If you have a smartphone and you use it throughout the day chances are your battery won’t last from the time you wake up til the time you go to bed. If you work in an office or other stationary place then you probably charge your device at your desk. If you drive around you probably charge your device in the car. However, what if you’re out and about all day, take trains and are just not near a wall outlet? There are ways to charge on the go. Here are a few of my favorite accessories:
First off even if you can get to a charger or USB port and you’re an iDevice user then you’re going to need a cable. Good luck if you are borrowing a charger from your friends that use Android and other platforms. This is why I love the “ChargeCard” it’s a credit card size “cable” that I keep in my wallet. Pop out the USB plug, plug it into any standard charger or USB port and the other end into your Lightning port on your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch. Away you go…
I have a variety of different portable batteries. However, this is one the coolest ones I have because of its size and form factor. At first glance it looks like a standard small LED Flashlight and it is! However, on the other end is a standard USB port so that you can plug in your smartphone and charge it back up. What more can I say? A device that serves more than one purpose effectively is always going to be a favorite of mine!
Get the RAVPower Lipstick External Power Pack here.
RAVPower Luster 6000 mAh Battery Pack
Need more juice? If you want to be able to charge either a smartphone or a tablet then you’re probably going to want 2.1A output. That’s why I carry a RAVPower Luster 6000 mAh Battery Pack. This one has enough juice to charge either my iPhone 5s or my iPad Air. Even if you’re only going to want to charge a smartphone, then you might want to get this one because the higher output will charge your smartphone faster!
Get the RAVPower Luster 6000 mAh Battery Pack (in multiple colors) here.
Premium Solar Charger
A battery is great, but what about those times when even the external battery goes dead? Well there’s always the sun as a backup. This is a battery pack similar to the ones above that can be charged up via a wall outlet, but it also can be charged via solar energy.
As a photographer I’m always looking at the latest and greatest lighting gear. Most of the lighting I buy is geared towards professional photographers and videographers. However, today I’m reviewing a product that is geared towards non-professionals. Just about everyone takes pictures and videos with their smartphones and point-and-shoot cameras. However, most amateurs rarely think about lighting until after the fact. Also most smartphones and small cameras don’t really do well in low light settings. Therefore, off camera lighting is nice to have, but rarely convenient or cheap. This is where the Kick LED Full Color Video Light comes in. Beyond being a nice, small, light-weight, bright, battery powered LED light, it has a built-in WiFi network. You can control it with the free Kick App for your iPhone and Android smartphone. Not only can you control the brightness, but you can also control the color too. There are even special effects such as strobe effects and effects that will continuously change the hue. You can even use the camera on your device to sample the color of the walls or lights around you to have the Kick automatically emit the same colors.
Rather than tell you more about it, I’d rather show you in this video:
I’m finally getting to my CamRanger Review. This is a product I saw several months ago and always wanted to do review of it. I get the question all the time: “Is there a way to wirelessly shoot to my iPad?” I’ve covered many ways that the iPad can fit into a digital photography workflow here and another wireless solution here, but at the time CamRanger wasn’t out yet. CamRanger offers a complete wireless camera control solution for your Nikon or Canon DSLR. It’s a small lightweight box about the size of a smartphone that plugs into your compatible DSLR via a supplied USB cable. It creates a wireless network on its own and therefore doesn’t need a computer or other wireless hotspot. You can connect to it with your iOS devices (such as an iPad or iPhone), Android devices, or a Mac or PC. For my testing I used an iPad Air. Set up was very easy and only required about a minute of reading the instructions. I tested it with my Nikon D600. Once it was set up I was able to work in either direction. I was able to use the iPad to control most aspects of my camera including picking focus points, ISO, shutter speed, f/stops, white balance, etc. and I was able to take shots using the camera and have them show up as I was taking them on the iPad. The latter mode is probably the one I’d use the most out in the field because I really don’t need the remote control functions as much as say a landscape or wildlife photographer would.
Rather than continue to write about it, I recorded this short video of how it works:
The Bottom Line
CamRanger works exactly as advertised. It has a range of 150 feet and a battery life of about 5-6 hours. It allows the most control over your DSLR than any other solution I’ve seen and it allows you to shoot directly to your mobile devices. Many of the newer Nikon and Canon DSLR are actually coming with optional wireless connectivity. So if you have a new camera you probably have more options to choose from. However, if you’re working with a slightly older model like the Nikon D700 or Canon 5D Mark II for example, then this may be your only option. CamRanger comes with all the cables, chargers, etc. necessary to get started including a pouch to easily put it on your camera strap or belt.
