Reviews

Otterbox Commuter for iPhone 3GS - accessory review

Otterbox Commuter Case for iPhone 3GS strikes the perfect balance between convenience and protection. If you're rocking Apple's other big smartphone release this year, the $99 iPhone 3GS (or the unlocked iPhone 3GS, depending on where you live), or still lucky enough to have a 16GB or 32GB iPhone 3GS from last year, this case should be on your radar. (It also fits the iPhone 3G.)

Confession: I thought I'd hate it when it first arrived. I don't know why exactly, maybe it was fear of layers bulk, uncertainty about dual color schemes, dunno, but I was not looking forward to testing out the Otterbox Commuter. Then I put it on.

AD&D analogy time -- If skins are the chainmail of the case world and the Otterbox Defender is the full plate armor (yes, even the pink one), the Commuter is the in-between, plate-mail option. It's strong but still a but flexible, solid and secure but still snug and light.

Like plate-mail it comes in two layers, the silicone that you slip on first, and that has covers for the 3.5mm headset jack and 30-pin dock connector, and the plastic shell that goes over it. Together they provide protection against scrapes and scuffs and minor impacts.

The Otterbox Commuter also comes in a ton of colors -- yellow, white, blue, green, brown, burgundy, and black. (Yes, I'll spare you the strained surcoat analogy).

Again, not as big as the Defender, not as thin as a skin, I found myself leaving it on even after my typical week-long review period was over. Since I've been carrying an iPhone 4 around as well, maybe I was a little more concerned about my iPhone 3GS getting damaged, maybe I started to like the look, or maybe I wanted my fellow SPE editors to think I had an imaginary, super-secret iPhone 5 prototype hidden in a fancy camo case (I'll never tell!)

But leave it on I did.

If you're looking for a combination of protection and convenience, something strong but still light, check out the Otterbox Commuter Case for iPhone 3GS available now from the TiPb iPhone 3GS accessory store.

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iLuv Casual Fabric Case for iPad - quick look

The iLuv Casual Fabric iPad Case with Band Clip for iPadis a pouch-style enclosure that you can use to keep all that precious glass and aluminum tucked away safe and sound.

The iLuv case itself is snug. I could shake it -- gently -- upside down with only minor panic that it might slip out. However, with the velcro belt in place it's locked in. Shake away!

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Fruit Ninja for iPhone- app review

My latest favorite iPhone game is Fruit Ninja. The premise of Fruit Ninja is simple; slice fruit, don't miss any and don't slice a bomb by mistake. Sound easy? Think again grasshopper! After beginning a game, fruit flies up from the bottom of the screen. You use your finger (or fingers) to slice the fruit. If a fruit falls back off the screen without being sliced, you receive an X. Three X's and it's game over. To make things interesting, bombs are thrown into the mix as well. So, not only are you trying to slice a lot of fruit coming at you and not missing any, you have bombs that shoot up as well. The challenge is, if you slice the bomb, it's instant game-over.

When it comes to difficulty with this game, it is a nice and smooth curve. The issue is that once you get good at it, it would be nice to start at a higher difficulty. However, Fruit Ninja always starts you back at the beginning. Your efforts are not at a loss though, the game has plenty of achievements via Open Feint and unlockables. Different colored swords and backgrounds can be unlocked if you have the dedication and skill of a true ninja.

Fruit Ninja also has two different play modes. First is Classic. This is the primary play mode I have described above. Score points by slicing fruit while avoiding the bombs. Zen mode is fun and fast. There are no bombs, but you have a time limit to slice as many fruits as you can. This is not hard, what is hard to is to slice with combos to rack up more points. Check out the Open Feint leaderboards and you will see what I am talking about.

I can't say enough about this game. It has great art direction, animation and fun. When you lose, it even gives you facts about fruit. This is a near-perfect game, I love it!

[$0.99- iTunes Link]

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Case-Mate Barely There Case for iPhone 4 - quick look [sponsored]

The TiPb store just got the new Case-Mate Barely There Case for iPhone 4 in stock, so I decided to take a quick look at it. As you'd expect by the name, it's super thin and doesn't add any perceivable bulk to iPhone 4. Same token, while it will protect against scrapes and bumps, there's no padding to help you out in case of a high fall.

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Penultimate for iPad review

My latest productivity app this week? Penultimate for iPad. There are several competing "free hand" note taking apps on our favorite tablet device. After our recent TiPb at Work Post, I thought I would see if Penultimate tries to separate itself from other note apps on the iPad. Is being simple with just enough  of a "feature" to get the job done enough?

