Crowdfunding Spotlight: XS Powercard

Crowdfunding Spotlight: XS Powercard

Jun 4, 2014

Mobile batteries for smartphones are an easy target for people looking to gain financial backing via popular crowdfunding sites because they are easy to assemble and there is certainly a market of people who want longer battery life for their smart devices. Generally, I try and steer clear of these projects because I am looking to focus more on innovative and creative endeavors, but every now and again something comes along that surprises me and breathes some new life into a stagnant product field. Most products are simply small batteries that will fit in a pocket or a purse and that is essentially where their functionality ends. With all that said, this week’s Crowdfunding Spotlight shines on XS Powercard solely because it broke out of the doldrums to deliver some new features that we have not seen before in these kinds of batteries.

Firstly, XS Powercard has all of the necessary wires built into its slender body which is obviously very important for ease of use and overall longevity. Secondly, embedded into the device is a tiny USB flash drive that is no bigger than the USB dongle for a wireless mouse. The thinking here is that, in addition to providing power, the XS Powercard can use its micro-USB or Thunderbolt connection to transfer data to a medium that is traditionally unavailable to smartphones. This flash drive will be available in the typical 8, 16, and 32 GB capacities. Finally, the third feature I like about the XS Powercard is that it is slim enough to fit inside of a wallet. This is imperative in a world where the only things that are carried around on a regular basis are keys, phone, and wallet; aka. The Holy Trinity. By combining this product with one of those three the developers are dramatically reducing the burden on the consumer; making it more convenient to carry an additional item with them wherever they go.

Again taking advantage of the USB connectivity, the XS Powercard can act as a straight USB connector to any computer, and when charging it always charges the phone first before charging the 2200 mAh battery. This truly makes the XS Powercard the ultimate smartphone accessory because it means that, not only does it remove the need to carry a USB cable, but now a personal flash drive will always be available whenever it is needed. This project is currently about $20,000 short of its planned funding, and with three full weeks remaining it is fairly safe to say this project will be funded. This means that there are not many more spots to get a discounted set of XS Powercards, with several tiers already sold out. The XS Powercard is a deserving project that really tries hard to stand heads and shoulders above other devices in its market.

Kingston DataTraveler microDuo Hardware Review

Kingston DataTraveler microDuo Hardware Review

May 1, 2014

So… just to get it out of the way, the answer is “yes.”

Yes to what? I’ll get to that later. For now, bear with us as we get to take the Kingston DataTraveler microDuo for a spin.

We received the 32 GB variant (it also comes in 8 GB, 16 GB and 64 GB flavors) to test; the microDuo looks to do just what one would expect of valuable mobile accessory: it looks to extend the functionality of mobile devices. It does this by taking advantage of USB OTG, the ability of some mobile devices to interface with USB peripherals. In essence, this little gadget provides a mobile carry-on of 32 GB of extra storage space..

Not that one would guess by looking at it. It’s fingernail small, almost diminutive, with black and chrome stylings that underscore its rectangular shape. On the one end, there is a familiar USB input, and on the other a black cover-like piece. Flipping the black piece reveals a microUSB input piece. The package includes a lanyard, too. It feels solid enough and fairly well constructed.

Using the hardware is easy, and intuitive. On a supported device, it is plugged into the microUSB port, and, with kmd3the right software, it’s pretty much plug-and-play to download or offload data. The same operation works to connect to computers with the full USB end to a “full” computer. Of course, it can be used to transfer and/or sync data between any number of devices that have USB/USB-OTG functionality. On a handheld device, a file reader is required, and thankfully, even if there isn’t built in one, options exists in the Play Store. On a Windows machine, the gadget is recognized like any other drive (it’s listed as compatible with Windows 8.1, Windows 8, Windows 7, Windows Vista, Windows RT, Mac OS X v.10.6.x+ and Linux v.2.6+).

With expandable memory on mobile devices becoming more optional, and mobile devices becoming more proficient at handling media and data, infinitely portable accessories like this can be invaluable.

This doodad is tiny, and as such, the lanyard is welcome accessory’s accessory; still, the lanyard is minuscule. A file exploring app is essential for easy use, and it’s unfortunate that it does not work with all devices. Still, in the short time I used it, it became a valuable part of the mobile arsenal, especially with its five-year warranty.

So… back to the question that induced the answer that started it all. Can the microDuo earn a coveted place in my go bag? A place that only the best gadgets earn based on overall mobility and functionality?

Wasn’t so hard, was it?

The Kingston 32GB DataTraveler microDuo is available for $18.74 on Amazon.

Presenting Magnector: Magnetic Charging System for Mobiles, Now for Nexus 7

Presenting Magnector: Magnetic Charging System for Mobiles, Now for Nexus 7

Jan 17, 2014

Magnector 2

Magnector is a revolutionary charging system that connects to the socket with a simple to remove magnetic lock. This means that the charging cable is easy to connect and remove – meaning that you won’t break your phone, if you accidentally trip over the power chord, and that you won’t wear out the socket. Magnector is available for various mobiles and tablets, including iPhones and Samsung Galaxy tabs. You can find more details and prices over here: Magnector Website.

