Category: Reviews

Kreyos Meteor Review

Photo of Kreyos Meteor on my wrist.A year ago, I was extremely psyched about the Kreyos Meteor smartwatch. It had a lot of great features that made it more than just a wrist notification device, which most of the smartwatches on the market at the time were. Kreyos claimed they had a working prototype and basically just needed the cash to put it into production. The features, and claimed timeline sold me so I went ahead and backed the Indiegogo project.

Fast forward to the expected ship date and I got the “we’re very sorry for the delay” email. This message was followed up time and time again. Then, about eight or nine months after the first shipping date, and after many excuses, I got an email with my Kreyos Meteor’s tracking number.

I received my watch and eagerly opened the ridiculous shipping package (basically a manilla envelope with some packing tape). That should have been a red flag about what was inside, but I shrugged it off as just a sub-par fulfillment partner.

The retail packaging of the Kreyos Meteor was decent, so my high hopes started to creep back into my mind. I quickly unpacked everything, plugged in the charger and got to work pairing the watch with my phone.

The instructions were anything but clear. In fact, there are no instructions included with the watch. I downloaded the iOS app and used the step by step guide in that. I got it connected, but I had to forget and reconnect later that night as it seemed to completely stop working. Upon some online research and troubleshooting, I think it only paired to the Bluetooth LE, and not to the Bluetooth 2.0 first, then the LE. It seems like there could be a better way to do this. It was not a very favorable first impression.

The first step after connection was a firmware update. It took a few tries and a bit of time, but I realized it was important, and I waited (mostly) patiently for it to finish.

The watch face is a detachable little box. It’s not huge, but no one would call it small. It can be snapped in place on a watch band, belt clip or lanyard. I have both a watch band and belt clip. The band makes the thing rather bulky on your wrist (full disclosure: I have skinny wrists). It definitely looks like a piece of technology and not a nice watch when you’re wearing it. This is something all smartwatches up to this point have also suffered from.

The big buttons make it easy to push them without a lot of effort, but I had to stumble upon the button descriptions via Google (they are not easily found from the Kreyos site). This is where a small instruction sheet in the box would be quite useful.

I tried to pull up Siri from the watch (a feature I was very excited about). While I could get to the voice command screen, it did not seem to actually respond to any voice commands. I tried activating Sir from the phone, and she did listen from and reply from the watch. That said, the microphone must suck because it did not recognize even close to what I was saying, and Siri’s voice response via the Meteor’s speaker was not discernible. The hardware for these seems to be really cheap. Maybe this has something to do with the software controlling it, but I’m not holding my breath. I’d like to know the specs on what is actually inside this thing. It doesn’t feel like it’s the same as what they advertised.

Speaking of software, the iOS app is extremely buggy. It hangs, crashes and is all-around unresponsive at times. The watch’s system responds to button presses without too much delay, so at least it’s got that going for it? The watch includes a series of analog-esque and digital watch faces to choose from, a stopwatch, timer, calendar (although it doesn’t seem linked to your phone’s calendar), activity, sports, music and settings. It appears the watch is sending “step” data to the app on the phone, but I’m not sure of its accuracy. It seems a bit inflated to me.

When the watch actually receives notifications, it buzzes for a really long time. I’d really like to be able to customize the buzz length. Perhaps in a software update, we could even customize rhythms for different types of notifications. Many notifications seemed to never show up, and occasionally old notifications showed up hours later. The notifications also seem to fully ignore if a phone is do not disturb mode. My phone automatically goes into this mode while I sleep at night. My watch, however, buzzed through the night. That’s just unacceptable. There’s clearly a lot of bugs that need attention. You’d think with an extra nine months, they could have put a little more effort into making this thing work better. The latest version of the iOS app seems to fix some (but definitely not all) of the connectivity issues. I’m keeping my fingers crossed they can resolve the rest of the issues very soon.

I’d also like to see a way to manage notifications. It’d be useful to have a way to exclude certain things from buzzing your watch. For example, someone checking-in on Swarm is nice to know, but doesn’t call for the attention a new text message does. This might be an Apple API limitation, but having the ability review a notification on the watch, and having it then be marked read on the phone would be useful too.

