Saturday, July 29, 2023

Adapter turns USB-C into Lightning

It’s clear that the USB-C standard is taking over the world. Everything from charging blocks to rechargeable flashlights seem to need a USB-C cable. And there’s a very good chance that the next iPhone will have a USB-C socket.

So now that I’ve stocked up with a bunch of new USB-C cables, I find myself rummaging around for a cable with Lightning plug. I got this TechMatte adapter because it looked like a good way to bridge the gap between Lightning and USB-C.

This device is a is a one-inch-long adapter with a Lightning plug at one end and female USB-C port on the other. Attach it to a cable with a male C plug and now you have a cable for all this i devices: iPhone, iPad, AirPods and so on.

The one problem I’ve had in the past with adapters like this one is they are so small they are easy to lose. TechMatte solves that problem by providing a silicon holder that attaches to a cable. This makes the adapter even more useful. Although the adapter can be purchased in a 3-pack, you only get two of the silicon holders. I have no idea why.

Thursday, June 22, 2023

A charger for MagSafe phones

When I travel, I always have a power bank, an iPhone cable and a strong rubber band in my backpack. Why a rubber band? I use it to attach the charger and cable to my phone to create one ugly but manageable brick. 

With the AMEGAT magnetic charger, I don’t need the rubber band or even the cable. The charger and the back of my phone come together to make a solid and snug connection and start the charging process. 

If your phone has a case, it will need to have an embedded MagSafe metal ring to make the connection.

When my phone at at 12% power, the charger took it to 33% after 24 minutes and to 53%  after one hour. Not especially speedy, but I’d call it satisfactory. The charger is listed charge at 30 watts with 10000mAh capacity. That’s less than the 20000mAh capacity that is common for many other portable chargers but strong enough to give an iPhone 14 almost 2 full charges. 

The AMEGAT is a little too thick and heavy (7.5oz) to fit comfortably in a pocket when it’s paired with a phone, but it acquits itself nicely as a tabletop phone stand. An embedded finger pops out from the bottom of the case to prop up the phone in a vertical or horizontal position. 

The charger has a single USB-C plug that can be used to refuel its battery while it’s charging your phone. Or you can use it to simultaneously charge a second device like AirPods or Apple Watch. The cable that comes with the charger is USB C to USB C, so you’ll need a Lightning cable for other refuel Apple gear. 

Overall, the AMEGAT delivers on its primary goal: providing a wireless charge to an Apple phone. No pesky cables - or rubber bands - required.

Saturday, June 3, 2023

Starkou combines tripod and selfie stick

When I shoot video at an event, I take along two important items. One is an extendable selfie stick, to get my cell phone camera above a crowd. The other is a tripod to get a steady view of the action, often using a second camera. 

The Starkou Tripod Selfie Stick is a highly-portable device that can do either job well. And you get a wireless remote shutter trigger with the package.

The Starkou stick is made to be carried in a backpack or shoulder bag. It's too big and heavy to put in a pocket on your jacket or jeans. When fully collapsed it weights a little under 1 pound in an 11.5-inch tube. But that heft is one of its advantages. I've used cheap selfie sticks that can't hold at full extension and flimsy tripods that easily fall over. This one stands firm.

Using the Starkou required a bit of practice. To unlock the tripod legs, you first press button at the base of the tube. And it has to be pretty hard press to get the legs to slide down an interior tube and snap into place like an umbrella.

The clamp that hold a phone is made of strong plastic with rubber cushions at each end of the clamp. It rotates between vertical and wide-screen positions and holds each position without lock nuts. And the outer caps of the clamp each have a cold shoe mount where you can attack a microphone or fill light.

I was most impressed with the extension tubing that emerges in eight segments to a full 60 inches - almost to my chin. The segments are tucked snugly inside each other, so some muscle is required to get them out. But they stayed firm without any twisting or locking maneuver on my part.

Attached to the outer shell of the Starkou is a thumb-sized Bluetooth remote. Once paired with my phone, I could take single photos or start and stop video recording without touching the phone. I snapped several shots of birds dining at my back porch feeder while I was inside the house peeking out a window.

Tuesday, May 23, 2023

A pro-level rig for phone videography

A few years ago, I ordered an inexpensive cage-style phone video rig after my iPhone slipped out of my hand several times during a video shoot. The rectangular holder provided side grips that put an end to the dropsies and I expanded it using velcro strips and twisty wires to add a charging block, a light box and a microphone. 

It was an ugly kludge, but it worked.

I would have much preferred this this ULANZI Universal Phone Video Rig Kit if it had been available back then. It's made of aluminum with threaded holes for standard attachments like lights and mics plus a second set of jaws to hold a USB charger. No velcro or rubber bands required. 

And just about everything on this rig is adjustable. There are 12 threaded holes and four cold shoe slots on all four sides of the center cage, giving you a variety of location options to mount  multiple gadgets above below the cage with more holes and shoes on the handles. You can build your own custom rig with the phone mounted for horizontal or vertical shooting. 

While the handles let you chase the action, a fully-loaded rig will weigh almost 3 lbs. That's enough to wear out both arms and put one-handed use out of reach for most people. I think it's a better fit for use with a tripod where it could hold larger light bars and a heavier mic.  

My other concern is the clip for the charging block. I have several chargers and only one will work with this rig. The others are too small or too wide. But that's a minor gripe and one that won't stop me from consistently using what is clearly a professional-level cage.

Thursday, April 13, 2023

Folding 3-in1 charger is a good traveller

When I travel, I take along my main Apple devices: an iPhone 14 Pro, AirPods 2 and an Apple Watch. And that usually meant taking along a tangle of charging cables and power plugs.

