Three Gifts For iPhone/iPad Fantatics

Those of us who love our iPhones and iPads also love great accessories for them. Here are three items that have been useful and enjoyable with my iOS devices.

The Altec Lansing inMotion Compact Speaker

In my quest for a portable speaker dock for my iPhone this little gem of a speaker found its way into my hands. Not the loudest but loud enough and unless you want to spend over $300 you are not going to find a better value. Great for the nightstand to play music and charge your phone or throw in some batteries and take it on the road unplugged. The unit has an attached cover that doubles as a stand making transport and setup easy. Even has sound limiting features to prevent you from blowing the speaker out. Also has a line in to hook in your laptop or iPad or other MP3 player. No remote or bluetooth but for $50 it’s a steal.

iBeats Headphones by Dr. Dre

Nothing is better than tuning out the world and really getting into your music and the iBeats Headphones do just that. A snug in-ear design keeps the outside noise out with the music crisp and clear. Deep bass and strong mid-range will let you hear music better than you have before. The high end can be a little overpowered by the bass but not a deal breaker. The mic has the volume/mute/answer toggle designed for iOS and does the job for using Siri for the iPhone 4S user or making conversation on the phone. It will take a little getting used to using the mic with the in-ear design as it will make yourself sound odd (muffle effect from in-ear placement). The sound it produces will more than make up for this. Love mine. For $100 you can too.

Solio Bolt Solar Battery Charger

Using your iOS device a lot means you will sometimes need a boost to keep going all day. This charger from Solio has a built in 2000mAh battery and two small solar panels to keep you going all day. What makes this device my favorite charger is a special Apple mode that pushes out the power at a level that you can even charge your iPad! Another bonus is that you do not need special adapters to use; just the USB cord that came with your device. Small and light enough to not take a lot of space. Great for the festivals and conferences we have in Austin to keep you mobile and charged. The solar panels are great for giving it the extra boost if you need to recharge it on the move. (Also charges via USB) Only complaint is the power button on the back of the device gets switched on easily. If left in a bag for a couple days at a conference or trip the constant switching on can cause the blinking LED to drain the battery over time if left unchecked. Great value at $70.

iTunes Match-Less

Months ago when Apple announced their “in the cloud” music service iTunes Match it was easy to be come excited for it. 25,000 songs and unlimited iTunes purchases could be stored and re-downloaded in 256k quality for $24.99 a year. It was exactly what most of us have dreamed for our iOS devices. Maybe….

After going thought what was toted as a quick and easy process of “matching” songs in the cloud for about 12 hours the ability to add songs via iTunes Match finally began. But duplicates of many of my iTunes purchases started showing up forcing me to download albums song by song instead of by album to prevent that. No big deal at first but if you have the show songs option turned on it will try to play those duplicates even if you didn’t download them, which means it will put them in the queue for downloading or start streaming it right away. Siri also tried to play the unloaded duplicate before playing the one downloaded when asked.

Yes, this was EXTREMELY annoying. You can go over your iTunes library on your home computer and delete the extras to prevent this but it shouldn’t have happened in the first place.

Another issue was artwork. It seemed a lot of the albums purchased from iTunes did not have the artwork as shown here by one of my favorite albums Horehound by The Dead Weather. This made absolutely no sense since these were still available from iTunes. Strike two.

Now to the last issues that became the real deal-breaker for me. In your iOS settings you can have it show all the songs in your library (25k of personal/unlimited iTunes purchases) or just the ones on installed on the device. Trying to play a song when not connected to WiFi was tricky as the music player treats downloaded and cloud based songs the same. Unless you are paying attention your device will keep adding more songs if you select ones not installed. Remember those duplicates? This is where it caused many a problem. Solution was to just turn off the show songs option therefore only songs installed on the iOS device would be seen. The only problem is that Siri still searches the ENTIRE library when she is asked to play a song or album. Serious slowdowns within the Siri APP(from the need to search the entire library) and the issue of the duplicate came into play again causing the music to just not play as the song was missing. Connecting to WiFi would then cause those unplayed songs to stream and download which meant duplicates.

The 256k quality conundrum. It is awesome no matter what quality the song was originally encoded on the home computer as you would get a DRM free high quality version downloaded to your iOS device from the service. Sounds awesome doesn’t it? Literally it does sound awesome but if you were like myself in having the syncing to iTunes put the songs at 128k AAC quality so it wouldn’t take to much space you were in for a shock. What took only a couple gigs of space on the iOS device was now taking 7-10 gigs of space. The whole point of the cloud is to free up space on the device right? Not so in this case.

Once you sign up and have iTunes Match setup on the devices you no longer have the ability to sync music from your computer unless you turn off the option for Match. But before you think that is a workaround that you can turn on and off to sync you would be mistaken. It deletes your entire library on the iOS device when you deactivate then reactivate the service. Your option is to sync or cloud but not both with iTunes.

Another issue that added to my frustration was playlist duplication. Two of nearly every playlist on my home computer would show up in on my iOS device but with no songs listed. Deleting the duplicate would cause the solo version on my home computer to disappear. Found this out the hard way. Lost a ton of playlists in a few swipes.

So why do iTunes Match? In its current form the issues outweighs the benefit in my opinion. Some road warriors may find the the ability to download the library of songs owned at will worthy amongst a sea of issues. Also the 256k DRM free quality is outstanding but the 128k AAC quality that was being used as default seems to sound the same at least to this user. Apple will probably address many of the problems in an update or two over the next few months. Perhaps then it will be time for me to give it a try again. Until then, keeping my music out of the cloud.

Austin City Limits Festival Amazes For A Tenth Year


Growing up in Milwaukee and having festivals such as Summerfest created a love for that atmosphere. The energy of the crowd. The music. It is invigorating. Austin is a great place to be be with three music festivals a year; SXSW, Fun Fun Fun Festival, and Austin City Limits Festival. This year’s “ACL” marked the 10th incarnation of the festival. It was one for the books.