Art of the iPhone

Siri Tip: Say “Google” First for the Quickest Way to Launch a Web Search on the iPhone & iPad

Siri icon

For the fastest way to search for something on the web, simply speak the word Google first to Siri, followed by whatever you want to search for. This method is, by far, the fastest way to do a web search in iOS. And, it can improve your overall experience with Siri.

Here’s an example: if you ask Siri, “Ten best Hawaii beaches,” Siri will bizarrely respond with a weather forecast. Begin that same question with Google and the browser will quickly and automatically launch and point to several great articles listing the ten best beaches in Hawaii. By starting off with Google, I avoid having to repeat myself or navigating to the browser app.

Another reason to say “Google” first is that Google is also great at correcting mistranslated words or phrases and figuring out what you’re really looking for. Compare this to Siri, which often takes correctly translated words and delivers incorrect info. Don’t get me wrong, Siri is great for creating reminders, text messages, alarms, & timers, and a handful of other things, but Siri is not so great at answering most questions.

Also note you can say Bing or Yahoo to automatically launch searches in those engines as well.

10 Essential iPad Music-Creation Apps (With Video Examples)

Also check out Part 2 here with 10 more apps. Musicians are quickly discovering that iPad apps that help create music are an incredible value in the world of professional music making. Never before has it been so cheap to own professional-quality software tools, and it’s all thanks to the miracle device known as the iPad. Below are my picks for the 10 Best and most useful apps for creating music on the iPad, with video examples.

[iframe src=”” width=”100%” height=”600″]

6 Cars That Are Getting Siri Eyes Free Integration in 2013

Apple first announced Siri Eyes Free for cars in June 2012, but its appearance in actual cars has been glacially slow (it’s still not available as of this writing except for a few lucky beta testers). Below is a list of cars Siris Eyes Free will supposedly make a 2013 appearance in (via software updates).

[iframe src=”” width=”100%” height=”700″]

Siri Eyes Free is a special version of Siri designed for use in cars, but it requires carmakers to update their infotainment systems to be compatible with it. It should be noted that regular old Siri (the non-Eyes Free version) does work over bluetooth in cars, but Eyes Free offers a few benefits, which I’ll get to in a sec. There are several cars destined to receive Siri Eyes starting in late spring of 2013, but it isn’t likely until 2014 when Eyes Free will be available widely.

So what’s the benefit of Siri Eyes Free over using activating regular Siri with your current car’s bluetooth system? Well, first off, it will just work better—currently, Siri + bluetooth in cars is not a great experience. Probably the biggest benefit performance wise is that Eyes Free will take into account a car’s background noise (engine and wind noise) when listening for commands, thus you’ll be understood by Siri better in noisy situations.

Another benefit of Eyes Free is it will be safer to use than non-Eyes Free Siri while you’re driving, as it won’t prompt you to look at your iPhone’s screen (for example, she won’t say “Here are your results” and display info on the screen). The side effect of this safety feature is that its removes some of Siri’s functionality, such as Siri doing web searches for you or looking up data via Wolfram Alpha.

Another differentiating aspect of Eyes Free is that car makers can determine a specific type of button press to activate Eyes Free to keep it separate from their own voice command systems. For example, Chevy will require you to hold the button for 2 seconds to activate Siri Eyes Free.

Good Deal: Monoprice and Amazon Selling Cheap, Apple-Certified Lightning Cables

Amazon Lightning to USB

Both Monoprice and are now selling bargain-priced Lightning cables that work with the iPhone 5 and the new iPads, and the cables are MFi certified (Made for iPod, Made for iPhone, and Made for iPad), meaning Apple has approved them for use with their devices.


Screen Shot 2013-02-13 at 10.03.54 PM

Monoprice has 3 versions of the Lightning to USB cables:

  • A regular 3-foot cable ($11.77)
  • A regular 6-foot cable ($12.56)
  • A “Slimfit” 3-foot cable ($12.73) where the connector heads are slightly slimmer that the regular version, and thus slightly more expensive (hoo-ahh!).

