Although we were all promised a cable free future, for the most part we are as tied to cables as ever. Even the wireless induction based charging systems ultimately need an AC source. So, our lives, especially our mobile lives tend to be ruled by USB cables of varying design. Here are a few ones that we found are unique enough to merit attention. Cables all have weak points, and these designs are specifically designed to address those issues. The ASAP magnetic USB cable makes connecting your phone a snap, and the Snakable USB cable is designed to avoid damage to stress points. The PhotoFast iOS Card Reader is designed to allow you bring files into or out of an Apple iOS device using the Lighting connector and a MicroUSB card that fits into the reader.
One of Apple’s best ideas was the creation of the MagSafe connector for their line of laptops. A small connection, reversible, with a set of internal gold plated pines, surrounded by a magnetic base, meant that a yank on the cable didn't mean your laptop would go crashing to the ground. Brilliant! Well sort off, since while the connector was great, the cable it joined was prone to failure, fraying, tearing, and even a little bit of damage doomed your expensive charger to a paper weight. And Apple made sure that your chargers couldn’t be repaired when all that was fault was the cable. There are third-party non-authorized cables widely available, so a few minutes with a soldering iron, and you can fix that damaged cable.
The Apple Lighting Connector for iOS devices is an elegant solution compared to the Micro USB. But, it has one fault, it’s securely attached to your device, so it's easy for an inadvertent tug to send your expensive Apple product to the repair or replace shop. The same is true for a Micro USB port, which is used for everything from phones to hard drives.
The ASAP Connect is a very cool approach around that limitation. The Connect has a small Lightning (or Android) adapter that you insert into your iOS device, and a matching magnet connection on the rest of the cable, so you basically you now have the iOS or Android equivalent of a MagSafe adapter, but this time for your iOS or Android device. Very interesting idea, and well machined with excellent build quality. The ASAP Connect available in a variety of colors. The product began as an Indiegogo project, and we tested the Apple Lightning and MicroUSB models. Both worked great. No matter your choice, we can see folks buying a bunch of connectors and a few cables. If you are worried about your device being yanked off a table, or need a one-handed connection, then we think you should take a look at the ASAP Connect. We have another reason we like the product for Android phones. The MicroUSB adapter is actually quite fragile, and a common failure is for the small little board inside your phone to break off from repeated plugging and unplugging, so being able to leave the ASAP Connect inside the port, eliminates wear and tear. The ASAP Connect is a great idea with superb execution!
For more information on the ASAP Connect visit: http://chargeasap.com/
Snakable USB Cable with Armor
USB cables are prone to damage where the cable meets the connector, and the new Snakable is designed to address that issue. With a jointed cable case that flexes with use, it is reminiscent of those deep-sea diving suits. We used one of them for a few months, beat it up, travelled with it, and it’s holding tight. The Snakable USB Cable with Armor is an imaginative approach to preventing cable strain, by essentially turning the entire cable into a strain relief. The Snakable USB Cable come with a 3-year warranty, which if our experience is any guide, we doubt you will need.
Available in a variety of colors including Red Meteor, Green Leaf, Orange Flame, Black Eclipse, and Cloud White. You can select either an iOS Lightning adapter, or a MicroUSB. We like the idea behind the Snakable project, and look forward to additional designs in the future.
For more information on the Snakable USB Cable with Armor visit: http://www.snakable.com
PhotoFast iOS Card Reader
One of the main drawbacks of Apple’s design principles for its iOS devices is the lack of a I/O port, so while the first generate Samsung Tabs all had a port to input and export data, not so Apple. To address this glaring oversight, they released two iterations of their iOS camera adapter, the first working with the older 40-pin devices, and the current one (Apple Lighting to SD Card Camera Reader) adapter. Both are sort of kludges, and point out the inherent lack of suitability of iOS devices for serious photography or audio work. Since the devices don’t have the ability to easily add additional memory, features that even the cheapest Android phones and tablets have had since their introduction. So, most folks using an Apple iOS device lives a bit in fear of their remaining storage. Sure, you can try to constantly upload to the cloud, but that itself is a workaround for a basic design flaw.
