This Post will be a little different.
I promised myself when I started this blog that I would not review tech products or offer tech hints mainly because I didn’t think I would typically have much original to say. Also, I didn’t think I would have the time to keep up with all the new tech products and adequately try them out to write accurately.
But I came across a couple of products by trial and error that I have to come to use a lot and which I thought you might find useful particularly if you want to be more mobile. The first is really a combination of products that lets me travel light and still have what I need to work. The second solves the problem of what to do when you need a speaker phone but there’s not one available.
The first item requires three things: a small Microsoft keyboard, an iPhone or other portable device and a Kanex stand.
So when I was practicing (and to some extent even today), I liked to stop in Starbucks for coffee in the morning and organize my to do list for the day, read and answer emails and catch up on social media before I got down to work. I usually didn’t know how long I would be staying—it usually wasn’t long—and I didn’t want to go to the trouble of logging in and setting up my laptop or iPad. Plus, it always seemed whenever I wanted to use either one, they were low on power. So, I had to find a plug, plug in and then get set up before I could do anything.
Since my time was usually limited, I generally would usually just use my iPhone and the small keyboard on the screen for better or worse-mostly worse.
Since my time was usually limited, I generally would usually just use my iPhone and the small keyboard on the screen for better or worse-mostly worse. On other occasions, space would be important to me—especially when travelling—and I wished I could somehow get by with just my iPhone.
One day a few months ago, I was listening to MacPower Users, Katie Floyd’s and David Sparks’ excellent podcast and heard them talking about a small foldup keyboard made by Microsoft. Now, I had tried portable keyboards before and generally found them too big (think Apple’s Magic Keyboard), too small, too flimsy or just too weird (roll up keyboard? Why?) to serve my purposes. But David talked about the Microsoft Universal Foldable Keyboard and how it was small enough to fit in your pocket but robust enough to use.
And as usual, David was right. This Bluetooth keyboard measures 5.8 x. 4.9 inches when folded. It’s only 5 mm thick and can easily fit in your pocket. The keyboard is sufficient for most type and dash purposes: you might not want to type your first great novel on it but if you had a thought for a paragraph while drinking your morning coffee it works great.
The keys are not elevated like an iPad keyboard but are more like you see with the Surface Pro keyboard. The keyboard lets you type in any application in with the vertical or landscape mode. You can pair 2 devices with the keyboard and it works with both iPhone and android devices.
The pairing and connection is simple and once paired, you just open it and it connects right back up. No fuss no muss. The keyboard is right around $100 although Amazon has them for $85. Here’s an article with a pretty good and through review.
The second piece of the combo is obvious: an iPhone or iPad or for that matter most any other tablet. But the problem with using portable keyboards with an iPhone is that you have to prop up the iPhone to get the best use with the keyboard (at least I do). And the iPhone would often slip off the prop or I couldn’t find anything to effectively prop it up against.
Here is where the Kanex Foldable iDevice Stand comes in. This is a small, hard, plastic stand with 4 different settings that holds up your device while you use a keyboard. It’s sturdy, easy to use and while its called an “iDevice” I think it works with most phones and tablets. It certainly works with the iPad mini and will even hold giant iPad if you want. Depending on where you look, it costs $10-20.
Heres what the set up of all three looks like:
As you can see, its a small portable arrangement that allows you to use your phone much like a small tablet. You can still use gestures but not the phone keypad while the MSFT keyboard is connected. The iPhone X will even recognize your face while on the stand. I can carry all three easily around in my pockets so I can use them anywhere.
I first used this arrangement when I covered the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas earlier this year. If you’ve been to this Show, you know that the events and sessions are spread out and you often need to hustle to see and attend what you want. I didn’t want to to lug everything around as I was dashing through hotels and casinos and this arrangement worked pretty well. One day, I was in the In press room and one of the more veteran reporters said with some admiration that’s the smallest set up I’ve ever seen. That may be but it certainly lets you work AND travel light.
The second product is the Jabra Speak 710 Premium Wireless Bluetooth Speaker for mobile phones. This device is what it sounds like: a bluetooth speaker that connects wirelessly to your smart phone.
I learned about this while attending a Law Technology Resource Center (which I am co-chairing this upcoming year) meeting in Santa Fe. The telephonic attendees including one with a hearing impairment couldn’t believe the sound quality.
The Jabra is completely portable: about 6 inches in circumference and about 3 inches thick. It’s light weight and easy to pack. It comes in a handy soft pouch with its own charging cable. It’s simple to pair (its more reliable in this regard than my airpods) and conveniently re-connects to your phone once you turn the speaker on. Here’s a comprehensive review.
Why do I like this product? I travel a lot. Often I have to miss board meetings of organizations upon which I serve. Many of these, particularly non profits, don’t have reliable speaker phones. With the Jabra, I just give the device to someone who is attending who pairs it with his or her phone and I am good to go even if I am hundreds of miles away. I’ve also been caught too many times on the road where I needed speaker phone capability and had to either rely on the iPhone speaker phone or pay an exorbitant fee to a hotel or other site just to use a speaker phone.
The speaker is a little pricy, however. It’s $194 on Amazon now. But the convenience and quality are well worth it.
So there you have it. My first, but maybe not last tech review and suggestions. When I find something that works well for me, I’ll plan to share it particularly if I haven’t seen anyone else doing so.