Griffin Clarifi iPhone Case [Review]

Clarifi iPhone Case

The defining feature of the Griffin Clarifi iPhone case is a retractable lens for taking closer, clearer photos with your iPhone’s camera. Clarifi functions both as a magnifying glass for more detailed mobile snapshots and as a case for protecting your iPhone.

Griffin Clarifi Case Review

Disclosure: This Clarifi Case was donated to me in exchange for an honest review. Sometimes I review donated products that interest me. Despite receiving the items for free, I do my best to be fair and objective. The FTC requires that I disclose my relationship with companies, and I agree that it is important to mention.

Griffin’s Clarifi case struck my interest primarily because of its built-in lens for sharper snapshots. Unlike other telescopic lenses for iPhone (none of which I have tried yet), this lens is small, easily enabled/disabled, and a permanent part of an iPhone case.

Company Claims

From the Griffin Clarifi Product Page:


  • Close-up lens focuses close for incredible detail; perfect for capturing small details & text
  • Lens slides into place for close-ups, then back for normal photography
  • EasyDock lets you charge & sync without removing your iPhone from the case
  • No adapters or small pieces to lose; the lens is built in and slides in and out of place with the touch of a fingertip

The Lens

Clarifi iPhone Case Lens

Although Griffin calls their product a protective case with a “built-in close-up lens,” I would say it’s more of a magnifying glass than a lens. The Clarifi lens does not zoom per se, but it slightly magnifies things and makes close-ups considerably clearer.

Check out these test photos, which were taken from a distance of about 3 inches, with and without the lens enabled:

Before/After Photos

Click to enlarge:

Clarifi iPhone Photos

Clarifi iPhone Photos

As you can see, the Clarifi lens actually does clarify close-up shots. What Clarifi essentially does is increase the resolution of your photos so that you can get closer to your subjects.

Keep in mind that the above photos would have been clear without the need for a lens if I would have backed my camera up an inch or so. Most of the time, the iPhone’s camera will photograph close-ups just fine, but where detailed precision is required, the Clarifi lens makes macro photography a little bit easier.

The Case

The Clarifi case (pictured in white/gray but also available in black) is a two-piece polycarbonate shell that you slide on and snap shut. The case protects the chrome edges and back of the iPhone, but does not cover the screen. It is two-toned and stylish, and allows easy access to all of the buttons and inputs on your iPhone.

Clarifi iPhone Case

The case is durable enough to protect your iPhone in a fall (yes, I dropped my iPhone a couple times while using it), and will prevent scratches from coins or keys in your pocket.

One problem, though, is that dust and dirt can accumulate around the case openings, potentially causing scratches. This happened to me twice. One time when I removed the Clarifi case from my iPhone, and another time when I slid the lens into place, dirt that had gathered around the lens caused light but permanent scratches on the back of my iPhone.

Clarifi iPhone Case Scratch

Dirt accumulation is a problem with most cases, and you will likely get more scratches by not using a case at all, but if dust and debris accumulate around the Clarifi lens, it could cause some blemishes like the one pictured above.

Have you used Griffin’s Clarifi case or a similar product? Let me know your opinion in the comments.


Buy on Amazon: Griffin Clarifi Case for iPhone 3G/3GS
Manufacturer: Griffin

Bicio’s GoRide iPhone Bike Mount [Review]

Bicio GoRide iPhone Bike Mount

Riding with headphones on can be dangerous, and it is a ticketable offense in Florida. So when I got the chance to test out
Bicio’s GoRide iPhone bike mount, I was excited about using my iPhone as a personal bike radio.

I’ve always wanted speakers on my bike, but such setups are impractical and vulnerable to theft. Now with the GoRide, I can use my iPhone to rock while I ride. iPhone’s tiny speakers pack a punch, so you can listen comfortably to music while you ride — though the wind does impede the volume, depending on how fast you are going.

Speaking of fast, I hauled a** with the iPhone and GoRide mounted to my bike, and — thank god! — the iPhone and mount stayed securely in place. I have ridden on streets and on rougher terrain (with my road bike and on my dad’s mountain bike), and still I have not had to return to the Apple Store to fix a cracked iPhone screen.

With your iPhone mounted to your bike, you can listen to music, use Maps, or keep track of your progress with some fitness apps in the App Store. Of course, you should always follow safety precautions and abide by the laws in your state/country.

The case

GoRide iPhone Bike Mount by Bicio

The case on the GoRide grips your iPhone tight. It’s easy to put your phone in, but you have to apply some pressure to pull the plastic edge back and remove your iPhone. Though a bit frustrating, the difficulty of removal assured me my iPhone was securely in place.

Nevertheless, though I appreciate the simplicity and lack of bulk of the GoRide, I would feel more comfortable if the plastic case wrapped around the iPhone bezel a little bit more just so that my iPhone cannot snap out.

