Mobile Blogging Part 1

On September 22, 2010

This is a three part series on tips and tricks for blogging and writing on the go using the iPhone. Part one will cover the stands that can be used, part two will cover helpful hardware to buy for your mobile blogging setup, and part three will discuss the software that is available.

Part 1: Stand by Me

If you have read my posts in the past, you know I work as a Paramedic and that I do much of the writing during the down time between calls. In the past I would lug (I can’t believe I’m saying that about my Macbook) my laptop to work with me and would use it to play movies, browse the web, or play games. When a call would come in, or you would move to a new post, I would have to close the laptop and carefully slip it into my laptop bag. This wouldn’t take too long, but it was cumbersome to take this laptop in and out all day.

When the first iPhone came out I quickly embraced the power and flexibility of this mobile device. Now my movies and web browsing could be done without my laptop. A year later apps would take the play of laptop gaming and I would virtually never bring my laptop to work anymore. My iPhone had replaced my laptop as my mobile computer and relegated my Macbook to a portable desktop. With the release of the iPhone 4, I began doing the bulk of the writing from the passenger seat of my ambulance. In order to do this effectively I had to combine many tools to enable an efficient system of writing. In this article I will discuss the many different stands that are available for the iPhone.

When I started working on this article I contacted several companies that manufacture stands for the iPhone and requested some review products so I could get an idea of what the options were. I saw beanbags, full cases with suction cups, and stands that could fold to fit in your pocket. Each of these appeared to offer both advantages and disadvantages and the prices ranged from a couple bucks to $40-$50!

Most companies I contacted did not return my email, and the few that did were not able to offer any review products. The exception was a small company called In Your Face. Their single product, aptly named In Your Face flexible iPhone holder, has proven to be a versatile tool and you can read the hand on review here. Since one stand was not enough to do a complete lineup, I turned to the internet to fine some DIY options for an iPhone stand. It seems make other people were put off by the options available to them, and found solutions from the items they had around them.

Most homemade stands are variations on a similar theme. I notch is made near the front in whatever material you are using. This is where the iPhone rests. The material in front of the notch keeps the iPhone from sliding forward. While the material (if it is in two pieces ) is joined together in the back. The back is usually higher than the front to keep the iPhone propped at the correct angle. These cases done have to be heavy, though a heavier case does add stability. My first version was made from a heavy plastic that in a earlier life was a piece of schwag from Macworld that folded into an iPod stand. I have also tried the credit card stand that is outlined here. Both of which were ok, but were still a bit unstable for my taste.

The  next idea I had was to use the stand that came with my first generation iPhone. I had read here that the iPhone 4 fits perfectly in the original’s dock, and so I dug around on my desk, found the white paperweight and tried it out. The idea was taken from a stand Belkin makes to pair with their alarm clock app. You basically place the iPhone in the dock and then turn the iPhone on its side. The dock acts as a kick stand keeping the iPhone sitting upright.  This method still allowed access for a charger do the iPhone connector on the back of the dock. The only down side was that the dock was wider than the iPhone, which caused the iPhone to be tilted vertically on a level surface. As nice as this method was, the tilt bothered me, so I continued to search for a better solution.

I currently am making use of an object that is usually at hand on a regular basis in this business: the Starbucks coffee sleeve. A few quick cuts with a pair of scissors and this round sleeve does a great job of holding the iPhone at the proper angle while it sits on the dash. If the stand is damaged or is lost I can pick up a new one at any Starbucks which isn’t too hard to find.

It may not be the most professional, but it certainly performed the task well enough for the cost. At some point I am tempted to try and make my own bean bag since it seem that its dynamic shape could be a more stable base, especially on the uneven dash of an ambulance.

With the stand problem squared away for the most part, I moved on to other hardware I would need. In part two I will discuss the options for other hardware that will interface with the iPhone when writing. Stay tuned.