That changed when I got the Yellami charging platform. It offers a far less complicated solution: a fold-out gadget that takes up a minimal amount of travel space while charging all three items from a single cable.

The travel charger had no trouble juicing iPhone in its Apple Magsafe case, boosting the phone from 70% to 98% in about 45 minutes. And it recharged all of my devices overnight. I might note that the phone platform gets warm to the tough while charging.   

The design of the charging platform, with magnets in each segment tied together by rubber connectors, lets you fold the charge to accommodate one or two devices if you choose. The charger can be laid flat, with each segment in a row, or folded into a pyramid shape that could provide a better view of the phone face while it’s charging. But I couldn’t make that setup work. Either the phone is too heavy or the magnets are too weak to keep the triangle from collapsing. 

But that's not important to me. I’m just glad that the charger does its job and that I have a better single cable option for travel charging.    

Tuesday, February 21, 2023

Momax GaN charger offers speed and power

By now I’ve learned that not all device chargers are created equal. Use the wrong base and my iPhone will sit for hours before it’s fully charged or my iPad won’t charge at all. The problem lies in the amount of power that is delivered through the charger, the little block that you plug into the wall or the strip of USB outlets. 

The Momax USB C Charging Station promises to fix that by pumping up to 100 watts through a compact case with outlets for four cables. The charger is among a new group of charging units that use gallium nitride in place of the more common silicon. GaN chargers are faster and more powerful that ordinary chargers. And they’re able to refuel multiple devices, including Apple laptops.

Charging times for an iPhone 14 vary according to the power of the charging device: about 2 hours for a 30-watt charger, 3 hours for a 20-watt charger and 4 hours for the old 5-watt chargers that we all have around the house. 

To see just how fast the Momax charger is, I drained the batteries in my iPhone 14 Pro and a 2019 iPad Air, then plugged both into the USB-C ports. After just 10 minutes, the phone had a 25% charge and the tablet was up to 14%. Forty-five minutes later, the phone had 82% power and the tablet 63%. Both were fully charged after about an hour and a half. 

I like the performance of the Momax and I like its price: $49.99 on Amazon. Apple sells a GaN charger on its website that is configured just like the Momax - two USB-C ports and two USB-A ports - but its price is more than twice the cost of the Momax. 

Wednesday, January 4, 2023

A multi-charger-power bank combo

When I travel, all my Apple gears comes with me, including an iPhone 14, Apple Watch, iPad and Airpods Pro. Now I have a device that will charge all of those gadgets at the same time, even when I'm not plugged into AC power.

It's called the VanSmaGo Magsafe Charging Station.  It's designed to be both an every day charging station for your desk or bedside table or a wireless battery pack when you're the road. 

The VanSmaGo charger has a pleasant and efficient design. The panel that contains the Magsafe charging ring can be used when it's fully horizontal or tilted up to display the phone's face and reveal the earpod charging spot underneath. A rotating arm behind the phone panel pops out to hold and charge an Apple Watch. 

And what about the iPad? You can charge it by plugging a cable into the USB outlet on the side of the charger. Just be sure you use an Apple-approved cable. A couple of cheap cables that I tried would charge my iPad Mini but not a full-sized iPad Air. In all, the VanSmaGo can charge five different devices at once, even if it's not connected to AC power.

A display panel on the front of the charger lights up to show icons for each of the devices that are      drawing power from the internal battery. It also displays a number that tell the pwecentage of available battery power. Using just the battery, the VanSmaGo took my iPhone from 86% to 99% in 40 minutes while drawing the battery down from a full charge to 55%. I think that's a pretty decent performance. 

The charger also has a USB-C port that's labelled IN/OUT. It takes incoming power as the front display ticks off the percentage of stored energy on its way to 100. As an output source, the C port charged my phone and iPad but not the tray that charges batteries for my action cam.

My primary complaint about the charger is the precarious way that it holds my phone when the MagSafe panel is in its near vertical position. If the phone does not have a case, the MagSafe ring has enough magnetic pull to keep the phone in place. But with my Apple-brand MagSafe case, the phone has to rest on the lower lip of the ridge around the camera array. And while it will charge in that position, if the phone is slightly jostled, it breaks the connection. 

Nevertheless, I am impressed enough to make this charger my new go-to travel device.

Monday, December 5, 2022

The right cable for my second monitor

I assumed one video cable would be just as good as another. That’s what I was thinking when I connected two monitors to my new M1 Mac Mini. 

I plugged my main monitor, a 32-inch curved Dell, into the Mini’s HDMI output and all was good. Then I connected a second monitor using the Mini’s USB-C port and all was not close to good.

The second monitor lit up, but only after nearly a full minute of blinking and struggling to make a connection. 

Must be a faulty cable, I thought, so I tried a couple of other HDMI cables. Same result. Then I bought a new HDMI to USB-C cable -- yes, a cheap one - and the monitor still had the jitters. 

At that point, I decided the problem must be in the monitor and I would just have to live with it. So I did, for more than a year.

Then I saw the TECHTOBOX cable and decided to try a cable that was advertised as being actually designed to handle high-speed 4K content. Now I have a secondary monitor that springs to life maybe two seconds after the main screen, and with no blinking or flashing. I also tried it with my MacBook Air and again got an instant display of a crisp, clear image that mirrored the built-in screen.

The cable appears to be well constructed with braided shielding, gold-plated connectors and metal tips with rubber protector sleeves. I don't know what's inside the cable that allows it to deliver a signal that doesn't cause my monitor to sputter and hiccup and, frankly, I don't care all that much. I'm just glad it works as advertised.  

And now that I have a second monitor that no longer acts like it’s about the die, I'm thinking of getting another one of these cables to use with my portable gear.

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