEX Tablet Keyboard and Stand
There are literally hundreds of keyboards for your iOS device available right now, but the ZAGGflex is one of my favorites. This Bluetooth keyboard is covered by a protective case, which itself expands into the placeholder for your iOS device. You simply take the keyboard from the case, and then fold the case backward to provide a stable backing for your device. This will accommodate iPads and iPhones, as well as other tablets and Android devices. The keys are island-style Chiclet keys, and although the keyboard does have some flex (no pun intended) in the middle, which you may find a little cramping of your style, this is still the best keyboard I’ve seen for iOS devices. It contains a rechargeable battery that lasts for months on a single charge. Its thin form factor and dual-use cover make it one of the most portable keyboards around.
AwoX StriimLIGHT mini Bluetooth Speaker and Color LED Bulb
Okay, admittedly, the AwoX Color Bulb is one of those things that you didn’t know you needed, then you get one, and you wonder how you lived without it. I placed one of these in my quiet place (a small cubby/office under my staircase) and I stream music through it when I need to relax. You can control the bulb color and brightness via the AwoX SmartCOLOR control app, which allows you to play with brightness, volume, and color combinations for the light. The smaller bulb I have fits most lamp fixtures (E26 and E14 sockets), but there are other sizes available. This takes the drudgery out of dragging a portable Bluetooth speaker from room to room (I know, first-world problems, right?) and looking for cables and chargers and whatever.
You hear a lot about streaming devices these days—Roku, Chromecast, Android Fire Stick—but this was the original streamer, and it is respected for good reason. Nothing fits more perfectly into your Apple-centric ecosystem as Apple TV. It does more than just stream Netflix and Hulu (in 1080p). It can stream your iTunes radio stations, share photos and share content from the cloud. It is also one of the simplest streamers to set up: one HDMI cable (not included) and you’re good to go. It includes Bluetooth support for a wireless keyboard (much better than entering queries on an onscreen keyboard) and even has optical audio support. My two caveats: no external ports for adding a hard drive and no additional SD card slot. Still, if you love everything Apple, the Apple TV will fit right into your lifestyle.
Toshiba 1TB Canvio AeroCast Wireless Portable Hard Drive
One of the biggest complaints people have about iPad and iPhone devices is the premium price you pay for storage, and how quickly that storage gets eaten up. One of the most comprehensive solutions I’ve worked with has to be the Canvio Aerocast Wireless Hard Drive. This compact unit, no bigger than a smartphone, has a 1TB capacity to store all your favorite digital data—movies, photos, books, files—and then lets you access them without wires. This means that you can pull files from the drive and access them wirelessly through your iPad or iPhone, basically adding 1TB of storage to your device. Do you know how much a 1TB iPad would cost? Yeah, that much. Since it uses an internal wireless adapter to send the signal, you don’t have to worry about connecting to a router in your network. You simply find the drive on your device and connect to it. Password protection for added security, sharing options with up to six devices and users at the same time, and the ability to back up photos and other digital data in a snap are just a few of the many benefits of this drive. And since there is no SD card slot on an iPad or iPhone, this is the best solution I’ve seen so far to add more storage to an iOS device.
Wacom Bamboo Stylus fineline
I was not always sold on the stylus. I did get sold on them after I reviewed the Microsoft Surface Pro 3 a couple of weeks ago. What sold me was the ease of use, the natural handwriting ability, and the ease with which I could draw and embed notes in specific documents. I decided to buy one for my iPad mini, and after trying out a few, I settled on the Wacom Bamboo Stylus fineline.
This was for two reasons. One: it looked pretty sleek, and as close to a fine writing instrument as I could find. Some styli are ugly; their tips are squat black rubber nodules that look more like a bingo dauber than a pen. Not the fineline. The ultra-fine stylus tip and adjustable (through an app) brush widths make this stylus one of the best out there. Second reason: it’s Wacom, a company that has been perfecting stylus design since this became a thing, and whose designers know what people are looking for in a stylus. This stylus includes features like increased pressure-sensitivity levels, palm-rejection technology (so you’re not accidentally using your palm as a giant brush) and smarter Bluetooth recognition. Made for the iPad: Mini 1, 2, and 3, an iPad Air 1 and 2, and the iPad 3 and 4.
Bose Soundlink Color Bluetooth Speaker
Bluetooth speakers make up another category that is flooded with great products and lousy imitators. You may have a different set of experiences with Bluetooth speakers, but in my experience, it’s always best to go with a reputable brand. The Bose SoundLink Color Bluetooth speakers come in a variety of colors, include an integrated 8-hour rechargeable battery, and produce exceptional sound. I like the small form factor, and you can connect two devices at once—you don’t have to keep switching between them (an iPhone in one room, your tablet in another, for instance). It’s affordable and fun, and the perfect size for an outdoor barbecue or party.
olloclip 4-in-1 Photo Lens for iPad Air, iPad mini with Retina Display & iPad mini
I’m not, by any means, a professional photographer. However, I do enjoy any device that can help me with my poor photography skills, and this small, inexpensive (compared to other lenses) lens combo from olloclip certainly fills the bill. It includes an integrated Fisheye, Wide Angle, and 10- and 15x Macro lens in one unit. It fits in the palm of your hand, so it is easily portable, and snaps onto your iPad Air, and iPad Mini devices. I love using this thing. It gives me a sense that I might be a better photographer than I am (although I should find more interesting subject matter than my neighbor’s windowsill and cats). And it is certainly an ego boost for budding photographers. If you take a lot of pictures with your iPad or iPad mini, you should really look into this product.
So, there you have a roundup of seven gadgets you didn’t know you needed for your iPad or iPhone, but that you won’t be able to live without once you have them. Seriously, with so many products being released on an almost daily basis, we could certainly turn this into a series.