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Dots Gloves – A Review

January 3rd, 2010 No comments

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In case folks around here hadn’t noticed, it’s gotten rather cold of late.  And one of the difficult things about being cold is that using electronics in the cold is just a rotten experience.  In tech’s never ending quest for miniaturization, designers seem to forget that there may be impediments between your tech and your hands that prevent proper usage.  I speak, of course, of the glove, bane of gadgetlovers everywhere there is snow and ice and freezing rain.  This problem is a lot worse with devices that use capacitative screens, such as the iPhone/iTouch.  Those devices rely on the electrical resistance provided by skin to do their thing.  In the case of the iPhone, you can’t even make an emergency call without touching the screen.  DOTS gloves were designed to address this issue.

The company itself is a couple years old.  I remember reading about them last year but by the time I’d gotten around to ordering them, they were out of stock.  They also only had one model last year if I remember correctly; this year they have three.  And this year, I went and ordered my pair early before winter really started so that I could be assured of having a set.

The DOTS gloves work by providing a small patch of thermally conductive fabric on two fingers plus the thumb portions of the gloves.

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(Please excuse the crud on the gloves – the large animal in the background enjoys gloves for breakfast and dinner, and it’s a constant battle to ensure the gloves survive their daily use.)  If you look closely, you can see the two dots on the tips of the first and second fingers of the glove.  A similar dot adorns the thumb.

The conductive patch allows the gloves to pass electrical resistance from your skin to your device while keeping your hands warm and comfortable.  They come in three sizes – small, medium, and large.  My advice is to err on the smaller side.

I purchased the D200 model, which is their warmest one.  I originally ordered the medium and then ended up switching them for the small.  It’s critical to have a tight fit with these gloves, and the medium made me feel like my hands were swimming inside fabric.  Even with the smalls, my hands still have plenty of room, and therein lies the problem.

The gloves themselves do OK at keeping your hands warm.  They aren’t going to be a lot of use in really intense cold but then again, few mass market gloves will, so that’s not a big problem.  I’d rate them at about the same level as a good pair of Isotoners.  But in terms of letting you use your iPhone while gloved, I’d have to rate them as only so-so.  I don’t know if other reviewers had really big hands or if there’s a smaller size I could have gotten that would have fit better but I just couldn’t get the gloves to be tight enough against my skin that the dots would consistently make contact.  And without that contact, it’s like wiping a microfiber cloth against your screen – nothing happens.

I freely admit that I have delicate hands – my piano teacher called them bird hands they were so thin.  But in a way, I represent a subsegment of the potential user base that DOTS is eventually going to have to figure out how to handle, namely women.  I can’t imagine that women would find the size small versions to be a good fit.  I know girls who have hands even smaller than mine, and there’s no way they would be able to use these gloves in the way they were intended.  Even women with big hands could be challenged because in general, women tend to have thinner fingers than men.  Maybe the other DOTS models provide better fit and contact, but in my daily use, I ended more often than not taking the gloves off, working my iPhone, then putting the gloves back on.  I think if they could incorporate some Lycra into the gloves so that the fit were tighter and if they made the dots bigger so that they contacted more skin surface, the gloves would work better across a wider range of people.

I like the concept of these gloves, but now that conductive thread has come out, I’m tempted to get a really close fitting pair of regular gloves and sew a couple of big fat patches onto the fingertips.  Better fit and bigger usable surface.

REVIEW: Pocket Informant lets you chuck iPhone’s Calendar and To Do apps

June 4th, 2009 No comments

Over the weekend I paid more for an iPhone app than I’ve ever paid in the whole time that I’ve owned the device.  Overall, my view of iPhone apps is that if I’m going to pay more than $3 for it, it better be incredible.  With my purchase of Pocket Informant from WebIS, I’ve found an app that is pretty freakin’ incredible.  So much so that the 12.99 I paid for this app is well worth it.

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Pocket Informant (or PI) basically replaces your iPhone’s default Calendar and To Do applications with a single app that is light years beyond those simplistic toys.  It features full synchronization with Google Calendar, without the five calendar limitation that Apple forces on its Calendar app.  I have ten calendars I’m using or following in GCal right now, and PI pulled them all in without any problem.  The one calendar it can’t pull in is the new Google Tasks calendar, but that’s only because Google hasn’t released the APIs to allow them to do that.  I’ve emailed the developer and that functionality is planned as soon as Google allows.  Until then, you can either manage tasks manually using PI or you can sync it to a web service called toodledo.com.

What makes PI truly worth its price are the ways they display your calendar.  First, there is a Today view, that shows you all events and activities for the current day (I’ve blocked out the event descriptions because they’re from my real calendar).  The Today view allows you to see at a glance everything that’s going on today, plus it allows you to see upcoming actions that are coming due.

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The List view shows you only your schedule, and allows you to scroll up and down to see past/future events.  This is just like the List view in the Calendar app.

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Similarly, the Day view is much like the Day view in the Calendar app, but with a great twist.  Rather than using forward/back arrows a la the Calendar app, PI allows you to flick left or right to move back and forth in time.  Much easier to flick through one-handed.

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Where PI really shines, however, are in its Week and Month views.  The Week view is not even available in Calendar, and it’s probably the single greatest thing about PI, in my opinion.

week-view1In one screen, I can see everything about my week.  There are several subtle things about this view that make it incredibly useful.  First, like the Day view, you can flick left or right to move back and forth in time.  Second, if you have too many events in one of the compressed days to see clearly, you can select that day and PI will pop up a custom view for that day that includes your events and activities.  You return to the Week view with a single tap.  Brilliance.  The Week view can be organized so that the same day is always shown as the wide day, or you can set it to have the current day as the wide day.  You can also arrange the other small days either top to bottom or left to right.  Note how each day has a graphical representation of time under each day’s heading, with color coding to represent when you have appointments.  And even within those tiny squares, you can scroll up or down within the day to see events that are off the screen.

The Month view is another great PI innovation.

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Note how PI goes above and beyond Apple’s Calendar app to give you an overview of what your month looks like.  All day events, as well as scheduled events are clearly indicated.  Need to see what you’re doing on a specific day?  Just tap that day to bring up a detail view.

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You can see what’s happening for that specific day, plus you have a representation of your schedule for the week.  A single tap returns you to the Month view.

The To Do view is pretty standard.  To Do’s are classified by Projects and can be given Start/Due dates.  I’m sure there’s tons of functionality in here that I’m missing but honestly I didn’t want to get too into the To Do’s because I want to wait until Google Task integration is released.

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Finally, the Search function allows you to search Events, To Do’s and Contacts.

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I’m hoping that this means PI will be expanded to include a Contacts function as well, because I’m not a huge fan of the Contacts app either.  The developers seem committed to continuing to evolve the app, and they’ve even got a version ready for when iPhone OS 3.0 is released.  All in all, I love PI and recommend it highly.  If you are hesitant (like I was) to spend so much for an app, WebIS makes a free trial version that limits you to syncing of 15 activities and two weeks of events, plus it doesn’t have the Today view.  I used that for a couple days before taking the plunge.