SGP Carbon back protector

Another day, another back iPhone screen protector. Having gone from a Zagg Invisible Shield protector on the back, which I foolishly took off, to a Power Support back protector, which was good but not as thick as the Zagg, to the SGP Carbon fibre look back which you can see in the photo here. Now, don’t get me wrong. I do not think that it is the bees knees in terms of looks but rather it has been applied for other reasons, the main one being to add a bit of grip (which it does) and to completely cover the back screen of the iPhone.

My previous protector was the Power Support one and I have reviewed it previously on here. It was a cinch to apply, the easiest of any protector, and it would have stayed but for one irritating incident whereby overnight, this scratch like thing appeared on the back of the phone, about an inch in length. Ouch I thought, it can’t be on the actual phone because the back was unblemished when the film was applied. Must be just a mark on the protector was my next thought but try as I might I could not wipe it off. So again I thought, hmmmm, must be on the phone then….damn it. Anyways, I was then left with that unpleasant feeling of having a possible scratch on the phone, visible as an unpleasant reminder 100% of the time.

That is when I decided to go for one of these SGP back covers, my reasoning being that I can pull off the Power Support protector to finally find out once and for all if there is a scratch on the phone and if so, at least I can hide it with the carbon fibre back cover for good and even if there is not a scratch then I will still apply it as it will stop me worrying about in the scratch situation in the future. I don’t know, I just don’t particularly like the glass back of the iPhone, it makes me nervous and now I don’t have to concern myself at all with it.

I think I paid about £19 for this, off eBay although you can get cheaper versions. I did in fact order a cheapo version, for under a £5 but the quality, when it arrived, was not nearly as good as the SGP one which is thicker and has more of a textured feel too. It was easy to apply, having the cut out for the Apple logo helps when lining it up and you can apply and re-apply it many times (as I did) until you are happy with the positioning. To be honest, I’d prefer there to be no Apple logo there as it leaves a bit of the back exposed to possible scratching although the carbon fibre effect does raise it a bit clear of the logo when on a desk. There’s no problem with the flash when taking pictures either and the iPhone still fits in my Brodit iPhone car holder and Herbert Richter windscreen mount too.

Overall, I’m pretty pleased with it and reckon it will stay on for a good while. I’d replace it though if there such a thing as a matte type back stick on protector, like the material used in the Incipio Feather case.

Some useful Jailbreak iPhone apps…

Nearly a week now with my jailbroken iPhone 4 and so far no problems at all. I have synced with iTunes several times with no ill effects. Like I said before, I did this with the intention of only making a few, subtle tweaks and had no intention of making wholesale changes although with the range of stuff available through Cydia, it is tempting.

A couple of things about Cydia. Firstly, the Cydia app, rather oddly, does not appear to support multi-tasking on the iPhone 4. No doubt there is a good reason for this but it means that if you download something and then try it out, when you go back into Cydia to look at other stuff you need to go back to the start. Secondly, Cydia is chock full of irritating and large advert and navigating through it is cumbersome. This app is so un-iPhone like it is almost funny….I am complaining which is of course grossly unfair bearing in mind the huge advantages it potentially bestows upon the user and I’d pay to get an ad-free version of it.

A couple of apps /settings that I tried out caused my phone to crash so I swiftly deleted them but I have kept, and paid for, some bits of software. SB Settings is a must and is free. This gives you an Android like pull down top menu from the status bar, actually the app gives you a whole host of ways of activating it but I have chosen the “swipe across the top status bar” method as the latter is visible in all screens thus giving quick access. The app itself gives you quick access to many useful settings that are normally only found in the “Settings” icon on your iPhone. You can also add in many “add-ins” available in Cydia store, many of which are free. I personally have added in a setting to close all running apps at the touch of one button. This add-in also allows you to specify exclusions to which apps should be shut down.

Next up is Infinidock which is almost invaluable to me now. This allows you to add as many items to the dock as you wish and you can either have loads showing at the same time (in which case they get all jammed together) or you can just swipe left and right to see the next batch of docked items,,,which is the way I have set it up. Really useful. Under a £1 too…

Overboard allows you to show all screens on the one page by either pressing the icon or setting up a touch orientated gesture or by pressing buttons of your choice. If you have loads of screens filled with apps then just one button press or gesture lets you access them all and one further press takes you to that screen.

I’ve also replaced the stock SMS application with iRealsSMS which is like a turbocharged (lazy simile) version of SMS. It adds many useful features to your texting software such as contact pics in the message view, folder support, the ability to reply from the text preview on your lock screen or springboard without having to open the app itself, loads of “privacy” settings and a whole lot more.  You can also call someone from within a message received. It cost about £9 I think, which is kind of expensive for an iPhone app but I think it is worth it.