I’ve reviewed several iPod music docks here over the years. Starting with the Bose SoundDock I’ve had an appreciation for these music devices to dock my iPods back in the day as well as my iPhones over the years. As a matter of fact I used to smile when I’d walk into a hotel room and see an iHome or other similar device on the nightstand. This meant that at a minimum I could dock my iPhone and charge it overnight even if I had no plans to listen to music via the dock’s speakers. Well those days are over, or at least I thought they were when I got an iPhone 5. Apple has aggressively phased out the 10+ year old 30 pin dock connector found on several of these music docks and in most modern cars. While Apple does sell Lightning Adapters to adapt older 30 pin connectors to the new Lightning connects found on the iPhone 5, newer iPods and current iPads. The problem is that compatibility can be hit or miss. Some may still play music, but not charge the device.
Enter the CableJive dockBoss 5
The dockBoss is an adapter for the older 30 pin based docks and on the other end is a standard USB port and 3mm audio-in jack. Instead of simply converting the older 30 pin connection to a Lightning connection, the dockBoss 5 converts to a standard USB port for power and a standard audio-in port for music. This means that not only can I use my iPhone 5 on any of these devices, but I can use my iPad or any other handheld device or smartphone. I now travel with a dockBoss 5 in my luggage. When I arrive to an iPod dock equipped room I just plug in the dockBoss and one of my regular USB-to-Lightning cables. Now my iPhone is charging without me have to search for a plug by the bed (some hotels still don’t get this need) and if I want to listen to music I can plug in the supplied audio cable that comes with the dockBoss 5 (as pictured above). If I don’t care to listen to music then it’s just a single cable connection. Also note that the dockBoss 5 includes both an audio cable and standard micro USB cable for connection to most other smartphones and other portable devices.
The Bottom Line
Since Apple retired the 30 pin dock connector most portable music player manufacturers are now leaning towards bluetooth and wi-fi for connectivity for there new devices. However, if you’ve got an older music dock that works perfectly there’s probably no reason to throw it away! With the dockBoss 5 you can get more life out of it and make it compatible with other devices that it never worked with before.
I have been using my iPhone to scan documents for a long time now. My App of choice is Scanner Pro. However, no matter what phone you have or which App you like, the problems of scanning documents are universal. You have to deal with lighting and positioning the document in just the right spot. Also if you’re scanning multiple pages chances are each one is going to be slightly off in terms of orientation, cropping, etc. due to not being able to hold the phone in the same spot for each page. Atiz, the makers of Scandock, want to solve this problem.
Scandock turns your smartphone into a document scanner
This combo hardware device and App will turn an ordinary iPhone or Android camera into a fast, efficient document scanner. I must admit that when I received my review unit that it was way more than I expected in terms of size, craftsmanship and design. I thought “whoa! They’re serious!” It took me about 5 minutes to put it together, plug it in and download the free Scandock App. Once I had the App, I placed a document on the bed and immediately noticed that they have a mat that’s designed to smooth out/hold down folded papers. I tapped the scan button on the App and like with any photo, it only takes a second and you’re on to the next page. Certainly faster than the fastest sheetfed scanners out there because it literally takes a second. It takes more time to position the paper than to do the scan. If you are scanning more than a few sheets then it will probably be on par with the time it takes to do it in a sheetfed scanner, but way faster than a flatbed scanner.
As you would expect, the App allows you to convert the document to PDF and share it. The one feature that blew me away was the multiple-doc feature. This feature allows you to place multiple items on the bed at once, such as several receipts or business cards, and it will auto-detect and scan each one as a separate document. I’ve not seen a smartphone App do that before. The built-in LED lights are the key to this device. By evenly lighting your documents you never have a shadow of YOU holding the phone over the document. There are trays for both iPhones and Android smartphones. You can even get it in Black or White.
The Bottom Line
Sounds great! Does everything that I would expect and more. What’s the downside? The only real downside to this solution is the asking price. At $499 (B.Y.O.D.) it will be out of reach for many and puts it in direct competition with other document scanners. Granted, other document scanners require a connection to a PC/Mac (which probably costs more than your smartphone) and perhaps the newer “Post PC” generation will see the benefit of this kind of solution.
Déjà vu! It’s like 2010/iOS 4 all over again. A couple of years ago Apple updated iOS to include data tethering. This would allow you to use your iPhone’s data connection on another device like your laptop when you’re out and about. Not meant to be your main internet connection, but a nice plus for travelers that need to connect to the internet from their computers when there wasn’t any free WiFi hotspots available. Of course this was great unless you were an AT&T customer. Not only did it take AT&T forever to turn on this feature, but when they did they blocked it from existing customers that were grandfathered into their original unlimited data plans. They feared that all those users now tethering their laptops would bring the AT&T data network to its knees. They were probably right! In order to get tethering you had to be willing to leave your unlimited plan and sign up for a new Data Pro plan and pay extra for tethering.
