The Pogo Connect Stylus – A Love Story

The Pogo Connect is a pressure-sensitive bluetooth stylus available for tablets. In the research I did before purchasing it, it seemed to be the wisest choice for my purposes (mainly painting with Procreate). When mine finally arrived, I was stoked.

I went straight to work, learning about which apps were compatible, trying out the pressure sensitivity, and enjoying the feel of the stylus. My one real complaint is that it can be difficult to see what you’re working on when you’re doing fine detail work because the nib of the stylus is kind of fat, but it has to be fat in order to work with the iPad’s touchscreen. And you really do get used to the feel of the thing after a while, so as long as you’re using a fast art App like Procreate, frustration will stay at a minimum.

After a few months using my fancy stylus, I decided to replace the nib. My daughter had been using it for her letter-learning games, and she had worn it down considerably since she presses down so hard you’d think she’s carving stone. While replacing the nib, the unthinkable happened: my Pogo Connect Stylus broke!

My poor, broken Pogo Connect

To the left is the stylus, the middle is the replaceable nib, and the shiny item on the far right is the magnet that keeps the nib in place and, I’m guessing, connects the pressure data to the transmitter so that the iPad knows what you’re trying to do. I tried just putting the thing back together, but the sensitivity was completely broken. The thing wouldn’t even make an unbroken line.

After frantically checking TenOne Design’s website and my own email receipt, I concluded that I was one day over a 60-day warranty. My heart sank. This thing was expensive, at least for me, and I really couldn’t afford to get a new one. So I took a chance and emailed their customer support, figuring they’d just tell me I was out of luck. They asked for a picture, so I took the one you see above, waiting for the moment when they would tell me the bad news.

Then I read the most beautiful three words in the English language: It’s a defect. Since the product was defective (remember that I have no way of knowing this by myself – I honestly figured it had just been handled too roughly), they would replace it free of charge, sending a new one out via standard shipping right away. And they didn’t even do that terrible thing companies sometimes do where they make you send the defective unit back first on your own dime.

If you’re looking for a good pressure-sensitive bluetooth stylus, I can’t recommend Pogo Connect enough. Not only is it a fantastic tool for creating realistic and natural-feeling artwork, but the company behind it, TenOne Design, knows how to care for its customers. This cannot be said of every company.

Get a Pogo Connect. (Not an Affiliate Link)

iPad5: Four New Features I Want

A Better iPad

With the Worldwide Developers Conference still underway, iPad enthusiasts like me are hoping they’ll unveil the 5th Generation iPad, but they almost certainly won’t.

So while we wait, here are Four features I would like to see in the new iPad5, in order of preference:

  1. More RAM

  2. The iPad4 is incredibly fast considering its relatively paltry 1GB of RAM. It’s a testament to good software design what some games and high-end image editing programs are able to do with such limited resources and they should be commended for their constraint and programming discipline. But enough is enough – give us another gig or two!
    Just imagine the iPad with 4GB of RAM. It wouldn’t just be fast – it would fly! And couple that with the already-impressive Quad Core Graphics in the processor, you’d have a lean, mean, gaming-and-professional-quality-visual-editing machine! No more would budding visual artists, photographers and video editors have to incorporate a “real computer” into their pipeline. It could all be done on an iPad.
    And Gaming? Forget about it. The iPad already has an impressive lineup of games, but this would put it well over the top. You think the recent release of Knights of the Old Republic was a big deal? Wait until you see the iPad version of Crysis3 or Aion. With mention of Gaming comes the inevitable mention of . . .

  3. Gamepad Compatibility

  4. Steve Jobs’s vision for the iPad was an all-inclusive device that didn’t need anything added to it. It’s a great thought, but it means that the iPad has continually been something of a letdown when it comes to supporting third-party hardware. It is time to change the philosophy to something more like, “the average user won’t need anything besides their iPad, but we want to make the device practical for everyone including specialists and enthusiasts.”
    In short, Apple should either make a universal gamepad for the iPad (iGamepad? iController? iPwn?) or at least write compatibility with existing generic devices into iOS. And speaking of iOS . . .