Of course, with Monoprice, the more you buy, the less they cost. Apple’s Lightning cable costs $19.99, so Monoprice saves you around $6-$8 per cable. Apple’s official cable is 3 feet 3 inches long, so if you ask me, the best deal is Monoprice’s 6-foot cable (although too much cable can be annoying in some situations).


Lightning Cable at Amazon

Amazon is selling its Apple-certified AmazonBasics Lightning to USB Cable for $14.99 (Prime eligible), although it should be noted that Amazon is also discounting Apple’s official Lightning cable from $19.99 to $16.99 (at least they are when I’m logged into Amazon—they sometimes show different prices to different people).

It’s possible to find non-Apple-certified cables for even cheaper, but you’re rolling the dice with your expensive iPhone/iPad.

Both Monoprice and Amazon’s cables are black, while Apple’s official cable is apple-core white. Is it worth the few extra bucks to stay Apple white? Yes! I mean, No!

Review: Incipio KickSnap iPhone Case With Built-In Stand

Review Summary

Price: $35

Art of the iPhone’s Rating: ★★☆☆☆
(2 stars out of 5)

Review Summary: The Incipio KickSnap has a poorly designed built-in stand, an easily scratched glossy surface, and very little shock absorption. It makes for a poor choice of case for the iPhone 5.

Certain themes emerge after years of reviewing iPhone cases, and one of those themes is that glossy style hard plastic cases exhibit poor durability and soon degrade into scratch-covered messes. And so it was with the Incipio KickSnap ($35 suggested, bought for $10 on Amazon), which after just a day’s use, looked liked it had been worked over with sandpaper. But the KickSnap does have another key selling point, its built-in stand. Too bad it’s poorly designed as well.

The Stand. The Kicksnap’s “stand” really is just a loose rectangular strip of plastic that you pull out with your fingernail. The “stand” flaps about like a broken wing—there is no hinge or other mechanism to provide resistance. To use it as a stand, you simply lean the plastic flap and iPhone against each other—a sloppy design that shows a total lack of imagination. The stand gives you a grand total of 1 viewing angle for the iPhone (about a 70-degree landscape viewing angle).

Incipio KickSnap Case for iPhone 5

Protection. On its website, Incipio says the the KickSnap provides “excellent shock absorption.” Well, in my testing, not really. The KickSnap is a thin hard plastic case, which means most of the energy from an impact will transfer into the iPhone. That is not “excellent shock absorption.” The KickSnap does have a thin soft rubber inner lining, but there’s only enough for preventing the hard plastic of the case from scratching the iPhone itself, not enough for shock absorption duties. In terms of protection, the Incipio KickSnap is only good for everyday wear and tear—too bad the case itself will look worn and tired with just a few days use.

Buttons & Ports. There is one element of the KickSnap that is well designed, its buttons. The case’s buttons cover the iPhone’s own volume and sleep/wake buttons, and they work accurately when pressed. In fact, they are very clicky and responsive when pressed—I like them more than the iPhone’s own buttons. The case has cutouts for the iPhone’s lightning and headphone ports, leaving plenty room to plug in your earphones and charging cords. Likewise, a cutout for the iPhone’s camera leaves plenty of room to take photos. Overall, the KickSnap gives you excellent access to all the iPhone’s buttons and features.

Fit & Feel. The KickSnap is a slim-style case, and thus adds barely any thickness and weight to the already slim profile of the iPhone 5. The case feels very solid and tight, with no creakiness to the plastic or looseness to the fit. Unfortunately, the glossy surface is also quite slippery, meaning you’ll have a bit more difficult time keeping a firm grip on the iPhone with the case on. Another reason to avoid the “glossy” style of iPhone cases.

