Guest Review: Arkon Window/Console Mount for iPhone 4



by Jason Lykins

About 6 months ago I switched from using the built in GPS on my Truck to using my iPhone and the Navigon App exclusively for all of my GPS needs. Since then I’ve been laying my phone on my lap, on my center console or on my dash and picking it up or just listening to the voice guidance. Terry has his favorite mount for some time. Made by Magellan, but was more than I was willing to pay.  I just wasn’t ready to shell out close to $100 for a mount for my cell phone. As of this writing I’m in a hotel room in Milwaukee where I’m visiting from Cincinnati for my brother’s wedding. I didn’t want to have to look down or worry about my phone sliding all over the place during this trip so I hopped online and purchased the Arkon IPM514 mount for the iPhone4. (Actually I bought 2 of them, one for me and one for my girlfriend. Brownie points!) I got it in the mail just in time, and for under $15 shipped I couldn’t be happier!


This mount is just what I was looking for. I didn’t want to mount it to my window; rather I wanted a way to secure it to my dashboard to put it right at eye level for me. I searched the vent mount options, but in the end I chose this model for its dash-mounting feature. The base of the 514 has a suction cup on it to allow for securing to the window if you want, but it also comes with a circular two-sided tape mount to place it on your dashboard/console. On my truck it worked great, as I had a flat spot right at the top of the dash to secure it. In my girlfriend’s car the mounting was a little trickier because she didn’t have as many flat areas, but we made it work. The mount itself pivots at the base where it connects to the suction cup, as well as a “ball head” style pivot where the base meets the phone holding plate. This allows for many mounting positions giving you many different options when it comes to deciding on where to place your unit.

The plate that holds the phone is spring loaded to allow for use with many different styles of smart phones, although with my iPhone in there it feels like it’s almost at the end of its range so I don’t know if a longer phone would work in there. The prongs that physically hold the phone in place are adjustable so having a charging cord connected isn’t a problem.


The Arkon IPM514 is a great solution for anyone that wants to mount their cell iPhone to their dashboard or window for GPS use but doesn’t want to empty their wallet to do it.

You can get the Arkon IPM514 for only $11.19 here from Amazon.

Are you willing to give up unlimited data for a Personal Hotspot?

Although I know it's iPad 2 day (more on that to come), let's not forget that Apple released iOS 4.3 this week for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch. One of the most compelling features for iPhone users is the Personal Hotspot feature (finally!). However, use of this feature on AT&T comes at high price. I'm not talking about the monthly charge as much as I am the fact that original iPhone users have to make a choice if they are thinking about using it. Prior to the iPhone 4 iPhone users on AT&T have enjoyed unlimited 3G data for a single monthly charge. AT&T grandfathered this plan for people upgrading to the iPhone 4. In June 2010 AT&T discontinued the unlimited data plans for NEW iPhone/Smartphone customers. While the new plans offer a lower monthly charge for less data, the highest plan is capped at 2GBs/month. If you go over, you pay!


Unlimited Data or Personal Hotspot?

In order to take advantage of the new Personal Hotspot feature that allows you to connect your Laptop, WiFi iPad or other WiFi devices to your iPhone wirelessly to share your iPhone's 3G data connection, you have to switch to the newer Data Pro plan ($25/month for 2GB of data) AND you have to ADD a tethering plan ($20/month) for a total of $45/month. What sucks the most about this is that the extra $20/month doesn't get you any more data! It's a "just because we can" charge. CORRECTION: The New DataPro tethering plan gives your 4GB total per month. Of course if you use the Personal Hotspot feature you'll likely hit that 4GBs faster and then have to start paying for additional data. On the plus side you can choose to turn this feature on or off on your account as needed. If you know you're going on a trip and want to use it, you can turn it on and then turn it off for the following month. Either way, you still have to give up your Unlimited Data Plan to use it.



Your choice of course is to not switch. Besides that option, you can weigh the cost of a data card or the MiFi if you're going to be a heavy user. Lastly since Jailbreaking your iPhone is legal, you could use a Jailbroken App that allows you to turn your iPhone into a personal hotspot without switching plans (you may be violating AT&T's rules by doing this and I'm not telling you to do so. You would be doing this AT YOUR OWN RISK and risk to your Apple Warranty). Verizon is already rumored to be dropping their iPhone unlimited plans soon too!

For now and as long as it's allowed I'll be sticking with my Unlimited Plan! 


AT&T and Verizon you really need to rethink "data".

Continue reading “Are you willing to give up unlimited data for a Personal Hotspot?”

