Review: HEX Century Icon Folio for iPad Air 2

Last month I reviewed an iPad Air 2 case from KAVAJ and said:

As with iPad Mini cases, there are a lot on the market–so many that one could easily get lost in the three-hour rabbit hole of trying to find just the right one.

I’m not sure I have found just the right one for the iPad Air 2. There are a couple that are close–I’ll share about those in due course.

One of the cases that is close to being just right is the Century Icon Folio for iPad Air 2, from HEX Products.

 

What I Like About the Icon Folio

 

It’s not all leather, but the external material is primarily waxed canvas of high quality. The casing around the iPad itself is hard rubber. The HEX case strikes a neat balance of professional, classy, and casual.

 

Front

 

Back

 

The cut-outs for volume buttons, headphone jack, and camera are 100% A++.

 

Hole Cut-Outs

 

It’s a slim case, which makes it a good one for pulling in and out of a satchel a lot. It doesn’t add any bulk to the iPad.

You’ll have seen in the images above the elastic strap–you can use this to secure the bi-fold case, so that it doesn’t inadvertently open in your bag. The strap is thick and has the perfect amount of tension.

A key feature of the folio is the inside compartment where you can put three cards, cash, and a few notes, as you like:

 

Left Inside Card Slots

 

You can squeeze enough in here that you could take literally just this case and its contents to your favorite working spot (if you didn’t need an external keyboard).

 

Open

 

What I Don’t Like About the Icon Folio

 

Just two minor critiques to offer:

1. There’s no mechanism whereby you can make the case stand or prop up. In other words, the front of the case doesn’t fold as other cases do, for when you want to sit your device on a table and watch something or use an external keyboard with it.

2. After only a little use, part of the (faux?) leather strip on the side was starting to separate from the hard rubber. Nothing major, but one does hope this doesn’t worsen with time, especially given that this is not an off-brand, $20 option.

 

Bonus Feature, and Where to Get It

 

Bonus feature: though I haven’t seen HEX advertise it anywhere for this case, it does have a sleep/wake feature, so that when you close the case with the iPad on, it puts the screen to sleep automatically to save battery. This functions as it should consistently.

You can learn more about the HEX case at their Website here. And it’s available on Amazon here.

 


 

The kind folks at HEX provided me the case for the review, without expectation as to my review’s content.

App Review: Day One (Day One 2 Coming Soon)

Day One is easily the best app for keeping a journal or life log–if you’re going to do it in a 1s and 0s environment, rather than on paper.

In this post I briefly review Day One. I’ll leave for another time the question of whether journaling by hand or by phone/tablet/computer is preferable. Okay, actually… I’ll answer that now: better to do it by hand, because… reasons. But Day One has photo capability, so it has served as a nice digital repository for me to chronicle my kids’ growing up, without having to post it on Facebook, etc.

Day One offers sync via iCloud, Dropbox, or their own sync service, so you can keep everything together on iPhone, iPad, and Mac.

I really like the layout, which allows you (much like in this blog, for example), to combine headings, text, and photos. Check out this sample entry on Day One for Mac:

 

Mac Sample Entry

You can even add an entry right from the menu bar, so that you can write down that brilliant insight before you forget it.

 

Mac Menu Bar Option

 

Your entries could be text, a (single) photo with text, location-based entries (that also pull in the weather automatically), meeting notes, day debriefs, etc. Each entry is automatically time-stamped. The possibilities are pretty robust, and folks use Day One in lots of different ways. The tags feature especially enables this, as you could use the built-in tagging system to sort by “journal,” “family,” “song lyrics,” “insights,” “questions,” and more.

My first question is–to the extent I use Day One as a sort of photo-journal (especially of the family), will having my info in a proprietary format some day cause issues? That’s always a possibility with software (score one for physical journals and photo albums), but Day One allows for PDF export, so you don’t really have to worry here.

 

Mac PDF Export

 

You can also set a reminder so that Day One reminds you each day to write:

 

Mac Reminders

 

It looks and works really well on iPhone and iPad too.

 

iPad Menu Landscape 2

 

If you want to try the app and really put it to use, Shawn Blanc has written a pretty thorough ebook: Day One in Depth.

You can find Day One for iOS here; the OS X app is here.

Also… if you want to wait a few days… Day One 2 releases this Thursday. I haven’t used the new app, but beta users seem to love it. You can check out what’s new in the FAQs here.

 


 

Thanks to the makers of Day One for the review copy of the app on Mac, given to me for this review but with no expectation as to its content.

Review: KAVAJ iPad Air 2 Leather Case

 

Image via KAVAJ (all others my own)
Image via KAVAJ (all others my own)

 

If I’m not mistaken, this is the first iPad Air 2 case I’ve reviewed at Words on the Word. As with iPad Mini cases, there are a lot on the market–so many that one could easily get lost in the three-hour rabbit hole of trying to find just the right one.

I’m not sure I have found just the right one for the iPad Air 2. There are a couple that are close–I’ll share about those in due course.

