Nov 14

Sprng is a super cheap and elegant solution to EarPod fallout

Apple are famous for a lot of things - beautiful design, elegant functionality, simple-to-use products that enrich our lives and enable us to do things that would otherwise be beyond us. But one thing they aren’t exactly celebrated for is ergonomics. From the original mouse for the iMac, shaped like a hockey puck from the future, to the current line of unibody aluminum MacBooks with surfaces so smooth they are difficult to get a firm grip on with one hand, Apple are great at designing products that fit into our lifestyle but not so much into or physical grasps.

Enter the EarPod, Apple’s ground-up researched and designed earphones that are actually meant to fit into as many different shapes of human ear as possible. Unlike their previous earphones that had the same basic shape as any other classic set, the EarPods are kind of wonky looking - much like the human ear. They bulge and taper and, maybe unlike the human ear, manage to look pretty skeek in the process. 

I’ve never had much luck in keeping the old brand of Apple earphones in my ears. Gravity alone was all that was needed to pluck them from my incompatibly-shaped canals. The black bit of fitted foam wrapper they included back in the old iPod days helped give those earphones a little extra staying-in power for me, adding some much needed friction to the equation, but those were easily lost and eventually Apple stopped including them, anyway.

Now, with the ergonomically-designed Apple EarPods… I still can’t walk five feet without them tumbling earthward from my ears.

We all have crosses to bear in life. Mine, it seems, is having ears that simply don’t conform to Apple’s stringent research and development efforts. Thankfully, I’m not alone in this.

Sprng is an ingeniously simple and refreshingly affordable solution to EarPod fallout. While other earphone solutions have always looked beyond the ear, either wrapping over and around them, behind and around the neck, or across the top of the head, Sprng clips stay inside the ear, relying on the folding, spiralling weirdness of our ears as its anchor.

Each tiny Sprng clip snaps onto each EarPod leaving a thin and narrow hooked flap of rubber protruding upward. You simply insert your EarPods as normal, then pop the hooked flap of rubber under the folded cartilage above your ear canal and you’re in EarPod-wearing bliss. 

After having given up on ever wearing my EarPods again, suddenly being able to walk, run, jump, and heck even just stand still for more than five seconds and have them stay in my ears is a remarkable experience. Maybe now I’ll finally commit to going to the gym! 

Well, maybe not. But at least I know the option of listening to my own music while exercising is there for me now, if the unlikely urge ever arose.

Then there’s the price. It’s hard to believe such a perfect solution to a longstanding problem is only $10 (and with free shipping within Canada and the US) - it feels like they could have charged a lot more - but I guess the makers wanted to get the Sprng clips into as many hands - and ears - as possible. For which I am grateful.

On the grand scale of things, not being able to keep a pair of white plastic earphones in your ears is not exactly earth-shattering. But like any barrier we face in life, finding the solution to overcome it is always gratifying. I’m glad I found Sprng. And if your ears are anything like mine, hopefully you will be, too.

Oct 16

iPhone 5s review

So I’ve had my 5s for a little over a week now and here’s what I think about it.

It’s beautiful. I got mine in white/silver and I think it compliments the new look in iOS 7 nicely. On the first day I was almost afraid to use my 5s because it was so much thinner and sleeker than my crusty old 4. But I got over that pretty quickly. And no, I don’t use a case - why protect an object’s beauty if you never get to enjoy it, anyway?

The bigger screen (nothing new to 5 owners) took a little getting used to (about a day or two) but I can get around it with my thumb just fine now and I really like having the extra screen space. Widescreen video looks right at home on it, too.

The headphone jack being at the bottom now is a little annoying because it gets in the way of my pinky. But it’s a minor complaint.

The new TouchID fingerprint scanner is pretty cool. I was getting mixed results with the accuracy of it until I learned that you’re meant to have the metal ring around the button completely covered by your finger or thumb print. When I do that, the accuracy skyrockets. And when it does work, wow is it fast. You just press the button to wake the phone and if you still have your print against the button for like an instant after you let the button rise, you’re in. It’s so much faster than I was expecting - and when you’re not ready for it, it’s almost too fast (like if you meant to just scan the notifications on your lock screen but left your thumb on the button without thinking).

