The Incase Terra Sleeve

I just ordered and received the 11″ Terra Sleeve by Incase for my new 11″ MacBook Air. I really like it. It provides great protection and has a pocket on the front which I slip my iPad mini into. I believe you could slip a full sized iPad in the pocket as well. While it retails for $44.95, I was able to snag one on Amazon for $17.99 plus shipping. It is definitely worth it for that price in my opinion. The main compartment has an oversized zipper which seems very tough. This is the perfect sleeve for my needs. I can bring this with me on the go and use the iPad mini as a wireless hotspot for the MacBook Air. If I had one complaint it would be that there is no way to use a shoulder strap with this bag, but it’s definitely not a deal breaker. Bags/Sleeves for 11″ laptops are somewhat hard to find compared to other size laptop bags but I would definitely recommend it to someone in the market (Incase also sells 13″ and 15″ versions). I took a few pictures of the bag which I will put below this post.IMG_1261 IMG_1262 IMG_1263

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The Pebble Smart Watch

The Pebble Smart Watch

The Pebble Smart Watch

I recently purchased a Pebble Smart Watch and have been using it for several days now. I wanted to give my thoughts on it for those interested, but first a little back story on the subject. The Pebble started as a Kickstarter project on April 11th, 2012 with a $100,000.00 fundraising goal for the project to be made. It quickly became one of the most successful projects ever on Kickstarter with a total of $10,266,845.00 raised by May 18th, 2012. The Pebble started shipping to backers on January 23rd, 2013. As of July 4th, 2013 they have sold over 85,000 watches. I followed the Pebble on Kickstarter but I did not back it myself. I wanted to learn a little more about it before spending the money on it. Several reviews have been posted by people & tech sites who have received their Pebbles in the last several months and after some research I had decided that I indeed wanted to purchase the Pebble. I just needed to find out how to get my hands on one. This proved to be harder than I had anticipated. The only place you could buy one was through Pebble’s website, which would let you pre-order one, with no real idea of how long you would have to wait to receive it. Thankfully about a month and a half ago, Pebble announced a partnership with Best Buy for them to be the first (and at the time of this post, only) retailer to stock the Pebble. It would be available in stores on the 7th of July, 2013 for $149.95. It would be available in two colors – Jet Black & Cherry Red. I decided this was the best way to get my hands on one. Unfortunately, my local Best Buy was receiving very limited shipments and were selling out of them as soon as they arrived in stores. After numerous phone calls &  several visits to my local store, I purchased a Jet Black Pebble a little over a week ago. Read on for my thoughts on the Pebble Smart Watch.

So what is the Pebble exactly and what does it do? The Pebble is a watch that connects over Bluetooth to your smartphone. You can use it with either an iPhone or an Android phone. As most people probably know, I am an iPhone guy so my thoughts on the Pebble will be based on using it with an iPhone running iOS6.1.3. It has a low power 1.26-inch 144 × 168 pixel black and white “e-paper” display and runs about a week on a full charge. The Pebble has a backlit screen that can be activated by pressing a button or by flicking your wrist.

Doing this never gets old!

Why push a button when you can do this!

It charges with an included magnetic USB charger that snaps onto the left side of the watch.  The Pebble will of course tell the time & date but it has several other functions as well. After you pair your Pebble with your smartphone over Bluetooth you can add quite a bit of functionality to the watch. You can receive text messages and phone call alerts to the watch with very minimal setup. Text messages come with a vibrating alert and phone calls show up as the phone number calling you, or if the person who is calling is in the contacts on your phone, as their name.

Text Message Notification

Text Message Notification

Phone Call Notification

Phone Call Notification

The buttons on the side of the Pebble allow you to either take the call or ignore it. Now, you can’t actually talk on the phone through the watch. You still need to be connected to your phone either by having ear-buds with a built in mic like the ones you get with an iPhone, by wearing a Bluetooth headset, or being connected to the Bluetooth in your vehicle. As I have Apple’s earpod headphones in my ears the entire time I am at my job, it is very handy to not have to take my iPhone out of my pocket to see who is calling or texting me. This functionality worked flawlessly in my testing. You can also enter in your email account information into the companion Pebble app on your phone to get email notifications sent to the Pebble watch. This however does not seem to always work. Sometimes I get my emails sent to the Pebble & sometimes I don’t. (EDIT: Pebble released an update to the Pebble iOS app & I now receive all of my email notifications. Yay software updates!)You can also get notifications from your other apps pushed to the Pebble as well, but it is not without its kinks. I like to get sports score alerts from the MLB & ESPN apps sent to my Pebble, as well as Twist updates, reminder alerts, Twitter alerts, etc. To accomplish this you have to perform what is affectionately referred to on the  Pebble forums as “the finger dance”. Basically, if you lose the Bluetooth connection from your phone to your Pebble, you have to go into the notification settings on your phone and toggle alerts on and off for each app that you wish to receive notifications for. This kinda sucks but it is due to certain limitations in iOS6. iOS7, which is due in less than a month will according to rumors drastically change the Bluetooth permissions and allow notifications from any app to be sent over Bluetooth. I do hope that this is the case, as this is the one half baked feature at the moment.

