Cellphone Accessories For Our Mobile Overlords

iPhone Case from G-FormThere’s no device I love to hate as much as I hate to love my iPhone. (You read that right.) Your mileage may vary; you may not feel like both a chump and a devotee while caressing your mobile whatever. Until I attain your Zen-like state, I feel annoyed whenever I find myself buying presents for my phone, even if they are practical and make using my phone a better experience. Here’s the drill on three extras I’ve been using lately.

G-Form Extreme Grid iPhone Case
: Drop your phone one time ONLY on the bus and you’ll wish you’d shelled out for a case. It’s like Apple is intentionally propping up the case market by using that slippery exterior. I used an Otter Box on my iPhone 3, but I’ve come to prefer the weird grippy exterior of the G-Form on my iPhone 4. People keep making fun of the almost tire tread like bumpy black box I wrap my phone in, but the fact is, it stays put in my hand and has enough padding and bounce that my phone didn’t shatter into tiny expensive bits when I dropped it on the 54. There was an audible gasp from the people around me, but I just picked up my phone and went back to listening to vintage sci-fi radio theater and posting pictures to Instagram.

The case comes in black or black and yellow. I kind of wish I’d got the yellow just because it would make the phone easier to find when it’s lost in my backpack. Cost: about $40. That might seem expensive, but it’s going to cost you more than that to buy a new phone.

Mophie Juice Pack PlusMophie Juice Pack Plus: With great addiction comes the endless search for outlets and places to recharge the phone, right? You can buy yourself a lot more time with a spare battery. Mophie builds theirs into an attractive case that allows you to double the use time of your phone. I think this case/battery combo is pretty freaking great. It serves to protect your phone, and gives you all that extra use time, and it comes in a bunch of happy colors. I dropped my phone in this case, too, because apparently, that’s how I roll. The case is a little scratched up, but it still works just fine and my phone is still totally intact. It’s charged via a mini-USB cable. You leave it off until you need the extra juice, then it charges your phone while you use it. It’s great for long-haul flights, especially if, like me, you spend your airtime with audio entertainment.

The Juice Pack is pricey – it’s about $100. Here’s the truth: I like this thing and bring it everywhere.

Able Planet Clear Harmony Sound Isolation EarphonesAble Planet Clear Harmony Sound Isolation Earphones: I’ve gone through half a dozen pairs of iPhone compatible earbuds. On my last trip I lost my isolation Sennheisers. The sound was top notch, but I was on my third pair because they kept breaking (while still under warranty, thankfully). I replaced them with a really cheap pair of JVC iPhone compatible headphones, and they broke too.

I like the isolation earbuds because they don’t take up the space of headphones, but I’ve yet to find a pair that reduces external noise the way active cancelling headphones do. I like the Able Planet brand just fine; they’re far superior to the standard Apple earbuds and they stay put, but I’m not totally sold. They sound great, don’t get me wrong, and they do help with noise reduction on the plane or the bus, but that crying baby still found his way into my head while I was trying to doze on the plane. Even with the white noise app I use, ambient sound leaked in through everywhere. Able Planet makes active noise cancelling headsets too, I own a pair, and I wish I’d packed them instead. I await perfect, affordable, noise blocking earbuds.

Able Planet Earbuds run about $170. They’re fine for daily use, but if you’re really looking for noise reduction and you’re going to spend that kind of money, go with active noise cancelling instead.

Altec Lansing Orbit USB Stereo speakers deliver audio on the go

If you don’t want to settle for the speakers in your laptop, but do want something that is easy to pack, then a new speaker product from Altec Lansing may be just what you need. The Orbit USB Stereo builds off the success of their Orbit MP3 speaker (my first ever review on Gadling) but moves up from a single speaker to stereo speakers.

The design is pretty slick – the speakers attach to each other, and the USB and audio cord stores inside the rear end of each speaker.

Sound from the Orbit USB Stereo is actually quite impressive — and certainly much better than you’d expect from something this compact. Because the speakers use a generic USB audio system, you don’t need any drivers either, simply plug them in and you are good to go.

While they are noticeably larger than a pair of headphones, once combined, the package really isn’t that big – and I had no problem finding a spot for them in my laptop backpack. Since they are USB powered, you don’t need to carry a power adapter or batteries.

