Welcome to our new, continuously-updated First Looks - a collection of previews showing brand new iPod, iPhone and iPad accessories that we’re currently in the process of testing. Here’s what’s hot right now:
Compatible: iPad 2, iPad (3rd/4th-Gen)
Taking on the field of of highly protective iPad case options, Kensington has introduced its BlackBelt 3rd Degree Rugged Case ($80). Made for full-sized iPads, the case isn't the prettiest around. It starts with a plastic shell at its base, which is then surrounded by a thick rubber layer; a sheet of screen film is included as well. Button and camera protection is built into the case. A locking anchor allows you to conenct to the company's line of security devices. Optional accessories include a $30 kit with a hand strap and shoulder strap.
Compatible: iPad mini, iPad 2, iPad (3rd/4th-Gen)
Kensington has released two distinct products under the same family name: SafeGrip Rugged Case & Stand for iPad mini ($50) and SafeGrip Security Case & Lock for iPad ($90). The latter model supports second-, third-, and fourth-generation iPads. Although it's not identical, the iPad mini holder reminds us of i-Blason's ArmorBox Kido Series. The foam case has a hinged-handle that can also act as a stand. This one includes a stylus, which can fit into a groove on the back, as well as screen film and an applicator. It only comes in green. SafeGrip Security Case & Lock has a similar outer piece, but the iPad first fits inside a hard plastic case with a locking mechanism. Included with the pack is a ClickSafe lock. This one comes in bright orange, and looks pretty monstrous -- gigantic, and without a particularly good match between the inner and outer layers. The last photo below shows how awkwardly the parts come together.
Compatible: All iPhones, iPods
The i4+ Universal Charging Station ($80) is IDAPT's latest multi-device charging base. The black plastic unit has three charging stations on top, and includes five interchangeable tips: one Lightning, one Dock Connector, two micro-USB, and one mini-USB. You simply plug in the ones you need, connect your accessories, and let them charge. Additional tips can be purchased separately. There's also a USB port on the side, which allows you to charge a fourth device, with your own cable. A wall adapter is included. Updated October 17, 2013: We've opted not to fully review i4+ for the time being, for reasons detailed below.
During testing of i4+, we’ve noted a number of oddities that appear to be attributable to IDAPT’s use of unlicensed Lightning connectors. First, it’s important to note that there are differences between the Lightning tips that come with the set or are sold separately. The former is labeled “iPhone/Lightning,” and has a slightly raised plug that allows for greater but not complete case compatibility. The other, available for $19, simply says “Lightning,” and isn’t raised, so it won’t work with cases. Occasionally, plugging in an iOS 7 device will prompt warning text to appear, but not every time; it’ll still charge regardless. There were unexplained differences between the charging rates we saw with connected Lightning devices, as well. For the time being, we’re not going to issue a full review. If IDAPT updates its system with consistent Lightning adapters, we’ll revisit it at that point.
Model: CableDrop Mini
Compatible: Apple Cables
A sequel to larger cable clips launched several years ago, Bluelounge has released CableDrop Mini ($10). Coming in packs of nine, in white or black plastic, these clips are designed to hold small cords, such as Lightning cables, in place. Each is 0.8" in diameter, and has adhesive on the back for mounting.
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