Monday, July 1, 2024

This wireless CarPlay adapter actually works

Color me both surprised and delighted by how fast and easy it was to get this adapter installed and working. That's not at all what I've experienced with other CarPlay adapters.

My 2017 Hyundai supports wired CarPlay but it may have been the last model year that could not be upgraded for wireless. 

Over the past few months, I tried three different wireless adapters. Each dongle dangled the promise of working with my car and all of them failed, even after communicating with their support services.

Installing this device was clean and simple. I plugged the USB cable into the outlet I had used for wired CarPlay, checked my phone to see that the dongle appeared as a WiFi option, then paired the dongle with my phone in Bluetooth options.

Boom! I had CarPlay as an option on the car’s main menu. And now it appears immediately every time I start the car, even when my phone is in my pocket. No fiddling with the phone or car's setup. 

I'm thinking about taking this dongle with me when I travel and trying in it a rental. If I do, I'll post an update.  

Thursday, June 6, 2024

Folding charger is great for travel

I've spent several years searching for a travel charging station that would let me get rid of all the cables that clutter my travel backpack. This may be the right one.

The Gowatt Snap Charger Optimal is designed to charge an iPhone, an Apple Watch and an Airpod wireless case all at the same time. 

In its traveling mode, the charger is about the same size as my iPhone 15: about 6 inches long, 3 inches wide and less than 1 inch thick. It unfolds to reveal a Magsafe holder, a pop-out shelf for the Apple Watch and a disk for charging the Airpods case (or perhaps a second phone). 

In addition to the convenient size, I like how the Magsafe panel has a strong magnet that holds my phone in vertical or horizontal mode. The horizontal is especially good for video calling, video watching or nighttime use when the phone turns into a clock.

The stand comes with a USB-C to USB-C cable, an adapter and nice-looking zipper carrying case. The system delivers 15 watts of charging power. That may not be enough for fast charging but quite sufficient for overnight use.

Sunday, June 2, 2024

This cable has tips for all reasons

There are so many portable devices in my world and they all seem to need different cables and plugs. My iPhone wants USB-C, my iPad uses Lightning and I have several gadgets that still require a cable with a micro USB tip.  

Too many cables and too many tips.

That's why I was attracted to the Statik Pro cable. It's a single cable that will charge all of those devices. One end has a full-sized USB tip that slides off to reveal a C tip inside. The other end has a magnetized socket that can accommodate three different tips to connect to a USB-C, Lightning or micro USB port. 

The socket end lights up when it's connected. It also rotates 180 degrees to help guard against damage. And if you bump the connected end, the magnetized tip separated from the socket instead of bending or breaking the tip.

So far, this cable is performing as advertised. I've tried it on a variety of devices and all were promptly refueled. The cable supports high-speed charging if you configure it with C tips at both ends and use a 100-watt charging base.

My only concern is the potential to lose one or more of the tips. They are tiny and a bit slippery. Statik's solution is a rubber zip wrap that has storage slots for each of the three tips. I can be a bit of a butterfingers guy at times, so I'm hoping for the best.

Friday, May 31, 2024

Bedside charger adds a clock

I'm always on the lookout for a charger that supports multiple devices and travels well. The Hatalkin Foldable Wireless Charger looked like a good prospect.

It has spots for a phone, for an Apple Watch and for Airpods in their charging case. It also has a feature I haven't seen on other charging docks: a digital display that shows the time, temperature and humidity ringed by a soft light. 

That's pretty nice for a bedside setup. In my tests, all of my gadgets were fully charged overnight while I slept. But this charger will not be my regular travel companion. 

Why not? One reason it's a little too complicated. And while I appreciate seeing the time display, I don't know why I would care about the indoor temperature or humidity. 

I would also prefer to have a Magsafe phone charger and maybe a USB plug so I could also charge my iPad. But my biggest issue is this charger is just too bulky to travel. Yes, it folds down like a clamshell, but there's still lots of clam left over. Compressed, it measures 5 by 7 inches and one inch thick. 

There are lots of travel charging options that don't require that much space in my backpack so this one is likely to be given a permanent bedside home in my guest room. 

Tuesday, May 14, 2024

Bike mount keeps phone safe and secure

When I go on bike trips with a local cycling club, I like having my phone easily available. I use it to record and map our trips, play music or podcasts and sometimes take photos or record videos while we're rolling. 

Until recently, I used a rubbery mount that strapped onto my handlebars and gripped my phone a its corners. The strap was hard to tighten and the corner grips often blocked points on the phone screen that I needed to touch. It generally matched the pain in my butt.