You can also use the Pebble to control your music playback. It will display song information on it’s screen and allow you to pause and skip whatever is currently playing. I really like this feature. Another fun thing to do is go to http://www.mypebblefaces.com and download some new watch-faces and apps for your Pebble. You can store a total of 8 watch-faces or apps at a time. It is unbelievable how many different watch-faces you can find there. I will share a few of my favorites below.

Futura Weather Watchface

Futura Weather Watch-Face

The Futura Weather watch-face is the one I like the most. I use it 90% of the time. I love that it shows the current weather. You enable the weather by downloading the free httpepple app from the app store. This is a great little app that expands the functionality of the Pebble.

Mario Time Watch-Face

Mario Time Watch-Face

I love the Mario Time Watch-Face as well. Every minute he jumps up and changes the time.

Pebblis aka Tetris

Pebblis aka Tetris

I also installed the Pebblis app to my Pebble. It is just Tetris with a different/punny name. It is fully playable although you would have to be kinda crazy to spend more than a few minutes with it.

Overall I am very satisfied with my Pebble Smart Watch. Don’t get me wrong nobody needs to buy one of these for their life to be complete. It is a very first world product, much like heated seats in a car or wifi on a plane. That doesn’t mean that it isn’t a nice thing to have and enjoy.  I recently bought a screen protector for my Pebble (it is not very scratch resistant) and had to leave it home as it needed to sit for 24 hours. I really missed having it with me that day. While it is not without its quirks. It drastically cuts down on the amount of times I pull my phone out of my pocket throughout the day. I think that over time it will become a better and better product.

Update: I found a cool iOS app called Smartwatch Pro which is $2.99 and adds quite a bit of functionality to the Pebble. I highly recommend it.

The iPad mini

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My Shiny New iPad mini

I have very recently purchased an iPad mini & I would like to share some of my thoughts on it. This is actually the 4th iPad that I have bought. I bought the OG iPad ( 16gb Wifi Model ) shortly after it was released, upgraded to the iPad 2 ( 16gb Wifi as well ) again, shortly after it had been released, & then waited in line for the midnight release of the 3rd Gen iPad ( White 32gb Wifi ) in the spring of this year. I always sold the previous iPad shortly before the new one came out, as Apple products hold their value really well. The 3rd Gen iPad was really great. It was white, which is the best color for tablets in my opinion, and the retina screen on it was just amazing. It really is something to behold. So why did I recently sell it and pick up an iPad mini? As most people probably already know the iPad mini has a slightly older processor in it ( the A5 chip ) than the 3rd Gen iPad (A5X), & the new 4th Gen iPad (A6X). It also has the same 1024 x 768 screen resolution as the iPad 1 and 2, not the far clearer 2048 x 1536 retina resolution of the 3rd and 4th Gen iPads. So why would anybody want an iPad mini over one of the newer full size iPads? It wasn’t a hard decision for me at all. The iPad mini has some stuff going for it that really suited the way I want to use my iPad. The first thing you notice when you pick up an iPad mini is how incredibly thin & light it is, especially compared to the slightly heavy 3rd Gen iPad I am used to. I’m not trying to say that the regular iPads are too big & bulky. They are not. But this iPad mini is jacket pocket or put it in your purse and forget it’s there portable! I have been carrying mine with me pretty much wherever I go. It also has just as good battery life in my estimation as the full size iPads. If you own an iPad you know how great the battery life is on these devices. I would not want to purchase something that took a step back when it comes to the battery performance. But the big difference in this iPad mini for me is that I purchased the Verizon LTE version. This has been a game changer for me. (Note – You can get an LTE version of the regular iPads as well, I just never had personally.) It is hard for me to explain how convenient it is to have a constant internet connection on my iPad mini. I find myself using it over my phone most of the time now. Also worth noting, the speeds of Verizon’s LTE network are nothing short of amazing. I’ve gotten 24mps down and 17mps up on their network. It’s basically as fast as my home network only I can take it anywhere I go. Another benefit to buying the cellular version of the iPad mini is that you get a GPS chip inside. With it’s great battery life, 7.9″ screen, & GPS capability, the iPad mini makes for an awesome GPS in the car! Overall, I am very happy with the mini. While I miss the retina screen from my previous iPad, that is the only thing I miss about it. Everything else in my opinion is better on the mini. I have purchased a couple of accessories for my new iPad. I bought the Blue Smart Cover from Apple and the SwitchEasy CoverBuddy back cover. I love that they protect the front & back of my iPad while adding only minimal thickness and weight to it. I have added some pictures below of the accessories on my iPad.

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iPad mini With Blue Smart Cover

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Smart Cover Folded Into Stand

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SwitchEasy CoverBuddy Back Cover