BlueLounge Kickflip: An incredibly useful MacBookPro accessory.

BlueLounge KickFlip for MacBook Pro

I write a ton of hardware reviews for TUAW, and I really get tired of seeing overpriced stands for MacBooks. The idea of these things is to just put your device into a comfortable position for typing while you’re using the laptop on a flat surface or lap, but some of the accessory designers think that you want an expensive museum piece instead. Not so with the BlueLounge Kickflip, a US$19.95 (for 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display) or $17.95 (for 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display) adjustable stand that adds no bulk and almost no weight to your favorite Apple laptop. The Kickflip was released today by BlueLounge, in an act of perfect timing for the back-to-school crowd in another month.

Design Highlights

The Kickflip is made of a piece of black polyurethane that is hinged in the middle. It’s attached to your MacBook Pro (or in my situation, a Speck SmartShell case) with a special gel adhesive band that makes it possible to remove it without damage.

Normally, the Kickflip adds just a little height — maybe about a quarter-inch — to the back of your MacBook Pro. But when you flip down the hinged piece it raises the back of your laptop by about 1-1/4 inches, enough to really make a difference.

Functionality HIghlights

Installation of the Kickflip on either a “naked” MacBook Pro or on a shell like that I have installed on my MBP is quite simple — you just remove a piece of paper off of the gel adhesive, align the top of the sticky portion with the back of your laptop, and press it into place. The adhesive has a strong grip and inadvertent removal of the Kickflip should not be an issue.

So, now you’re typing away on your MacBook Pro and need a little bit of angle to the keyboard to make it a bit more comfortable? Just reach under and flick that “kickstand” down and you’re good to go. Ready to pop your MacBook Pro back into its carrying bag? With one hand, you can flip the Kickflip back up and get it out of the way.

Conclusion

I’m a sucker for well-designed products that are inexpensive, and the Kickflip from BlueLounge fits that bill. It works with either size (13- or 15-inch) MacBook Pro, and as you can see in my photo at the top of the page, it’s also compatible with third-party shells. I just wish it had the ability to lock into one more interim position as well in order to give it just a tad more flexibility.

Apple debuts iTunes Pass in Japan, allows Passbook-based iTunes credit refills at Apple Stores.

itunes pass

Apple today has launched an interesting new service for iTunes Store, App Store, and iBookstore users in Japan with iPhones and iPod touches. The new service, called iTunes Pass (no, not thatiTunes Pass), allows users to go to an Apple Store in Japan, purchase credit in-store for the iTunes Store, App Store, and iBookstore, and have that money immediately applied to the Apple ID account instead of needing to receive a gift card and enter a redemption code…

To substitute for a physical gift card, iTunes Pass installs a new pass inside of the iOS Passbook application. The Apple Store employee can scan the pass in order to immediately apply the credit to the Apple account. Users can install the iTunes Pass feature in Passbook on the main screen in the iPhone iTunes Store app. Apple previously opened up the ability for Apple Store gift cards to be stored in Passbook as well as WWDC tickets for its developer conference and iTunes Festival tickets for its free concert series. Here’s Apple’s description of the service, machine translated from Japanese into English:

Use the iTunes Pass, you can now deposit directly to the account of the App Store or iTunes Store you. Go to the iTunes Store in the iOS device you have, if you tap “Use iTunes Card / Code” button and scroll down, you can get the iTunes Pass. 3 Please tell specialist that then, the Apple Store near you, you want to deposit into account. When you open the iTunes Pass from the Passbook, specialists will scan it, and accepts the payment. Balance is updated on the fly, available immediately.

This move by Apple is significant in multiple ways, including for paper conservation and the future of mobile payments. The ability for Apple to add iTunes credit to user accounts via a quick scan of a Passbook pass will likely reduce the amount of physical materials needed to produce gift cards. Second, this feature could be a hint at Apple’s mobile payments plan. Sources previously told usthat Apple is readying an iTunes-based mobile payments service that would integrate with Touch ID and Passbook. Apple Stores rolling out the ability to apply credits to iTunes accounts could be the first practice run for such functionality.

Screen Shot 2014-07-14 at 11.26.40 PM

While the feature is launching in Japan today, Apple has not yet indicated if the function is planned to come to other countries in the future. Apple rarely launches significant initiatives in just a single region outside of the United States, so perhaps a larger rollout with more countries is not far behind. Another possibility is that Apple is using Japan as a test country for this feature as the region is a major market for Apple, but one with only nine Apple retail stores. Apple has approximately 400 other locations outside of Japan.

Secret Apple partnership could give your iPhone weeklong battery life.

38vbattery

The iPhone 6 isn’t expected to get a huge battery upgrade, but in just a few years your next iPhone might be able to go weeks on a single charge.

Apple and British fuel-cell firm Intelligent Energy have supposedly been working on a secret partnership, according to The Daily Mail, that might bring embedded fuel cells with weeks of battery life to Apple’s armada of MacBooks, iPhones and iPads.

 Not only would the adoption of fuel cells free iPhone owners from their wall-hugging bondage, the conversion of chemical energy into electricity is clean and highly efficient. Neither Apple or Intelligent Energy have acknowledge the secret partnership, but according to the report, the two companies are hoping to bring the fuel-cell technology to the market within a few years.

Intelligent Energy just purchased a bundle of patents for the practical application of fuel cells last December. If Apple is able to successfully adopt the technology in the iPhone it would mark a huge leap forward for energy-efficient devices and further distance from Samsung.

