Happy iMas (Part 2)

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Native Union - Gripster

Price: $67



The latest entry in a category we’re come to refer to as ‘twirly iPhone clamps’, Gripster is a thin stiff plastic backplate for your iPad 2,3 or 4 with a hefty rubberised grip attached. This takes the form or a D, with the straight side attached to the backplate on a pivot, so the curved part hinges out to form a stand.

The hinges is stiff enough to hold it steady in whatever position you choose, and since the grip also rotates through 360 degrees, you can prop your iPad at pretty much any angle, in port trait or landscape. Some configurations are more stable than others, but you’ll get the hang of it. When you don’t have a flat surface, you can stick your hand through the D and hold the iPad yourself, much more comfortably than by gripping an edge.

The backplate is very quick and easy to attach and detach, unlike some others we’ve tried. If you use an Apple Smart Cover, Gripster doesn’t interfere with it, although in practice we found we preferred to take it off than have it flopping about. This high-lights Gripster’s one limitation, which is that it only holds the iPad in place, and doesn’t protect it, except maybe against the occasional careless corner bump.

It also lacks clever add-ons to strap the tablet to car headrests, screw it to walls and so on. But Gripster does have a unique extra trick: swung out to one side, the grip can be used as a handle to carry your iPad like a tiny briefcase. Cute.

Shiny Highly versatile *Easy to use Dull Not a protective case

Just Mobile - AluBase and AluRack

Price: $59.95 /$74.95


AluBase and AluRack

What do you do with your MacBook when you’re at your own desk? You might put it aside while you use another Mac, or hook it up to a mouse, keyboard and Thunderbolt Display. Either way, the MacBook itself becomes another piece of desk clutter, albeit a very beautiful one. Fortunately, just Mobile has come up with two practical new ways to stow it.

AluBase is a single heavy piece of aluminium that grips one edge of your MacBook and holds it perpendicular to the desk-top. It comes with soft plastic inserts specially made for Pro, Retina and Air models. There’s no fancy docking shenanigans here; if you want any cables plugged in, just plug them straight in as normal. Designed in Denmark by Jakob Wagner, it’s a beautifully simple addition to your desk that’ll leave more of it free for other kit or lovely, lovely emptiness.

 AluRack gets a bit more cunning. Supplied in two parts, it screws together through the porthole in your iMac or Apple Display’s stand (you’ll need to remove the mains plug while you fit it, which may be slightly traumatic if you switch off your iMac as rarely as we do), and its bottom lip holds your MacBook in a sort of backpack position, again protected by a soft plastic insert. Et voilà: zero desktop footprint.

If your desk backs onto a wall, the MacBook simply disappears. If you’re facing into the room, your portable is proudly displayed for all to see. Either way, it’s perfectly placed to cable up to the screen if required, or just plug into charge, while occupying no square inches of your workspace. Since the AluRack has a general purpose lip rather than a product-specific grip, you could also use it to tidy away an iPad, a portable hard disk, or any other slab-shaped accessory. And when you’re not using it, why not pop a favorite copy of MacUser there for the rest of the office to admire?

Shiny Mmm, aluminium Dull Not a docking solution

Samsung Galaxy Camera

Price: $593 /$600


Samsung Galaxy Camera

If you’re seen this unusual piece of kit advertised on TV, you’ll have recognized the Galaxy brand from Samsung’s line of Android tablets and phones. But don’t let that put you off. The Galaxy Camera takes the best features of those devices and merges them with the company’s well-regarded line of camera. The result is like using your iPhone’s camera with Apple’s Photo Stream, but more so.

With a 16 megapixel sensor and 21xoptical zoom, the Galaxy Camera comfortably beats any built-in camera, while unlike most dedicated cameras it comes with Wi-Fi and 3G support. Samsung is bundling it with a pay as you go SIM for the Three network, with the first month free, and you also get a 50GB Dropbox account free for two years. If you already have a Dropbox account (they start from free), you can use the deal to upgrade that.