Looks. Glossy hard-plastic cases almost always look great coming out of the package, and so it was with the KickSnap. But due to durability issues, they don’t look so great after a few hours of use. So it was again with my “Obsidian Black” version of the KickSnap, which is also available in Optical White / Charcoal Gray. Scratches and scuffs will soon cover the delicate surface, making the case look worn even though it’s barely been used. The KickSnap is a slim case, so it maintains the iPhone 5’s slim profile, which is nice visually, but again, a closer look will reveal the scratches and worn look. The stand, too, is a bit of an eyesore, even though it snaps flat when not in use.


The glossy plastic of the Incipio KickSnap case for iPhone 5 ($35) is easily scratched, and its built-in stand is poor designed. Add in poor shock-absorption, and you’ve got a dud of an iPhone case, even at the discounted $10 I found it it for on Not recommended.

Review: Speck PixelSkin HD Case for iPhone 5

Review Summary

Price: $30

Art of the iPhone’s Rating: ★★☆☆☆
(2 stars out of 5)

Review Summary: The Speck PixelSkin is a thin hard-plastic case that doesn’t offer much shock absorption, but is a tight-fitting case that won’t get in the way of using the iPhone’s various features. Still, there are a million thin cases like the PixelSkin out there, and no reason to buy this one.

The Speck PixelSkin HD ($30) falls into the herd of cheaply made, thin hard-plastic cases that really aren’t much of a benefit to your iPhone other than wrapping another layer of material around it, and not a very protective one at that.

Protection. The PixelSkin is made from thin hard plastic, a combination that does little to protect your iPhone in the area of shock absorption. If you drop your iPhone inside this case, the energy of the impact from the iPhone hitting the ground is easily transferred through the plastic into your iPhone. If you want a case that will lower the odds of a smashed, cracked, or broken phone, this ain’t it.

Fit and Form, and Accessibility.The PixelSkin HD is the kind of case where I often see people say they are completely satisfied with product because, well, it fits perfectly around the iPhone, and it feels slim and barely adds any weight. Yes, it’s true that the PixelSkin HD is well-designed in the area of fit and form. Well, “well-designed” in that it doesn’t generally interfere with using the iPhone’s various buttons and ports. The PixelSkin HD hugs the iPhone like a glove, feeling solid with no creakiness.

I found the texture of the PixelSkin HD to be very unpleasant to hold in the hand. The edges of this plastic are sharp, creating an unpleasant scraping feeling against my skin. The back of the case has a texture of raised squares (thus the name “pixel”) that also have sharp edges and also scrape against my skin.


The PixelSkin HD is a thin, hard-plastic case that offers very little in the way of protection for your iPhone 5 inside. Sure, it fits well and doesn’t interfere with your iPhone’s various functions, but the truth about this case along with a thousand rushed-to-market, cheaply made, thin, hard-plastic cases like is that there is nothing truly compelling enough that you should spend your hard-earned cash on it compared with other, much better cases out there.

Review: iStabilizer, an Inexpensive Way to Use Your iPhone With Standard Camera Tripods

Review Summary

Price: $15

Art of the iPhone’s Rating: ★★★★★
(5 stars out of 5)

Review Summary: The iStabilizer is a handy tool that provides a quick and hassle free way to attach the iPhone to a tripod. Highly recommended for its ease of use and versatility. It works with any 1/4″ x 20 tripod screw (which is standard).

The iStabilizer ($15) is an inexpensive solution for attaching your iPhone to a tripod, and you can do so without removing your iPhone case or using any special equipment other than the iStabilizer itself. The iStabilizer is a simple clamp-like tool that can screw into any standard tripod and hold any current or past version of the iPhone in its pinchers, as well as a bunch of other small devices (iPods, small cameras, etc). It’s a great idea because the iPhone’s camera is capable of taking high quality photos and videos. But does the iStabilizer perform well in the field? Read on to find out.

In a nutshell, the iStabilizer works great. I tested it with my iPhone 5 and my camera tripod (which I bought for $25 from Amazon and which I can recommend if you’re looking for a cheap tripod). The iStabilizer’s best characteristic is how quickly and easily the iPhone can be taken in and out of its clamps. In fact, I wish most cameras could be attached/detached from tripods so easily.

iStabilizer iPhone camera tripod mount

How It Works. The iStabilizer will work with any 1/4″ x 20 tripod screw (the standard for modern tripods). You simply screw the iStabilizer onto the tripod and its ready for the iPhone to be inserted.

