When I first saw a Felix TwoHands tablet stand, I laughed. It looked like an overgrown chip clip. How silly, I thought, and set it aside on my kitchen table. Some weeks later, I was trying to type on my iPad 2 after peeling it out of its funky old case. I saw the TwoHands sitting there, forgotten. So I clipped it onto the back of my tablet. Hmm, I thought, that works pretty well.
Ever since that moment, the TwoHands has been pretty much glued to my iPad. It's a $25 item that has performed its duty unfailingly. This is the sort of tech accessory I like to have in my life. It's not glamorous. It's not expensive. It just works.
Really not a fanny pack
I'm one of those people who don't go anywhere without a tablet. My iPad Mini is my GPS and my connection to work. Carrying it, however, is an issue. I used to haul a purse, but the weight on my shoulder and having to keep track of it were nuisances. I knew there had to be a better way. Something like a fanny pack, but not so hideous. Does such a unicorn exist? Why, yes, it does. It's known as a "hip bag," "side satchel," or "belt bag."
The one I settled on came from what may seem like an unlikely source, Mishu Boutique, a Seattle clothing retailer specializing in steampunk and fairy-tale-style designs. I went with the understated Woven Single-Pocket Belt option for $25 (at the time). It's not specifically designed to hold a tablet, but an iPad Mini slips right into the big zipper pocket.
My fondness for the belt bag led me to a more expensive purchase, the Intrepid Bag Lillium Purse, a project I backed on Kickstarter for $109. The leather Lillium is designed with a protective pocket made just for the Mini. It shares time, hanging gunslinger-style on my hip, with the Mishu Boutique bag. The weight is off my shoulders. My hands are free. And it's not as weird as you might think. I've gathered quite a few compliments along the way.
If I sound good at a gig or rehearsal when I'm playing guitar, it's due to years of practice and the quiet assistance of a little device known as a tuner. When I started learning guitar, I had a tuning fork, which I found frustrating to use.
Over the years, I have amassed a small collection of clip-on tuners, hardy devices that survive rolling around in my guitar cases. They never complain, only occasionally require a battery change, and always help me get my guitar in tune, even if there's a racket of instruments around me.
My herd includes a Snark SN-2 (bought for a mere $11 on Amazon), a $15 Oasis OH-11, an Intellitouch I've had for years and can't remember the price for, and a Boss TU-2 stomp box I got as a gift. The stomp pedal comes in handy when I'm playing a full electric-guitar rig, but it doesn't trump the utter convenience of those little clip-on tuners that go anywhere with ease. They're not flashy like a champagne-sparkle Telecaster. You don't lust after them in your dreams, but it's a great example of tiny tech doing its job and making your life easier.
Glory to the unglamorous gadgets
I asked friends and colleagues to nominate their favorite small tech items that make a big impact and got back some interesting responses. My favorites culled from Facebook friends include safety glasses with built-in LED lights and an old-school clip-on belt pedometer that dispenses with all the fancy Fitbit sort of stuff and just gives you the hard data on how many steps you've taken.
CNET staffers nominated a family-size Anker 5-port USB charger, currently on sale for $18, for gadget-charging convenience, and the typical plastic sock hanger clip as a way to keep earbuds from getting tangled. When a piece of plastic that came free with your socks can spare you from constant cord frustration, you know you've stumbled across one of the unsung heroes of tech.
I'm always on the hunt for handy gadget and accessories, so I would love to hear some comments about the unpolished tech gems that make your life easier. It's time to shine some glory on the little guys.