Poll: Wallet & Password Managers

Posted: June 29, 2010 in Polls

Please take a minute to cast your vote.  We’re preparing for a comprehensive review of the top vote-getters in this category.

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iPhone 4 Bumpers – CAUTION

Posted: June 25, 2010 in Accessories

Just in case you stood in line and got your new bling-ringer iPhone 4 (or were smart enough to pre-order), you may want to hold off on buying one of the Apple “Bumpers” (edge covering “case”) sold at Apple stores.  While they look nice and feel good in the hand, three of the cutout areas suffer from a design flaw that keep the user from being able to easily access the headphone jack, dock connector, and the silent mode switch.

Essentially, instead of using a tapered entry cutout that guides the plug into the slot (say, 45 degrees), the cutout opening is a squared edge (90 degrees).  What’s worse is that the straight-in cutouts are only 1mm larger than your plug or connector, requiring a perfectly straight push-in (which is pretty hard to do unless you’re really concentrating).  In fact, I couldn’t use the first audio plug in the headphone jack that I tried…or my car mounts (that feature dock connectors)…or my stereo’s ipod dock…and I had no luck switching the iPhone into silent mode without using a fingernail (and I can’t typically perform that trick without removing my iPhone from my pants pocket).  This means that:

  • Many audio plugs won’t fit through the bumper’s headphone jack opening
  • Many dock connecter bases won’t fit through the bumper slot
  • Unless people’s fingers are as small as an infant’s, they won’t be able to switch silent mode on/off without using a fingernail…making it impossible to perform the “quick silence” move while the iPhone is in your pocket (and mine is pocketed most of the time).

So, until further notice of a newer iPhone 4 Bumper model being made available, I’d steer clear of this product.   I’m returning mine.

Most likely you’re here because you’re a little like me…a gadget geek.  If you’re in denial, or just an aspiring device connoisseur, I have some good news:  there really is a solution to help you manage all of your devices when you need to have your equipment at hand, but not in your hand.  Introducing the ProClip family of device mounting solutions!

As discussed on their website,

ProClip USA, Inc., headquartered in Chicago, Illinois, is the exclusive North American distributor of ProClip vehicle communication accessories. ProClip products are manufactured in Karlsborg, Sweden by Brodit AB, a company that was established in 1983 to provide communication device mounting solutions for vehicle interiors.

Before we get into the details of this review, we want to answer a couple of key questions that you may be pondering:

Q:  What sets the ProClip product line apart?
A:  It’s the only product line that makes custom-designed mounts for nearly every vehicle make & model.  It’s also the only company that makes specifically molded device holders for nearly every device made.  Additionally, all of the parts are interchangeable, leaving you with an infinite number of custom configurations to meet your varied and changing needs.  Oh, and if that weren’t enough, every product we tested was of the highest quality and easy to install.

Q:  Who is likely to need ProClip products?
A:  Anybody who: 1) has been sorely disappointed with with quality of other mounting products, 2) is unwilling to settle for cheaply-made products, 3) is the owner of one or more devices that require hands-free use,  4) anyone living in Minnesota and/or California who drives a car (MN and CA law forbids the use of window-mounted device holders), and 5) anyone who might utilize these products in a variety of vehicles or settings.

The ProClip site is very useful in helping you identify which mounts and holders you need.  It is truly mind-boggling to realize that you can outfit all of your vehicles and devices in about 10 minutes of shopping.  If you decide to place an order, you’ll want to do a little prep ahead of time.  Make a list of all your device model numbers, vehicles (make/model/year) and also think through other places where you envision using your devices in a hands-free manner.  In addition to offering table-top stands and other non-vehicle mounts (to be reviewed in part 2 of this review), ProClip offers convenient vehicle mounts for:

  • The dash area to the left of the steering wheel
  • The main dash/vent area
  • A second dash area (in some vehicles)
  • The console area between the front seats

With that said, here is a look at my devices, vehicles, and the ProClip products that I ordered to meet my needs:

Devices:

  • iPhone 3G
  • Samsung cell phone
  • Garmin Nuvi GPS
  • iPod Nano

Locations:

  • 2001 Ford Windstar
  • Honda Civic
  • Home & office work areas
  • Church worship team (using my iPhone & the ThumbJam app)

ProClip parts:

  • Vehicle dashboard mounts (for the Ford & Honda)
  • One extension plate (for the Ford vent area)
  • Male “move clips” for the device holders
  • Female “move clips” for the mounts
  • Device-specific holders (I opted for the swivel models)

Before installation I had to decide if I wanted to screw the mounting plates to the “Move Clips” or affix them with the supplied two-sided tape.  I’m big on “undo” options, so I opted for using the supplied screws.  This added a little bit of time, but the the following configuration only took me about 30 minutes to install in our van:

The phone and iPod Nano are connected using the “Move Clip” system (ProClip’s quick-release solution, allowing you to securely and quickly store and/or move your devices.  Here is a close-up of the vent-mount which attached into the seams on my dash area:

The lower mount (holding the iPod Nano) has a nice gap underneath that makes for a nice cord channel or storage area for a wound-up cord (in this picture I was using a tape deck adapter which allows you to listen to audio out of a headphone jack via the cord).  Notice that each of these items features an adjustable ball joint for easy adjustment for achieving the perfect viewing angle.