Multishare USB Jak Hardware Review

Multishare USB Jak Hardware Review

May 20, 2013

As I have become more dependent on my Android smartphone I have started working more with streamed content. Reviewing the bCoda Jak gave me an opportunity to look at another way to use my device to be a multimedia dynamo. Better yet, in a house like mine with several Android devices (and consequently several different streams), the Jak promises to allows the user to wirelessly stream pictures, music and video clips from Android devices to stuff like TVs, projectors, car stereos and other smart devices with USB input.

I am still surprised at how small and lightweight the review piece is. It is about about the size of an ordinary portable jump drive, but lighter. It came in gentle green and, in my eyes, quite humble looking.jak4

The biggest part was pairing it. With the companion app from the Play Store, it was surprisingly easy. It handled the pairing and even updating the devices firmware. In my opinion, seamless pairing like this should be the norm with regards to this type of matchups.

As noted, the Jak works as a plug-in media receiver for just about anything that has a USB port. I found the output to be far from shabby; it handled music and onboard clips well as long as I playlisted them with the companion app. In my testings with several devices, the Jak’s performance was close to flawless. On my laptop, it invoked the media player and piped it through just about as nicely as I would expect on-board music to play. I was able to stream from different devices seamlessly.

The biggest drawback was the file set-up. I had to have pre-created playlists. While that could be optimistically looked at as some needed rigidity in the needed world of Android, I do believe that I would have preferred a more organic way of accessing media. Also, it is universal, but as far as I could tell, the app is Android-only for now, so for multi-platform households, it might be a bit restricted.

I think the Jak can still be a relevant piece of the arsenal for folks who have multiple devices and/or several output peripherals. It’s handy size belies it’s overall functionality, and it is an excellent way to go BIG with media.

USB Audio Recorder Pro Review

USB Audio Recorder Pro Review

Mar 22, 2013

By default, Android doesn’t have much in the way of support for USB audio devices, which pales in comparison to iOS, which does support them on the iPad via the “Camera Connection Kit” which comes with a USB adapter. Now, eXtream Software Development has a solution with USB Audio Recorder Pro, a recorder app that works with USB microphones on devices that support USB host capability. This is available on devices like the Nexus 7 by way of using a micro-USB to full-size USB female port, though some devices actually have a full-sized USB port, like tablets or some docks. I found the app and became curious if I could use it as a way to easily use my high-quality Blue Snowball mic while on the go.

And well, it does just that!

This officially makes my Nexus 7 a high-quality recording device; I can take my Blue Snowball with me and record audio when necessary while on the go, like going to record an interview somewhere. This surpasses the iPad, which has at times required low-power mics because Apple reduced the power output of the dock connector. At the default highest allowable settings, the audio quality was identical (to an untrained ear like my own) to a recording made on my Mac with Audacity. There’s different settings like audio frequency, audio channels (if you want to output a stereo recording, though my mic is mono), and others for audiophiles. For a basic user like me, it works well.

Now, the USB connection is a bit finnicky because the app is using its own drivers. I frequently had to unplug cables and re-insert them to try and get the app to recognize my mic. As well, if you have another USB app like Nexus Media Importer installed, then an issue will arise with the mic not being recognized until that app is uninstalled; I saw this on Android 4.2.2, it may not exist on other Android versions or with other Android devices.

Now, not all mics may work but most mics that support USB audio will probably work; the free demo version is invaluable for testing this support out. There’s a list of supported mics at this link. This is a great companion with Audio Evolution Mobile for editing audio on the go, especially for podcasters who don’t want to have a laptop with them. As well, the USB functionality of this app will soon become integrated with Audio Evolution Mobile in a month or two for recording directly from within that app. This app will remain on the store with its own recording functionality, and will also serve as the way to unlock the USB recording functionality in that app.

KickStarter Spotlight: Phorce

KickStarter Spotlight: Phorce

Nov 21, 2012

A few months ago I did a KickStarter Spotlight on the EverPurse which was a purse with a phone charger in it. I was very impressed with this idea and I have passed over similar KickStarter projects recently, but today I found one that goes miles beyond the EverPurse and is truly deserving of its own post. The project that I have been raving about is called Phorce, and it is billed as the world’s first smart bag. They aren’t just blowing smoke by saying that it is a smart bag, this bag has built in Bluetooth which allows it to communicate with any smartphone or laptop through a handy app. Of course, just like other similar bags it has a built in battery that allows for easy charging of a MacBook or any smartphone or tablet. The app allows the user to not only check the battery status of the bag, but also it will send push notifications if the bag leaves Bluetooth range.