On the subject of fast, this phone freaking screams. I mean, a tortoise with arthritis would seem fast compared to my old iPhone 4. But comparisons aside, it’s just like everything I do on the 5s is instantaneous: Opening the camera, editing photos, tapping around Facebook, loading pages in Safari, launching big, bulky apps and games. It’s wild. The speed and responsiveness of this phone is probably my favourite feature.

But a close second would have to be the camera. Not only is it insanely fast to operate, which is important for a camera considering photo-worthy moments are so ephemeral, but it also snaps a really clean image with some often very professional looking results. Like shallow depth of field thanks to the new f/2.2 aperture on the lens, strong detail with no noticeable noise even under indoor lighting conditions thanks to enlarged photoreceptors on the sensor, and more even and clear exposures thanks to faster and more accurate exposure metering.

Maybe that’s a lot of fancy words and not much more to most people. The bottom line is that the camera on the 5s is a huge improvement over previous iPhone cameras. It’s basically a license to print compliments.

Oh yeah, and the new slow motion option on the video camera is super fun to use and makes playful puppies look extra cute.

I’ve used Siri a little bit on my iPad 3 (which I barely use to begin with) and found that it had a hard time recognizing what I was saying and didn’t do anything all that useful even when it could. But Siri on the 5s with iOS 7 is turning out to be both fun and useful - and it actually understands me, which helps. I use Siri to do simple stuff like set alarms, search the web, and cooler, more complicated things like write and send texts for me and set events in my calendar.

And you know what? The battery on the 5s is actually pretty good. But also kind of hard to pin down on just how good. Only once did I not get a full day out of it - more like 13 hours - and I’m not sure why. Recently, I actually managed 24 hours, thanks in large part to something I’ve noticed happens pretty consistently - if you don’t use the 5s at all it drains almost no power. Like I’m talking maybe a few percentage points while you sleep and it isn’t plugged in. But in general, a 16 hour day is totally manageable on my 5s, and I have all the wanky animations turned on and my screen brightness is at like 60%. Everyone’s mileage tends to vary on battery life with iPhones, but I’m no conservative when it comes to my iPhone usage and the 5s’s battery seems to last just fine for me.

In closing, I love my 5s. It’s a joy to use - often I’ll use it instead of my right-in-front-of-me MacBook Pro for tasks both are capable of, just because I like using my 5s more. If you’re a 4 or below user, then the 5s is the perfect iPhone to upgrade to. 

Oh and by the way, my original review for the iPhone 5s clocked in at just shy of 3000 words and was still unfinished. That’s how much I love this phone - I just couldn’t stop from blathering about it. But I’m glad I had the good sense to write and publish a shorter version instead. And hopefully you are, too. Thanks for reading!

Nov 07

“I find that when someone’s taking time to do something right in the present, they’re a perfectionist with no ability to prioritize, whereas when someone took time to do something right in the past, they’re a master artisan of great foresight.” — Randall Munroe, xkcd


Sep 21

“Good art is a kind of magic. It does magical things for both artist and audience. We can have long polysyllabic arguments about how to describe the way this magic works, but the plain fact is that good art is magical and precious and cool. It’s hard to try and make good art, and it seems to me wholly reasonable that good artists should be concerned with their work’s cultural reception.” — David Foster Wallace


Aug 26

“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle.” — Steve Jobs

Jun 18

“Cleverness is a gift, kindness is a choice. Gifts are easy — they’re given after all. Choices can be hard. You can seduce yourself with your gifts if you’re not careful, and if you do, it’ll probably be to the detriment of your choices.” — Jeff Bezos

Jun 16

“Don’t undertake a project unless it is manifestly important and nearly impossible.” — Edwin Land

Jun 06

“And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.” — Sylvia Plath

Apr 30

Mar 18

“Ideas are cheap and abundant; what is of value is the effective placement of those ideas into situations that develop into action.” — Peter Drucker