To place the iPhone inside the iStabilizer, you pull up on a tab, raising one of the iStabilizer’s clamps enough to slide the iPhone inside, then you let go and the iStabilizer clamps down on the iPhone with a firm grip. The grip is tight enough that you can move the tripod around and not have any fears the iPhone will slip out. You can even hold it horizontal or upside down, and the iPhone stays in it (view examples of this in my video review).

iStabilizer with iPhone in case inside

In a nice design touch, the clamps are padded with rubber so that they won’t damage the iPhone, in case you aren’t using a case. Which leads me to another nice element of the iStabilizer: it will work with just about any iPhone case, no matter how thick.

The iStabilizer pinchers can stretch to hold objects with a 2.75″ width or less. The iPhone 5 has a width of 2.31 inches, so that leaves an extra 0.44 inches, which is plenty for an iPhone case. The extra room also means the iStabilizer can work with other devices as well, like iPods, other smartphones, or even small cameras (it worked with my Canon PowerShot SD960 camera). There is also a iStabilizer Mount XL for larger smartphones, and they’re working on an iPad version.

Another nice aspect of the iStabilizer is that it leaves the iPhone’s screen unobstructed, meaning you can still tap and swipe the screen to utilize the features of whatever camera/video app you’re using to film.


The iStabilizer ($15) is a great, inexpensive solution for attaching your iPhone and other small devices to a tripod. It holds fast to any device in its grasp and won’t damage the device thanks to protective padding on its pinchers. My favorite feature was how quickly and easily the iPhone can be removed from the tripod, which is nice because the multitasking iPhone is more than just a camera, and even while taking photos I’ll need access to it for other functions as well.

Review: Speck SmartFlex View Case (with Built-in Stand) for iPhone 5

Speck SmartFlex View for iPhone 5 back of case 1

Review Summary

Price: $20

Art of the iPhone’s Rating: ★★★☆☆
(3 stars out of 5)

Review Summary: The Speck SmartFlex View has a cleverly designed built-in stand that disappears when not in use. While the stand is great, the View’s thin plastic shell doesn’t offer much in the way of shock absorption. We place a premium on shock absorption and protection for our case ratings, but if you can get by without it, the View is an otherwise well-designed case.

The Speck SmartFlex View case ($20) for the iPhone 5 has one of the better designs for a built-in stand I’ve seen. I’ve reviewed iPhone case/stand combos before, and it’s surprising how useful the stand becomes—once, that is, you get used to the fact there’s always a stand there to use.

What’s so clever about the the SmartFlex View’s stand is that it retracts and disappears into the case when not in use—impressive because the SmartFlex is a slim case with very little room to hide a stand. When you want to use the stand, you simply pull it out like a retractable stick of gum. The stand can prop up the iPhone in both landscape or portrait orientation (it’s limited to a total of 3 angles).

Video Review

Protection. The SmartFlex is a thin, hard-plastic case, and as a slim-style case, the SmartFlex doesn’t offer much shock absorption, and thus it won’t do much to protect your iPhone 5 if you accidentally drop it. Its thin plastic means it’s mostly good for protecting against everyday wear and tear. I will point out, however, that the inside of the case lacks a soft lining, which could lead to the case itself scratching the iPhone through subtle abrasion over time.

The front of the case has a rim that sticks up about a half millimeter above the iPhone’s screen, which will prevent the screen from touching surfaces when laid down on its screen side—always a nice bonus, as the screen gets dirty enough as is.

Speck SmartFlex View for iPhone 5 stand landscape

Build quality. As mentioned, the Speck is made of thin hard plastic. While this type of common polycarbonate plastic has shown to be quite durable for use in iPhone cases in the past, it’s the retractable stand that worries me. It’s feels quite flimsy, and the hinge that allows it to function feels like it could be easily broken.

