Category Archives: reviews

Nomad Leather Cases for iPhone X

nomad leather case iphone x

I haven’t been shy here at Simple Guy Stuff about my love for Nomad’s gear for the Apple Watch, which ranges from the fashionable to the technologically helpful. Nomad’s Modern Strap is my favorite Apple Watch band.

That said, when Nomad offered to let me check out some of their brand-new leather cases for the iPhone X, I jumped at the chance. Here are the cases I tried, pictured left to right above:

nomad leather case iphone x nomad leather strap apple watch

Since the iPhone X was just released yesterday, I’ve had just a bit of time to try the cases out. Right now, I’m using the Rugged Leather case on my phone, which I chose for 2 reasons: the way it looks with my Nomad Apple Watch band (pictured) and because I wanted to use a Qi charger with my iPhone X (more on that below).

nomad leather case iphone x

Here’s the flipside of the Rugged Case. A simple, tight black edge with functional, covered buttons. Because of the design of the iPhone X, you can’t really tell if you’re rocking the silver or black model until you get to the back of the device, so either one will look mostly the same with this case.

nomad leather case iphone x

Internally in both the Rugged and the Wallet case is a nice, thin layer of foam for added drop protection. Of the 3 cases here, the Wallet and Clear case are rated for 6-foot drops, while the Rugged case is good up to 10 ft.

Since one of the new features of iPhone 8s and the X is Qi wireless charging, I wanted to put that to the test with these. Each case enabled me to use a Qi charger and my phone charged great without interruption. If you are considering using the Nomad Wallet Case with a Qi charger: don’t do it if you’re putting credit cards in it (business cards are ok). Qi chargers can potentially damage RF chips and magnetic stripes in credit cards.

nomad leather case iphone x

Depending on your iPhone X’s hardware color, that may be where the Clear Case really shines. With the same type of Horween leather as the other 2 cases, this one is a little less rigid (TPE is used for the clear part) and a “patch” of leather where it rests in your hand. We tried this on both a black and silver iPhone X, and objectively, I’d say the silver model looks cooler in this case. It’s easier to see the Apple logo.

Overall, Nomad’s line of iPhone X leather cases are well built and great-looking. One minor complaint I have is that the vibrate/ring switch is buried a little deep in the Rugged and Wallet cases for a guy like me with short fingernails and fat fingertips. Outside of that small quibble, these are definitely the cases I’ll be using on my iPhone X for quite some time.

Nomad USB Charging Hub

nomad usb charging hub

Nomad Goods has introduced a new device that it seems we need more and more these days: a multi-port USB charger. I’ve been pretty happy with many of Nomad’s products in the past  (like watch accessories and leather goods), so I was excited to try out their “hub.”

Here’s the thing that I’ll get out of the way from the start: this isn’t a USB charging hub, it’s a USB charging hub. Did you catch the subtle difference there? I mean that this is not a USB hub in the sense that you connect it to your computer and plug in multiple devices into a single port. Instead it’s the hub of your digital life in that it provides 5 ports (some that are high speed), which’ll charge your multiple phones and tablets.

nomad usb charging hub

Using a single power brick (pictured above), you get power for your devices in a sleek and handy charging station, which is accented with a rubbery top that’s just perfect for setting your devices on as they charge.

One other cool feature of this Hub is it has a 5-light display on top of the device which shows when a device is charging (the light only shows if something’s drawing power). But: imagine this is in your bedroom at night. Who wants bright lights flashing then? Well, the Hub has a built-in ambient light sensor that will dim those LEDs in a dark room, allowing for an annoyance-free night’s sleep. It’s really thoughtful and cool.

nomad usb charging hub

The Hub is available in 5-port and 3-port models in both black and white. The 5-port hub has 2 high-speed (2.4A) ports and 3 regular-speed (1A) ports, while the 3-plug hub has 1 high-speed and 2 regular-speed ports. Both have a nice rubber cord management slot in the back of the device.

The Nomad USB Charging Hub retails for $50 (5-port) or $40 (3-port) and it’s available from Nomad or at Best Buy.

Flowfold Bags and Wallets

flowfold bags

Something inside me is always searching for the perfect bag for various circumstances. For instance, I have 2 iPad messenger bags…and don’t even have an iPad anymore. I don’t, however, have a good duffel bag, and on a search, I came across the Flowfold brand, a made-in-the-USA brand of “minimalist outdoor gear.”

