Archive for Gadget
I am always on the lookout for a way to merge my bikes with being a geek. Since I have the Interfone F4 bluetooth kit in my helmet, (FYI, there is an F5 model now), I have used my iPhone for satnav, podcasts and music/calls on the move. Finding a good motorbike mount for the iPhone though, has been a challange. I have had one in the past for the iPhone4, but it will not fit the newer model.
Enter the recently released Kickstarter project, the Annex Quadlock. In a geek-biker chat I am a member of, a colleague mentioned this upcoming release so I contacted them and asked if I could have one to review. This Australian company obviously focus on pushbikes, but the design looked compatible with multiple size bar-frames. Yesterday, I got this in the post from down-under (disclaimer: they have not charged me and I will return the product).
Opened, it consists of a rugged polycarbonate iPhone5 casing with a mounting fitting built in, the bike handlebar mount and wall mounts (if you fancy mounting your device to a wall). The wall mount doesn’t interest me, so lets look at the phone casing.
I like the casing. It feels tough and secure. There is a bump on the back side where the mount attaches. About 2mm increase in size in the centre point, which means the iPhone does not lie perfectly flat in this case. Power and volume buttons have polycarbonate covers for pushing, but all options in the phone are available. The only issue I have is that the Apple Lightening to 30-pin converter (to attach to older device cables) cannot connect anymore to the device due to the covering. It’s a minor gripe. A real Lightening cable works fine.
The bike mounting comes with rubber O-rings (2 sets of different sizes) and tie-wraps. You put the mounting on the handlebar and attach using the O-rings. If you wish, you can also use the tie-wraps.
Assembly takes all of 20 seconds and then it is fixed to the bike. Attaching the phone is a simple twist/release mechanism. Here are some pictures of the mount, and the phone attached to my Ducati Monster. As you can see, the mount is not obtrusive when not in use.
Just using the O-Rings, I took the bike out on an 80 mile spin, over country roads. It was secure at all times. When stopping at a station, it was a simple twist/click remove to take the phone with me. All in all, I am impressed with this product and would recommend it to bikers looking for a handlebar mount. My only reservation is with trusting the O-Rings for a period of time. I could remote/attach the mount when not in use, but I do think some sort of handlebar mounting attachment (like on the GoPro or SwannCam Freestyle) would be a better option. However, the super-rough trip I took with the mounting yesterday was no issue to the mount, at any speed). The pricing is reasonable and the company has been very responsive. Recommended.
Over the past two years, I have had a number of long journeys on the bike. Most riders take comfort in the solace of taking a 2-wheeled journey. You are uncontactable. In the moment. Focussed on the task at hand. Selfish (it’s my life.. I want to keep it) and in control. I love it. But as the trips get longer, access to good technology becomes more and more important. I started with Tom Tom for my iPhone, and then spent months looking for a good iPhone Motorbike mount. Having solved that I was simply using in-ear headphones under my helmet. Useful, but arkward.
As some of the trips have been work related, pulling in every hour or so to check voicemail and mail was becoming more and more of a nuisance. So I began to do my homework on an in-helmet bluetooth system. This week, an Interfone F4 was purchased. It is a bluetooth in-helmet communications tool.
There are two parts to the helmet construction. Fitting the earphones and mic snugly in the helmet. Then fitting a mount piece for the Interfone on the side of the helmet. This takes some time to do right. With my Shoei Helmet, it also requires small incisions in the padding to get the cable neatly out of the helmet to the mount. My brilliant local stockists, Belfast Honda, fitted it for me, free of charge. After that part is done, the rest is geeky, and quite straightforward.
First charge of the interfone kit is overnight. After that you get approx 5-7 hours of usage. Subsequent charges are only three hours. I paired with my iPhone4 and immediately get call control, voice control, voice answer and volume control through my helmet. As the iPhone4 supports A2DP by default I also get stereo music and sat nav commands as I go. To make this work on earlier iPhones, you need to buy the bluetooth adapter.
Not only that, but this device can pair with multiple bluetooth devices concurrently. It can also do exactly what I needed. Pair with two phones simultaneously. My work phone (Blackberry) and my UK work phone/iPod/Sat Nav (iPhone) are both connected.
The sound quality is good on the device, and I can make/take calls up to 60mph (100kph) easily. After that, helmet noise gets in the way a bit, although I do think my Arai is a tad noisy. There are some limitations on the dual-device support though. It seems that when my blackberry gets a call, it takes over the A2DP status from the iPhone, so I lose music and Sat Nav instructions until I disconnect the berry. I need more time to play to find a workaround and play with all the other functions. After my next long run, I will give a verdict.
Let me know if you want images of the device fitted.
In advance of my "world has gone
mobile" session with Warren on Tuesday, I have grabbed a blackberry
storm so we have the full range of mobile devices to discuss and compare.
No opinion yet, as there is no time to play. The screen touch
keypad does not seem to be as bad as I heard, but no "use in anger"
at the moment. Stay tuned.