Overall, I can’t begin to describe how disappointed I am in the Kreyos Meteor. It doesn’t seem to deliver on most of what was promised, and after such a long series of delays, I can’t help but feel bitter about it. This watch is not worth the price; maybe not even half the price. The hardware seems a lot cheaper and incapable of delivering on all the features promised in their campaign. At this point, anything that set the Meteor apart from the Pebble doesn’t actually work, or behaves so poorly it might as well not work. They need to spend some serious time on the software and get it to the users fast. It’s going to be extremely difficult to recover from all the bad impressions the Kreyos Meteor is giving customers.

I’ll be anxiously awaiting the new players in the smartwatch market. Maybe someone like Motorola or Apple can finally bring a smartwatch worth owning to market; Kreyos certainly has not done so.

Did you get a Kreyos Meteor? Tell me about your experience in the comments.

Oru Kayak Review

Abby and I recently bought Oru Kayaks. We’ve both wanted kayaks for a ridiculously long time, but the combination of expense, storage and transportation was an issue. The Oru Kayak was the perfect answer.

Oru Kayaks

We were finally pushed over the edge from wanting to fully being behind buying them after we spent an afternoon test paddling a variety of kayaks at a demo day. After that, we knew it was something we really should do and so we worked out a budget. Unfortunately, we still had a big problem… kayaks are huge, and we live in a one-bedroom apartment.

That Saturday we went from “let’s just have some fun and try these kayaks” to “yes, we totally should buy kayaks” to “where will we store them?” in a matter of hours. It was a rollercoaster of emotions to say the least. I posted about the problem on Facebook and then a friend reminded me of the Oru Kayak. I recalled seeing it as a Kickstarter a while back, but never followed up after it was funded, so I looked into it further.

It had just recently been on Shark Tank. One of the sharks jumped on board and they increased production capacity. I started looking at reviews and everyone seemed happy and most importantly, it seemed to solve the problems we had. We made the decision to buy a couple.

Fast forward about six weeks and our Oru Kayaks arrived (well, one did, then the second a week later). The 32 by 28 by 13 inch boxes fit easily in our cars as well as our apartment. When unfolded, they transform into a sturdy 12 foot kayak. It’s an amazing process to take the Oru from box to boat, and it only takes about five minutes (after the first couple times). The company claims you can fold them up to 20,000 times. I’m pretty sure that will take many years to hit that number, so that’s reassuring.

Photo of Oru Kayaks being folded on the beach.

We’ve paddled our Oru Kayaks many times already. We’ve done a few lakes (both calm and active) and the Kalamazoo River. In all situations, the boat performs better than you’d expect for something that folds up. It keeps it’s rigid structure in the water and lets you easily paddle where you want.

The Oru weighs only 26 pounds, which is about half of what a regular kayak of the same length would weigh. This is great for transporting. The included shoulder strap makes small trips from apartment to car, and car to water pretty easy. It’s also great for paddling. Because it’s so light, I think it’s a little easier to maneuver the boat. The only downside I’ve found is it can be affected by a strong wind fairly easily. I’m not familiar enough with traditional kayaks to know if that’s just a kayak thing, or if it’s a result of the lighter Oru.

Christopher in Oru Kayak

I wasn’t sure how comfortable the Oru might be, but it performs pretty well there too. It has a padded seat and adjustable back. There is an adjustable foot bar as well. Comparing this to the few times I’ve paddled other kayaks, it seems to provide just as much comfort. It’s not sitting on a couch, but it will let you enjoy a good amount of time on the water.

My biggest issue is entering and exiting the boat. To be fair, this isn’t just an Oru problem. Being six foot two and not the most flexible, it can be a struggle to cram my legs into the boat. The issue is getting the necessary clearance under the front deck. There’s a couple of inches of latches that are necessary for the Oru to stay closed together, but that’s space I wish my legs could use. I have some scraped up shins at the moment. I’m getting better at it, but it’s something I wanted to note.

The other downside to an Oru is the lack of storage bins. The water-tight containers built into traditional boats just aren’t feasible on a folding kayak. There are deck-straps so I’m planning on buying something to strap on instead. You can still stick stuff in the kayak with you, but it’s not water-tight or accessible while you’re paddling.

Overall, I couldn’t be much happier. The Oru Kayak solved the biggest problems preventing us from joining the paddling world sooner. They’re easy to store in our tiny apartment and easy to transport. They may seem expensive at first glance ($1,195), but I encourage you to compare that price to other 12 foot boats, not the cheap little things you can find at Dunham’s or Meijer. Adventure awaits, and Abby and I are ready to paddle our way towards it.

