Indispensable. That’s how I describe my iPhone. It’s easily as important to me as my keys and wallet, so I always endeavor to treat it well – to pamper it even. Because of this, I tend to go through a lot of accessories, always looking for something that performs slightly better or adds additional value to an already stellar user experience. Two recent finds, the Moshi SenseCover and Boom’s Bluetooth Urchin, have managed to do just that.
The SenseCover itself is a rather unassuming looking case, a polycarbonate hardshell paired with a flexible leatherette front cover secured on the free end by a discreet magnet. All necessary buttons and ports are unobstructed, and there’s even a nice cutout to display that iconic Apple logo on the phone’s back. The color perfectly complements that iPhone styling, and its minimal footprint provides adequate coverage – with even enough extra space to allow for a tempered glass screen cover – without bulking up your device.
It’s the titular feature of this case’s front flap, however, that makes it so unique. A conductive strip, which Moshi describes as its “SensArray pads,” rests perfectly on top of the home screen’s slide-lock, and the same simple left-to-right touch motion used to unlock your iPhone can be performed without ever having to open this front cover. Paired with a peekaboo window that lets you check the date/time or caller ID, what the SenseCover ultimately offers is unfettered functionality without ever actually having to “open” your case. Things like taking calls and silencing alarms are a breeze, and the added bonus of not constantly having to squeegee face grime off your screen is itself a strong selling point.
Sadly, there’s no access to the fingerprint reader through the Moshi SenseCover, so 5s users will still have to open the flap to fully interact with their iPhones. Moreover, the sleek Smart Case-style design of the SenseCover does make me lament a lack of an iPad-like smart-wake feature – though I can scarcely blame Moshi for that.
In short, the SenseCover is a device case that’s as sexy as it is functional. Available for both iPhone 5/5s and the Galaxy S5, it’s a great way to dress up and protect your smartphone without breaking the bank.
While I don’t have quite the same unhealthy obsession with them as I do with, say, iPhone cases – I’m serious, folks, it’s a disease! – I’ve certainly reviewed my fair share of Bluetooth speakers. What made Boom’s new Urchin stand out for me was actually its solid blend of form and functionality.
First off, the Urchin, as the name implies, employs an almost biological design aesthetic. You can even swap out this little critter’s tough exterior silicon skin, which helps keep water and grime away from the mini-USB charging port, to give it a quick facelift. The device itself is built to withstand dust, water and shock damage; it’s IPX4 rated, meaning it can survive a direct water spray for up to 5 minutes.
Suffice it to say that the Urchin immediately became my shower speaker, and its full, well-balanced sound and considerable volume assured that it was up to the task. I even got to test its resistance to drop damage (numerous times), because, while the Urchin itself is a quality device, its mounting options lack a little to be desired.
I started off with the included suction cup mount, which fits handily in the hollow atop the silicon skin. Sadly, it held for less than 48 hours before causing my speaker to crash into the tub floor from a six foot height. I tried attaching the suction cup to different surfaces and with varying amounts of moisture, but it never seemed to hold in any way that would make for a permanent (or even semi-permanent) solution. Next up was the strong adhesive mount. It attached firmly to the wall, but when I attempted to wind the Urchin onto the metal mounting screw it instantly sheered it from the adhesive backing. This left only the carabiner, which, fortunately, held firm to the sill of a nearby window.
If nothing else, this proved to me that Boom’s solution is more than capable of taking its lumps. This kind of build quality makes it perfect for tossing in a backpack for a hike or dragging along to your family day at the beach. While I wouldn’t put its overall audio fidelity on par with more delicate units like Cambridge Audio’s Minx series, it’s more than a match for similarly priced rugged Bluetooth speaker solutions like Outdoor Technology’s Turtle Shell.