In this post I review the KAVAJ iPad Air 2 “Hamburg” leather case in cognac/brown.

 

What’s Great About the KAVAJ Case

 

This is an ephemeral satisfaction, but the packaging in which KAVAJ sent the case was as classy as the case itself:

 

2_Packaging

 

I really like the leather look and feel (and, of course, smell) of the case. (Current WordPress technology does not yet permit me to upload the smell to the blog.)

The stand system is secure and allows you to put the iPad at just about any angle you want. This is the best part about the case, as some others give you just two options, neither of which is quite the right angle. Here are some of the ways you can angle your iPad in the case:

 

1_Side View

 

1_Case at Other Angle

 

There’s also room to set up an iPhone there, in case you want to toggle between iOS devices. That’s a nice bonus.

The case is light–when folded back and reading in portrait mode, it actually makes the device easier and more enjoyable to hold than on its own. Cases that combine usability in both keyboard/orientation mode and reading/portrait mode seem to be rare.

The stitching is good, too. It looks like it’s not coming loose any time soon. And the inside flannel is nice and soft–no worries about it scratching your screen.

 

What’s Not-So-Great About the KAVAJ Case

 

There is an auto sleep/wake feature with the magnetic closure, which is good, but it’s really hard to get at the sleep/wake button itself when the case completely covers it. What if you want to leave your iPad set up on the stand all morning and turn it off when you’re not using it? When the iPad is in the KAVAJ case, it is very hard, if not impossible, to do.

This next assessment may be picky on my part, but I think anyone looking for a good case for an iPad Air 2 is warranted in that: the casing is not 100% centered when placed around the iPad.

It covers the home button just a tad, so that any time you go to press the home button, you’re competing the case. This is not an insignificant hassle, especially considering the use of Touch ID.

Here are some images showing what I mean:

 

2_Open with iPad in

 

1_Close-Up Home Button

 

Also, the snugness and slight off-centeredness of the case makes sliding in or up from the edges of the screen almost impossible. I’m not sure how else they could have circumvented this with this kind of case, but it feels like a design flaw, or at least something that leads to unusability.

That said, leather stretches out over time. A good week in the case didn’t make a difference on this front, but maybe it would improve over a longer period of time.

Finally, the case leaves just a little bit of exposure to the edges of the iPad. This may be necessary for the slide-in feature to work, but it leaves iPad exposed at a couple key spots–you’re likely to get a dent if you drop it. (And the leather isn’t all that protective anyway–a trade-off for the aesthetic.)

Where to Get It

 

2_Open and Empty

 

You can learn more about the KAVAJ case at their Website here. And it’s available on Amazon here.

 


 

KAVAJ provided me the case for the review, without expectation as to my review’s content.

Not to Shill, But… (Last Day of Logos Bible Software Discount)

Logos 6 Gold

 

I have mixed feelings about Logos marketing–some criticisms expressed here–but I still do, at least for now, participate in an affiliate program of theirs. This helps, among other things, to pay for some of this blog’s minimal expenses and has even in the past funded seminary coursework.

I have no intention to shill, but I do want to share for interested readers that the rate of 15% off any base package in Logos is changing as of tomorrow (12:00 a.m. PST) to 10% off. So if you’re thinking of upgrading, you can do it for cheaper today than tomorrow. If you don’t have money to do it, don’t sweat, pour yourself a cup of tea, and read this post instead. If you do purchase, Logos feeds a percentage of the purchase back to me. If you’re interested, you just order a base package (new or upgrade) through this Logos landing page.

Or use the promo code ABRAMKJ6 when you check out with a base package in your Logos cart. My review of Logos 6 is here.

Alto’s Adventure, Reviewed (and Currently $0.99)

I don’t know what your New Year’s Resolutions are, but if one of them is to play more video games (uh…), you should start with Alto’s Adventure.

Four traits especially stand out that make the game enjoyable:

    1. The graphics are gorgeous.
    2. The music is excellent–it evokes the old Final Fantasy scores, but sounds more like 2015.
    3. Playing it is really relaxing.
    4. Being a flipping snowboarder (especially if you can’t do it in real life) is fun.

It’s what reviewers call an “endless runner” game, which means you could go a gazillion meters on your run with Alto, which of course you never will, since you’ll hit a rock or get knocked down by an elder or fall into a ravine or ____ first.

But that won’t keep you from tapping “Play Again” multiple times.

The main stat to go for is “distance travelled.” But you can boost your trick store through a series of bunting grinds, flips, and the like. There are coins to collect (with magnets to help!), llamas to chase, and chasms to jump.

Here’s the score screen (for all images in this post, click to enlarge):

 

Score Screen

 

And a couple looks at the game:

 

Paz Daytime

 

The background changes from sunny and clear to dark and rainy, which adds a level of challenge (and fun) to the gameplay:

 

Raining at Night

 

In the Air

 

In the Air 2

 

If you accomplish three goals (smash three rocks, land two triple flips in one run, and so on), you move up a level. Move up enough levels and you unlock new characters:

 

New Player Paz

 

You can use your coins to buy workshop items:

 

Workshop Items

 

The gameplay is smooth and responsive. (Though flying with the wingsuit is tricky.) You only have to tap to jump, so the controls are easy enough to learn, but staying up for a long run is no easy feat.