The Galaxy Camera uses this connectivity to sync each picture to the cloud as soon as it’s taken. Head out for a day’s shooting, and when you get back your pictures will be ready and waiting in the Dropbox folder on your Mac.

The 3G connection also lets you post high-res pics to Facebook or Twitter, keep up to date with your email, and run Android apps – many of which match those you already know and love on iOS on the Retina sharp 4.77in touchscreen.

It’s a shame it’s not iOS, of course. But until Apple ships another camera (its most recent being the 640x480 pixel QuickTake 200 in 1977), this is the best-connected snapper you can buy.

Shiny Big zoom *Brilliant connectivity Dull Android OS * Pricey

Lenspen SideKick

Price: $14.9 /$22.4


LensPen Sidekick iPad Cleaner

LensPen Sidekick iPad Cleaner

Of all the reasons why touchscreens took so long to catch on, one is awkwardly unfashionable to mention now that they get covered in fingerprints. Not even Apple has managed to solve this. Although the display panel of every iOS device has an ‘oleophobic’ coating that’s supposed to repel the natural oils that your digits tend to transfer to it, in reality the only thing getting repelled is you, when you look at your screen and go ‘Eww.’

The SideKick promises a more effective remedy than those little cloths supplied by Apple that you lose, or even the professional option of a piece of kitchen roll with a drop of washing-up liquid on it. And the way it works is particularly appealing to us print lovers. Remember your grandma cleaning mirrors with news-paper? It works because the carbon in the ink attracts oils. So the Lenspen people have covered a cleaning pad with carbon. If you touch it, you’ll get charcoal grey fingers; to ensure you don’t have to, it’s mounted on a spring loaded hinge inside a matchbox sized case. Pull off the lid and the pad flips out.

Sidekick for Tablets

Sidekick for Tablets

At nearly 4cm square, the pad is quite big, so it’ll quickly clean an iPhone or even iPad screen. And yes, it really works: those intransigent grease marks disappear in a few seconds of rubbing, without streaks. The catch is that it only works on glass. You can use it on the back of an iPhone 4 or 4S, but definitely not on an iPhone 5’s aluminium rear panel, because it leaves a black mess that you’ll then have to wipe off. We also found it tricky to complete a cleaning operation without getting any carbon on the hand that’s holding the device. And, although the jury’s still out on this, we saw some evidence of dark residues around the crevices of our white models after we strayed from the display area. If you have blobs of foreign matter on your screen – we’re looking at you, kids – the SideKick won’t remove these, so you may need to resort to other methods when there’s more than just finger-prints to tackle.

It’s not a universal solution to grubby devices, then, but the SideKick does its intended job very effectively, leaving your iOS touchscreen as fresh as when it first came out of the box.

Shiny Compact *Replaceable pad Dull Limited applications

USB Stratocaster Guitar

Price: $239.9



USB Stratocaster Guitar

Oh, you won’t be interested in this. Your kids and your friends probably won’t like it either. It’s just an official fully functional Squier by Fender Stratocaster in a classic sunburst finish, with cables to connect it straight to your Mac or any iOS device (30-pin Dock cables included; Lightning devices will need Apple’s Lightning 30-pin adapter).

Sure, it plugs straight into your Apple machine and lets you jam with whatever audio apps you like, including GarageBand’s virtual Guitar Amps, without needing a real amp or any extra kit, so you can pick it up and play any time (there’s also a direct headphone jack, as well as a standard ¼ in passive output). But that frankly sounds boring.

Given that the whole thing is so fundamentally irrelevant to your interests, it’s hardly worth mentioning that it costs under $240 and at the time of writing is in stock at the Apple Store with free delivery. We can only apologize for wasting your time. Wait, where have you gone?

Shiny Yes Dull All right, it’s just s USB guitar. But come on...look at it!

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