Noreve iPhone 4 case

I’ve always liked Noreve’s stuff, I had a case from them for my Treo 750, Blackberry Curve, Treo 680 and iPhone 3g in the past. It was the usual plain black leather, with a flip over cover. Those cases were great, gorgeous black soft leather, really well fitting cases, nicely made, nicely packaged in plush looking boxes and always about £20/£30 cheaper than the likes of Piel Frama with, to my mind, no discernible loss in quality. Those phones of course were quite bulky and as a result the cases, being thickish leather, made the combined package quite thick and unfortunately, a bit pocket bulging.

The iPhone 4 is a bit thinner so I though I’d revisit the Noreve case line and purchased their “mobile tradition leather” case from an online UK seller. The case costs about £30, which is about £10 more expensive than the likes of these silicon and soft touch cases, amongst others, that you can buy in the High Street and also online yet the difference in quality is large and far outweighs the additional cost. The packaging has changed slightly, you still get the Noreve box but the whole thing now comes in one of those blister style packs. It also comes with the kit to let you attach a permanent belt clip, if you are that way inclined or you can remove the stud from the back so that the case lies flat on a desktop.

This case is so nice, feels so well made and has a lovely feel and smell. The iPhone 3g case was styled so that you slid the phone in to the case whereas the iPhone 4 version is different, you just sort of press it in and the slightly raised corners act as holding clips. It’s easy to get it in and not too hard to get it out either. Once in though, the iPhone feels very secure, there is no way it is going to slip out. Another difference to the 3g case pertains to the closing flap. On the older iPhone the closing flap wrapped around the bottom of the case and up onto the back and was secured with a stud type arrangement. This case dispenses with that and instead the flap is incorporated into the top case design, is rigid and clips onto the top of your phone, inbetween the on/off switch and headphone socket. With the case “locked”, it looks very compact and I’m sure it would offer good protection in the event of a drop.

All the ports, such as dock and volume buttons, are fully covered and unusable with the case on….actually they’re not but I thought I’d mention that because everyone else seems to feel the need to record that detail in reviews when really, it should be taken for granted…no?

It’s a lovely case but the big drawback for me is the flip style, I just can’t get used to it and it doesn’t feel right having that dangly bit flapping away. As mentioned in a previous post, I’ve now got a preference for pouch style cases, just for transportation purposes as I basically prefer to use the iPhone as is, unencumbered by a case so I have returned the case and asked for another by Noreve as a replacement, this time their Tradition Pouch case. Still, if you are a flappy case type of guy or gal then it’s a case that should be considered alongside the likes of other flip cases from Senna, Vaja and Piel Frama.

You can buy it off the shelf in black from here, or if you go onto the Noreve site then there is a choice of colours and materials.

MacBook Air….finally tempting?

These new MacBook Airs were announced last week at the big Apple event but haven’t received a whole lot of positive comment to date, perhaps people still remember too freshly the over priced and under powered, but mightily pretty, originals. You get the impression that people haven’t been taking it seriously since it was first announced a couple of years ago and that has continued.

On paper the specs for the new model, especially the 11 inch version, don’t look promising with a 1.4ghz processor and a fairly measly 64gb of  storage whereas the 13 incher…oohhh errrr….would also appear to struggle with its 1.8ghz. These are the sort of processor speeds that were on MacBook Pros 4/5 years ago. However, I’ve read a few reviews of the new models in the past few days and the praise for both models has been positive. This review is for the 1.4ghz model and is almost quite gushing.

Apple’s new 11-inch MacBook Air is astonishing. It’s unbelievable. It’s the most exciting consumer PC that’s come out for years. It’s a netbook, but it’s not a PoS. It’s blazing fast. It’s unbelievably light and thin. It’s beautifully made. Really beautifully made

This one too goes on about how quick it seems in ordinary operation which is surprising given the rather paltry, on paper, processor speed.

Overall, I love it so far. Having a machine this small, with a keyboard and screen this good, decent battery life and good performance is great. Now when it tags along with my work machine, I’ll be wondering if I even put it in my bag.

The cheapest version is the 1.4 with 64gb of storage and that costs £849, which is about £250 more than an iPad with similar capacity and for that you get more of a laptop experience with a keyboard, full size too. Before, I was thinking I might finally get an iPad but now I’m not so sure. Steve Jobs, who has been right on a few occasions recently with regard to making predictions, seems to think that the Air is the future of portable (mac) computing and if he says so then the days of the MacBook and MacBook Pro must be numbered. Sounds like the Air will come out of the shadows and become a serious proposition after a spell when it just looked liked an expensive toy.  When flash storage becomes cheaper then surely we will see the likes of the Air, specced up with 500gb “hard drives”, being Apple’s “pro” laptop solution. I don’t know, I might hang on, get an iPad and then when I replace the MacBook Pro in a year or two, look at the Air instead of another Pro.

