One of the longstanding frustrations with the iPad Pro's Smart Keyboard is that it contains no place for holding the Apple Pencil. Last year Apple released separate accessories – the Leather Sleeve and Pencil Case – that could house the Pencil, but many iPad users still wanted something simpler: a Smart Keyboard with Pencil holder.
Twelve South, with its new PencilSnap accessory, appears to have made that possible.
The PencilSnap is a small leather holster, very similar to Apple's own Pencil Case, but with one significant difference: it includes magnets for attaching to other accessories, including Apple's Smart Keyboard and Smart Cover, and Twelve South's own SurfacePad. While we haven't been able to test the product yet, Twelve South stresses the strength of the magnets and tight grip of the Pencil holder – in other words, they're confident the PencilSnap won't get easily disconnected from its attachment point, nor will the Pencil come loose when you don't want it to.
PencilSnap is available for $29.99 in two colors: Black and Camel. If it works as advertised, it may well become the new go-to Pencil storage solution for iPad Pro users.
The ElevationDock 4 is an unassuming collection of smart design decisions that together make it my favorite iPhone dock. The device, which comes in black or white, performs well as a place to charge my iPhone, which isn’t remarkable by itself. What distinguishes the ElevationDock though, is the little touches that combine to make it more useful than other docks.
For each of us, iOS devices or Macs dominate our day-to-day computing, but they don’t tell the full story. Whether it’s a battery pack to keep a device charged, the latest game console for kicking back and relaxing, or a comfortable chair for sitting at a desk while writing, we use a wide variety of other products for work and play. So, with 2017 coming to a close, we compiled a list of our favorite gear and accessories that we used this past year.
The market for smart home devices continues to heat up with new products and updates being released almost every day. Of note today are a trio of announcements:
- Nest released its Thermostat E smart thermostat, a cheaper version of its flagship product made of white plastic with a frosted glass surface. The new device begins shipping tomorrow for $169, a nice price reduction for anyone who want a thermostat that fades into the background more than the $249 Nest thermostat does. Unfortunately, neither device supports HomeKit.
- Philips Hue Starter Kits gained another bulb. Instead of three bulbs, the starter kits now comes with four bulbs for $99 (White), $149 (White Ambiance), and $199 (Color) plus a hub, making them a slightly better value for anyone who want to get started with lighting automation. Philips is also adding the ability to sync with movies, games, and music soon.
- Libratone, announced Alexa and AirPlay 2 support for its Zipp and Zipp Mini WiFi and Bluetooth-enabled home speakers. Unlike the Echo, Alexa can only be invoked by pressing a button on the Zipp speakers, which do not have a persistent microphone connection. AirPlay 2 is expected to be added as a firmware update after iOS 11 is released by Apple.
Nick Statt of The Verge has a profile of Anker, the company known for selling quality portable chargers, USB charging hubs, cables and other items for reasonable prices. Anker, founded by a former Google software engineer, is a great example of a company that has found a niche that’s underserved by bigger companies like Apple and Samsung. As Statt’s profile explains, deep knowledge of how to sell through Amazon effectively combined with setting up shop in China to closely manage his supply chain helped founder Steven Yang build Anker into a trusted brand.
Anker’s PowerIQ technology has helped too:
Most Anker charging products have one signature: the PowerIQ logo. Launched in 2013, the company’s proprietary charging standard is now present on nearly all of its batteries and wall plugs. The technology, carried by a small chip inside each charger, identifies whatever device is being plugged in, be it an iPhone 7 Plus, Google Pixel, or an iPad Pro 9.7-inch, in order to detect and deliver the maximum current the product allows. Anker says the technology can shave hours off the amount of time it takes to reach a full charge. A next-generation version of the chip, called PowerIQ 2.0, is slated to start shipping in new Anker charging products this month, allowing for smaller and lighter accessories.
