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Published on June 30th, 2011 | by Greg


Bluetooth: iTablet On Keys and BlueAnt Sings

Imagine a gaming console controller… only with keys instead of thumbsticks or other buttons. And think of your vehicle’s sun visor, only picture it with a speakerphone clipped on, allowing you to listen and talk in your car without blocking one of your ears or tying up one hand.

The iTablet Bluetooth Wireless Keyboard looks odd and feels odd, but it does solve a major problem. Most keyboards lie flat, and are content with their rectangular shape, sometimes rounded. But when you’re building a portable keyboard, meant to be handled on the go or perhaps from the couch, a more ergonomic shape is probably desirable. For most people, though, it will take some time to learn- normal QWERTY rules don’t quite apply since many keys are performing double duty and they aren’t always what you expect. This is true with every new keyboard, of course, but especially for one that is so small. Hardest for us was the spacebar key, which isn’t centered and was almost a deal breaker- punctuation is also difficult.

And tiny it is, weighing only 3 and a half ounces. For folks with small hands, it fits nicely- but might not work so well for those with smaller hands (which is OK since it is often the larger-fingered who find the keyboards on smartphones a bit clumsy).We loved the backlight on the keys, and appreciated the inclusion of the touchpad on the rear of the device- but didn’t find it all that helpful since we mainly use iPhones and other iOS devices like the iPad. Paired with a computer, it worked alright, but wasn’t as good as the built-in ones in our case. An external wireless touchpad might be handy for those presenting at a meeting though! Pairing is simple, as usual with Bluetooth, and build quality is solid. Battery life was also good, as we never ran out in irregular use and specs show it lasting a week with recharging pegged at about 1.5 hours via USB. At $100, the iTablet is a smart pick for anyone in need of an ultraportable keyboard solution, and is compatible with most any device.

The BlueAnt S4 Handsfree Speakerphone clips onto your sun visor and instantly turns your Bluetooth-enable phone into an in-car phone system. We’ve tried a wide number of these, to varying degrees of success, and this one offers much the same strengths and weaknesses as others. For those who travel primarily by themselves, and talk mostly in the car, these make a good deal of sense. But passengers tend to get annoyed (or are audible and can eavesdrop), and if you walk or take other transport then an on-ear solution is probably better. And while some mount to the dashboard, requiring some installation or awkward placement, the S4 does not- but at the same time, the visor mount can slip a bit and can also block your mirror. This one includes two sizes of clips, a nice touch, and the best magnetic integration we’ve seen that held up pretty well.

There are plenty of nifty features, like the multipoint that can connect to two different phones but answer the one that is active. A2DP works great, perfect for GPS turn-by-turn directions or audiobooks, if not quite good in our opinion for music. Noise reduction is decent, though no real cancellation is offered- but inside your car, you shouldn’t really need it, and listeners did report impressively clean and clear audio (dependent on reception primarily). Touch sensitive controls were appealing at first, but seemed finicky and several users reported occasional issues using them. On the plus side, the S4 offers plenty of volume and impressive audio, and up to 20 hours of talk time or 700 hours standby, which is quite good. But we also noticed a few problems- the speakerphone did not seem to automatically repair with a device when we moved out of range (getting out of the car), and we were dependent on the voice dialing system offered on our phones instead of utilizing the more advanced options available on some competitors. Pricing is quite fair- $65 can put one of these in your hand (or car). but if you need voice dialing or are a constant user, you might want something a bit more sophisticated.

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About the Author

Greg dreamed up the idea for the Truly Network while living in Hawaii, which began with a single site called TrulyObscure. In 2010, when advertisers and readers were requesting coverage beyond the scope of that site, TrulyNet was launched, reaching a broader audience over a variety of niche sites. Formerly the head technology correspondent for the Des Moines Register at age 16, he has since lived and worked in five states and two countries, helping a list of organizations and companies that includes the United States Census Bureau, TripAdvisor, Events Photo Group, Berlitz, and Computer Geeks. He also served as the Content Strategy Manager for HearPlanet, a multi-platform app that has reached over a million users and has been featured in the New York Times, Hemispheres Magazine, National Geographic Adventure, Fox Business News, PC Magazine, and even Appleā€™s own iPhone ads. Greg has written as a restaurant critic and feature journalist for a number of national and international publications, including City Weekend Magazine, Red Egg Magazine, the Newton Daily News, Capital Change Magazine, and an arm of China Daily, Beijing Weekend. In addition, he has served as a consulting editor for the Foreign Language Press of Beijing, as well as a writer and editor for the George Washington University Hatchet, the school newspaper of his alma mater. Originally from Iowa, Greg is currently living in the West Village of Manhattan.

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