  5. A Better File Management System

  6. I am currently trying out a certain 3D Modeling App to review on this site (stay tuned, modelers!). This particular App can import a certain filetype, but because of iOS’s restrictions and because there is no way (that I can find) to save a file that the iPad can’t attribute to a certain app, I have to transfer the files from my desktop like a sucker. What happened to the all-inclusiveness?
    While file systems can end up being just as disorganized and messy as their owners, I don’t think it would be that difficult to write one in, at least for downloaded files. If they like, it can even make “clean-up recommendations” once in a while, or have a limit on the file size. I think this would do a lot to attract more Windows Users like myself, since they’re used to seeing all their files in a list or as icons. We shouldn’t have to use third-party apps for this – it should be built in.

  7. More Compatibility With Desktop-Quality Apps

  8. You know what I would like to do? Put CS6 on my iPad so that I can use Photoshop or Illustrator on-the-go rather than wasting precious time doing it at home when I could be playing with my children. This would require something along the lines of item #1 actually happening, but I believe this step would be a significant nail in the coffin of traditional, stationary, mouse-based computing and would add yet another layer of deeper, more significant user interaction to an already very user-friendly and handy device.

So will we see improvements like some of these in the next iPad? From what I’ve been hearing, probably not. It seems that Apple is still focused on making it lighter and giving it a slim bezel facelift likely similar to its little brother. Not necessarily bad changes, but still not the leap that some of us are waiting for.

Free Apps: My Go-to Five

Five Great Free Apps

Why pay for what you can get for free? Keep in mind that some of these are free versions that have more functional pay versions, but you should always try before you buy, so they still make the list. I also appreciate App designers who are smart enough to offer free versions as a means of letting the user assess whether they can use the App or not – thanks, guys!

Also, I never endorse an App that I don’t use, and I use most of these on a daily basis.

  1. Textilus – I dabble in other forms of writing on occasion (I’m working on the nerdiest novel in history), and so I really wanted a full-featured writing App that had things like font control (font face and size), formatting, and exporting to universal formats like rtf. Textilus does it all, and its free version handles most of these things. I upgraded to the pay version, which was $5 well spent for a control freak like me.
  2. Evernote – Many people use this to sync notes between their iPhone/Android, PC/Mac, and their iPad. I don’t really use it on my PC too much, but it is the most useful note-taking tool ever on the iPad for me, especially with how easily you can drop in pictures, video, sound, or just type an outline for a post (like this one). It has some pay features, but the basic functionality is all I really need, so I stuck with the free version.
  3. Printer Pro Lite – Read this carefully: Printer Pro Lite will not give your iPad printing capabilities, but is a compatibility checker to be used with your PC or through a network to make sure that the full version of Printer Pro can talk to your printer and print stuff out. So again, if you want to see whether your printer is capable of connecting to your iPad, download the lite version and if printing from the iPad is workable and worth $7 to you, upgrade to the pay version to start printing. I did, and it works fantastically with my printer.
  4. Adobe Reader – For better or worse, the PDF is pretty much the standard format for important documents these days, and though there are some non-Adobe Apps that claim to enhance your ability to navigate and/or change the PDF’s on your iPad, my primary use for PDF’s is to read them, so I go with Adobe’s App, which works great.
  5. Chrome – I’ve written about Chrome’s features and capabilities before, so check that review out if you’re unclear on why I love this browser. I use it all the time, and the bookmark sync is particularly useful since it’s built into the browser and allows you to organize them into folders for easy access. The only time I use Safari is when I need to download something App-specific that Chrome doesn’t know how to handle (like brushes in Procreate).

So there you have it, five apps that I couldn’t do without, and all of them have free versions. Again, make sure you always read the descriptions of the Apps you’re downloading to make sure it does what you think it does. Printer Pro Free in particular has a lot of unnecessary negative reviews because people assumed it would help them print, something it never claimed it would do. Keep your objectives in mind as you App shop – reading the description is never a waste of time, even for free Apps.

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Extend iPad Battery Life

Long Live the Battery!

