Barkings! | The Small Dog Apple Blog

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iPod touch Gets an Update

Today, Apple announced an update to their iPod touch. Nothing too major — those announcements are usually saved for their Keynote presentations — but it may excite some of you out there.

A while back you may recall they released a 16GB touch that was pretty much a dumbed-down version of their 32GB and 64GB versions — no rear-facing camera, only came in silver, etc.

However, now every 16GB iPod touch comes in all colors (pink, blue, yellow, black and silver), iSight camera with 1080p HD video recording, 4-inch Retina display, A5 chip, and FaceTime camera.

The 16GB will come in at $199, 32GB at $249 and the 64GB at $299. With the decline in iPod sales over the years, it seems like a good move on Apple’s part — even if it’s still one of the top sellers in the non-cellphone media players category. Check them all out here!

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Testimony | Outdoor Tech Turtle Shell

Summer is upon us, that means we’re all playing outside in one way or another. Biking, hiking, fishing, swimming, camping or just straight chillin’ and grillin’. Either way, some of us can’t go without tunes filling in the soundtrack to our outdoor fun. I have been out camping already this season and found that, being the nerd/techie I am, I camp a little differently.

The serenity of looking at the stars and “being away from it all” is great. However, I enjoy a little music and Netflix before bed. On my last few adventures, I’ve carried a backup battery from Goal Zero and the Turtle Shell from Outdoor Tech.

I’m not claiming to be an audiophile, but all my friends I was camping and chillin’ in the backyard with were shocked at the sound coming from this small, oddly-shaped orange boombox! The Turtle Shell connects via Bluetooth to my iPhone 5 easily and has a great battery meter to tell me how the Turtle’s battery is doing. Note: I always have an 3.5mm AUX cable with me so I don’t have to pair/re-pair my friends phones.

The speaker has two tweeters and a bass battery. What is a bass battery? Well, some genius figured out that you can use the battery as a sub — genius right? The sound is great, with clean highs and thumping lows. For camping, it was mostly that hippie music — Phish, the Dead and other jam bands. But for the backyard party, it was everything from Miley, Jay-Z, DMB, Miranda Lambert (don’t judge). You name the genre, it came up (OK, maybe no slow jams); the Turtle Shell’s sound stayed true through them all.

But, that’s not even the best part. Sounding good is important, but what if you’re having so much fun that you either spill on it or worse yet, forget about it altogether? Sure enough, I forgot it and accidentally left it outside all night — it rained, poured and may have been struck by lightning (probably not, but maybe). I woke up to it sitting in the grass beside my tent…! It’s advertised as being “shower, rain and generally any other liquid proof,” but come on, for real? Yep, for real — it turned it on right away (not recommended for most wet electronics) and the jams kept pumping. “Party on, Wayne!”

With much of summer left, I’m happy to know that come rain or shine, my Turtle will be bumpin’. Enjoy your summer!

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Vermont Goes Hands-Free: Part 2

I wanted to first start by saying thank you to those who responded to my first article; I always enjoy hearing from our customers. Please continue to let us know how you use your iPhone in the car.

Now, on to more iPhone-compatible solutions in the car. Today, I want to cover the AUX/Cassette/Adaptor/FM Transmitters. As I said last time, AUX doesn’t allow for hands-free, but this doesn’t mean it’s not a great option for music enthusiasts. I also may have found a trick that works to adapt your AUX-enabled car with Bluetooth. And finally, those FM Transmitters, with which most of us have had a love-hate relationship.

The AUX, easily one of the greatest and most versatile features car companies have utilized during the digital music era, doesn’t require you have an Apple, Android, Windows or whatever device but rather a female 1/8-inch hole. Even one of those awesome portable CD players you have would work. The easiest way to know if your car has AUX is if it has a button on your radio. Then, it’s just a matter of finding where they hide the actual port (could be in the glove box, center console etc.). We sell some great AUX cables in a variety of lengths (1ft, 3ft, and 6ft), from StarTech, which all have a slim input to accommodate your case. But alas, you can’t speak through an AUX input…or can you?

In comes the Outdoor Tech Adapt. Scott (part of our awesome IT department) and I tested this one out. We simply plugged the Adapt into the AUX port in my car. The Adapt is a Bluetooth headphone adapter allowing for play/pause, volume up/down, and back/next functions, as well as a mic for calls. Spotify came through right away and sounded great — I even placed a call and sure enough, they said they could hear me. Holding the play/pause, answer/hang up button activated Siri, allowing me to text hands-free as well.

For those of you with AUX ports and no Bluetooth, you must check out the Outdoor Tech Adapt. We also carry two great AUX stands: Griffin’s Tune Flex and Belkin’s TuneBase AUX Hands-Free. I’m partial to the Belkin model, as it has lightning charger built-in and creates a great stand for the iPhone 5/5s/5c.

