Jan 312011

The iPad is a thing of sleek and shining beauty, straight out of the box. But like all other i-things before it, removal from its pretty white designer box followed exposure to the harsh light of day can take the shine off any iPad rather quickly.

Bred to be mobile, the iPad brings lightweight wireless entrée to the web, and (appropriately stocked) a constant fix of digital entertainment delight. It’s a unisex gadget with addictive appeal.

(I’m not sure how long it will take until we tire of this new precious, but so far, like many i-lords past, it is holding up pretty well in the no-buyer-remorse stakes.)

Here’s the rub: most iPad carriers and cases are as glossy and elegant as the iPad itself. They are not designed to withstand the sticky fingers of a peanut-butter encrusted four year old, the ham-fisted grabbiness of two teenage boys arguing over whose turn it is to play air hockey, or the handbag-bashing run for the train of the stressed-out Mum commuter.

Fortunately, the Melbourne-based Swann family design gurus Tim, Sophie and Amie (who now preside over the international Cygnett i-case empire) have come up with a solution.

I suspect they may have been influenced by the popular chocolate bar Aero (“It’s the bubbles of nothing that make it really something!”)  Whatever, they have come up with a superb case for the garden-variety Family iPad.

It’s roomy (you can fit a sleek silicon case inside as well) and easy to use – simply unzip the case and slide out the iPad.

The Aerosphere has a soft inner layer resembling a favourite furry toy,  easily unhooked stretchy elastic fasteners and a foamy protective outer cover. It’s very lightweight and best of all, very cheap. I love it.

Bottom line: An iPad case for the rest of us

Where:  www.cygnett.com

How much : Au $ 40

Apr 302010

No gadget column worth its salt can go by without a hat-tip to the iPad, and since all the panty-liner jokes have already been done to death on Twitter, Facebook, Friendfeed and WastingTime.com, we can now concentrate on the serious tech side of Steve Job’s latest gadget, nicknamed the print-killer. Among other things.

What the iPod did to music, the iPad will do to newspapers, ask any futurist. (After you’ve asked them how you get to be a futurist, of course – that’s the most important first question to put to any futurist you happen to meet.)<div xmlns:cc="http://creativecommons.org/ns#" about="http://www.flickr.com/photos/t_kaworu/4527081753/"><a rel="cc:attributionURL" href=

Just as the iPhone generated dozens of breathless iPhone-stalking websites and blogs, so the iPad spawned a whole gaggle of specialty blogs within hours of its release.

Time to whisper: – it’s ok if you don’t know what it is yet. Me neither. I don’t have one. Nor will I be one of those idiots lining up overnight at the Apple store waiting for the first batch to arrive on our shores. (Not when I have a relative who works on the docks, anyway..  ahem.)

So, I’ve made a few phonecalls (disguising my voice of course) – and now I have the answers to the questions that you lot were too cool to ask anyone.

Q.  What is the iPad?
A.  It’s a portable screen you put stuff on that you can read.

Q.  Why all the fuss then?
A.  I’m not totally sure really. It also plays movies and games and stuff and it’s bigger than an iPhone but smaller than a laptop. It’s about A4 size, so you can look at photos and actually see them, unlike on a mobile phone.

The iPad runs iPhone apps, including that one where you pretend to pour beer and the one that tells you what song is playing. Oh, and it plays music. It has a touch screen, which is very 2010. And it has that all-important Apple logo.

And because it doesn’t have a phone and it isn’t a computer and it’s much much bigger than an iPod, you’ll still need all of those things.

Yep, I think once again Apple have managed to create an absolutely crucial gadget that no-one knew they needed – and now, even though it remains tantalisingly unavailable, we already think we cannot do without. Go Jobsy, you marketing genii, you!

Bottom line: Oh, just go and get one, everyone else is.
How much :  From US $499 to US $829 depending on gigabytes and 3G-ness

Oct 262009

To date, I’ve never seen a real, live Kindle – the ebook reader flogged by book-flogging Amazon empire that is bringing tears to the eyes of print publishers the world over.

For those of us clinging precariously to the underbelly of the planet down here in Australia, unless you had a kind friend in the US or get in touch with the fabulous people at PriceUSA (www.priceusa.com.au) – you can’t get hold of the much-hyped Amazon Kindle, for unclear reasons possibly related to copyright or market share or just plain obdurateness on behalf of Amazon.

We do have options; Dymocks launched the iLiad book reader two years ago to much fanfare; but I can’t tell you any more than you might google up yourself, because the $900 device (overpriced is an understatement!) was restricted to a one-only demonstration device in their city store.

Any interested gadget reviewer had to make an appointment and arrive on bended knee bearing frankincense and myrrh just to view the darned thing.

The iLiad was something of a flop  – and all was quiet on the eBook front for a while until this year, when library supplier Central Book Services came out with the EcoReader.

The EcoReader website features an extremely irritating You-Tube demo complete with bad elevator music; however the real thing is far less annoying.

The reader is the size of a light paperback (A5-ish, 220g) and sports a faux-leather black case. It doesn’t do much – just stores and displays pages, and plays MP3 files (huh? why bother!).

The big sell – particularly for anyone who has ever tried to read an ebook on nearly any portable device, including the iPod – is the screen. The ECO Reader has a 6-inch flat-matte screen using a special film with no backlighting and it’s quite easy to read. (But not as easy as a book.)

The numbered control buttons are somewhat counter-intuitive though, and when I canvassed the opinion of my assistant reviewers of the YouTube generation, the Reader was heartily dissed as follows: “Boring.”  “How do you know how much you have left to read?”  “What happens if you drop it in the bath?”  And it’s still overpriced.

Bottom line: If you’re after an eReader, this might do the trick; I suspect it’s an acquired taste
How much : $449