Photo of Abby Anderson Jones in Oru Kayak.

Review: Google Chromecast

Google ChromecastDespite already owning both an Apple TV and a Roku box (not to mention the PS3 and Wii that support many streaming options), I went ahead and picked up a Google Chromecast. At $35 (I found it on sale at Amazon for $30), it wasn’t a huge investment.

My first impression was that it was extremely simple and unobtrusive. It’s small enough that it hides away behind my TV and will even charge through the USB port on my TV (which is good, because I’m running out of surge protector spots). Setup wasn’t very hard at all and I’m pretty sure just about anyone could handle it. I went the laptop setup route, but I believe you could also do it from your phone with the Chromecast app.

Once it is setup it just waits there for you to “cast” content to it. The casting happens via another device, like your phone, tablet or Chrome browser. There’s no remote. Chromecast is simply an HDMI dongle. Google says this is a feature, but I find it a bit of an annoyance. It’s my biggest complaint. The nice thing about an Apple TV or Roku (or any of the dedicated streamers) is that you can just browse and start content with a remote. The other problem is that only a handful of apps support Chromecast at this time. It has plenty of potential, but the current state of things leaves a lot to be desired.

My experience was pretty good with casting. It seemed to handle a variety of media just fine like YouTube videos (from both my iPhone and my iPad) as well as a bit of the Chrome tab-mirroring from my laptop. The only issue with the tab is it seems to lag and any scrolling or interaction can become a bit choppy. If you’re just trying to watch content it works ok. That said, I did see some issues at a friend’s house while we were casting the WMU hockey game via his laptop in another room to the living room TV. It kept cutting out every five to 10 minutes. It may have been a computer or network issue, but it seemed to stream fine just on the computer. The whole thing is still considered a beta and there are sure to be a few hiccups like this.

The tab mirroring is a huge plus and something Roku currently can’t offer. Apple TV can mirror your whole screen or even act as another display via AirPlay. I’ve personally had a little better luck with AirPlay, but it’s also had more time to work out its bugs.

The verdict? Google Chromecast is one of the cheapest and easiest solutions for people wanting to get Internet content on their TVs. I think as time goes on and more support arrives, the dongle will become more and more useful. If you’re looking for something to stream a lot of content, this might not be your best option. You still need a device (phone, tablet, laptop) to get anything started with Chromecast. If that seems like a problem or hassle, I recommend checking out some other options like Roku or Apple TV.

Finding a better iOS calendar: Peek

Peek calendar app iconPeek Calendar by Square Mountains might be the most original calendar app I’ve found for iOS. It wasn’t originally on my radar when I started my quest, but it was a welcome surprise. Peek’s design and interactions make it pleasing to the eye and easy to use (after you get over the slight learning curve). There aren’t many buttons, but swipes, taps and long-presses let you navigate through your events with ease.

It makes more sense when you see it in action, so here’s their promo video.

Supported calendars

Peek works with your local calendars. If you’re using a calendar in the built-in app, Peek should be able to handle it. There’s not a lot of settings to the app, and I didn’t come across any way to add calendars or other services within the app.

It’s worth noting when I first installed Peek it did not recognize my calendars. I had to delete and re-install the app. After doing so, everything was in place. I imagine this is a bug, and may have already been fixed.

Views

Right away you’ll notice Peek is quite different from a standard calendar app. The standard view uses bold colors to display a list of days. The left side of each day displays the day of the week and date, while the middle will say “today” and “tomorrow” followed by the day of the week for the rest of the days. Tapping on a day will expand out (with a nice folding effect) a list of your events. Tapping an event expands it giving more details and allowing you to edit it. It’s a very clean, very simple and fairly intuitive way to see your calendar’s information.

There’s a second view, a month view, which can be accessed by pulling down from the top (above today). It’s again very simple in design, but gives you a somewhat familiar-looking month view. A nice touch here is a sort of bar graph on each day. The more events on a particular day, the taller the bar. Tapping a day will unfold the related events.

As I mentioned, the interface is extremely clean and minimalistic. If you’ve ever used Clear, think of this as the calendar counterpart. The simplicity is refreshing aesthetically, but it also doesn’t offer you a lot of flexibility for viewing your calendar like some other apps. I’d like to see a way to view a list of upcoming events without having to tap each day.