Penultimate starts you off with a single notebook. That notebook serves as a tutorial to show you how to use Penultimate. The example notebook is excellent as it "teaches" you everything you need to know about the app. The basic setup is this; you can have virtually unlimited notes in your notebook. You tap the bottom right corner to go to the next page and the bottom left corner to go to the previous page. You have a pen, eraser and a clear page button at the bottom as well. On the main screen you can create your own notebook, email or delete notebooks as need, you can even rename them by tapping the name located below the notebook.

Writing in Penultimate is a pure joy. As you draw or write with your fingers, the developers have given the virtual ink a very distinct look, almost like calligraphy. The ink is thick in some areas and thinner in others. If you want to adjust the thickness or color of your ink, simply tap and hold the pen icon at the bottom of the page to make your changes.

You can create new notebooks with the tap of a button located in the top left hand corner. The top right hand corner gives you additional settings. The style of paper be changed from graph to lined for example, you can reposition the tools (pen, eraser, etc.) to the top of the page and even email the entire notebook or just the page you are on via email. Penultimate converts the notebooks to PDFs for emailing.

I like Penultimate for what it does; it is a simple no-frills note taking tool. I find there to be a couple of irritations however. In landscape view, you are given a cropped view of the page and you can flick the right side of the screen to scroll towards the top and bottom. I feel there has to be a better way to implement this, or, give me completely different functionality in landscape. The other issue is that there is no way to zoom to give yourself more space; the notebook is it's real size and there is no zooming. I would have liked to have seen a pinch-zoom function that increased the size of your note area. Ah, perhaps in a future release. Regardless, Penultimate is a beautiful fun and easy note taking tool that most of use can find a  use for in our busy lives.

[$2.99- iTunes Link]

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Blogshelf for iPad - app review

Blogshelf for the iPad is an RSS reader that displays your feeds as magazines on a shelf. Imagine iBooks filled with blogs - that's Blogshelf. This reader is visually appealing and works great.

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Tweetings for iPhone - App Review and Giveaway!

Tweetings for iPhone is a full featured Twitter client complete with push notifications.  Last week we looked at the iPad version of Tweetings, so this week we'll look at the iPhone version.  In many ways, it's very similar.  The layout is extremely similar and it also offers things such as push notifications.  The iPhone version also adds themes into the mix as well.

It's definitely a worthy contender against the big guys like Twitter for iPhone (formerly Tweetie) and Twitteriffic.  Read on for screens, a feature run down, and how you can win a copy of Tweetings for iPhone from TiPb!

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IncrediBooth for iPhone 4 - app review

Remember the little photo booths at amusement parks you would cram into with a bunch of friends to get a strip photos printed? IncrediBooth is an app designed to mimic that experience. It uses the front-facing camera on the iPhone 4, so this app is only available for the iPhone 4.

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maximo IP-HS5 iMetal isolation headset for iPhone and iPad

I took the maximo IP-HS5 iMetal isolation headset with me to WWDC 2010 this year, figuring it was a great way to test them out on both my iPhone and iPad. And it was. Due to "enhanced security" I had to be at the airport hours early, which meant hurrying up and waiting most of that time. Luckily I had a few podcasts and audio books on my iPhone so I queued those up to tied me over.

Now, low-bit rate talking isn't the best indicator of sound quality, but I have found many headsets over the years didn't handle just such low-quality talking very well. Some were never loud enough, many were never clear enough. The maximo ip-hs5 on the other hand did a good job. (In a fair bit of turn-around, I even used them to record both iPhone live! and iPad live! from on location in the hotel).

Sitting behind me on the plane were a pair of pre-schoolers who's parents biological creators lacked the custodial fortitude to ask them to stop kicking the chairs of those of us in front of them or screaming at the top of their lungs. So, I was also able to test out the iMetal's isolation and while I don't think anything under full blown cans could have drowned out the poor boundary deprived kids behind me, they did a great job of muting the overall ruckus.

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BodyGuardz Skin for iPhone 4 - accessory review

The BodyGuardz Protective Skin for iPhone 4 provides excellent scratch protection

I have just applied the BodyGuardz Protective Skin onto my iPhone 4 ($24.95 in the TiPb iPhone store) and I put at ease about not getting any more scratches on my iPhone 4.

Application can be a little daunting, but if you take a gander at the video above we'll walk you through the steps. I find the trick is to not be shy about using the supplied spray so you can more easily adjust the screen protector and squeeze out those bubbles. It's also worth noting that for at least a day after you apply it and sometimes a few days, your iPhone 4 is going to look a little weird - but having used these products for many years I know that the bubbles and 'fog' goes away completely.

After the break, a few more thoughts, a small gallery of photos, and a video showing how to apply the protective skin.

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