I got the opportunity to try their duffel bag, accessory pouch and a couple of wallets.

flowfold bags

The Conductor 40L Duffel Bag ($98) is perfect. A duffel should be large and useful, and other than is huge interior, this one has a useful side pocket, plus the expected handles and shoulder strap. It also has a fancy zipper (see above) that helps it resist water and snags. This is a great, sturdy camping bag that you can just rinse off when you’re back from the wilderness.

flowfold bags

Flowfold’s Ace Accessory Pouch ($30) is one of those bags I didn’t know I needed until I got it. measuring 9″x5″, this slips easily into your larger day bags, but helps you keep your everyday carry items well-sorted, like chargers, pens, headphones or cash. I’ve found it a great bag for cigars, lighters and cutters, too. It has a loop on the side for easy carry if all you need for you day is the pouch, too.

flowfold bags

Along with other packs and gear, Foldfold’s also got about a dozen wallets in many shapes and configurations. I’m trying out their Vanguard ($29) in Black Pearl (pictured above left and below) and the limited Jet Black (pictured above right). These have layers of “ballistic nylon webbing” – in fact, the Black Pearl is made of it inside and out – that lead to a lightweight, thin, but very durable finish. These are long-life wallets with a touch of waterproofing, too.

I’m a fan of back-pocket wallets, but like mine to be extremely thin, so these sturdy wallets have become part of my usual rotation.

flowfold bags

Whether a larger outdoor bag or a useful city-dweller application, I’ve now got a few more bags for that perfect application, plus some handy, thin, back-pocket wallets as well.

Nomad Modern Apple Watch Band and Pod Pro

nomad watch band and pod pro

Nomad Goods continues to produce a nice assortment of accessories for iPhones, Apple Watches and iPads. I had the chance to try out their Leather Charging Wallet (with built in Lightning cable) here recently.

Now I’ve got a few Apple Watch accessories to try out: their Modern Leather Strap and Pod Pro, a charger/backup battery in one.

nomad modern apple watch band

It’s become critical to me that the hardware on an Apple Watch band actually match my watch, meaning that bands would need to be available with black or silver hardware. As you can see in the image above, Nomad really nailed it with this hardware. Many low-end band manufacturers seem to pay no attention to the fact that lots of people have black Apple Watches, and I’ve very grateful that Nomad takes care of the little details like this.

For many, this may be a minor thing, but the strong, bulky, unique hardware is my favorite part of this band. And it is available in silver, too, to match all watch hardware. There’s one other thing they did right, too: the black hardware buckle will sometimes rub off on a leather band like this one (I have a cheap band like this and that’s happened), but Nomad’s hardware has been colored in a way that prevents this.

Speaking of the leather band, this is the same stuff from the wallet that I reviewed: high-quality, Horween leather. It’s outstanding as well, and together with the thoughtful hardware, this band is well worth its $60 price.

nomad pod pro open

The Pod Pro ($80) is Nomad’s solution to what seems to be an always-short battery life on our devices. Using your current Apple Watch charging cable, the Pro assembles as a 6000 mAh disc that will charge both your Watch and your iPhone. A Lightning cable is built in, so you only really need a USB micro cable to keep both devices charged. For a weekend trip, the Pod Pro is probably the only charger you’ll need.

nomad pod pro

There are only a few visible parts once the device is closed with its magnetic lid. Pictured from left above, you see the built in Lightning cable, the USB micro charging port, the battery level indicator, and the power button. The top is made from anodized aluminum and the bottom from plastic with a non-slip base.

Nomad has generously offered to give Simple Guy Stuff readers a Modern Leather Strap and a Pod Pro. Enter below to win!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Dash Wallets

dash wallets

Dash Wallets is rooted in several successful Kickstarter campaigns, all with the goals of creating slim, sustainable, and affordable wallets in San Francisco.

Dash never really says if they intend their wallets for front- or back-pocket use, and because of this, I’m pretty sure it’s up to you how you carry them. I had the chance to try the Dash 3.0 Saffiano Slim ($40) and the Dash 4.0 ($25) wallets.

dash wallets

The Dash 3.0 is a leather (vegan option available) pouch with 2 vertical pockets (see photo immediately above) and 1 horizontal pocket (see top photo). It can easily carry up to about a dozen cards and cash. I’ve been using this model to carry my business cards in my front pocket when I go to business events.

dash wallets

The Dash 4.0 is a vertical wallet made from both leather and stretchy material with 2 pockets on one side and 1 on the other. There’s a cutout hole for pushing your cards out easily (see above). Because of the canvas, stretchy side, this wallet holds more cards than the more rigid leather-only models, up to about 20, and I found it very comfortable to carry in my front and back pocket.

dash wallets

I like the idea of the canvas stretch material as it keeps the size of the wallet itself to a bare minimum, and when you’re buying a wallet for minimalism, that’s important. This wallet is less rigid than the all-leather 3.0 version.

Dash Wallets are available from dashwallets.com and range in price from about $20 to the RFID-blocking versions at about $50.

Luminoodle Bias Lighting

luminoodle bias lighting

Several years ago, I heard about the benefits of backlighting your TV screen, in particular, that it’s easier on your eyes and increases the perceived contrast on the screen (Lifehacker link). At the time, I grabbed some cheap Ikea puck lights and wire-tied them to the back of my TV. That did the trick for a while, and until I upgraded the size of my TV.

luminoodle bias lighting

I began to investigate current options for TV backlighting (“bias” lighting as it’s called) and discovered that several brands now make self-sticking light strips that plug into the USB port on your TV (almost all modern TVs have USB), so they power on and off with your TV.

luminoodle bias lighting

The Luminoodle by Power Practical consistently showed up in my searches and is well-reviewed online, so I got the 3 meter model (the largest) in the pure white color. Once I tested the lights to make sure they worked, installation was really simple. I wiped down the installation area with alcohol, then peeled and stuck the Luminoodle around the back edge of my TV.

On a 55″ TV, the ‘Noodle had about 12″ of excess light tape, so I cut it off at the proper points (these are clearly marked – see the photo above). I didn’t install the noodle on the bottom of my TV because I didn’t have quite enough tape, but I only wanted the light to be on the top and sides of my screen.

luminoodle bias lighting

The size of the Luminoodle you get is based on your TV size – they’re available in 1, 2, and 3 meter options for $10, $15 and $20. Power Practical has a guide on their site and on Amazon for the size of noodle you should get for your TV.

luminoodle bias lighting

Now that it’s installed, the Luminoodle powers on with my TV, and even in the day time, it provides enough backlighting to improve the contrast of my screen. It’s pictured above in a pitch-black room. Since the lighting is installed on the tape, it’s a consistent, quality glow that really makes home-movie-watching a little more fun. Now I want to get a ‘Noodle for every TV in the house…

Just a note: the wall behind my TV is painted green, that’s why you see a green glow in the photo. Luminoodle does make their lights with color options and remote controls, too, and you can get them from Amazon here.

Allett Wallets for Men & Women

allett wallets

When it comes to wallets, I’m a bit of a minimalist – I usually only carry a few cards and just a little cash. I have found, though, that most “minimalist” wallets don’t have enough space for everything I want to carry, though: 3 credit cards, my driver’s license and a several business cards.

Regardless of how many times I’ve tried, though, I am not a front-pocket-wallet guy. I appreciate the size of them, but it drives me nuts to have my wallet up front all the time, even if it is small. So I’ve begun my quest for slim-but-roomy back pocket wallets, and Allett came up as an option.

allett wallets

Allett manufactures their wallets in San Diego from a combination of nylon and leather with the goal of slimness in mind. I got to try the Slim Original ($35) and asked my wife to try out the Slim Women’s ($45), both with leather exteriors and nylon interiors. Other options from Allett include RFID-blocking and coin-pouch wallets.

The slimness of these wallets is achieved through both smart design and slim materials. The wallets are designed as two-tier bi-folds, with 4 card pockets (pictured above) and 2 interior slots: one that matches the height of the wallet and one that’s half-height (the perfect size for bills, in fact). If you look at the top photo in this post, both wallets are completely full with cards and bills, and are still very thin. Both the men’s and women’s wallets will hold between 1 and 4-5 cards per pocket, so even if you tend to carry a lot of cards with you, these wallets will still serve you well because of the thinness of the materials themselves.

allett wallets

The Women’s Slim wallet, pictured above, adds two design elements and lots of color choices. The black leather wallet has teal interior vinyl and there are a total of 5 color combinations on the women’s wallets here.

As thickness of a women’s wallet is a little less critical than for men, assuming the women’s wallet will be in a purse and the men’s in a pocket. The women’s wallet adds a zippered coin pocket on the back and a magnetic closure.

I’ve had my Allett in my back pocket for about a month, and I have been really happy with it’s capacity and it’s comfort in my back pocket. Coming from a much thicker back-pocket wallet that I’d sometimes have to remove when I was in the car for long periods of time, it’s a refreshing and very well-designed product that fits the bill perfectly for us back-pocket wearers.

Bluetooth Workout Headphones

bluetooth headphones for iphone 7

I decided recently it was time to move to a bluetooth headset at the gym after several traumatic events like throwing my phone across the gym or dropping it directly on the big red “stop” button on my treadmill while I was feverishly running. Conclusion: the wires are getting in the way.

Suddenly, though, the iPhone 7 was released, had it’s headphone jack has been removed. A bunch of people are about to be in the market for bluetooth headphones, so this is perfectly timed.

All the headphones in this list are designed for workouts, and therefore sweat-resistant and relatively sturdy in their build. Every set also displays a digital readout of the battery life in the menu bar at the top of your phone’s screen, which has become a must for me on bluetooth devices. I tested my headphones using both and iPhone and Apple Watch (running Watch OS3). My wife helped me with all these tests, too, and paired her headsets with an iPhone. Here’s what we thought:

skullcandy xtfree

SkullCandy XTfree: MSRP $99, Amazon for $75. Battery life: 6 hours.

SkullCandy is traditionally edgy with their headset designs, and as small as they are, the XTfree are no exception. A multicolored “FitFin” highlights the set and allows you to position it solidly in your ear. We found we rarely pressed the Fin into our ears because the headphones stayed in place fine without it. These headphones were comfortable and sounded great, plus the controls are simple and familiar in their interface, though they’re located on the left of the wire instead of the more familiar right hand side, which meant I often reached for the controls on the wrong side. The XTfree includes different sized earpieces as well as “playthough” sets, which allow a little more sound through if you prefer. A mesh carry bag is included.

Pros: stylish, affordable, and lightweight. fun color combinations. Playthrough earpieces are a thoughtful touch.

Cons: controls are on the opposite side than I’m used to. In-ear headphones can be hard to adjust and set in your ear canal.

monster isport slim

Monster iSport SuperSlim: MSRP $149, Amazon for $90. Battery life: 6 hours.

iSport Superslim offer a very small overall profile for a bluetooth headset. Because they’re in-ear, they provide some noise canceling as a result. The SuperSlim comes with a mesh headphone bag and various replaceable rubber earpieces. The remote control offers 3 familiar buttons and they are located on the right side of the wire: the “normal” location if you’ve been using the wired Apple headset, for instance. The rubber “curl” on the set lays comfortable and naturally in your ear.

Pros: lightweight and comfortable. Familiar placement of controls.

Cons: in-ear headphones can be hard to adjust and set in your ear canal.

monster isport freedom

Monster iSport Freedom: MSRP $199, Amazon for $150. Battery life: 9+ hours. Pictured at the top of this post.

Though I found a few things I didn’t like about the iSport Freedoms, I personally prefer headphones like this (on-ear) vs the ear canal style (though my wife likes the in-ear). These headphones fit snugly and block outside sounds very well for non-noise cancelling headphones, and they fold for travel into their included canvas carry bag. As you’d expect from an active headphone, iSport Freedom stays put on your head, even while running and bending over. These headphones have a plethora of included controls and options, with a total of 6 buttons: volume up, volume down, track forward, track backward, power/pair and play/pause. They also include a stereo minijack, so you can use them as wired headphones if your battery dies, but battery life is quite a bit longer that of the smaller headphones above.

monster isport freedom

Though the assortment of buttons are a nice feature on the Freedom, I usually couldn’t find the ones I needed in the midst of a workout, other than the large play/pause button, which is basically the whole right side of the set (see the image above for the control layout). You can use all of these bluetooth headsets for phone calls, but because the Freedoms don’t have a “hanging” mic like the other sets, callers found it harder to hear me with the Freedoms than the other sets mentioned here. I plan to use them strictly for listening at the gym and rarely for phone calls, so this wasn’t a deal-breaker. Because of my preference of these sets to in-ear headphones, I’ll be using the iSport Freedom for my future workouts.

Pros: long battery life. Easy to take on and off. Sturdy and comfortable.

Cons: controls are hard to find when you’re working out. Microphone is a useful feature, but too highly-placed for phone calls.

Pencil by 53

pencil by 53

Pencil is a stylus product by FiftyThree, a company that started out by releasing the “Paper by FiftyThree” app for iPads. There’s no doubt, even by Apple’s own recent “Pencil” release, that styli are a valuable addition to a tablet, particularly for sketching/drawing/illustrating.

Pencil connects to your tablet in two ways: bluetooth and direct touch on your captive screen. Three models of Pencil are available from FiftyThree: Graphite, Gold and Walnut. I got the Walnut model to test.

pencil by 53

The Walnut model is the most unique, as it’s actually made from carved wood (the other models are aluminum), plus it includes an in-body magnet that holds the stylus to your iPad’s magnetic Smart Cover. The Walnut and Gold models retail for $60 and the Graphite model for $50.

pencil by 53

I tested the Pencil with several apps, including Adobe Sketchbook, Draw, and FiftyThree’s own Paper, and it’s a fine stylus. It has the typical “squishy” tip, at both the writing and erasing end, though because of the flattened design of the stylus, reminiscent of workbench pencils, the squishyness isn’t as pronounced as others I’ve used in the past. The eraser is a unique feature and works perfectly with Paper – just pair the Pencil and flip the stylus over, and it erases. Makes perfect sense.

 

pencil by 53

Because Pencil is a bluetooth device, it’s rechargeable through USB – just grab the stylus tip and pull, then charge the innards through USB. I’ve found the Pencil is fully charged in a matter of minutes, and the charge lasts for weeks.

pencil by 53

The only thing that has annoyed me about Pencil is the fit of the rechargeable tip  with the body never really feels flush – I feel like I’m always trying to seat it better into the stylus (see the picture above), though it’s functionality is always spot-on.

pencil by 53

Pencil also includes a single replacement stylus tip and eraser head – which is definitely a value-add to the package. Replacement sets are $8 from FiftyThree and include 2 stylus tips and 1 eraser.

I have little doubt that Pencil by FiftyThree is the best iPad stylus you can buy at this point. It works very well, and for sketching and illustrating on iPad, a stylus is a necessity. Though Apple has released it’s own “Pencil” stylus at this point, it only works with the iPad Pro. This Pencil is compatible with most iPads, even iPhones, and that gives it a definite advantage for the time being.

 

Otis & Eleanor Bongo

otis & eleanor bongoWith a focus on beautiful products made with sustainable materials, Otis & Eleanor has created the Bongo bluetooth speaker. In many ways, they’ve succeeded admirably.

Portable bluetooth speakers are easy to use, travel with, and charge, I can imagine a day when I have a half dozen of these around the house. The Bongo, however, stands out as the most beautiful I’ve used. While bluetooth speakers of this type (easily carried in a backpack) are usually black plastic affairs, O&E has chosen to work many premium details into the Bongo: beautiful, stamped wood, hemp and fabric speaker grills, a hemp carry bag (with a pocket for your cables!), and even a premium ribbon aux cable to accompany the micro USB charging cable.

otis & eleanor bongo unboxed

As for the size, the bongo is 6 1/2″ wide and 2 1/2″ high. The speaker bag is not expected in products like this, but as soon as I saw it, I thought it’d make a “beach speaker” bag. This is lighter weight than speakers of a comparable size, and while O&E touts lots of premium speaker and porting features, the sound quality is good, but not exceptional. I experienced a bit of speaker rattle on the upper ends of the volume level.

otis & eleanor bongo

At $140, the Bongo is beautifully designed, first and foremost, and certainly the speaker you’d want on your counter top or desk. It’s functional, easy to pair with, and as long as you’re not driving high volume levels through it, the sound quality is good.

As of today, there are 11 color combinations of Bongo speakers and Otis & Eleanor also sells a set of bamboo headphones as well. Visit Otis and Eleanor’s site here.