Adding events

Screenshots of Peek CalendarTo add an event, you hold down on the day your event is to take place. It then unfolds options (title, time, location, alerts, ability to make it recurring). Like everything else in the app it’s simple and pretty.

I like the time selector. You hold on the time and a slick slide menu fades in, letting you scroll to the right hour and minute of your event.

I do wish the location field would auto-populate with some database (maybe Foursquare or Google?). Perhaps then you could easily link that place and make it open your favorite navigation app for directions. This isn’t huge, but something I’m seeing in a lot of other apps that I’ve started to really find useful.

Conclusion

I like the look and feel of Peek. I applaud the restraint in their interface design, but I think Peek might be too simple for me. The quick swipes, presses and taps make for a quick and fun way to interact with your calendar, but the lack of view options make it fall short of what I’m really looking for. Peek Calendar by Square Mountains is available in the App Store for $1.99. If you’re looking for something very simple, with a great design, Peek is for you. What do you think? Have you given Peek a try? Let me know in the comments.

Finding a better iOS calendar app: Sunrise

Sunrise Calendar App IconIn case you missed it, I’m trying to find a better iOS calendar app. Next up, is Sunrise Calendar by Sunrise Atelier, Inc.

I first discovered Sunrise when I heard a designer from Foursquare (one of my favorite apps) had left for a new project. Sunrise was the new project. In the beginning Sunrise only offered integration with Google calendars, so I initially wrote it off as not for me.

Fast forward a few months and they updated the app to work with iCloud calendars. I decided it was time to take another look. I’m glad I did. The app has a great look. It’s simple, but not overly simple like the built-in calendar. If you’ve tried Sunrise in the past, but not recently, give it another go.

Supported calendars

It integrates with plenty of services, such as Facebook, Google, iCloud, LinkedIn and Foursquare. This is a unique feature, as it will automatically pull your Facebook and LinkedIn events right into your calendar. A nice Facebook tie-in will even let you RSVP to events right in Sunrise. The Foursquare integration is pretty cool too. it will add your check-ins, so if you can’t remember where you were yesterday for lunch, you can go back a day on your calendar and find out. It’s all easy to set up and covers more than I was even looking for.

Views

There’s two main views in Sunrise. The default view shows two weeks of a “month” view on top, with a list of your upcoming events below. If you swipe down on the two weeks, it turns into a full month. Each day can be tapped to jump to that day in the list view. There’s a handy button in the bottom left of the screen that jumps you back to the current day and time.

The list part of this view is clean and has a colored dot denoting which calendar it came from. In the case of Foursquare check-ins, those dots become larger and include the icon of the venue type. Birthdays have a present icon and if your event’s name is something like “party” or “meeting” other icons are automatically put in place. It’s kind of a nice little touch. If they’re looking for new features, I’d love to be able to add those icons to events manually when they don’t detect one (or rarely, choose the wrong one). In addition to your events, Sunrise also adds in weather forecasts into the list. A simple icon (sunny, cloudy, rain, etc) and the expected temperature for the morning and evening are added to each day. It’s another small detail that makes Sunrise stand out.

Tapping the three lines button at the top of the screen will take you to view two. This is a more standard “week” look. This can be nice if you’re looking to see how your time actually lines up throughout a day. For some reason this only works in portrait mode, meaning you only see three days at a time. I think it’d be a nice addition to add a landscape mode with a full week (or at least five days). Overall, I hardly use this view. It doesn’t offer much the default view can’t.

Adding events

Sunrise calendar app screenshots for adding events

The event add screen is pretty standard. You can add a location that is auto completed by Google’s database. That makes it easy to set the place you actually want, which later means easily getting directions with the Google Maps integration.

There’s not natural language adding, but since you can use your iCloud calendars, Siri is still an option. Sunrise does have some autofill options when you’re adding an event. If you start typing “call” or “breakfast” they’ll show up. A time-saver, but not as great as other options.

Conclusion

Overall Sunrise is one of the prettiest calendar apps. It has a great look and feel, and is easy to use. The small details like automatic icons and integration with so many services are major pluses. If there’s one thing really lacking it’s an innovative way to add events. Maybe that’s not a deal breaker, as the rest of it is so nice. I don’t think I’ve mentioned the best part of this app yet… it’s FREE. Yes, this good-looking, easy-to-use app won’t cost you a penny. I feel almost guilty using a such a quality app for nothing. My recommendation? Give this one a try. It won’t cost you anything and it’s a big step up from the standard iOS calendar.