Alto’s Adventure is currently $0.99 (on sale) at the App Store. It’s easily one of the best games for iOS.

 


 

Thanks to the makers of Alto’s Adventure for the review copy of the app, given to me for this review but with no expectation as to its content.

1Writer: The Best Text Editor (and Blogging App!) for iOS

1Writer Icon

 

1Writer has been living in both my iPhone and iPad docks for a number of months now. It’s high time I wrote a proper review! It’s easily my favorite text editing app for iOS.

 

About 1Writer

 

Here’s a paragraph description of the app from the 1Writer site:

1Writer provides a distraction free writing environment. You can create and edit plain text or Markdown files. It does have many features including inline Markdown preview, word count, dark theme, TextExpander support, insert photo, an extra keyboard row, and many more. The extra keyboard row is a convenient row of buttons for navigation, formatting, special characters and actions. See the formatted results with inline Markdown preview while you write and a full, rich-text preview when you’re done.

My favorite feature is its ability to insert images right from an iOS device, making it the first iOS app I’ve found that is actually suitable for blogging.

 

1Writer: The Pros

 

Sync

Whether you want to use Dropbox or iCloud, 1Writer has excellent syncing capabilities. I have a couple Dropbox folders I sync to 1Writer, which is now where I keep blog post drafts. I can update a document from iPhone or iPad–or even use a Mac to update a draft with an OS X Markdown app.

 

Images!!!

You can blog from 1Writer. It has been surprisingly difficult to find an iOS app that can do this well, including WordPress’s native blogging app. One downside is that you can’t resize the images once you insert them into the post, so it’s still not as flexible as blogging with images through the WordPress Web interface on OS X. The fastidious among us may want to double-check layout in WordPress itself before posting anyway, so this is not a deal-breaker, if not ideal.

 

Works Great with an External Keyboard

You can type CMD-B for bold and CMD-I for italics, and it both inserts the markdown markup and shows you the inline preview. Not even Editorial can do this. You can also insert links with a keyboard shortcut.

 

Built-in Web Browser

Because 1Writer has a built in Web browser, you can search for images without even leaving the app, and then insert them into your document. There is also a really nice hyperlinking functionality, and you don’t have to leave 1Writer to find a link you want to include in a document or Web post. One especially nice touch is once you’ve got a link copied, the hyperlink button gives you the pop-up option of just pasting the clipboard contents (your link), so you can save a tap there.

 

Built-in Web Browser

 

Great-Looking Interface

The interface is easy to look at for a long time when writing:

 

1Writer Text

 

Tagging System

1Writer has a built-in tagging system, so you can even more easily organize your documents.

 

Tags 1

 

Tags 2

 

Actions

Like Drafts 4, 1Writer has a number of actions you can perform on your text. Whether you want to use a pre-installed action to export your document as plain text or PDF, or install something from the 1Writer action directory, there’s not much missing here.

 

Actions

 

My personal favorite action is “Jump to Section,” which allows you to navigate by headings. This is especially useful for long documents where you quickly want to go between sections. The interface of this feature is not quite as smooth as Editorial’s similar function, but it still gets the job done.

 

iOS9-Ready

Speaking of Editorial… that’s a fine app, but it’s still not iOS9-ready. 1Writer is, so you can utilize Slide Over and Split View functions.

 

Customizable Keyboard Row

There’s an extra, customizable keyboard row–including the ability to assign a character or even action to a button.

 

Top-Notch Developer

The developer is amazingly responsive. He totally knows what he’s doing, and has built an excellent app already. Insofar as there are small, desired improvements, he takes feedback seriously.

 

1Writer: Just a Few Minor Drawbacks

 

The built-in Web browser does not allow for multi-tabbed browsing. I found this to be a limitation, though since iOS9, when I want to search the Web, I tend to do it via Safari in Split View with 1Writer open separately anyway.

Another drawback: you can’t sync actions between devices. You have to manually set this up in any iOS device you use. Documents themselves sync perfectly, of course, just not these custom actions.

 

Concluding Evaluation

 

There are people who swear by Drafts (I am one!) and Editorial (there’s a lot to like about that app). But 1Writer is exceedingly underrated. (Though that may change now that Viticci reviewed it!) If you’re a blogger, especially, this is the app that will finally allow you to blog from your iOS device.

It’s (no question) the best thing on iOS for bloggers. And maybe even the best note-taking app, too.

You can find it in the App Store here. And, yes, I did write much of this post in 1Writer, exported the Markdown to HTML (from 1Writer), and then published.

 


 

Thanks to 1Writer for the review copy of the app, given to me for this review but with no expectation as to its content.