The iPad’s battery life is one of the primary reasons I chose it as my primary digital productivity tool. I work on it for 8 hours straight and it still has about 30-40% power left at the end of the day, so my wife and I can enjoy streaming a movie, playing some games, doing some research, really whatever we want to do. The advertised battery life is “up to 10 hours,” but I’ve gotten more like 12 to 14 hours out of it using a few power-saving tips.

  1. Turn the Brightness Down! This tip alone will extend your battery life by hours on a single charge. Go into the Settings Menu and tap “Brightness & Wallpaper” on the left-hand column, move that slider to the left as far as you can handle. Don’t go too crazy: really anything around a quarter to a third of its maximum brightness should suffice.
  2. Turn Unnecessary Connections Off! If you’re planning on using an App that doesn’t require an Internet connection, turn your Wifi off in Settings>Wifi. Likewise, if you’re not using your bluetooth connection (e.g. watching a video or playing a game requiring only the touchscreen), turn it off in Settings>Bluetooth. Time-Saver:If you’re using something that requires neither Wifi nor Bluetooth, just turn on Airplane Mode, which is at the top of the leftside menu in the Settings.
  3. Unplug it! If your iPad is only down to 80% at the end of the day, there’s no reason to charge it back up to the full 100% overnight. The chargers are small and portable should you really need them, and it wears on the overall batter life to continually keep the charge up to 100% all the time. Charge it when you need to, and if you really need to continue working on it when it’s down to 5%, go ahead and plug it in. Otherwise, wait until it’s at 20% or lower before giving it the full treatment.
iPad: What Shall We Get Done Today?

Have you discovered any great battery life tips? Write them in the comments section, or drop me a line: editor[at]iPad4Life.net !

Google Drive App Review

The Free, Cloud-based Office Suite

Google Drive was my primary word processing tool when I was using my laptop. The all-inclusive, browser-based application was so useful that it left Microsoft Office in the dust. Google Drive, then called Google Docs, restored my faith in free software, and allowed me to finally stop carrying around that pesky jump drive.

So how does the App compare to the regular browser-based version? Short answer, not well.

The Good

Proficient Google Drive users will feel right at home with the minimalistic interface, which is easy to navigate and organize. All of my files synced up without a problem, and I especially like the ability to save documents and spreadsheets offline and be able to edit them regardless of WiFi availability. Just make sure you select the “Make Available Offline” option while you have an internet connection.

The Google Drive App Interface

The App truly preserves the feel of the original Google Drive.

Documents have all of the same writing, editing, and formatting options that you’d find in the original, and while the interface is a bit more nested in the App, it’s nested intuitively, and all the options are easy to find.

The Spreadsheets are a little less evolved and are a LOT slower and therefore more frustrating to edit than Documents, but you can edit them, so that’s good. But if you need to zoom in (which you probably will because of how tiny the Spreadsheets can get), you will experience some lag in the App. Just take your patience pills beforehand and you’ll be fine.

A Sample Google Drive Spreadsheet

Just typing this took about 5 minutes, what with the column resizing and all.

With Documents and Spreadsheets, you basically have the same functionality as the original Google Drive, with a little bit of lag sprinkled mostly on the Spreadsheets. Lag is bad, but overall functionality is good.

The Bad

Presentations and Drawings are read-only, and the App has no way to edit them at all. To be fair, it does give a lot of sharing options for both, from PDF to JPG, but still – no way to create or edit Presentations or Drawings. This is a big minus, since I do throw together the occasional presentation or want to make a quick sketch in a Document.

Also, while you can edit Spreadsheets, I have no idea why you would choose this App for that function. Resizing the columns (which is a pretty frequent task) is like playing Operation: the resizing control is so small that my fat sausage fingers literally never grab it on the first try.

As I’ve already mentioned, this App is also a little temperamental and can occasionally be a little slow to respond. This is more frequent in the Spreadsheets than the Documents, but it is a problem nonetheless. How much RAM can these functions really need? The original version is browser-based for goodness’ sake!

