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Great gear you may have missed

Dan Frakes | Jan. 20, 2014
As the editor who coordinates most of Macworld's iOS- and Mac-accessory coverage, I'm inundated with miscellaneous cables, connectors, chargers, and other "minor" products that don't necessarily warrant a full review or article. But, as I wrote back in late 2012, that doesn't mean they should all go unnoticed. Some of these products are interesting or useful enough that they're worth talking about; or they're things that, though they may not have impressed me at first, have since earned a spot on my desk or in my bag.

Nomad ChargeKey and ChareCard: What if you don't want to tuck your USB-to-Lightning cable in your bag? What if you instead want to always keep it handy, just in case you need a quick recharge while on the go? Nomad's ChargeKey and ChargeCard ($25 each) take the shape of items you always have in your pocket or purse — a key or a credit card, respectively — but feature a standard USB plug on one end, and on the other either a Lightning-connector plug, a Micro-USB plug, or (available for the ChargeCard only) a 30-pin-dock-connector plug. The ChargeKey is, of course, much smaller — it fits nicely on your keychain. The ChargeCard, on the other hand, is the better option if you often carry a wallet but not a ring of keys; the USB plug flips out from the center of the card, which is roughly as thick as two credit cards.

BlueLounge Kii: Speaking of Lightning-connector keys, the Kii sports a standard USB plug on one end and either a Lightning-connector plug ($40) or a 30-pin plug ($20) on the other. But the Kii, while bigger than the ChargeKey, offers protection for the dock plug: The "top" of the key is shaped like the head of a traditional house key and serves as the Lightning or 30-pin connector's cover. (On the 30-pin version, the wide, 30-pin plug forms half of the key's head.) As a result, the Kii feels a bit sturdier than the ChargeKey, though it's also larger and it costs $15 more.

Monoprice Lightning-to-USB cables: Plenty of companies make budget alternative's to Apple's $19 and $29 Lightning-to-USB cables. But most of the cheap knock-offs aren't Apple-certified, which means they don't have the official circuitry inside and they haven't passed Apple's testing protocols. (This isn't just a name-brand-versus-generic debate. As many people have discovered, some third-party cables no longer work under iOS 7 because the new OS is stricter about verifying that connected accessories and cables contain the official circuitry.) Monoprice, true to its reputation, offers a wide variety of options (from 4 inches up to 10 feet long) at budget prices ($12 to $14), but unlike much of the competition, Monoprice's versions are all MFi-certified.

Scosche StrikeLine Pro Retractable Charge & Sync Cable for Lightning Device: I have a USB charger in my car for keeping my iPhone or iPad juiced up, but I really dislike having cables cluttering the console. The $25 StrikeLine Pro, available in white or black, has a Lightning Connector plug on one end and a USB plug on the other; it extends up to three feet in length, but when you're not using it, a quick tug collapses the entire cable into a compact spool. In addition to being great for the car, the StrikeLine Pro also makes a nice addition to a travel bag.


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