Do it yourself desktop stand for FaceTime calls

FaceTime Stand

I have really been enjoying using FaceTime to make FREE video calls back home while traveling abroad. Of course you need either an iPhone 4 or 4th generation iPod touch on either end and a Wi-Fi connection on both ends and you can talk and see as much as you want for FREE. It's been working extremely well! The one thing that I find to be a bit of a pain is actually holding the device. When just talking on the phone for long periods of time you can just lay it down and use speakerphone or a bluetooth headset as you roam around the room/multitask. However, with FaceTime you're going to not only want to hold the device, but you're also going to want to hold it up fairly high. Holding it down at a natural stomach level will probably yield some unflattering up the nose angles for your video. 

Then I got an idea

One evening while sitting and working at the desk in my hotel room I realized that not only was there a better way to do this, but I even had the necessary pieces with me to make it work. Ideally you want some sort of vertical stand for the iPhone 4 that lifts it up higher than the desk/table itself. I realized that I had both an iPhone 4 tripod holder AND a Gorillamobile in my computer bag. It took me all of 15 seconds to put the two together and I had an instant FaceTime stand that could be tilted and even attached to something higher if need be. It worked GREAT!


Here are the two pieces you need:

G-Design makes the iPhone 4 tripod holder. Unfortunately it's not designed for the iPod touch, but as long as you don't turn it upside down it should just hold it in place.

It fits the iPhone 4 very snuggly and you CAN turn it upside down or sideways if you need to.

The G-Design iPhone 4 Tripod holder is available here.


While the Tripod holder will go on just about any standard tripod, I find the Gorillamobile to be the smallest and most flexible in terms of standing it up or wrapping it around objects. It's so small in fact that I forgot that it was in my bag. So it's GREAT for travelers.

Get the Gorillamobile here.


Yes you can use FaceTime with a 4th Gen iPod touch too!

In case you missed it, you don't have to have an iPhone (and contract) to enjoy FaceTime. You can have this FREE video call goodness now with a 4th Generation iPod touch. It has the necessary front facing camera and can make the same FREE video calls over WiFi to other 4th gen iPod touch devices OR iPhone 4's. FaceTime on an iPod touch uses your registered email address to receive FaceTime calls as long as your on WiFi. You can make FaceTime calls to an iPhone 4 as long as you know their phone number or another 4th gen iPod touch as long as you have their "registered" email address.  Get the 32GB (don't waste your time with an 8GB model) iPod touch here.

iPhone’s One Button HDR: Another wakeup call to camera manufacturers

Yep, I'm back on my "point and shoot cameras are dying" rant again. You might remember this post where I talked about camera phones being the "new point and shoot cameras" and I gave my reasons as to why I felt this way then. As I stated in the earlier post, when it's important I shoot it with my DSLR. However, when it's just about capturing the moment and for fun I'm going to pull out my smartphone and take the shot. Before you argue with me, let me state the obvious: yes point and shoot cameras offer better optics and higher megapixels. They also offer a wider range of features for controlling the shot as well as the higher end models even offering RAW capabilities. Yep, I get it! They are technically better "cameras". No question. However, whenever there's an exciting moment unfolding at a public event I see 10 times more camera phones go up in the air than I do dedicated point and shoot cameras. The reasons for this are numerous. The most common ones are: people don't want to carry multiple devices and probably the biggest reason is that the camera phone shot is "good enough" for the average person. Beyond those reasons I think a bigger reason is that the camera phone and especially the smartphone offer instant sharing of those pics AND in device image editing!


iOS 4.1 Brings One Button HDR (high dynamic range) shooting to the iPhone 4

When I saw this feature come out in the latest update to the iPhone's operating system (iOS 4.1), I had an immediate "Duh" moment! Apple once again took something that is so obvious and added a "one button" interface to it. Professional Photographers have been shooting HDR images for years now. It has actually become a "creative" effect in photography. However, pros have to do this in a multiple step fashion that involves setting their camera up a certain way (bracketed exposures) and combining the multiple shots in post using software like Photoshop CS5 (Merge to HDR Pro). in its simplest form HDR is ability to combine multiple exposures into one high dynamic range image that achieves the best exposure for highlights, shadows and midtones. This is where the amateur photographer often fails. The shots that come from these low end cameras and camera phones often over expose one area or under expose another. Since there aren't very many if any manual controls on these devices you're usually stuck with what the device thinks you should have. So Apple took HDR and brought it to the masses in a seamless way. Just turn it on before you take the shot! With an iPhone 4 running iOS 4.1 you have the option to turn on HDR. Once it's on you aim at your subject and press the onscreen shutter button. The iPhone 4 then captures 3 images in rapid succession instantly with no lag, one under exposed, one over exposed and one in the middle and combines them together AUTOMATICALLY as an HDR shot. There is no user interaction required. Of course pros will want control. They'll want to tweak things an get the image just right and I applaud you for that. However, this feature isn't aimed at pros! This is aimed at everyone else so that right out the camera they can get better exposures.