Fastening the GoRide

GoRide iPhone bike mount contents

You can mount your iPhone vertically or horizontally, but you cannot switch the orientation after you have secured the mount. The GoRide is fastened with plastic zip ties that are extremely secure and impossible to undo. You have to cut them to remove the bike mount. This could be an advantage because it might deter opportunist thieves, but it is an inconvenience for you if you are going to change the orientation or use the GoRide on another bike. You’ll have to get new zip ties.

I would appreciate if the GoRide let me change the orientation of the iPhone without having to remove the mount. One confusing thing about the GoRide is that if you turn the iPhone clockwise or counterclockwise while it is mounted, it will unfasten from the mount and allow you to remove the iPhone. If you don’t know this and you think you are simply changing the orientation, the case will fall out of the mount. Be careful.

The verdict

Overall, I like the simplicity of Bicio’s GoRide iPhone Bike Mount. Although I would prefer not to test the case continually on bumpy terrain, I trust it for day-to-day bicycle commuting and for riding on the local Hawthorne Trail.

The mount itself can be secured to the bike anywhere on the handlebars, and I can (optionally) remove the whole case when I park my bike. Although a more portable mount (or more zip ties) would be nice, the permanence of the mount keeps me less concerned about theft.

The GoRide is $30 from Bicio.

Disclosure: This item was donated in exchange for a review. I only accept donations of products I am interested in. This gives me a chance to share cool things with you without breaking the bank. No payment is ever accepted for any review, and I do my best to be fair, honest, and objective.


Buy on Amazon: GoRide iPhone Bike Mount
Manufacturer: Bicio

Otterbox Defender iPhone Case [Review]

iPhone Defender case

This review covers the Otterbox Defender for iPhone 3G and 3GS. iPhone 4 owners, see the product listing for the Otterbox Defender iPhone 4.

Otterbox recently sent me their iPhone Defender case for review, and let me say right off the bat that this case is solid. The iPhone Defender case protects your iPhone with two layers: a strong plastic case and a rubber enclosure that holds it together.

The Defender also features:

  1. a plastic screen that shields your iPhone’s glass
  2. rubber flaps that cover iPhone’s buttons, openings and switches
  3. iPhone Defender case rubber

  4. foam rings that cushion the iPhone’s speaker and microphone without muffling them.

If you want to insure your investment, the Otterbox Defender case is the ultimate protection for your iPhone.

If, on the other hand, you just want to prevent keys and coins from damaging the delicate plastic on the back of your iPhone, and you’re confident that you won’t ever crack the glass and ruin your phone, a mistake that could cost you up to $250, then just buy a protective skin.

Yes, the Defender case is great for peace of mind. But it does have some downsides.

This is what I’ve noticed after nearly a month of using the iPhone Defender case.

The downsides

  1. The Defender is not the most sleek or glamorous case on the block. A couple of people have even told me I “look like a construction worker” with it. Actually, the Defender is the perfect case for construction workers, because it protects your iPhone from both shock and debris. But I don’t see the Otterbox Defender being featured on Gray’s Anatomy or The Hills any time soon, if you catch my drift.
  2. The bulk makes it impossible to use the Defender case with my iPhone Xtand or the factory iPhone dock.
  3. The screen protector is prone to air bubbles when you press on it.

    iPhone Defender case bubbles

    I contacted the friendly folks at Otterbox and they suggested a couple of fixes:

    1. “We have found that applying the adhesive screen from the Impact Series helps eliminate the air bubbles.” – Otterbox

      I didn’t get an Impact Series adhesive screen because I think this case should work on its own, without having to buy an additional product, but I did have another plastic film screen that I tested with the Defender, and it did not ameliorate the air bubbles.

    2. “We also suggest using the natural oils from your skin. Take the phone out of the case. You’ll want your hands to be clean, but not just washed. You want to take the palm of your hand (or you can also use your cheek) and press it lightly on the front panel of the OtterBox (the part that would touch the phone screen). It might seem like there will be finger prints that would show on the screen of the phone, but they do not. The natural oils of your skin should help with the oil/bubble look on your screen.” – Otterbox

      Surprisingly, the oils from my palm prevented bubbles to a large extent. The solution isn’t perfect, since it still produces some air pockets, but the bubbles were reduced by 95 percent.

  4. The inner plastic case is tough to open without long nails. But hey, at least you know your case isn’t going to pop open if you drop it, considering the strength of the plastic clips and the rubber that keeps the plastic intact. Hint: Try using a dime or other small coin to pry the case open.
  5. The exposed plastic on the back of the case causes the iPhone to vibrate louder. This is a downside for me, since it can be a nuisance in class or during meetings, but it could be an upside for you if you think the iPhone’s vibration is too weak.

The verdict

If damaging your iPhone is a concern for you, and you’re not too worried about glamour, then the Otterbox Defender case for iPhone is a great investment. Maybe you work, play or exercise outdoors. The Defender lets you go wild without worrying about your iPhone.

