Oct 03

iHome iD55 with iPadAfter trying several portable iPhone speaker systems over the years, I pretty much gave up finding one ideal for my needs. I still tested portable speakers now and again, of course – for professional reasons – but all left me wanting. The best I’ve found was the Altec Lansing iMT702, and it was released over three years ago. Since then it’s been disappointment after disappointment.

So when word came that iHome, one of my favorite iOS speaker companies, was releasing a sleek new portable speaker, the iD55, I was encouraged. Surely this reasonably priced system would perform better than its current, lousy competitors. iHome had never really let me down before.

No such luck.

While well designed and constructed, its poor performance and lack of obvious conveniences left me, once again, looking for a wall outlet.

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May 18

An iPad the size of a Kindle Fire?  Yep.  And soon.

Since the first iPad was introduced in early 2010, there have been constant predictions of an “iPad mini,” an Apple tablet with a screen significantly smaller than 9.7-inches. 

All have been wrong.

Even before being proven so by history, the prognostications were routinely quashed by naysayers, who – like Steve Jobs – believed that smaller 7 and 8-inch tablets lacked the utility of the larger iPad; Jobs even went so far as to say that such an iPad would not be produced by Apple. After three iPad generations’ release, we haven’t seen so much as a quarter-inch change in the screen size, mostly because Jobs’ was the only opinion that counted for much the last two and a half years.

But his influence, lasting though it may be in many respects, is no longer a deciding factor at Apple.

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May 02

iHome iW2 AirPlay SpeakerAirPlay is a technology developed by Apple that allows media to be streamed wirelessly via Wi-Fi to and from various devices. The Apple TV is the most conspicuous exemplar of the technology, which allows users of iPads, iPhones, iPod touches and compatible computers to stream movies, photos and music to their TVs without a cable.

But AirPlay has another application that doesn’t get much attention: wireless speaker systems.

There is a small selection of AirPlay-enabled speaker systems that leverage this technology to create a speaker setup in a room, several rooms, or throughout the house. They’re expensive alternatives to traditional iOS speaker solutions, and not for everyone. But if you have certain needs – and a liberal budget – they fill a need few other solutions can: connected wireless speakers with excellent range and sound, with the option to expand to multiple rooms.

I’ve recently spent a few weeks with one of these systems, the iHome iW2, which is one of the more affordable AirPlay units sold. At $199 MSRP it’s not cheap, but its excellent performance and relatively low price make the iW2 a tempting choice for those looking to add AirPlay speakers to their home or office.  Sadly, though, the iW2 and other AirPlay speakers share a common usage restriction.

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Mar 27

iHome iD50 Front View with iPad 2Last year’s iHome iA100 remains one of the most feature-rich (and complicated) iPhone/iPad alarm systems ever released. It’s one of the few solutions  for demanding users who want unmatched control of how their alarm clock and iOS device(s) work together to ease them to sleep or into a new day. Despite its high price and over reliance on app-based controls, it’s still on my recommend list for users who would benefit (as I do) from its highly-customizable options. 

But there’s a new iHome iOS alarm clock that’s probably a better choice for most would-be users.  The company has released what you might call the iA100’s little brother, the iD50. Similar to the iA100, the new iHome iD50 is smaller, cheaper, shares most of the same features, and adds a welcome dose of simplicity without sacrificing function.

All things being equal, I’d say if you were considering the iA100, you should go with the iD50 instead.

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Mar 22

Air Display Getting a Retina UpdateOf all the apps on my iPad 2, the one I was probably most looking forward to trying on the new iPad was Air Display.  This iOS utility from Avatron allows you to use the iPad (or iPhone, iPod touch if you’ve got a magnifying glass handy) as a second display for your Windows PC or Mac. On the iPad 2, that was all well and good – I’d use it for a PDF viewer or for iTunes to cut down on my primary monitor’s clutter – but with the iPad 3’s 2048×1536 resolution… the app’s utility seemed like it would, well, quadruple. 

But last Friday, iPad launch day, there was no Air Display update.  There wasn’t one Monday or Tuesday.  Yesterday I found out why.

According to a post on the company’s blog, they got to work immediately on a Retina-friendly version of Air Display when the iPad 3 was announced, but after testing the update on an actual 3rd Gen iPad last week, the results were disappointing.  They continued their work and now an update is currently under Apple review and should be available in the coming days.

You can still use the current version of Air Display on the new iPad, you’ll just get a lower resolution that’s not particularly pretty.  Still, if using your iPad as a second display sounds good to you, give it a try (you can read my initial review of Air Display here, which I will update once the new version goes live).  Avatron promises improved performance on older iPads with the upcoming update, too.

M. Nichols, Products Editor

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