The Miricase mount isn't perfect but it's a whole lot better than that rubber mount. It has a jaw-shaped base that clamps tightly to my handlebars. Like many car mounts, it uses a ball and socket to connect to a clamp system for the phone. 

The clamp has a two-level locking system to keep the phone safely in place and the ball joint lets you adjust the clamp to get the face of your phone exactly where you want it. I have easy access to the full screen and I can touch it anywhere without making it move. I especially like how easy it is to tilt the angle of the phone so I can capture photos - or video like the one below - of what's in front of me. 

The mount is a bit on the chunky side and I guess that's the price you pay for the safety and security that comes with getting a tight hold on your phone. Being able to shoot video in horizontal mode would also be nice but that's probably too much to ask. I'm just happy to have my phone safely at my fingertips so I can concentrate on enjoying the ride. 

Wednesday, May 1, 2024

A comfy and affordable Apple Watch band

Every time I visit an Apple store, I'm drawn to the display of Apple watchbands. I like to touch the braided solo loop band and imagine what it would feel like on my wrist. Then I see the $99 price tag and I start heading for the exit.

I was very pleased to find that the Omecky watchband has captured much of the appeal of Apple's loop at a far more affordable price. I've been wearing it for a couple of weeks. It looks sharp and feels just fine.

The Omecky band is not a single loop made for my exact wrist size. Instead, it has a metal clasp that that allows you to adjust it for any size from 38mm to 49mm for men or women. The braided strands are stretchy enough that I can slip my watch on and off without loosening the clasp. Once it's set, the clasp blends nicely with the band and hasn't caused me any discomfort.

The design of the band requires it to double back on itself through a loop at one end. The plastic connectors are slightly visible so that's not perfection, but their color matches the color of the braided fabric so that's good enough for me.    

Monday, April 15, 2024

Lock may have a fatal flaw

I have installed several keyless smart locks, including the one on my home's front door. I thought this keyless lock would work well on the door to a basement storage room that houses my HVAC along with a few valuable items.   

Installation started well. The fold-out instruction sheet had good illustrations and clearly-written text. The latch fit easily into the circular opening that held my standard doorknob. But then things went downhill quickly. 

The lock kits comes with a metal back plate for the inside panel, the one that hold the batteries that power the lock. The backplate shown in the instructions looked vaguely similar to the one in the kit, so I figured it was close enough. And the instructions show two screw holes for attaching the metal plate to the door - but no screws were provided.

I found a couple of screws in my workshop that would do the job, drilled a hole for the screw above the latch. Then I discovered that the hole for the second screw below the latch lined up with the large opening for latch. In other words, there would be no wood to screw into. 

The metal plate seemed reasonably secure with just one screw so I pushed ahead. Then I discovered more problems. The kit includes three sets of machine screws for attaching the inner panel and battery pack to the metal plate. The screws are three different lengths, but even the shortest screws were too long for the threaded posts on the metal plate.   

And even if I found replacements for those screws, I had serious doubts that the whole setup would work. When I tested the outside and inside, neither one moved the latch. That looked like a fatal flaw from my point of view, so everything went back in the box.

Tuesday, March 26, 2024

Gooseneck tripod is good for product photos

When I post something for sale online, I like to include a few nicely-staged photos. Often the best angles for those pics are ones that are shot directly overhead, and they can be difficult to do. I have to lean out over a table or counter top while trying to see the image on my phone screen without casting a shadow or moving the phone when I click the shutter.

A few months ago, I got a phone camera mount that clamps onto the edge of a table. The concept was okay but the materials were flimsy, like the cheap desk lamp that I had back in the 80s. 

This gooseneck mount on a tripod is far more stable and useful. The tripod's long legs sit flat on the floor and provide a good counterweight anchor for the clamp at the end of the extended gooseneck, whether it's holding a standard pocket phone or a 12.9-inch iPad. The tripod tubing is made of sturdy metal and can be extended from 18 inches all the way to 80 inches.

The clamp at the end of the gooseneck is adjusted using a threaded thumbscrew, which I think makes for a more solid grasp than a spring-loaded clamp. If you disagree, you can replace the clamp with your own. The kit also comes with a remote shutter release that will work with iOS or Android devices. That should help me get clean and clear photos.

There are other ways you can adapt this tripod for different uses. For example, the product comes with a ball head so you can get a more precise angle for your photo. There's also a screw post where the gooseneck connects to the tripod. Remove the neck and you can mount a heavier object. I tried it first with a two-pound floodlight, then with a three-pound SLR camera.

Overall, I was very please with the quality and versatility of this device. I plan to give it lots of jobs.  

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