The truth is, though, that sometimes I just want to set my iPhone free and use it as Apple intended. The bulk is not always practical or pleasing to the eye.

Nevertheless, whenever a friend would comment on my bulky iPhone case, I would drop my iPhone on the ground. “They call it the Defender for a reason.”

Have you used the Otterbox Defender?

Do you use the iPhone Defender or some other iPhone case? Or is a bare naked iPhone worth the risk to you? I’d love to hear what you think in the comments.


Buy on Amazon: Otterbox Defender iPhone Case
Shop: Buy Otterbox Defender for iPhone 4
Manufacturer: Otterbox

Google Fast Flip for iPhone [Review]

Google Fast Flip for iPhone

Google today announced Fast Flip, a news-browsing service intended to replicate the feel of a paper magazine or newspaper. Fast Flip also has an iPhone version, which is automatically activated when you browse to Fast Flip on your iPhone at

Fast Flip for iPhone lets you choose a category and then flip through stories, essentially screenshots of web sites, as if you were flipping actual pages. To turn a page, just swipe your finger left or right to go to the next or previous story.

Google Fast Flip for iPhone

You can flip through stories from a single source, such as the New York Times, the Washington Post or Fast Company; or from a single category, like Politics, Business, U.S. or World. Fast Flip also has Recent, Headlines and Most Viewed topics.

Perhaps the Fast Flip function that has the most potential but needs the most work is Search. Ideally, a keyword search should turn up relevant stories to flip through, but as of this writing, searching for “fast flip” yields only 1 result, and a search for “iPhone 3.1” yields only 2, even though both these terms turn up many stories in Google News.

Is Google Fast Flip the Next Big Thing?

Is Google Fast Flip something I see myself using instead of traditional news aggregators? Not sure. But what sets Fast Flip apart from other news sources, like Google News or Regator, is its visual format and the way you can flip through news stories similar to how you browse through albums in iPhone’s Cover Flow.

What Do You Think?

Have you used Google Fast Flip on your iPhone? Do you think it will revolutionize the way we browse news or is it a failed experiment? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

iON Mobile Power Bank: Backup Battery for iPhone [Video Review]

iON Mobile Power Bank

The iON Universal Mobile Power Bank by FSP Group is a credit-card sized rechargeable portable backup battery for iPhone and other devices.

FSP Group sent me an iON Mobile Power Bank a couple of weeks ago, and I’ve had the opportunity to test it out briefly with my iPhone 3G S.


The iON Universal Mobile Power Bank is $29.99 as of this writing. You can purchase it at the FSP direct site. For the price, you get:

  • The USB-powered iON Mobile Power Bank
  • 2 adapters — one for charging your iPhone or iPod Touch and the other for other USB-powered devices
  • A carrying pouch with two compartments — one for the battery and one for the cables

iON Mobile Power Bank contents

Watch my video review of the iON Universal Mobile Power Bank below:



  • It’s portable. You can extend your iPhone battery life anywhere you go.
  • It’s small. It’s about the size of a credit card and weighs only 50g.
  • It provides several additional hours of battery life to your iPhone – depending on how you use it
  • It’s got a nifty carrying pouch with two compartments for the battery and cables.


  • When the Power Bank is plugged in via USB, the charging indicator lights are on the underside of the device when it’s laid flat. In the future, could the USB input and the charging indicator lights be placed on the top of the device?
    Update: FSP Group has informed me that they have resolved this issue for the next edition of the iON battery: “We have modified the design for the 2nd generation iON power pack, and it’s now facing up after plugging in to the laptop USB hub to charge.”
  • The adapter and cable are a bit bulky. Could they be simplified so as not to take up so much pocket space?
  • The adapter head is made of plastic. Could it be made of metal like the iPhone adapter?

Additional Power Specs

According to FSP Group, this is how much power you can expect to get out of your iPhone, iPhone 3G and other devices (image below). The battery extension for the 3G S is not specified, however this review is based on using the iON Mobile Power Bank with my iPhone 3G S.

Addition power provided by iON Mobile Power Bank

I hope my readers and FSP group will benefit from this review. These are just my initial impressions of the iON Mobile Power Bank, so please share YOUR experience with this or any other iPhone backup battery in the comments.


Buy on Amazon: FSP iON C2200 PB4 Power Pack
Manufacturer: FSP Group

Pogo Stylus for iPhone: Great for Winter

Pogo Stylus

I thought I’d resurface this Pogo Stylus video review I did about a year ago because I’ve found the stylus to be particularly handy lately, since we’ve had some cold days in Gainesville, Florida where I live.

It can be really frustrating to not be able to use your iPhone with gloves on, so I’ve been carrying my Pogo Stylus around in my pocket. Works like a charm.

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