Flexibility is one of Phorce’s biggest assets and my favorite feature of the bag is that it can be easily switched from a briefcase to a messenger bag to a full on backpack. I love this feature because it really makes Phorce one of the most accessible charging bags out there. The ability to switch between these different functions allows the Phorce to be utilized all day and for any job. Adding further flexibility is the fact that there are two separate versions of Phorce: one that simply includes 3 USB ports for phones and tablets, and the other that has a built-in MacBook charging connector. Also impressive is the battery power which has enough life to power a MacBook Pro for over 7 hours or to fully charge 3 iPhones at once.

The Phorce would have to be pretty ugly to keep me from buying this bag and luckily for all of us nobody will have to make that decision because the Phorce is gorgeous. Made of high quality fabric the bag looks fantastic and, at least from initial looks, seems incredibly well constructed. As an added bonus the clever wire manager makes sure that everything is accessible yet organized. While the price is steep at around $200 for the USB version and $300 for the MacBook model; from what I see now the Phorce seems to be completely worth it and a must have for any urbanite who is constantly on the go. Of course, like all KickStarter projects it cannot become available unless it receives the necessary funding; so get out there and help make the Phorce a reality.

KickStarter Spotlight: Cube

KickStarter Spotlight: Cube

Jul 25, 2012

Finding a resting spot to charge a phone is challenging because the location of the micro USB is usually at the bottom of the phone making it hard to stand and display correctly. There are plenty of docks out there that allow for a cord to run through but I have not found any that truly allow for freedom of movement and easy un-docking. Also, most Android docks are tied to other devices such as clocks and stereos which make them very expensive. This week’s KickStarter project is called Cube and it is as effective as it is simple. Taking a page out of Apple’s not-so-successful Cube G4, this Cube is made out of clear plastic with one open end.

The center is a hollow cylinder and the bottom snaps off for easy insertion of a micro-USB or iPhone connector. This cord is securely fastened to the bottom of the stand which allows for the phone to be removed simply by tugging up on the phone. This would easily pull the cord out of other stands which would force the user to have to rethread it back into the tiny holes at the bottom. Cube acts like a hardwired stereo dock but with much more flexibility. Also, the simple design that comes in multiple colors and styles of plastic so it can almost become an attractive piece of decor for a living room.

The KickStarter video shows Cube having the ability to swivel around in its inner circle to face the viewer. I have some doubts about how effective this is but the fact that this is displayed as an ability is at least promising. Another strange claim is that the Cube was designed to naturally amplify the sound of music or notifications. I do not know how much the Cube was specially designed to amplify sound so much as it was discovered to amplify it naturally.

Even through all this I am excited for Cube, as it is very attractive and simple. It fixes the problem that a lot of other stands have and delivers it all in an inexpensive package; retailing for around $25. As with all KickStarter Spotlights, there is no way it can become a reality without the support of the internet.

KickStarter Spotlight: Compude

KickStarter Spotlight: Compude

Apr 27, 2012

Scouring through the depths of KickStarter brings up some incredibly ambitious projects trying to get their shot at the sun. One such project is a very intriguing idea that has been attempted before with varying degrees of success, but few have as much flair as Compude. Compude is the brainchild of Lance Parker and his start-up, and it is a thumb drive that allows subscribers of its paid service quick and almost instant access of their desktops at home. I am aware that a lot of companies offer services that allow a user to access their computers from a remote location, but none have made it as simple and streamlined as the demo that Lance Parker shows on the video on his KickStarter page. Almost instantly after plugging in the device onto a borrowed laptop Lance’s desktop appeared on the screen and he was instantly able to access any and all files at his disposal.

Assuming that this project works as displayed here, and hoping that everyone knows that recorded and controlled demos should be taken with a grain of salt, this represents an insanely large leap in the computing world. Instead of having to deal with web browsers, usernames, passwords, and insecurity, Compude is as simple as plugging in a USB drive and swiping a finger across the world’s smallest finger print reader. Everything, and I mean everything, is encrypted and the video makes it clear that security is of foremost concern for Lance and his team.

Taking a step back, there are a few concerns that are immediately apparent. First up is the matter of lag; as streaming video game service OnLive has shown it is possible to offer virtually lag free streaming interaction on networks only over 3.5 Mb/s; can Compude do the same? The speed shown in the video is so fast it is hard to believe, and keeping my expectations in check I fully expect to see the actual field performance to be much slower. Part of the processing will be done by the device which has tiny 400 mhz processor, 256 mb RAM, and 32 gig of internal storage; which will aide in deciphering the 256-bit AES encryption. Smartphone and tablet support is of course included if an adapter is used to bridge the USB with micro-USB or Apple’s proprietary connection port.

All speculation aside, the sheer idea of being able to pull a desktop computer up on a smartphone or tablet is too tantalizing to ignore. There still remains a lot of unknowns as the project description is not exactly a comprehensive explanation, but it is still worth checking out the project’s KickStarter page and determine whether Compude is tech’s latest Icarus.