Fit & Feel. The SmartFlex View feels impressively solid and tight once it’s on the iPhone—there is no creakiness to the plastic—when on, it feels like it becomes one with the iPhone. The case is also pleasant to hold in the hand thanks to its smoothly rounded corners that make a nice break from the iPhone 5’s sharp edges. Overall, the iPhone 5 becomes more comfortable to hold in the hand with the case on than without. And because it’s a slim-style case, it adds very little bulk and weight to the superslim iPhone 5.

The SmartFlex is available in 4 different colors: black (which I am reviewing here), blue, gray, and purple.

Speck SmartFlex View for iPhone 5 lightning headphone port

Accessibility. The SmartFlex’s overall excellent design continues when it comes to making sure you can use all of the iPhone’s functions as expected. There are cutouts for both the lightning port and headphones on the bottom that allow them to be used without obstruction. The case covers the iPhone’s volume and sleep/wake buttons with its own simulated plastic buttons, but these buttons still work accurately when pressed, without the need for additional pressure. The only slight annoyance is that the ringer switch is a bit harder to flip, as you have to dig down with your finger tip to reach it. It’s a minor issue and not really a bother in real-life use.


Speck SmartFlex View’s distinguishing feature is a cleverly designed stand that retracts into the case and essentially disappears until needed again. It’s one of the better designed case/stand combos out there, bested only by the Zerochroma Teatro stand/cases. The SmartFlex View’s only flaw is its lack of protective qualities due to its thin, hard-plastic construction. If you’re looking for a slim-style case and you don’t care about shock absorption, the SmartFlex View, with its excellent stand, is an excellent choice.


  • Retractable stand stays hidden when not in use.
  • Smooth feel with rounded corners.
  • Good accessibility to iPhone’s buttons and ports.


  • Thin, hard plastic means no shock absorption.
  • No lining inside means the hard plastic can scratch the iPhone through subtle abrasion over time.

Review: Ballistic Shell Gel SG Series Case for iPhone 5

Ballistic Shel Gel SG Series iPhone 5 case

Review Summary

Price: $35

Art of the iPhone’s Rating: ★★★★★
(5 stars out of 5)

Review Summary: All function—very little fashion, and there’s nothing wrong with that. This utilitarian case protects the iPhone 5 where it needs it most, without getting in the way of using the iPhone.

If you walk into any retail store that carries iPhone cases, the shelves will be lined with thin, cheaply made hard-plastic cases that lure customers in with bright fashionable patterns or other stylish visual gimmicks. These fashion-focused iPhone cases may mean high profit margins for manufacturers, but usually poor performance for iPhone owners. Then there are the thicker, more protective cases that lack the fashionable good looks, but perform well. They are the Saabs of the iPhone case worlds.

The Ballistic Shell Gel SG Series case for iPhone 5 ($35) is not what I’d called a “looker,” but it is a case that performs extremely well, providing excellent protection while not getting in the way of using the iPhone’s various features. In other words, it’s exactly our kind of case.

Protection. Even though Ballistic claims the Shell Gel is a “three-layer” case, a more accurate description would be two layers with some extra padding in its corners. The Shell Gel has a a soft polymer inner sleeve that wraps, somewhat loosely, around the iPhone, then a second outer player that is a hard plastic shell, which adds strength and rigidity. This mysterious “third layer” is actually the thickly padded corners, which bulge out from the rest of the case. These bulges are made from silicone rubber, a great material for shock absorption. These bulging corners protect what are essentially the iPhone’s impact points—the areas most likely to hit first during accidental drops. All of this translates into excellent protection for the iPhone 5 inside. The Shell Gel should protect your iPhone from most everyday drops and then some.

The Shell Gel has a rim that sticks up about a millimeter above the iPhone’s screen, preventing the glass from touching surfaces when lain on that side. Of course, as with all open-face cases, if the iPhone’s screen catches the corner of a table or the edge of a rock in just the right way, it will still shatter, case or no case.

