Sunday, 22 June 2014

Fruity Picks #5 - Multi-device Docking Station

I seem to write a lot of posts about device docks - and here’s another. Individual docks for iPhones and iPads are all well and good, but each one needs a cable and power source, and often docks are device specific. Sometimes you need something a bit more flexible and I believe I’ve now found my preferred solution (at least for now!), even though it doesn’t have a name or a manufacturer! So I’ll call it the MdDS (Multi-device Docking Station), from an unknown Chinese maker.

The MdDS is not designed as a portable device dock, but it is light enough to  put in a bag and not break your clavicle. It does take up a bit of room, but then it is designed to charge two devices simultaneously - and it has a speaker built in. Not bad for £33 (including P&P). But it gets better.

The MdDS uses a modular connection system allowing you to plug in different connectors for different devices. It comes with a straight lightning connector, an iPhone 5 connector with 3.5mm audio jack, a pair of older 30pin dock connectors and a micro USB connector for good measure. The unit feels sturdy and of decent quality, although the plug-in connectors are little bit lightweight. There are a couple of detachable tabs which lend a modicum of support to larger devices.

The MdDS comes with a proprietary USB cable with a connection to a DC 5V 2.5A socket on the device. Unfortunately I mislaid mine on the first week of my travels and could not find a replacement on-line. However, we took a trip to Maplin, taking the device with us, and the guys there let me try out a switchable mains adaptor with a variety of connections, and we found one that worked* (although it cost £20.00!). I've since relocated the USB lead, but they are clearly difficult to come by. So be warned! I'm using a standard Apple 10W iPad charger to power the unit - you need to provide this or something similar yourself.

MdDS with iPad Mini and iPhone 5 Charging

I use the Logitech Mini Boombox as my portable bluetooth speaker of choice so I’m not too fussed over the MdDS speaker which has a pair of 3W units inside. These produce a reasonably clean sound, weak on bass, but good enough if you have nothing else handy. You can toggle the input source using a switch on the top of the unit, or you can turn the speaker off completely.

Regardless of whether I’m at home or away, I want to be able to charge my iPad mini and iPhone overnight. This allows me to do exactly that - and only use a single power socket. I’ve bought two of them so I have a home and away solution.

* Switched Mode AC DC Adaptor for General Use (L06BR)

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Fruity Picks #4 - Expower Battery Case for iPhone 5/5s

I'm back on the road a the moment and I've noticed that my iPhone 5 battery is getting a lot more hammer than it's used to. It hasn't yet given up the ghost during the course of the day, but it isn't far off (perhaps I should cut back on the 12 hour days!).

I've not used a battery extender since my first iPhone, the iPhone 3G (I used a Mophie Juice Pack Air), but it did the trick and I decided to pursue a similar course with the iPhone 5. I didn't want to spend a huge amount of money but obviously wanted something reasonably reliable. In the end, I went for the Expower 2200Mah Rechargeable Extended Backup Battery Case for iPhone 5s/5 from Amazon.

This is a two piece case with an in-built battery and little pull-out stand. The case is a black rubberised material and weights in at just under 80g and adds about 1cm to the length of the phone and just a couple of millimetres to the width and depth. It does make the phone feel chunkier but adds a reassuring feeling of protection from the rubberised covering.

All the iPhone features remain accessible once the battery pack is in place although the lightning connector is shifted over to the bottom right of the case rather than its normal central position. This is only a problem if you have a dock set up to match the phone and don't want to remove the case before docking.

The Expower case charges with a normal lightening connector and charges the battery and phone simultaneously. Pressing the small silver button on the front of the case starts the battery, and a series of little blue LEDs gives you a visual indicator of what's going on.  I haven't done any timings yet but it doesn't appear to take an unreasonable amount of time to fully recharge the system.

During the week, I'm up at 5:45am and on the way to work by 6:15am. I find that by 13:00 the phone has been down to about 65%. This is when I kick the extra battery in and in about 30 minutes I'm back to a full charge, which then lasts for most of the rest of the day, by which time I can get back to a mains charger.

I'm very impressed with the Expower. It's sturdy, reliable, and mine cost £9.99 (with an extra £4.41 P&P - it's not available through Amazon Prime). I even bought a second Smart Wallet to stick on the back!