The new Altec Lansing Orbit MP3 Stereo is available (and in stock) today for just $49.95.

%Gallery-122722%

Boeing’s 787: Engineering a quieter airplane

It has long been rumored that Boeing‘s new 787 Dreamliner will be the quietest commercial jumbo jet in its class. Take a look at the back of select engine nacelles on the airframe and you can see an obvious difference. That egg crate design is in place for improved acoustic performance, which means a better experience for not only passengers but the people living near airports and flight paths.

Boeing just published a video showing some of the other improvements and the testing that they’re working on. Take a look at the show above.

East of Africa: Sounds from the Red Island

Belltowers can be heard from the top of a hillside on a warm Sunday morning in Antananarivo.

After returning from Tuléar, I had a few remaining days in Antananarivo to explore the city and capture some additional photo and video. I’ve started getting in the habit of keeping an ear out for interesting sounds and pulling out my audio recorder to capture the moment. Below are a few of those experiences – and I hope they’re able to transport you to the beautiful and exotic world of Madagascar, even for a split second.

If you have headphones I’d suggest using them so you can pick up the small details in the audio. Enjoy!



A classical guitarist plays a solo in a rural village outside of
Antananarivo.

Two roosters spar in a local competition. Both roosters wheeze heavily with exhaustion, while the owners splash water on their feet to aggravate them.

A beautiful sunset from the balcony of the Radama hotel, accompanied by the sounds of local broadcast on a wind-up radio.

A small, roadside Malagasy cafe bustles with early morning customers eating rice, fried bread, and oatmeal out of noisy tin bowls.

Two teenagers from Tuléar, Melson & Titina, play guitar on a homemade wooden instrument.

The haunting voices of two street children (kat-mis), begging for money on a late night walk in Antananarivo.

A wildfire burns through brush outside of Ilakaka.

A youth choir performs a song in a local church to commemorate a secondary school graduation.

Catch the previous articles in the East of Africa series here!

Dim Sum Dialogues in Thailand: The sounds of Siam

Monks chant at Wat Chana Songkhram, near Khao San Road.

It’s my last day in Bangkok and I’m not ready to leave Thailand. If I had another two weeks, I would have opted to stop at Ko Phi Phi and then cut north to trek through Chiang Mai, but my time is up. In my preparation to leave, I get the feeling that I’ll be back soon enough – there’s too much that I love about this place to not come back.

A couple memories stand out above the others.The utter serenity of the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, right after a mid-afternoon rain shower. The polite, genuine smiles of school children and street vendors. The new friends from the Khao San, and Diow. The breeze through the open window on the train to Surat Thani. The feeling of freedom at the Full Moon Party. The dangerous scooter maneuvers. The flavors of the food. The upbeat greeting from Thai women “Sawadee kaaaaa”.

One of my favorite ways to remember a place when I’m traveling is to record audio. Then, thousands of miles away from the point of capture, to sit with headphones on and let my mind recreate in the rest. So, to end this series, I though that I’d share that experience with you. Below you’ll find pictures and their accompanying ambient sounds, with a brief description for context. If you have headphones, please use them to get the full experience.

For those that have been, I hope it brings back the same good memories. For those that have yet to go, I hope the open road is calling your name…

Visitors drop 1-satang coins in 108 bronze bowls that represent the 108 auspicious characteristics of the Buddha. Doing so brings good fortune and helps the monks maintain the wat.

A gong is hit at Wat Pho. Nearby, two young monks check for mobile phone service.

A Secondary School band performs in the courtyard of the school. Typical noisy Bangkok traffic passes in the background.

Chimes at the Temple of the Emerald Buddha blow in the wind.

A riverboat operator signals to the driver with a whistle, indicating when to reverse and when to stop the boat on approach to the riverside docks.

A tuk tuk rumbles through the streets of Bangkok.

The lounge car on the train to Surat Thani enjoys an impromptu DJ performance. Techno blares over the rhythm of the train tracks.

The train to Surat Thani pulls out of a station at midnight.

The night of the full moon party, competing soundtracks of electronic music are observed from a hillside bar.

If you’ve missed the previous articles in this series, be sure to check out the entire Dim Sum Dialogues column for more on the road from Bangkok to Ko Pha Ngan.