Ballistic Shell Gel SG Series case for iPhone 5

Ballistic Shell Gel

Accessibility. An important question with any iPhone case is, can I still use all of the iPhone’s features with the case on? With the Ballistic Shell Gel, all of the iPhone’s buttons and ports work as expected with the case on. The Shell Gel uses simulated rubber buttons to cover up the iPhone’s own buttons, but these buttons work perfectly when pressed—no extra effort required. In fact, I kind of like the comfortable rubber feel of the case’s buttons over the iPhone’s own. There is only minor flaw with this case when it comes to accessibility, and it lies with the mute switch. The cases’s tight rim around the mute switch makes it slightly harder to flip—I had to dig in with my fingertip a bit to flip the switch. Not a deal breaker, but still a minor flaw worth noting.

The iPhone’s camera is likewise unobstructed, as the case leaves a good sized cutout area around it. The camera is set back a bit, which might have a slight effect on the amount of light reaching the lens, but if there is a noticeable effect, I didn’t see it in the photos I took with the case on.

Ballistic Shel Gel for iPhone 5 camera close up

Fit and Feel. When I first wrapped the soft inner layer of the case around the iPhone, I was surprised at the loose floppy fit—but once the hard-plastic outer layer went on, the case suddenly became a solid feeling case without creakiness. Sure, there is still a stretchiness to the case on the front bottom and top due to the soft polymer, but it’s not an issue and doesn’t detract from the case.

Overall, the case feels pleasant enough to hold in the hand. I especially like the dimpled texture of the back of the case, which helps increase grip. The case is a bit thick and adds a good deal of weight—I would compare the iPhone 5 with a Shell Gel on as slightly heavier than a case-less iPhone 4, and a tad bit thicker that that classic device. Still, that is the price you pay for the Shell Gel’s excellent protection, and it’s not that high of a price, at that.

Looks. The Shell Gel is a rugged-looking case. I reviewed the all-black version (as is my usual preference), but the case is also available in 6 other color schemes, in case you want to add a touch more color. Dozens of tiny dimples on the case’s back are the most visually distinguishing feature of the case, and they supply a utilitarian, almost sporty, look. Overall, I would describe the Shell Gel’s look at as functional, not fashionable.


The Ballistic Shell Gel ($35) is purely in the business of protecting your iPhone 5, and it’s quite good at it. With its bulging, extra-thick padded corners, the case recognizes these impact points as the areas most likely to take the brunt of initial impact, and so it reinforces them. The Shell Gel is an all-around well-designed case that doesn’t get in the way of using the iPhone on a daily basis. Sure, it adds a bit of bulk and weight, and it’s hardly a fashionable case, but for what’s really important in an iPhone 5 case, the Shell Gel gets it right.


  • Extra padding for the iPhone’s impact points
  • Great all-around protection
  • Doesn’t get in the way of using the iPhone’s various features, buttons, and ports


  • Adds thickness and weight to the superslim iPhone 5
  • Not exactly a “pretty” case.

Basics: How to Rotate a Photo on the iPhone/iPad (Without Using a Third-Party App)

If you need to rotate and save a photo on the iPhone so that it’s in the correct orientation, you can do so inside the default Photos app, without using a third-party app. In fact, the Photos app includes a few basic photo editing tools, like crop, fix red-eye, auto-enhance, and rotate. Below are step-by-step instructions on how to use the rotate tool in the Photos app.

1. Open the Photos app:

Photos app icon

2. Find the photo you want to rotate (it will likely still be in the Camera Roll album if you took it recently):

Camera Roll inside Photos iPhone app

3. Tap Edit in the top right corner (if you don’t see Edit, tap the screen once to make menu options appear):

Tap Edit in top right corner of iPhone photos app

4. Tap the curved arrow in the bottom left of the screen to rotate the photo:

Tap Curved Arrow to rotate

5. Tap Save to save the changes to the photo:

Tap Save

And that’s it, you’ve rotated the photo and saved the changes. Now, whenever you, or anyone else you send the picture to, views the photo, it will be in that orientation.