Apple and Intelligent Energy already share some connections, with Apple’s former computer product specialist, Joe O’Sullivan, now serving as Intelligent Energy’s COO. IE also recently opened an office in San Jose, California, just down the road from Apple HQ.

Along with the possibility of fuel cells, Apple is also rumored to be adopting new materials such as unbelievably scratch-resistant sapphire glass, and perhaps more Liquid Metal. The 4.7-inch iPhone 6 is expected to sport a modest 1,900mAh battery when it launches this fall, but it’s beefier brother, the 5.5-inch iBeast, will have a 2,500 mAh battery (if it ever makes it out the gate).

Turn Your iPad into a Full-Fledged Desktop with the myKeyO.

ncreasingly, iPads are replacing laptops and even desktops as the computing platform of choice, especially in schools. But the onscreen keyboard is often the weak link. There are a plethora of Bluetooth keyboards, notably Apple’s own pricey Wireless Keyboard. It could get expensive to outfit each student with one.

mk1800  - Another award winning 6 in ONE  Keyboard w/Organizer  with "the restt" tablet stand, this is the basic model

Enter the myKeyO. This is a unique combination of a Bluetooth keyboard with something I haven’t seen before. Indeed I was skeptical of this item when the vendor first emailed me about it, but now that I’ve had a chance to use it, I totally get it.

First, there is a base station, made of heavy duty silicone. There are cutouts to hold an iPad (or other tablet) in portrait or landscape mode. More cutouts can hold a variety of things, like a pen or stylus, business cards, paperclips, and more.

The most important slot is for either the official Apple Wireless Keyboard, or their own keyboard. They have designed a lower cost, tough plastic keyboard that shares the exact same dimensions as Apple’s version. In some ways, this keyboard is better because it has iPad-specific buttons like the Home button. It also could work with Microsoft Windows computers or tablets, as it has labels for Windows.

I could easily see the myKeyO units being placed throughout a school or office, so students could set down their tablets and get to work. Ideally, each student would work at the same spot, so the Bluetooth keyboard would already be paired, but if not, pairing is an easy process with the Connect button on the bottom of the keyboard.

The base station is really heavy and should stay put on most desks. It’s also available in assorted colors, so students can have some customization. It’s one of those accessories you didn’t know you needed until you see it. But now it’s earned a dedicated spot on my desk.

5 Mac fundamentals everyone needs to know.

As user-friendly as they are, Macs are complex machines. They’re absolutely loaded with features, some of which might not be obvious from the start. In today’s video, we take a look at five basic tips that can help make everyday use of your Mac much more enjoyable. Find out how to clean up your desktop, customize your Dock, tweak audio settings and more with just a few quick clicks.

Apple begins encrypting iCloud email sent between providers.

Last month Apple confirmed that it would soon beef up encryption for iCloud email following a report detailing security flaws in major email services. While Apple previously encrypted emails sent between its own iCloud customers, now the company has enabled encryption for emails in transit between iCloud and third-party services for me.com and mac.com email addresses. 

The change is documented on Google’s transparency websitethat shows the percentage of emails encrypted in transit for both inbound and outbound email exchanges (pictured below):

iCloud-email-encryption

Apple is yet to make an official announcement for the changes.

The change is a welcomed one for users following several media reports noting that Apple was one of the last global email providers based in the US not providing encryption for email between providers. However, there are already reports that Apple’s method of encryption might not be as secure as security experts hoped. A translated report from Heise.de, which examined the new methods of encryption, notes that Apple is using the RC4 encryption algorithm that it claims leaves much to be desired in terms of possible eavesdropping. A security researcher we spoke to said RC4-128 (which is the version of RC4 Apple is believed to be using) is far weaker than AES-128. The researcher also noted there has been suggestions, though not yet proof, that the NSA has broken RC4-128.

We’ve reached out to Apple for a comment on the new encryption methods and will update if we hear back.

iWatch has complex build, might be delayed.

iWatch has complex build, might be delayed

The iWatch might be on its way, but at least one analyst believes it will arrive later than expected. Apple’s proprietary foray into the wearables sector may not come as quickly as we originally thought, but is still expected to arrive by the end of the year. Why the delay? Apple may be trying to do too much with their wearable.

Information from KGI analyst Ming-Chi Kuo notes issues in just about every part of the process. Hardware, software — you name it, Apple is having problems. The screen, which some believe will be AMOLED to help control battery life, is said to be covered in Sapphire glass. According to the analyst, the implementation of Sapphire glass is giving Apple fits.

The iWatch would have more Sapphire than they’ve put on any product before (the only current application is the Touch ID sensor on the iPhone 5S). That doesn’t quite jive with rumors surrounding the iPhone 6, though, where we’ve got a look at the Sapphire display already. If Apple were having trouble with Sapphire, why wouldn’t it relate to the iPhone 6 as well?

The manufacturing process Apple is using to keep the device slim is one we’ve talked about before. Quite a bit more difficult than simply making a tiny smartphone, the System in Package (SiP) process asks for extra steps — but has some built-in benefits. It will keep components in a tighter package, making water resistance simpler. Wireless charging is also said to be complicating the SiP process.

Kuo also believes the software is giving Apple issues, as they’re working on a newer version of iOS to make available on the iWatch. It’s not yet known how Apple will handle the software portion of the iWatch, so this is highly speculative.

Of course, this is all pretty speculative talk. Analysts have a spotty track record, but often have insight into manufacturing processes. The iWatch is believed to hit around November, which is still in time for the holiday shopping season. It seems that just after an iPhone 6 launch in the Fall, Apple will want a few hundred dollars extra for an iWatch.