There’s a lot of gear out there for your Apple devices, but how do you know which are worth your time and what’s not worth your money? In our Gear We Love column, Macworld’s editors tell you about the products we’re personally using—and loving.
One of my favorite things about the annual Macworld/iWorld show is checking out the unique gear from smaller, lesser-known vendors and from the “We make so many different things that you’re bound to find something you like” companies. Nite Ize is one of the latter. I first encountered Nite Ize many years ago, when the company concentrated on nifty flashlights and flashlight accessories. But the company has since expanded to the mobile-accessory market, and the Nite Ize booth at Macworld/iWorld is a veritable gadget-geek’s gallery.
At this year’s show, three products in particular caught my eye. I’ve been using them for the past few months, and each has proved itself useful. Just as impressive, each is relatively inexpensive.
Inka Mobile Pen + Stylus
Despite my digital-focused life, it’s convenient to have a pen handy, and though I’m not a frequent stylus user, there are times it’s nice to have one of those around, too. Alas, I usually have neither, because I don’t want to deal with carrying them. The $12 Inka Mobile Pen + Stylus offers a solution: It’s just 4.3 inches long and weighs just 10 grams, yet that compact profile features a ball-point pen, a rubber-nib touchscreen stylus, and a small carabiner clip for attaching the Inka to your bag, belt, or key ring.
Available in blue, black, or lime green, the Inka’s screw-off end caps are interchangeable, so you can choose which tip—ink or stylus—is covered by the carabiner. I recommend choosing the end you use more frequently, so you can just leave the carabiner wherever it’s clipped. A thoughtful touch is that the caps are translucent, so you can see which end is which before removing either cap. The body is made of nylon and carbon fiber, and feels very sturdy, and the replaceable ($5) ink cartridge is pressurized to write at any angle or altitude—even underwater, says the company. (I didn’t test that claim.)
The pen itself is pretty good, and the stylus, while not the best stylus you can get, is better than many I’ve tested that cost more than the Inka. The Inka’s thick barrel is even manageable with gloves on—you can clip the Inka to your ski jacket for using your iPhone on the slopes without having to expose your fingers to the elements.
QuikStand Mobile Stand
Back in April, my colleague Serenity Caldwell reviewed the $26 Pocket Tripod, a tiny, fold-up iPhone stand she discovered at the Macworld/iWorld show. Nite Ize offers a similar take, but for quite a bit less—$10, to be exact.
Like the Pocket Tripod, the QuikStand Mobile Device Stand is about the size of a business card: 3.4 by 2 inches when folded up, and only 0.2 inches thick. Made of aluminum and polypropylene, it weighs just 10 grams, and it easily slips into your bag, your pocket, or even your wallet.
When you need a stand, you just flip up the aluminum backplate, and then flip up the aluminum support piece and insert it into one of nine slots in the backplate to pick your stand angle. You then flip up a small, plastic tab in the front of the stand to hold your device in place. The stand can accommodate an iPhone, iPod touch, or even an iPad mini—though not a full-size iPad—with or without a case. An iPad mini is sturdy in landscape orientation, though it’s a bit shaky in portrait.
Given that the stand’s hinges are made of polypropylene and require bending whenever you use the stand, I don’t know how they’ll hold up over time, but they’re still solid on my QuikStand after a few months of use.
Most bike/bar mounts for smartphones require you to permanently (or at least semi-permanently) attach mounting hardware to your bike, and most are made for a specific device. Nite Ize’s $20 HandleBand Universal Smartphone Bar Mount takes a different approach.
Made mostly of black or translucent-white silicone over a metal internal frame, the HandleBand is designed to be easily installed and removed, and it fits pretty much any smartphone, with or without a case. (It works with bars 0.9 to 2.0 inches in diameter.) To install the mount, you just place the arch of the HandleBand on your handlebar—on the bar itself, or on the stem, in whichever orientation you prefer—and then wrap the silicone strap around the bar and over a clip on the opposite side of the metal frame. Removing the HandleBand is as simple as stretching the strap a bit to release it from the clip. (If you want to install the HandleBand more permanently, there are openings in the mount for securing it with zip ties.)
To mount your phone, you set it on the flat top of the HandleBand, wrap the remainder of the silicone strap over the front of the phone, and secure it to the clip on the other side of the metal frame. Though the strap doesn’t look especially sturdy, it’s tight and grippy—I never felt as though my phone might come loose and fall out, even when riding my bike over rough city streets. (I didn’t test it mountain biking.)
The HandleBand’s silicone-strap approach lets you use it with any phone, and you can position your phone as far up or down (or left or right, if mounted in landscape orientation) as you prefer. You can even use the HandleBand to temporarily mount, say, a flashlight or a small portable speaker. One downside, however, is that you have two thin, silicone strips obscuring bits of the screen. I found these stips to be occasionally annoying, though some conscientious positioning of my iPhone usually let me minimize the obstruction.
During my testing, I really appreciated being able to quickly move the mount from one bike to another, as well as to use the HandleBand with not only bikes, but also strollers and shopping carts. (Yes, I’ve long wanted a quick-release mount for shopping carts, so my family could more easily peruse our iPhone-hosted shopping lists.)
Oh, and one of the HandleBand’s metal frame clips is also a bottle opener. How many bike mounts can say that?