Vaja cases

I once had one of these, I think it was for a Treo 750 but can’t be sure. It was very nicely made and had a wonderful leather aroma but for some reason I sold it on quite quickly on eBay, probably because it was a flip style case and I just cannot get on with them. I’ve slowly come to the conclusion that I like the look and idea of cases that are meant to stay on devices full time but just can’t live with them for a couple of reasons. Reason number 1 is that they invariably get in the way of accessories, such as my apple dock and Herbert Richter air vent mount holder and it can be a pain to get them off and on quickly or easily, and reason number 2, they add some bulk to your phone and when you have a lovely slim and nice-to-hold device like an iPhone I think it is a shame to hide it away and at the same time, detract from the tactile pleasure of the phone.

So, I have sort of determined, for a time anyway, to go with pouch style cases as they are great for protecting your phone in transit (which is when I want the protection anyway), you can get the phone out quickly and easily and thus you can continue to use the phone with your add on stuff. I’ve already got a decent pouch case, the Proporta Maya case, which I’ve had for a year or so. It’s a universal style case which was originally bought for an iPhone 3G but which also fits the iPhone 4 and the HTC Legend which I also had for a bit. It’s quite reasonably priced too and comes in several colours, as you can see from the picture on the left. It’s a soft case mind so will offer little protection in the event of a nasty drop.

I actually had a good look around for a good quality leather case online, one that you could customise a bit but all I could find was the Vaja “Retro Pouch” for the iPhone. There are loads of different colour options and I had a heck of a time deciding what to go for. My initial preference was to go for the black with a bright orange stripe but my wife dissuaded me from that, as she did with the black and baby blue stripe so I ended up going for the black with nautical blue. I kind of wish I had gone for the orange stripe, sometimes it’s best not to ask for a 2nd opinion….Not to worry, delivery time is 25 days plus, or so it says on their website.

Pwange tool to jailbreak

I finally did it after a period of humming and hawing about whether or not to jailbreak. To be honest, there wasn’t a whole heap of stuff or apps or features that I was missing on my stock iPhone 4 that made me so unhappy that I just couldn’t hold out any longer, far from it, there were however a couple of tweaks I knew I could do on a jailbroken version that I felt would enhance my useage. The main one being to get quicker access to some of the settings, such as wifi and 3g.

I won’t bother or bore you with all the gory details about the process because firstly, it wasn’t that difficult at all and secondly, the full instructions can be found here….the tool that I used is only for macs at present. I did initially balls up the bit where you have to enter DFU mode but the application is forgiving and gives you as many tries as you need to get it right. I also did not bother adding in any software from the available packages as the Cydia app on your iPhone, post jailbreaking, gives access to the same stuff.

From start to finish it was under an hour. The first thing I did after restoring the phone with the new firmware was to fire up Cydia and download SBSettings as this was the software I’d read about in advance and knew I wanted because it gives you fast access to toggling on the wifi setting, amongst others. You just need to swipe across the top status bar and this brings up the menu, then tap the wifi icon and that is it. You can also change bluetooth, 3G on/off, power on/off, brightness and other stuff which is really very handy.

My iPhone, apart from one early odd sort of crash thing, has been stable. It’s always a concern when you do something like this in case everything goes to pot but I remembered that I used a previous Pwnage tool on my old 2G and it worked just fine for 2 years after without a concern. In addition, it is seemingly very simple to restore back to factory settings should the need arise, a factor that is important to me for peace of mind.

I’m going to have a peek at a few others apps and possible tweaks to see if there is anything else I should be doing. The WiFi sync app looks tempting but previous wifi syncings on other smartphones via Missing Sync were painfully slow so that deters me.

Echofon for FaceBook application

I purchased this a few days ago as I’ve never been a huge fan of the native Facebook application on the iPhone, the News feed page seems to be very short and only capable of showing a few entries.

It cost me £1.79 and for me, the big advantage of it is that it presents your Facebook news feed like a Twitter feed which I find easier to read and follow links. This allows more items to be shown. I also like the way the main features are tabbed along the bottom, again a la Twitter style for easy access. Replying to comments and posting updates is also quite simple. Probably a not very necessary application but the native Facebook app tends to hinder how often I actually use Facebook and so far I have found myself using the Echofon application, to check friends postings, more.