Hardware

Here at TapSmart, we get a lot of emails asking us to promote this, sponsor that, or review the other. 99 times out of 100, we politely tell these media vultures to shove off – we’ve no interest in pimping out our readers to sell irrelevant products or online casino memberships.

But occasionally we’re given a pitch that feels like a good fit for the Tips & Tricks audience, and we agree to talk about a product we believe in or review something that strikes a chord. In this case, we were sent three gadgets intended to help make living and working from home better. Each of the gadgets can, in theory, be used with an iPhone or iPad to alleviate some of the stress we’re all feeling being cooped up indoors during the current pandemic.

So, we said yes. Below you’ll find details of all three products, complete with an honest appraisal of each. They all have something to offer during this tough time, from helping improve conference calls to making a lazy Sunday in the garden that bit nicer. Importantly, these aren’t isolation panic buys – they should be just as useful even after all this blows over.

Mophie Powerstation Mini

If you have an older device, natural battery wear means it probably doesn’t last as long as it once did. These things happen with age. And even with the latest iPhone 11 range, a full day of video conferences and/or Netflix binges can drain the battery fast. That’s where a portable battery pack comes in handy.

Such things have been around for a while, but used to be expensive and bulky – or cheap and unreliable. Here, Mophie tries to bridge the gap with an affordable ($40/£40), slim portable battery that can fully recharge a smartphone twice over before needing a top-up itself. On some levels it succeeds – this is the prettiest battery pack we’ve seen, minimal and streamlined with a smart textured finish, perfectly sized to fit in the hand or pocket alongside an iPhone.

But it’s hard to ignore the fact that uglier alternatives offer far more bang for your buck. A quick Amazon search uncovers plenty of highly-rated power banks offering five times the battery for half the price. Mophie’s 5000 mAh capacity doesn’t seem so impressive by comparison.

That said, power isn’t everything – unless you’re planning a five-day hike in the wilderness, this is a more than adequate solution for keeping your iPhone topped up in areas without easy access to a power socket, like the garden. Note that we reviewed the Fabric variant of the Powerstation Mini, but there are a bunch of others to choose from with different price points, battery capacities, and finishes.

Powerstation mini

Braven BRV-Mini speaker

For the price ($40/£35), the audio quality of this rugged speaker is surprisingly decent – it packs a bigger punch than you might expect from such a tiny footprint. The sound isn’t quite as full and clear as Amazon’s Echo Dot, but the BRV-Mini certainly holds its own despite being a little smaller and a little cheaper. If you buy two and pair them together, things get even better with true stereo sound.

But its key differentiator is its portability and durability – this thing is the size of a coke can, lasts up to 12 hours on a single charge, and can withstand a few bumps to boot. The colorful rubbery finish is obviously chosen for durability, but it’s a good-looking piece of kit too, with a colorful lanyard to hang it from. Of course, there’s no voice control at this price point, but the speaker is effortless to pair with an iPhone or iPad via Bluetooth – meaning you could ask Siri to play songs – and it features some handy physical buttons for playback control.

Perhaps the BRV-Mini’s biggest selling point was the most fun to test – we can confirm that yes, it is completely waterproof and yes, it can float. Braven hasn’t changed the laws of physics – obviously, don’t expect it to sound as good when submerged – but the IPX7 waterproofing allows you to safely take it places you wouldn’t normally trust electronics. Any worry about accidentally knocking it into the bath or splashing it from the poolside is no more.

You really can take this kit anywhere. Even if the only place you’re currently able to visit is the garden shed, you’ll be glad of being able to blast some tunes no matter where you are.

BRV-Mini

AirTime Sport headphones

Let’s get this straight: AirPods, these are not. The audio and build quality is no match for Apple’s iconic wireless earbuds. But considering these are half the price ($80/£80), perhaps it’s not a fair comparison.

In fact, we were impressed by the fact these are not simply Airpod-clones. AirTime Sport (from iFrogz) has its own look and feel, with plastic ear-cups that deliver decent bass (if you shove them far enough down your ear canal) and a wraparound “sweat-resistant” design that hugs the ears tight. We found them as comfortable as AirPods and much more secure, which is great news if you’re looking for headphones to wear on a run or during a home workout.

In other regards, they’re about as competent as you could hope for in a product without Apple’s exclusive W1 chip. Setup is a breeze, Bluetooth connection seems reliable, and the side buttons for play/pause are a nice touch. The comically large charging case provides a decent 600mAh extra battery, and can even be topped up wirelessly. Not bad!

To be honest, at this price point you may be better off with a decent pair of wired headphones instead of a “true wireless” set like this. But that all depends on your needs – if you’re on a budget and comfortable, secure, true wireless earphones are a must, you could do a lot worse than AirTime Sport.

AirTime Sport