Fast forward to iOS 6 in 2012
Apple announced that when iOS 6 comes out this fall that you’ll (finally) be able to use FaceTime over a 3G network. I never really understood why this wasn’t available sooner since there are so many Apps on the App Store that let you do this today. Nonetheless, its’ coming, but wait for it….once again AT&T is saying no no no to those of us who are on unlimited data plans.
You might remember that when the New iPad came out that I switched from AT&T to Verizon for that device. Since then I’ve been enjoying tethering at no additional cost and I’ll likely enjoy FaceTime on it too over their fast (almost everywhere in the US) 4G LTE network.
I’ll Just Use Skype!
FaceTime is great and I’ve always wanted it on my 3G/4G network, but I’m grandfathered into a corporate unlimited data plan that my company won’t be changing anytime soon. FaceTime only works with Apple iOS devices and Macs. Skype works with Macs, iOS devices, Windows, and Android devices. It works today over both WiFi and 3G! This means that I can video call just about anyone I know for FREE TODAY! I don’t have to wait for iOS 6 and I don’t have to switch plans, carriers or anything else. Is it as nice as having video chat built-in to the OS and tied to a person’s phone number/email address? No, but it’s more pervasive and less restrictive, available today and works over AT&T’s 3G network (go figure).
I ordered this little gadget before heading out on my current tour and got a chance to try it out in the hotel lounge with one of my colleagues. CloudFTP for all intents and purposes is a little adhoc access point with a USB port on it. Technically you should be able to hook up just about any storage device to it and share the content on that device wirelessly with your devices (computers and iOS/Android devices).
I figured I’d give it a real world test and time for a CloudFTP review. I took it out of the box, read the little manual that comes with it (so I could figure out how to access it), plugged in my LaCie Rugged Firewire 800/USB 2 backup drive into and fired it up. After a few moments it was up and ready to go. I then went to the web browser on my iPhone, keyed in the URL and there it was!
My hard drives directory structure. I could access any file and if the file was iOS compatible such as a PDF or movie I could see it right then and there. Speaking of movies, I get asked all the time about plugging in hard drives or other external drives into an iPad or iPhone to carry movies around and up until now I never really had a good answer. This would do the trick nicely. The first movie I tried wasn’t in a format that iOS liked (it was an AVI file) and therefore it copied the movie to the iPhone and then I was able to open it in the VLC App and it played just fine.
The movie playing above is streaming wirelessly from my LaCie hard drive to my iPhone 4s via the CloudFTP
I tested another movie that was in the proper .MP4 format and it streamed. However, I will note that about halfway through the movie the video froze and the sound kept going. Not sure if that will be an ongoing issue or not. I was also impress that the built-in USB port had enough power to run the drive without the drive or the CloudFTP being plugged into a power source. The second thing that impressed me even more was that it didn’t seem to matter what format the drive was in. My hard drive was Mac formatted and it still showed up as the “C” drive with all the directories (folders) showing.
Battery life is up to five hours and you can share documents, music or photos with up to 8 users at a time or movies with up to three users. It creates a WiFi network for your devices to join but keep in mind it’s not a WiFi Internet Router and therefore there is not internet connectivity while you’re connected to it. However, you can configure it to join your existing network if you like.
The Bottom Line
I don’t know how much use I will get out of this. I primarily got it as a method to quickly share files between computers and multiple users. I don’t run into those situations often, but when I do this device should come in real handy. The small size is also a plus as I can just keep it in the ThinkTank Cable Management 30 accessory bag that I carry in my laptop bag. The only thing I don’t really like about it is that while it does charge via USB, it comes with it’s own proprietary charging cable and that means having to keep up with more more cable as opposed to using a standard USB micro cable to charge. Other than that it works as advertised.
In this episode of the Adobe Creative Suite Podcast, I’ll show you the NEW Adobe Photoshop Touch for iPad. While there are lots of photo editing Apps for iOS, there are none that are truly like “Photoshop.” Photoshop Touch gives you the power and familiarity of Photoshop tools and techniques on your iPad. Best of all the layered files you create can be opened in Photoshop CS5 on the desktop and continued to be refined.
You can get Adobe Photoshop Touch for iPad 2 for $9.99 here from the
• Requires iPad 2 and iOS 5. Not available for iPad (first generation).
See more of my Adobe Creative Suite Videos on my Adobe Creative Suite Podcast and get the App here. It features EXCLUSIVE CONTENT that no one else gets to see. This episode has a BONUS CLIP that is available only in the App! My iOS App is a Universal App for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch. I also have an Android version: