Leather iPhone Charging Wallet

nomad leather iphone wallet

I’ve had the opportunity to use a unique wallet for the last few weeks: the Nomad Leather Bi-Fold iPhone Charging Wallet. Designed by Nomad and stitched by Horween Leather in Chicago, this wallet addresses one of the modern annoyances in modern life: the lack of sufficient battery power in our devices.

nomad leather iphone wallet

Inside of the Nomad wallet, there’s a lipstick-sized battery pack and an built-in lightning cable to charge your iPhone. The battery itself is a Panasonic 2400mAh, enough for a full charge on smaller iPhones and a partial charge on Plus models. When not in use, the lightning cable tucks away into a small pouch in the wallet (see the picture above).

Battery charge is shown in a series of blinks: 4 blinks for full power, 3 for 75% and so on (see photo below). It’s charged with a standard micro USB charger, which is included with the wallet.

nomad leather iphone wallet

There is a minor issue I have with the Nomad, and that has to do with the physical battery. In general, wallets are soft: their build materials and contents will flex and often re-shape themselves to your body. The battery in the Nomad is rigid, though, and while it is enclosed in leather, can be a sore spot on your backside depending on how you carry it. I found that putting it into my back pocket battery-side-up was the most comfortable way to wear it. The battery does contribute to a size increase, too: it’s about 10-20% bigger than other bi-folds, though I found it fit into all of my pockets just fine.

Sold for $149, and with a $119 slim version available from Nomad or Amazon, this is a quality, well-made leather wallet that offers a nice option for forgetful chargers or emergency situations where your phone battery dies before you can get to a charger. It’s comforting to know that you always have a battery handy if you need it, and I noted the battery holds a 100% charge for several days. I used mine mostly as a battery for emergencies, and only needed it once or twice a week, occasionally offering it to a friend whose battery was almost dead while we were out and about.

The Nomad Wallet is a thoughtful device for our modern world. It’s built in a classic form by a trusted, talented leather company, yet it contains a very modern and handy addition that’s just as valuable as a credit card these days: a battery.

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.

Rocky Mountain Cigar Fest 2016

rocky mountain cigar fest 2016

My coverage of Rocky Mountain Cigar Festival in Denver is now live at Cigar and Spirits Magazine. Check out the summary of the event here, and here are some individual brand profiles:

As a bonus for Simple Guy Stuff readers, here’s an interview I did with Willy Herrera of Drew Estate about his upcoming cigar blend releases:

Old Henry Cigars

Old Henry Box Filtered Downsized

Holt’s Cigar Company, which is mostly a mailorder outfit unless you’re in the Pennsylvania area, has their own line of cigars: Old Henry, which are available exclusively from them. If Old Henry isn’t a familiar name to you, it wasn’t to me either. If, however, you pop the hood on these stogies (or simply look on the bottom of the box), you’ll notice a very familiar manufacturer behind them: the Garcia family.

If that’s not ringing a bell, the Garcia family blends cigars of their own brands, including My Father (Cigar Aficianado’s cigar of the year last year ) and Flor de Las Antillas (cigar of the year in 2012), then they also blend the Tatuaje family of cigars, and occasionally some others, too (like this one). Based out of Esteli, Nicaragua, the Garcia family has a good reputation for blending great cigars, and these Old Henry blends are no exception to the rule.

I got to try the “Best in Show Assortment” of Old Henrys, which includes 2 each of Pure Breed, Old Henry, Maduro, and Gold Label blends, all in Toro size (6×52), packed in a cedar box. These retail at $5.50 each for the last 3, and under $6.50 for the Pure Breed. The Best in Show Assortment will run you $29.99 from Holt’s.

Old Henry Closeup Filtered Downsized

Each of these blends are spicy (as Nicaraguan tobacco tends to be), a bit oily, and very well-built. Here are some distinguishing characteristic of each one:

Pure Breed. Medium-full bodied; medium strength. Nicaraguan tobacco in a Ecuador Sumatra wrapper. Smokes sweet and spicy with quite a bit of earthy flavor in the wrapper. Flavor profile is the most complex of the bunch and varies between spice, earth and pepper throughout.

Old Henry. Full bodied; medium strength. Nicaraguan tobacco in a Nicaraguan Corojo wrapper. A spicier experience, plus cream and leather. Highly flavorful, yet the strength is very manageable.

Maduro. Full bodied; medium-full strength. Nicaraguan tobacco and Connecticut Broadleaf maduro wrapper. Similar to the standard Old Henry in spice, but more chocolately and wet overall.

Gold Label. Medium bodied, medium strength. Nicaraguan tobacco and Ecuador Connecticut wrapper. The lightest blend of the bunch, but just barely lighter in its profile. Still plenty spicy though also creme brulee, vanilla and cinnamon notes.

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.

Simple Guy Stuff on The Morning Brew

I talked about holiday gift ideas on The Morning Brew in Albuquerque last week! Lisa gave some ideas for Simple Gal Stuff, and I got to talk about:

Beats Studio 2.0

beats titanium headphones

Beats has long been the envy of many headphone-wearers. On their initial release, it was alarming to imagine a set of headphones that cost the same as the audio players they accompanied ($300)…more alarming, maybe, was that they were everywhere. They can still been seen far and wide on celebrity DJs and musicians, and even looking around an airport, many of the headphones you see are Beats.

Now that Apple is an owner of Beats, its clear that the brand is going to be around for a very long time. I got a pair of Beats Studio 2.0s in Titanium to review. Monochrome colors like titanium are some of what you’ll see in the second generation of the Studio line. In the box, you’ll get a branded carry case with carabiner clip, a USB charging cable, an 2 audio cables: one matching the monochrome color (in my case, titanium) and one in standard Beats red with an inline mic/remote (pictured). The headphones themselves fold inward to fit in the travel case.

beats headphones in box

As far as build quality, these are incredible headphones. Heavy-duty metal hinges line the folding points, the headphones themselves are carry-able and wearable for long periods of time (the battery will last 20+ hours), yet relatively lightweight. Beats Studios power on when the headphone wire is plugged in and off when unplugged. One of my favorite elements of the pair is the leather earcups, which are low-profile, though large and comfortable, and prevent your ears from getting sweaty after long periods of wear.

Obviously, the critical detail of any headphone design is sound quality. Beats Studio are noise cancelling headphones, and when you put them on, you notice this. Without music playing, there is a subtle buzz that you’ll hear – if you’ve used noise cancelling headphones before, that’ll be familiar to you, though. Once you play music, movies, TV or games through the headphones, you’ll get a rich, deep sound that you’d expect from professional over-the-ear headphones. I experienced deep bass, though not out of proportion, and quality sound across the spectrum without any distortion.

beats headphones unboxed

Headphones these days are multimedia devices, and I even used my Beats to make some phone calls. I experienced some of the clearest calls I’ve ever made due to the noise cancelling. It was a great feeling, but I wouldn’t advise using them while driving as you won’t be able to hear the road noise at all.

Beats offers a wide line of audio products, and at $299, Studio 2.0s are a worthy and quality over-the-ear headphone experience. The titanium color is available at Amazon here. I particularly like the monochrome color options and the comfort during long-term wear (I use them to record our weekly podcast).

 

Cambridge Soundworks Oontz Angle 3

Cambridge Soundworks Oontz 3

I’ve recently found myself extremely interested in bluetooth portable speakers. I’ve found that I’m mentally further away from the idea of owning a “stereo system,” plus  you can get some killer sound out of these little guys and carry them from room to room easily.

The Oontz Angle 3 is a new bluetooth speaker from Cambridge Soundworks, who has always had a great reputation for making nice-sounding computer speakers back in the day. The Oontz is certainly a handheld speaker, measuring at just over 5″ wide, 2 1/2″ tall; the device has play/pause, next and previous track, and power buttons embedded in the rubber end caps. In the box, you get the Oontz, a stereo aux cable, and a charging cable (USB micro). Note that you’ll have to provide your own USB port or wall bug to charge the speaker.

Cambridge Soundworks Oontz 3 unboxed

The Oontz is built of tightly-sealed plastic and rubber. It’s also water resistant, too, so bathroom or poolside use is perfectly safe.

The 10 watt sound of this little unit is pretty outstanding – enough to fill a room with distortion-free sound. The Oontz is ported on the bottom to give you some rich bass and it’s definitely better than just iPhone speakers. The tightness of the plastic seal seems to improve the sound quality. The device paired easily and quickly every time I turned it on. Battery life is very healthy, too – if you’re listening to music at medium volume for an hour or two a day, you probably only need to charge it every 2 weeks.

The Oontz 3 has an MSRP of $29.99, and I’ve seen waver between that and $20 on Amazon. You can buy one here (Amazon affiliate link, multiple colors available).