Source: USA TODAY
With its svelte physique, sultry voice and sassy attitude, it’s hard not to fall head over heels for the iPhone. Show how much you care with these new toys we’ve found. We’re sure you’ll enjoy them as well.
A smartphone breathalyzer
It was only a matter of time before someone designed a breathalyzer for the iPhone.
The BACtrack Mobile Breathalyzer ($150) is a professional-grade alcohol-testing device that works in conjunction with an iOS app to track blood alcohol content. Launched at the end of April, BACtrack is equipped with fuel-cell sensors, which are employed by law enforcement officers for roadside alcohol testing. Providing quick, accurate and reliable readings, fuel cells are more sensitive than breathalyzers designed for home and personal use, which typically utilize semiconductor sensors.
I didn’t think this was worth mentioning, but on the few occasions when I talked about this Bluetooth breathalyzer, people immediately thought of this as a drinking game accessory. No, the purpose of BACtrack isn’t to see who can blow the highest number but, instead, to use as a precautionary measure, especially if you’re thinking about getting behind the wheel after a few drinks (even simpler: don’t).
When you take a reading — at least 15 minutes after drinking to avoid distorting results — the BACtrack app displays your blood alcohol content, context for what the reading means (sober, intoxicated or somewhere in between) and your ZeroLine, an estimate of how long it’ll take before your BAC returns to 0. The app, which tracks these numbers over time, also lets you add pictures, locations, drinks and other notes to provide more insight into your drinking habits. Somewhat annoyingly, each time you launch the app, you have to re-pair the breathalyzer to your phone. There are also occasions when the app freezes up, fixed only by restarting, so I’m hoping an update will fix these issues.
Being a smartphone breathalyzer, it wouldn’t be complete without social features. On the most basic level, that means extra mouthpieces so friends can also test their sobriety. To avoid skewing your results, the app lets you designate readings as yours or your friends’. If you feel so compelled, you can also share your results over text message, Facebook or Twitter. In my sober opinion, doing so seems like it’d work against you. I can already see it unfolding: “I swear I’m not drunk,” you insist. “Twitter says otherwise,” says an agitated parent, partner, pal or police officer. “Oops.”
A gorgeous Geiger counter
Geiger counters, the devices that measure radiation levels, aren’t designed to be beautiful, but Lapka is changing that.
With five sensors, Lapka ($220) is a modular personal environmental monitor that measures radiation, nitrates in produce, electromagnetic field, humidity and temperature. Since each concerns different types of molecules, these measurements are taken individually. Switching between the parts can be cumbersome, but the design is intentional to keep costs down and allow for the addition of other monitors down the line. Creative Director Vadik Marmeladov says the individual tools provide parallel levels of accuracy to the ones on the market — just in a prettier package.
An audio cable is used to connect the iPhone to the four monitors (humidity and temperature are combined into one), each featuring an audio port. To keep the parts as one cohesive unit, the cord runs through each component, so they look almost like pendants on a necklace — a jab at wearable computers, if you will. Most of the monitors don’t require much more effort than placement (e.g., near an electronic device when testing EMF), but the produce sensor includes a detachable probe to stick into fruits and vegetables to measure the concentration of nitrate ions from synthetic fertilizers (a sign your produce isn’t organic). Each time you take a reading, the app provides a baseline of what is considered safe and visualizes the surrounding particles, color coding the background to let you know if the measurements are in line with set standards (blue is good, red is bad).
Though Lapka calls itself a home monitor, Marmeladov recommends running tests routinely outside the home as well. The data and location are logged with each reading, and the hope is to map this information out so the community can see how different regions compare.
Solvei’s budget iPhone network
That includes customers of Solavei, which in March introduced nano SIM cards specifically for the iPhone 5. For $49 a month without a contract, the mobile service provider offers unlimited voice, text and data to those who bring over their existing phones, all while leveraging T-Mobile’s infrastructure. T-Mobile offers a comparable plan for $70 a month, and though both operate on the same network, the difference in pricing can be attributed to Solavei’s grassroots marketing. In lieu of a tall marketing budget, the provider relies on its members for word-of-mouth advertising, reducing their bills by $20 a month for every three referrals that stay on the service. Since launching last summer, referral payouts have totaled more than $9.5 million.
In the few months of testing Solavei’s service, T-Mobile’s network appears to have made major headway in San Francisco. Whereas it was once difficult just to load tweets in my downtown San Francisco apartment, my iPhone 5 now typically sees speeds of more than 6 Mbps down and 1 Mbps up. Still, that’s not to say the experience is flawless. The phone often inched at a snail’s pace, and network errors were common. Forget about 4G, I was lucky to even run on 3G, spending about half my time throughout the bay at excruciatingly slow Edge speeds. Often, it felt like such a shame to run this beautiful piece of hardware on such an unreliable network.
Still, like I said, T-Mobile has been bolstering its network, and the difference is noticeable. It’s possible that the promise of T-Mobile’s enhanced coverage and lure of Solavei’s pricing might make these growing pains worth it. Solavei isn’t perfect, but then again, neither are the prices the major carriers charge.
Case keeps iPhone out of your face
So obsessed with your phone that it’s the only thing occupying your line of sight?
Believe it or not, there’s a case for that. MirrorCase integrates an angled mirror so you can shoot photos while the iPhone is in a horizontal position, and a corresponding app inverts the picture so it’s facing right side up. Ahead of the release of a new version for iPhone 5 ($60) this summer, MirrorCase supplied me with a 3-D-printed prototype to try. The slimmed-down case features a pop-out mirror that rotates to shoot in both landscape and portrait modes. A built-in kickstand props the phone on a surface to shoot. This is especially useful for students, who can use the kickstand to record lectures on their iPhones.
While MirrorCase successfully keeps the iPhone from blocking your view (at least while shooting), it’s hard to ignore that it can also serve a more nefarious purpose, allowing creepers to shoot unnoticed in public. This isn’t helped by the app’s built-in privacy screen, which blacks out the display so others can’t see what you’re doing. I’m hoping that’s not you, dear reader.
An elegant analog dock
When Apple moved from 30-pin to Lightning connectors, it signaled impending doom for iPhone docks.
Still, I find myself strangely captivated by Station ($40), a bamboo caddy designed to hold, not charge, an iPhone and keep other miscellany, such as keys and sunglasses, organized on a desk. An exemplar of minimalist design, Station keeps things exceedingly simple. The compartments — labeled phone, pen and stuff — are precision-cut from a piece of bamboo, and a laser etches the subtle branding on the front. Since Station isn’t built for a specific phone, it’ll also stick around for your next phone upgrade.
Station originated from a successful Kickstarter project by Nathan Mummert in Scottsdale, Ariz. Having raised more than $10,000, it doubled its original funding goal of $5,000. BiteMyApple.co, a retailer that sells crowdfunded Apple-theme products, will begin shipping Station later this month.