Have you tried Sunrise? What do you think? Tell me in the comments.

Finding a better iOS calendar app: Calendars 5

Calendars 5 iconEarly calendar apps from Readdle didn’t really wow me. When they released Calendars 5, I finally found something special. I’ve been using it off and on for a few months now and I’m definitely a fan. Here’s an intro video from Readdle.

Supported calendars

Calendars 5 easily plugs into your existing iCloud. When you start the app for the first time it asks for access to your calendars, contacts and to-do lists. It was extremely easy to set up. For those of you using Google Calendars, it can easily connect with those too.

Views

Calendars 5 screens

This is where Calendars 5 really stands out from other calendar apps. The app boasts views for tasks, list, day, week and month.

The list view has a continuous list of chronological events. You can easily scroll through your upcoming events with this view.

The day view focuses in on one day, displaying all hours of said day with events displayed over top. At the bottom of the screen you can easily select another day.

The week view, which displays the current day at the top and the next six days underneath, is a little different from a traditional week view. Instead of being a week-long version of the day view like most other apps, Calendars 5 displays each day’s events as colored blocks (the colors relating to the corresponding calendar). I find this view to be my favorite. It really gives you a good idea of your upcoming week. If you flip your phone into landscape mode, you will get the traditional “hourly” week view, which can also be helpful and is really nice that they included it.

Month view is pretty standard. It’s a traditional calendar view with color highlighted text of your events on each day’s square.

The only problem with the views is that it’s two taps to switch between them. I’d prefer they bar containing them was always present so I don’t have to tap an extra time. I know that’s picky, but all those taps add up over time.

Adding events

Adding events couldn’t be easier. You can type something like “Meet Jim at Starbucks” which brings up a listing of nearby Starbucks, which you can select from and it will auto-fill the location field. If you continue typing “…Saturday at noon” the date and time will be filled in. It’s very similar to the experience of Fantastical for Mac or how you would speak to Siri to add an event.

If you want to directly edit an event the information is displayed below and can be tapped to change. I really like the user interface used for changing times. When you tap the time, a custom keyboard pops up with common hours displayed with common “fractions” (:00, :15, :30, etc.) below. There’s also a date tab that brings up a mini-calendar view to set the right date. You can set the right time and date faster than using a traditional keyboard, and I really appreciate that.

After an event is created, you can add an alarm, change calendars, make it recurring, invite people and a description with another simple tap.

Auto-complete is a big theme in Calendars 5. It’s a useful and time-saving feature. This app really shines in the adding events category.

Conclusion

Basically Calendars 5 is great. I love the unique week view. It’s probably my favorite view of any app I’ve tried so far. Adding events is super easy (and with auto-complete, pretty fast). I highly recommend Calendars 5. It is truly a useful, well-designed, easy-to-use calendar replacement though. As a bonus, the app is universal and will work on iPhones as well as iPads. That might make the $6.99 price tag a little easier to swallow. That’s the downside. It’s a bit pricey (by App Store standards). Despite price, it’s still a great option, especially for power users.

Have you tried Calendars 5? What did you think? Sound off in the comments.

Review: GroupMe

GroupMe logoGroupMe is a service I’ve been happily using with my friends for years now. It’s great for sending messages amongst a group of people. It’s device independent, in fact even people without smart phones can receive and send messages via SMS.

The basic idea is you have various people assigned to groups. Then you can send a message (whether that be an SMS to a dedicated number or a message using one of their apps) and GroupMe takes care of delivering that message to all members of the group. It’s really handy for a group of friends who regularly hang out. No longer do you have to send out a mass text only to get various responses from people and then having to send out another message to let the rest of those people know who replied to the first one and what they said. With GroupMe, you send one message that everyone in the group receives and their replies are also sent to everyone in the group.

Why use GroupMe? It’s easy. It’s free. It takes very little set up and you can add new groups with ease. Do I need to continue? It’s really a big time saver. Trying to get the family together for the holidays? Set up a GroupMe and everyone can stay in the loop. Going to the beach on Saturday? Start a GroupMe so everyone can plan what they’re bringing and where you’re meeting.