Earlier this year, I bought Anker’s largest portable battery to power my Nintendo Switch and Apple gear on long flights and extended trips. The PowerIQ feature is fantastic, letting my family and me simultaneously plug into one big battery to charge multiple devices quickly. Looking through my Amazon order history, that’s just the tip of the iceberg, though. A couple of other recent additions are a 60-watt USB-A and USB-C wall charger and USB-C to USB 3.0 braided cables. Anker has become my go-to brand for cables and charging accessories, and Statt’s profile makes it easy to understand why.
Apple device accessory maker Pad & Quill debuted the Leather Apple Pencil Grip that does more than just help you grip your Pencil. The grip, which is made of American full-grain leather, comes in three colors: Whiskey, Chestnut, and Galloper Black (think brown, dark brown, and black) and features a ‘hand finished baseball stitch closure’ that uses parachute-grade nylon stitching.
Pad & Quill’s accessory consists of two pieces. The first is the grip part, which slides over the barrel of the Apple Pencil near the point. The second sits near the top of the Apple Pencil and incorporates a clip and tethered holder for the cap. So, in addition to presumably making the Apple Pencil more comfortable to grip, the top portion of the grip lets you clip your Apple Pencil to a pocket or notebook and should keep it from rolling off tables. Also, the leash means the cap will stay nearby when you are charging the Apple Pencil, making it harder to lose.
Pad & Quill’s leather grip aims to solve three of the most common complaints I’ve heard about the Apple Pencil. If you find the Apple Pencil uncomfortable to grip, don’t like how it is prone to rolling off tables, or worry about losing the cap, Pad & Quill’s Leather Apple Pencil Grip is worth considering. The grip is available for pre-order only from Pad & Quill for $49.95.
Nice announcements from Gamevice today: the company is rolling out updated MFi controllers across the entire line-up that are lighter, add Lightning charging, and have better analog sticks. Jordan Kahn, writing for 9to5Mac:
Today the company is introducing a new version of the controller specifically designed for iPhone 7 and 7 Plus with a built-in headphone jack and a Lightning port for charging. It also has second-generation controllers launching today and later this month for iPads.
While the new headphone jack and Lightning port for charging are the standout features of the new iPhone 7 and 7 Plus controller, the company notes that it also upgraded the thumb sticks and made the controller lighter by removing the battery and using the iPhone to draw power.
I've been using my original Gamevice for the iPhone 6s Plus (which also works with the 7 Plus) to play the majority of console-type games I have on my iPhone (I'm about to start a new playthrough of Final Fantasy VII and I've played a few Super Nintendo games with Provenance). I like the device a lot and Lightning charging seems like a convenient addition. I'm going to consider the second-generation version for the 12.9-inch iPad Pro whenever it becomes available in Italy, too.
Having an Apple Watch on your wrist is not ideal for some activities. Twelve South introduced an interesting solution at CES today. The ActionSleeve is an armband for the Apple Watch. Slide your Apple Watch out of its band, pop it into the ActionSleeve, and you’re ready to go.
The ActionSleeve is already available to order on TwelveSouth’s website for $29.99. For anyone who participates in an activity where having something on your wrist is an issue, the ActionSleeve could enable fitness tracking that wasn’t possible before. For others, the fact that the ActionSleeve makes it hard (if not impossible) to glance at real-time statistics while you are exercising may be a nonstarter.
Personally, I’m intrigued. I like collecting fitness data while out on a run or walk, but I sometimes find the availability of glanceable information a distraction. Putting my Apple Watch in an armband has the appeal of enabling me to collect data that I can review later without the distraction of real-time statistics.
We’ll have more on the ActionSleeve soon. In the meantime, here is TwelveSouth’s promo video for the product:
I've been carrying Studio Neat's new Canopy, a combination keyboard case and iPad stand, for about a week. It's the first time Apple's Smart Keyboard has been off my iPad Pro since I got it, but I haven't missed it at all. There are still certain situations where I prefer the Smart Keyboard, but I love having the option to work on my iPad with Apple's Magic Keyboard when it suits my needs. So, while I won't be switching to a Magic Keyboard/Canopy combination full-time, it's a choice I'm glad to have and one I will use frequently.