Summing Up

Big-time positive points for offline editing and collaboration, big time negative points for general slowness and especially for the lack of support for Presentation and Drawing support. Here are the stars:

User-Friendliness: 4
Functionality: 3
Aesthetics: 5
Performance: 3.5
Honesty: 5

Overall: 3.75 Stars!

3.75 Stars!

Closing Advice For Google

Take a page from Evernote and specialize Drive’s capabilities. Make an App for Google Documents, Google Spreadsheets, Google Presentations, and Google Drawing and link them to one another. That way, you’ll get maximum functionality and usability, while also giving your users a more stable and pleasant overall experience, which is after all, what iPad users especially are looking for.

Standard Review Disclaimer
All of my reviews are done on the 4th Generation iPad that is about five months old. I can’t vouch for the functionality of something on an iPhone, an iPad Mini, an iPod Touch, older generation iPad, or a steam-powered spaceship. If you agree or disagree with any particular rating, please feel free to leave a well-reasoned comment, or send me an email: editor[at]iPad4Life.net . Thank you for reading!

Reset Your iPad

Resetting the iPad

A brief tutorial on how to reset your iPad. If your device is acting funny (apps crashing, becoming slower, etc.), consider resetting it as a solution.

Step 1:

Hold down the Power button (on top by the rear-facing camera) and Home button (on the opposite end of from the front-facing camera) at the same time until your iPad’s screen goes black and then displays the Apple Logo.

Step 2:

Wait for the device to boot up (usually about 20 seconds). Once the security keypad appears, you’re done.

While it probably won’t solve every problem, I have yet to encounter an iPad problem that it couldn’t solve for me. After I reset, it’s usually faster and more responsive, and I don’t have Apps crashing on me.

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iPad Hardware Specs: Does it Matter?

iPad Hardware came under fire a few weeks ago in a series of Windows 8 ads. They compared it to the ASUS VivoSmart Tab and claimed that it fell short in several areas. Most of these claims were true, some were false, but for the most part, they were right. The physical components of the iPad are, by and large, older and less cutting-edge than some of its Windows 8 tablet counterparts.

But does it matter? Does the iPad need the latest and greatest components in order to be relevant as a computer, or even a tablet?

What get's the job done?

The strength of the iPad lies in what some consider its greatest weakness: the closed iOS system. It feels funny to write those words since I used to be the biggest Microsoft fanboy you’d never want to meet. I believed that allowing for third-party vendors to write unverified software for Windows OS was a great way to encourage economic growth, free expression, and competition. Then I used Windows Vista for the first time.

I won’t go into detail about the train-wreck of an OS that was Vista, it’s nothing you can’t find on another blog from a different time. The main problem I had with using Vista was in using third-party software like Photoshop and most video games. For the record, the tragedy of Vista does not lie solely at Microsoft’s feet, but at the feet of the hardware vendors who failed to listen when they were being told how Vista would work differently than XP, particularly in how it would access the CPU.

The thing is, this kind of disaster almost certainly would not happen with an Apple product precisely because of their closed-system. In order to release an App in the Apple Store, it has to be tested and approved by Apple techs, who help the vendors work out their bugs and ensure compatibility for the product itself.

This is not a perfect system, and far too often, Apple strays into restrictive territory unnecessarily by keeping apps that it arbitrarily doesn’t like in approval limbo for years, like with the Onlive Gaming Service. They should be held accountable for this.

At the end of the day, when I’m working on a digital device of any stripe, whether it is a full-fledged desktop computer with all the bells and whistles or a seven-year-old laptop that hums only a little quieter than a jet engine, whether the product is made by Apple, Asus, HP, or even Microsoft itself, the question is not, does this product have the latest and greatest in hardware?, it’s can this device get the job done?

As I’ve mentioned before, the iPad not only helps me get things done, it helps me get them done in a way that is enjoyable and makes me more productive for that enjoyment. If the same can be said about a Windows 8 tablet when the time comes to replace my iPad, I’ll seriously consider it. But it all they can do is brag on hardware and disrespect and belittle their competitors, I think I’ll pass.