With just a quick adjustment, I can swap the iPod and the phone after rerouting the cord.  The mounting brackets also allow you to to wind the cord around them, thus keeping cords out of the way and de-cluttering the dash.  Here is the iPod Nano in the horizontal position (a.k.a. “Cover Flow” mode).

My wife drives this vehicle most of the time, but when I’m driving I’ll attach my iPhone holder so I can use my iPhone for calls and audio.

Here I’m using the adjustable iPhone holder which is made for an iPhone when it’s in a case.  In the above photo I don’t have a case on it, so it fits a little loose.  More pictures of the padded holder (for a “naked” iPhone) and the adjustable holder (when in a case) will be shown below.

Before going to my Honda, notice that the iPod Nano holder is padded with a flocked fabric material:

Although it appears that the holder (shown above) is mounted directly to the vehicle’s surface, it’s actually a rotated picture of the holder resting on my Honda’s dash.  I simply took this picture to show the detail of the padded holder.  Since the iPod Nano has a matte painted surface, I felt most comfortable using the padded holder instead of the standard unpadded model.

If you needed to mount a holder in a place where a mount is not available (or in a less conspicuous place), you could do so using the double sided tape, or you might opt for velcro (not supplied) if you so desire.

Now for the Honda.  My setup is a little simpler here since I use my iPhone for phone, GPS, and iPod functions.  So, I only had to decide which kind of holder(s) to use for the iPhone.  Since I always want to be charging my iPhone in the car, I opted for the “Pass-thru” model which features a dock connector at the bottom of the holder, allowing me to keep my cord connected to the holder at all times.  This eliminates unnecessary wear on my phone’s dock connector and makes for easy one-handed storage and removal.

Here are two close-ups of the pass-through model that’s adjustable for use with an iPhone in a case:

After using the pass-through models for several months, I don’t think I’d ever opt for a model without this feature.  Besides the one-handed operation benefits discussed above, the pass-through connector serves as a bottom “stop”, preventing me from accidentally pushing the device too hard and through the holder (and onto the floor).  To adjust the holder width and tension, you loosen the four hand screws on the back, insert the cased iPhone into the holder, squeeze the sides of the holder, then tighten the screws.

ProClip offers the padded and standard models.  I chose the padded one (for use with my iPhone when it’s without a case) and the adjustable non-padded one (for use with my iPhone when it’s in my Contour Case).

Here are some pictures of the entire setup (connected to a “Soundfly BT Ultimate” bluetooth/FM transmitter by Satechi).

The shortcomings are/were few and far between:

  • The more I use the ball-joint swivels, the more they swivel holders loosen and require slight tightening with a screwdriver.  I now keep a  screwdriver in the car for such adjustments.
  • I also noticed that the Contour Case for my iPhone is shaped in a way that makes the front-to-back alignment on the dock a little tricky.  I have to pull back on the top of my iPhone as I push it down over the dock connector.  This isn’t a big deal now that I know what to do.  When I use the padded iPhone holder (with the naked iPhone) it’s not an issue since the shape and thickness of the case doesn’t affect the connector alignment.
  • One of my “Move Clip” packages came with the wrong size screw, so I decided to use the adhesive instead of calling customer service for replacement screws.
  • While you get what you pay for, the cost for this entire system might be prohibitive for some people.  Not everybody shares my purchase philosophy: “Buy top quality products if you want top-quality experiences.”

Conclusion:
If you have a variety of devices and need to use them in a hands-free manner…and you want them to last as long as you have your devices, you should strongly consider buying the ProClip products.  As a long-time user of tech gadgets, and having spent too much money on cheap, poorly-designed, and unattractive mounts, the ProClip website and products are a gold-mine for me.

  • PROS:
    • Quality design and construction
    • Versatility and adaptability, especially with “Move Clips”
    • Easy-to-use website for ordering
    • Easy and quick to install
    • Extremely sturdy mounting
    • No permanent damage to your car’s interior
    • Extremely sturdy and secure mounting (unlike wobbly goose-neck products)
    • Attractive appearance
  • CONS:
    • Needs occasional adjustments
    • Slight mis-alignment on adjustable pass-thru iPhone holder when using a Contour Case
    • Price (one of the more expensive options out there)

iPhone911 Rating:

COMING SOON:
“Review: ProClip Mounting Solutions – Pt. 2” which will focus on ProClip’s table stands and other holders

So you’ve found us.  Excellent.  Now, let’s get down to business.

You’re probably here because you’re thinking of buying an iPhone, iPad, an app, or an accessory.  We’ll be offering advice on selecting the right Apple device for you in the future, but for now we’re going to assume that many of you already own one and need some help weeding out junk apps and worthless accessories.  We can help.

Thanks for stopping by.  We’re looking forward to earning your trust…a browser bookmark…and the opportunity to learn from you!