Various phones using GroupMeWhile GroupMe is designed to work with SMS, it really shines at its brightest with their apps. There are apps for iOS, Android and Windows Phone. With the native apps you can opt to have messages routed through the app instead of SMS (you can still be notified of new messages via push messages). This gives you the benefits of seeing all your groups in one place. Managing current and new groups is a breeze right in the app. Other app features include a “typing” indicator, profile pictures and an easy way to see who’s in each group.

The design of the app feels very native to each platform. They’ve done a nice job using their own design language, but within the expected experience of each platform. You know it’s a GroupMe app, but you’ll feel at home using it whether you’re an iPhone or a Windows Phone user. You won’t see one of those crappy ports here.

Over the years they’ve continued to improve the GroupMe experience. They’ve added the ability to send photos and videos with your message, and you can even include a location, so it’s easier to meet up with friends. There’s also a Web interface to make sure you’re always able to connect with your groups. One thing to note is that with the app or website, you can stay in contact with your friends when you’re out of the country (as long as you have an Internet connection). No huge roaming SMS fees; now that’s a bonus.

GroupMe has done a fantastic job with their service. It makes texting with multiple people a breeze, regardless of their phone type. I’ve experienced very little downtime while using the service, and anytime there is a problem, they seem to jump on and fix it very quickly. I highly recommend giving GroupMe a try.

Review: iPhone 5S

Three Apple iPhone 5S phonesI recently upgraded my trusty ol’ iPhone 4S to a shiny, new, space grey iPhone 5S. So far, I couldn’t be happier.

Bright and early Friday morning, my brother and I checked number 26 off of our “Apple Nerds Bucket List.” We stood in line to get the latest iPhone. At 8 a.m., we became the first people at Best Buy (and one of, if not the first people in Kalamazoo) to unbox our fancy new iPhone 5S phones.

Last year, I almost upgraded to the iPhone 5. I liked the idea of LTE and a longer screen, but I was only halfway through my contract and didn’t feel like it was really worth the extra dough to buy the phone at full retail price. I anxiously awaited the next phone, pretty certain I’d be using my upgrade for it. Although many people were disappointed with what was announced, I was able to see past the initial criticism of Apple “not innovating” and was excited to get my hands on the 5S. After all, they just released the first phone with a 64 bit chip and it has a fingerprint scanner. At first these could just seem like gimmicky features, but they aren’t, and Apple is still innovating. I think everyone just expects them to change entire industries with every launch. That’s a lofty expectation for any company, even Apple.

Leading up to getting my iPhone 5S, I read a lot about how the fingerprint scanner was just a gimmick. It’s not. Touch ID is actually amazing. For much of the time I had my iPhone 4S, I did no protect it with a security code. I knew I should, but having to type in four numbers every time I unlocked my phone was too much of a hassle. Being able to protect my phone and still get into my phone at a moment’s notice with Touch ID has been awesome. In a very Apple-like fashion, it just works. There’s tons of technology there, but to a user it’s extremely simple. Furthermore, being able to authenticate iTunes and App Store purchases with a quick placement of your thumb on the home button is a convenient way to avoid typing your password. My only complaint with Touch ID so far, is that it only works for those two instances. I’d love to see them somehow expand (in some extra secure fashion) this feature to any app. Passwords are the worst part of any app and somehow creating a system key chain that stores them and lets you interact with your fingerprint, would be a huge time saver.

While it’s not a new feature to the 5S (it was introduced on the 5), the larger screen is a welcome addition. I was surprised how much that extra half-inch really improved my experience. I mean, an entire extra row of icons? I’m down with that. The retina display is as beautiful as ever. Despite bigger pixel claims, I haven’t seen another smartphone screen that’s as impressive.

The 64 bit processor is a major upgrade. Technically speaking, users aren’t experiencing its entire power yet. That said, it’s super fast. Nothing seems to lag and the battery life (somewhat surprisingly) doesn’t suffer at all. Maybe that’s thanks to the new M7 co-processor, another great addition to the iPhone 5S.

iPhone photography is stronger than ever. They didn’t go for the ridiculous megapixel counts, but instead concentrated on making the 8 MP sensor even better. I was impressed with the camera on my 4S and I’m even more impressed with the 5S. The new sensor takes super fast photos with lots of color depth. The new flash does a good job evening out color temperature (but if given a choice, I’d still try to shoot a photo without flash). The burst mode is very handy and the slow-mo video capability is outstanding. You can make almost anything look cool in slo-mo. If your iPhone hasn’t replaced your point and shoot by now, this probably will.