To get around this, various solutions have been introduced. We have reviewed Wi-Fi equipped hard drives from Seagate, Hitachi, and Kingston which by using dedicated browser apps allow your phone of iPad to access a large capacity storage device on the go via Wi-Fi. This is a brilliant solution, but still doesn't always meet the needs of photographers or audio folks working with large files on the fly. Say that you are on the road, happily making photographs with your Ricoh GR, shooting RAW DNG files, and want to edit and share some of them from your iPhone or iPad?
One of the best solutions we have seen is a small card reader and matching MicroSD card system from PhotoFast. Their description of the device is, “The PhotoFast iOS Card Reader, built with a Lightning connector, offers the power to store, transfer, stream and back-up data from a microSD card so you can access your photos, videos and songs anytime, anywhere. It can be plugged directly into an iOS iPhone or iPad, enabling people on-the-go to quickly access, transfer and store up to 128GB of extra storage on your Apple device.”
And we are happy to report that our review sample of the CR-8800 iOS PhotoFast iOS Card Reader with 16GB microSD card worked as advertised. It was very quick when transferring photos from our iPad Air 2 and in reverse when transferring photos and documents to the unit. When you plug it in, you are prompted to use i-FlashDrive ONE, a free app available on the App Store. There are other apps from the manufacturer that you can download, i-FlashDrive HD, and PhotoFast Life. PhotoFast Life is designed to work with the reader, and is a basic app, allowing for backup, reading files, etc. For most folks it’s probably all you need.
To transfer files from to and from the microSD card to our computers we used the excellent Kingston Digital MobileLite G4 USB 3.0 Multi-Function Card Reader. We have found the MobileLite G4 reader one of our favorites, it's solid as a rock, small, incredibly tough, and with the ability to handle both SD and microSD cards, at high speeds, we think that everyone should have at least two of them. One at home or office, and one in your camera bag or backpack for on the road use. It's that good!
However, to really unlock the potential of the device i-FlashDrive ONE offers a significant variety of features including that, “Users can store and back-up data from cloud-based services such as iCloud, Google Drive and DropBox, as well as popular social media accounts, Facebook and Instagram. The i-FlashDrive ONE app also offers enhanced security and file management features, including a USB accessory lock and app lock supported by Touch ID.”
We tried out the feature set and came away impressed with the level of sophistication. There was still some room for bug tweaking, for example we took some photos with the iPad, and using Life the location was correctly reported, yet in i-FlashDrive ONE the same photos were listed as being shot in “Xinjiang, China” for some reason. Also, if you open the drive using PhotoFast Life, and select the option for more features, it offers the option of launching i-FlashDrive ONE, but when you do you get a SD initialization error, and it happens in the reverse. It’s easy enough to work around, just pull the reader out and reinsert and all is well, but it indicates the need to further tweak the apps.
It’s important to note that they have a robust and thorough Help and FAQ section, a welcome attention to detail. i-FlashDrive ONE has an extensive feature set, so we found ourselves viewing the video tutorials, and exploring the capabilities. If you shoot RAW files with your digital camera, and want a quick Sneakernet way to instantly work on them with your phone or iPad, then the CR-8800 is an ideal and painless way to work on them. There are many other card readers, but the combination of speed, a free feature-rich app, and thorough integration with iOS, make the PhotoFast CR-8800 iOS Card Reader a great option for iOS users.
For more information on the PhotoFast CR-8800 iOS Card Reader visit: http://www.photofast.com
For more information on the Kingston Digital MobileLite G4 USB 3.0 Multi-Function Card Reader visit: http://www.kingston.com/us
Harris Fogel & Nancy Burlan, posted 6/11/2016