For example…

The iOS 4.1 update gives you the option of keeping both shots. So here's the original shot BEFORE HDR.


Here's the HDR version (again, all automatic and with no adjustments on my part)

Is it perfect? No! I'd still like to see a little more light in the shadows of the barn. Is it better than what we were getting from these low end cameras? ABSOLUTELY!


Get HDR on the iPhone 3GS too

If your iPhone model doesn't support the iOS 4.1 HDR feature, you can still have HDR because there's an App for that. Before iPhone 4 and iOS 4.1 supported this feature natively, I was using the Pro  HDR App to do the same thing. Of course it takes more steps, but it get's the job done. You can get Pro HDR for the iPhone 3GS and iPhone 4 for $1.99 here from the Pro


Camera Manufacturers: Step Your Game Up!

There is absolutely NO REASON that this kind of feature shouldn't be on every point and shoot camera sold today. Yes, I applaud Canon for adding an HDR mode to the NEW G12 – way to go!

The lack of it (one button HDR), built-in wifi, built-in GPS/geotagging, etc. on the vast majority of P&S cameras continues to further my argument that point and shoot cameras are dead! Hell I'd like to see some of these features make it on to DSLRs too. Now I know I'm dreaming….

It’s All About The Light!

As a photographer I certainly value having a set of GREAT DSLR bodies and a wide range of lenses to choose from. However, the question always comes up, "do I have to have a top of the line camera to get a great shot?" Any photographer will tell you NO! It's about having an "eye", a great subject and GREAT LIGHTING! So after seeing a video over at the FStoppers site, I wanted to put this theory to the test. Here's my video shot using the Westscott Spiderlite TD5s and the end results may surprise you! Although I start off the shoot with my Nikon D700 and 70-200mm f/2.8 VRII lens, I finish it with my iPhone 4.



See more about Westcott's lighting products by joining me on the Top Pro Tour.


G-Design iPhone 4 Tripod Holder

iPhone 4 Camera White Balance: The Other Issue

Wow! There certainly has been a lot going on in the press about the iPhone 4's phone reception issues. Any time you sell millions of anything you're going to have a percentage of users that have issues with it. Especially if the something you're selling is created under a veil of secrecy that may inhibit testing under a wide variety of conditions. For the record, I can't repeat the "cosmetic" signal strength indicator problem. I've covered the little black strip areas with my fingers and I've held the iPhone 4 as tightly as I can and at the most I saw a brief one bar drop in signal on the display that I couldn't even repeat. However, although I can't repeat what others are saying is happening doesn't mean that there isn't a reception issue! It also doesn't mean that just because I can't make it happen that others aren't having a real problem. I will say that out of all the iPhones I've ever owned (all models up until now), that prior to putting the "Bumper" on my iPhone 4 I dropped more calls on my iPhone 4 than all my other iPhones combined in the same locations that I always call from and calling the same people that I always call! I've also had random disconnects and reconnects using my Jawbone ICON bluetooth headset that I never had with my 3GS. So there is definitely something going on there and it's not just how the bars are displayed on screen. Again, you may not be having a reception issue at all and you may have the best signal strength and call quality that you've ever had, but that doesn't mean that it isn't happening to others. So please don't tell me about how just because it's not happening to you, the problem doesn't exist!

Speaking of problems that not every iPhone 4 is having:


Is there a White Balance Issue with the iPhone 4's Camera?

On my iPhone 4 there definitely is a problem and I'm not alone. If I use the camera outside, the pictures are great! No complaints. However, depending on the lighting situation inside my pictures will have an extreme yellow tint to them.  As a photographer and video enthusiast one of the main reasons I upgraded to the iPhone 4 was to get the better camera AND HD video recording. Since the problem is in the way the rear camera interprets the light it also affects any video shot too. Once again, this isn't happening to everyone. My buddy Jack Beckman has NOT been able to reproduce this with his iPhone 4. Even on mine it doesn't happen in all cases. For example, I took a shot in my dining room the night I got my iPhone 4 and it was pretty much unusable as everything and everyone was YELLOW. However, the next day when more sunlight was coming in the window, the pictures came out great. Using the camera flash doesn't seem to matter much. I took this shot in complete darkness and for the most part, except for the Sony label on the tripod the white balance is fine. 

Continue reading “iPhone 4 Camera White Balance: The Other Issue”

My FaceTime Chat with Seal


I finally got around to giving the iPhone 4's FaceTime video chatting feature a real world test yesterday with none other than music recording legend Seal. While I would have loved to have shared this call with you as a recorded video, I respect Seal's privacy wishes not to show his home here/on the internet. So I'll have to do one later with him when he's on the road. We were both quite impressed with the quality and ease of doing this type of hand held video chat. 