Now, briefly a look at the Griffin Direct Deck. Yes, this is actually a cassette adapter. Great for classic cars that still have a cassette deck and are keeping the stock look or for the pickup that it’s just not worth upgrading the stereo in. Either way, this is a great piece of technology. Simply slide the DirectDeck in, and plug the 1/8th jack into your phone. In doing so, you’ll notice the great feature of the direct deck is it has a mic built-in to the 1/8th inch connection. This allows you to take calls while using the cassette adapter. That’s right, you’re pumping jams from a streaming service like Pandora through a cassette player and placing and receiving calls. And they thought the cassette was dead!

I still remember the first FM transmitter we produced and I used — the CarTune. It was a great product with a simple design plugged into the power port and connected to my iPod via 30-pin connector. It was nice if you lived here in rural Vermont where we have a number of open FM stations to choose from. However, this was a little tougher on my first trip to Boston. I look back and realized it was more dangerous than helpful as I kept changing the CarTune FM dial to find a station that would work.

These have come a long way, and most recently Belkin released the new Lightning TuneBase Hands-Free FM with ClearCast. This FM Transmitter goes above and beyond my old CarTune. It has a sturdy stand which docks your iPhone with Lightning connector allowing it to charge and accommodates for either portrait or landscape view if you’re using Maps, which I found to be very useful. The base, which plugs into the car charging port, has the FM tuner function built-in, so that you can use ClearCast and find the best FM station to broadcast over. Unlike other FM transmitters, this one allows for easy hands-free calling. A large button at the bottom of the phone lets you answer and hang up calls and activate Siri. Check it out.

As always, I hope this information was helpful and continue to encourage you to reach out to me with your solutions for hands-free iPhone connectivity.

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Easy Strain Relief Mod

All cables have the potential to fail due to something called strain relief. Essentially, the joint where the cable meets the connector can separate and fray after being pulled at sharp angles and twisting constantly.

There have been a couple techniques in cable manufacturing that help prevent this outcome. The most common, which can be seen on any Apple cable you own, is a thin rubber tube acting as a stiffener for the cord in this region. It also protects the cord housing from rubbing against the connector body. A method used on higher-end devices is a wire spring tightly wound acting as the rubber tube does.

As it turns out, even the strain relief prevention methods doesn’t always help. These cables don’t self-destruct, and this type of wear is very preventable. However, a cheap and easy way to prevent this from happening in the future is by using shrink tubing. This is a cheap rubber tube that slips over a wire and shrinks snugly onto the cable when heat is applied. Slip it over both the connector housing and the first half-inch of the cable itself. This will act as a stiffener and protect the cable from strain relief damage.

Disclaimer: We do not recommend doing this to any cables under Apple warranty; it will void it. We also don’t recommend doing this if you don’t have previous experience with shrink tubing. Small Dog Electronics takes no responsibility for voiding of warranty or damages caused by modifying your cables.

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Lightning Technology Sees an Update

In 2012, Apple introduced the Lightning connector, a small, digital 8-pin connector for iOS devices. Overnight, the consumer backlash seemed overwhelming because these new adaptors were incompatible with the thousands (upon thousands) of accessories out there that were made for the original 30-pin connection.

However, many cheered at the discontinuation of what was considered a ‘dinosaur’ in technology terms, and was long overdue for a change. Apple also released a Lightning to 30-Pin Adaptor, which enabled users of the old cables to adapt without buying all-new Lightning cables. I, for one, jumped for joy at the possibilities of what the Lightning connector could do.

But alas, two years later, not much else has been done to further utilize this technology. It hadn’t yet brought anything new to the table; it was smaller, and I could plug it in on either side (something the 30-pin connector couldn’t do), but that’s about it. The accessories hadn’t changed (though the Apple Dock was initially dropped until the 5s brought it back) and it wasn’t any faster (despite the name). USB 3.0 was announced for laptops that same year, but no, Lightning didn’t have USB 3.0 capabilities, either.

You’ll have to excuse my rant — as a fanboy, I had expected more. I’m a cable freak, and the Lighting cable — like Thunderbolt — had much more potential than they were using. So, as my co-workers can attest to, when I read that Apple introduced Lightning Cable MFi Specs for headphones, I lost it! This is the first time we’ll see Lightning reach greater potential.

With the Lightning connection, we can now increase to a higher frequency of digital music, and power our noise-canceling headphones from our phone, or vice versa (power our phones from the backup battery in our headphones). It means that apps like VLC, Plex and of course, iTunes can begin to work with 5.1 surround output on video. App developers will have access to this for who knows what else — can you hear my excitement?

The speculation is endless…did this development come from the Beats acquisition? Personally, I think yes; Beats Music claimed to have higher bit rate than Spotify, but who cares if you’re plugging in via a headphone jack. It’s like having a built-in DAC (digital to analog converter) on your iPhone.

Also, as I mentioned earlier, active noise canceling headphones have always required power, and Beats has two headphones in their lineup that require power for noise canceling. These now can theoretically use a Lightning connection to lighten the load of an onboard battery.

Lastly, Don, took the speculation a step further and wondered, “when do you think they’ll introduce Lightning ports on computers?” Boom, mind blown. I can’t wait to see where this leads, and as always, I’d love to hear what our readers think.

Email me your thoughts!

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