The color options for the 5S were a little disappointing. High-end phone users like bright colors too, Apple! I didn’t think the gold would be popular at all, but reports are saying it’s the best-selling model. I decided to turn in my black iPhone 4S for a space grey 5S. It’s the same familiar black front and a decent looking grey panel on the backside. It’s almost always in a case anyway, so I guess colors aren’t a huge deal.

I’ve had my 5S for a while now and I’m still in love with it. It’s a solid phone. It feels good in your hand, it’s well-built and super fast. The battery life is good and the Touch ID is much more useful than you might think. Let the haters hate, but I’m still a big fan of Apple and their iPhones.

Review: Amazon Kindle Paperwhite

Amazon Kindle PaperwhiteI recently purchased a Kindle Paperwhite from Amazon and I couldn’t be happier. As I recently posted, I’ve really jumped onto the eReader bandwagon.

About a year ago, I started seriously considering an eReader. I almost bought one a number of times, but thought my iPad mini would suffice. As the weather started warming up, I started going outside more. I wanted to read outside, but it was less than ideal iPad conditions. The bright sun and desire to read at the beach (somewhere, I was leery of taking a $300 iPad) made me finally pony up for the Kindle Paperwhite.

Why the Paperwhite? Well I did a lot of research on the pros and cons of the major eReader players. The Nook, while a nice device didn’t have the beautiful Paperwhite display. The entry level Kindle lacked the nicer screen, a backlight and a touch screen. I liked the price of those other readers better, but ultimately the Kindle Paperwhite won me over.

A big bonus for me with the Amazon devices over other brands, was the lending library that an Amazon Prime membership includes. I’m already a prime subscriber, plus I’ve previously bought books with the Kindle app, so it made sense for me to stick with Amazon.

The device itself is fantastic. The screen is readable in any situation. In the brightest of sunlight or the dimmest of rooms, you can adjust the backlight to make your reading experience terrific. The size is very nice too. It’s very light, easy to hold and can be hidden away in a bag or cargo pocket very easily.

The built in wi-fi makes synching with or making Amazon purchases a breeze. There is a 3G model, but I opted to stick with the wi-fi (to save some money and I’m usually around wifi for most of the day). The Paperwhite charges on a standard USB cable. They don’t include a wall charger, but these days anyone with a phone has one that can be used.

The battery life seems to be excellent. I’ve charged mine once and I’ve ready five books on it. It didn’t even die, but I was headed out of town and wanted to make sure it was ready. To get a little more battery life out of your device, I recommend turning on “airplane mode” to kill the wifi. I usually leave that on unless I’m synching or browsing the book store.

A nice little touch is Amazon’s Whispersynch, which will keep your last-read page synch across devices. So if you start a book on your Kindle, but then want to continue on a computer or iPad later, you don’t have to remember where you were. It’s a small thing, but very handy.

Overall, it’s hard to find a flaw with the Paperwhite. It’s solved every problem I’ve had with reading in the past, and now I’m flying through books left and right. If you’ve been on the edge, I highly recommend going for it. It’s a beautiful device with a good feature set. I couldn’t be happier with mine.

Quick Review: NameChanger

NameChanger Screen ShotI’ve been using a great app called NameChanger for years now. I can’t tell you how much time I’ve saved by renaming files with its smart replace, append, prepend and series functions. The app is so simple and such a staple to my work flow, I often forget it’s not part of OS X. On that note, if you’re listening, Apple, buy this and make it so.

NameChanger Sequence Screen ShotBasically NameChanger lets you take files from the Finder and batch rename them with ease. There are options to replace first or last occurrences, all occurrences, prepend or append text and even remove characters. All this with just a few clicks. What’s even better is you can create a sequence like it’s nothing. Just imported a hundred images of a recent trip from your camera? Want them to be named my-trip-01.jpg and so on? Drag them to NameChanger and sequence and in a few clicks it will take care of the rest. Bam. Easy. Done.

It’s a really powerful little piece of software that will save you tons of time and increase productivity. The best part? It’s free. I do recommend throwing a few bucks their way via PayPal if you really enjoy it, which I’m sure you will.