The picture quality was great and the audio was crystal clear. As a matter of fact FaceTime is currently working better than the Phone part of the iPhone 4. Sadly, I've dropped more calls on my iPhone 4 in the past two days than I have with all previous generation iPhones that I've owned combined! Granted the Bumper does help, but there are some real issues that Apple needs to work out here. All in all it was a fun chat that lasted just over an hour. 


FaceTime doesn't use your cellular minutes

One nice surprise is that while you can initiate a FaceTime chat with someone you're talking with on the phone (provided you are both using iPhone 4's and both on WiFi), the minute that FaceTime Chat is in session you are no longer using your cellular minutes. You can also initiate a FaceTime chat directly with a contact in your Contacts list. Again without using any cellular minutes. So this is going to be AWESOME for my international travels. FaceTime is a winner.

AT&T Finally Brings Tethering to the iPhone: What you should know…

One of my main AT&T/iPhone complaints has finally been addressed. Ever since the iPhone 3G (and for some, the original iPhone) came out two years ago, I wondered why AT&T was so adamant about NOT allowing you to tether (use your iPhone as a modem/WiFi hotspot) your iPhone to your laptop and share its 3G data connection. After all they allow this with every other smart phone they sell and they even sell 3G data cards. Also no one ever expected this to be FREE. So I never really got why this was such a big deal? Granted AT&T couldn't do it alone and it would require built-in support by Apple in the iPhone OS (iOS). However, that support came in iPhone OS 3 LAST YEAR. So what took AT&T a YEAR to allow it on the iPhone for us in the US? They claim that they still needed to tweak their network to allow the influx of additional data traffic. While this may be true, the thing is since it's not FREE, not everyone is going to do it. Also it's not something you're going to be using all the time or would you?


Data Plan caps may have been the real issue

I don't doubt that AT&T needed to (and still needs to) work on "the world's fastest 3G network" to get it ready for even the slightest increase in traffic, but I suspect that an even larger issue was not wanting you to be able to pay a flat fee and have unlimited use. Even when you go with a $60/month 3G data card from AT&T there is a 5GB/month cap on it. Up until now all iPhone plans have been "UNLIMITED" data. So while the amount of 3G data that iPhone users currently consume must be HUGE, I'm sure giving users unlimited tethering would have brought this fragile network to its knees.


Do you want unlimited iPhone 3G data or do you want tethering?

Continue reading “AT&T Finally Brings Tethering to the iPhone: What you should know…”

My thoughts on iPhone 4 and iOS 4

I've been busy with my day job and really couldn't spend a lot of time ogling the iPhone announcements the other day. However, I did catch up on my reading of all the new things and watched a few of the videos and of course people expect me to weigh in on what I like or don't like about new tech gadgets So here goes:


iPhone 4 – What I'm excited about

From a new hardware perspective, I'm excited about the new smaller, thinner form factor and since I have yet to see the actual (retina) display I can't weigh in on it one way or the other. I'm sure it's great. I also welcome the faster speeds of the A4, longer battery life of the bigger battery and potential better call quality based on the new antenna layout/case design. I definitely welcome the new 5MP camera and LED flash as well as having both a front facing and rear facing camera. This was long over due! FaceTime looks cool, but I wonder how useful it will be since both people have to have iPhone 4s and be on WiFi. Still, it will be fun to try. The 720p video is definitely welcome! It may mean that I can actually give up my Kodak Zi8, which I love. What I love even more is carrying less devices.


iPhone 4 – What I'm a little disappointed about

Although I get the space constraint issues, I'm still disappointed that there's not a 64GB version. Maybe I won't care as much now that I have an iPad, but my 32GB iPhone 3GS is always within 1-5GBs of space remaining. So I was looking forward to not only a faster iPhone, but bigger storage too. Also I kinda wish that they didn't go to a MicroSIM as it means switching the SIM card between phones is going to be a little more challenging. I'll be testing an Android phone in the not too distant future and it would have been nice to be able to "easily" go between the two with the same SIM Card. This solution looks promising though.


iOS 4 – What I'm excited about

If you asked me to name the top 3 features I can't wait for they would be (in order): Folders! – I have TONS of Apps and believe it or not, I can't wait to get them under control from an organization standpoint with folders. I have all 11 screens full right now on my 3GS and I have to pick and choose which apps to delete when I want to add more because I refuse to let them slide into that black hole that is page 12. The second thing I have been dying for is the integrated inbox in Mail. I've been complaining about that since 2007. So 3 years later, I'm glad that someone at Apple realized that people have more than one email account and don't want to have to constantly go back back back to view a different inbox. The third thing that I'm excited about is mult-tiasking. Although it remains to be seen what really happens when an app is in the background, I still welcome the fact that it will at least return me to the app where I left off now with 3rd party apps.


iOS 4- What I'm disappointed about

Continue reading “My thoughts on iPhone 4 and iOS 4”