The Mac Observer's Editors Choice Awards from Macworld/iWorld Expo 2013 are out and just like previous years, there were plenty of great products that caught our collective eye. We chose 11 products that we feel represent the best of what was shown at the conference and expo for the Mac, iPhone and iPad.
There are no categories, and they are listed in no particular order, but each award winner wowed us in its own unique way.
Transporter The one liner for Transporter from Connected Data is simple: It's like Dropbox, but you always control the data. That's our take on this thing, and we think it's very cool. We wrote it up in detail during Macworld/iWorld, but in short, Transporter is a way for you to share and sync data. Rather than doing it through the cloud—and having your data reside on who knows what servers in the cloud—Transporter serves as a storage device that you own, managing the syncing and sharing for you. No subscription fees means that having up to 2TB of data per Transporter is a one-time fee, and you get greater control over how to share folders than you do with the cloud services we're familiar with.
Cloak Cloak is a VPN solution for both OS X and iOS that, in the Apple tradition, makes something that can otherwise be hard into an easy task. While OS X and iOS both have facilities to set up a VPN to protect your online activities from bad guys trying to intercept your passwords and other personal information, this often involves defining tunneling protocols, generating encryption keys and certificates, and more that can overwhelm most users. Installing Cloak automates these tasks, and only requires clicking on a single button to encrypt and protect your data, and to also makes you part of Cloak's global network, which can also allow you to access sites that are otherwise blocked. Monthly service plans start at US$7.99.
Strotter Platforma iPad Case The Platforma iPad case from Strotter is way cool, but we want to be clear that it wasn't the "case" aspect of it that earned an Editor's Choice Award, but rather that it made us think differently about using our iPads. Yes, the Platforma carries your iPad and will sling into a backpack faster that you can say "ZOMG Hipster." It's also well made of quality materials, etc. But, the Platforma can be used as a platform for your iPad that allows you to easily stand and type with both hands, like a flying table that travels with you. It also includes a magnetic back for your iPad that magnetically sticks to the Platforma case, even if you turn it upside down. We'd never even considered the idea that we needed a way of typing on our iPad while standing, but the folks at Strotter did, and they made it work. Check it out and watch the video. It's priced at $169.
CleanMyMac 2 CleanMyMac 2 offers a suite of Mac cleanup tools, many of which we haven't seen in other tools, or require a knowledge of invoking arcane command line tools. System Cleanup can not only get rid of cache and log files, but also detect corrupt preferences and login items. Large and Old files will identify files that meet both conditions, which in all likelihood aren't needed any more, or can be archived to external storage. iPhoto Cleanup will remove redundant information from your iPhoto Library, which often grows over time. There's also an Uninstaller that gets rid of the cruft left behind when you delete a app, and an Extension Manager to help manage widgets, application plugins, preference panes, dictionaries, screen savers and login items.
Kanex mySpot Internet access when traveling is always an issue, especially in hotel rooms where often the Wi-Fi is spotty, and sometimes there's no Wi-Fi at all. Ethernet's great if you have an Ethernet-equipped MacBook or MacBook Pro, but what about your iPad, your iPhone, or even your MacBook Air? That's where the Kanex mySpot comes in to solve your problems. This device is a mini router and Wi-Fi hotspot. You plug it into the Ethernet connection in your hotel room, give it USB power, and it creates your own, private Wi-Fi hotspot right there in your room. For just $49 and small enough to permanently live in your laptop bag, it's a no-brainer.
Kanex meDrive It's impossible to plug your iPad or iPhone directly into a USB hard drive to gain access to extra storage, and even connecting to network shares is usually quite difficult. The meDrive solves that issue. It plugs into your network via Ethernet and has a USB port into which you can plug any type of USB-based storage device. This could certainly be a hard drive, but it can also be a Flash drive (or even a USB-to-memory card adapter). Still, this would be difficult to access from your iOS-based devices were it not for one special feature: the meDrive has a built in WebDAV server. This means that Apple's Pages, Keynote, and Numbers and many other iOS applications can read and write directly from and to your connected USB storage. There's also a meDrive app that will allow you directly manage files here, and of course your Mac or PC can access the device directly, as well. The meDrive itself is US$99, and you can plug your own USB-based storage device right into it.
Smile Software PDFpen for iPhone Reading PDF documents on your iPhone is easy, but editing? Smile Software makes it simple to do just that with PDFpen for the iPhone. The app includes features you'll find in the Mac and iPad versions such as text editing, image importing, merging multiple PDFs into a single document, highlighting and annotations, and more. It also supports Dropbox, Evernote, Google Docs, and document syncing over iCloud. PDFpen for iPhone costs $4.99 and is available through Apple's App Store.
HP Officejet Pro X551dw There are two things about this printer that wowed us. The first is that it's fast. 70 color pages per minute (with a 5 percent fill) from an inkjet printer is great, incredible at the price range of this line ($500-$1000). It's how HP got that speed that earned an Editor's Choice Award—the head doesn't move. Think about that. The head doesn't move. It spans the width of the paper. No shaking, faster boot times (without all that back and forth alignment nonsense), no moving parts in the printer head. That's a step forward for inkjet printing. The cartridges are pricey (about $100 per), but they're far larger than other cartridges, and that means the price-per-page is cheap at about $0.06 per page. Cool, huh?! Oh, and it uses pigment, rather than dye, meaning the ink won't run if your page gets wet.
AgileBits 1Password 4 for iOS 1Password has always been a powerful tool for securely storing your passwords and other sensitive information. iPassword 4 for the iPhone and iPad sports improved organization and a new Favorites category and syncs with 1Password on other devices through iCloud or Dropbox. Even better, it has a built-in multi-tab Web browser that's good enough to replace Mobile Safari. 1Password 4 for the iPad and iPhone is available through Apple's App Store and costs $17.99.
myFC PowerTrekk PowerTrekk is the first of a new class of mobile devices, a fuel cell-based portable charger. It also includes a built-in lithium-ion battery for capturing the excess power generated that your iPhone (or other mobile device) doesn't capture while it's generating juice. Like a solar charger, PowerTrekk is aimed at hikers, campers, sailors, and other outdoorsy folk, but we think it will have even greater appeal for those who want to be prepared for an emergency. The cannisters that contain the catalyst for the fuel cell can be stored for decades (if kept dry), and LOLGL using a solar charger during a hurricane. Read more in our Macworld/iWorld writeup.
Lantronix xPrintServer Printing from your iPhone or iPad can be a pain if you don't have an AirPrint-compatible printer. xPrintServer fixes that problem by letting you use most any printer with your iOS device, and with almost no setup. It supports network printers along with USB models -- a feature that wasn't available when we checked it out at Macworld/iWorld last year. Just connect the xPrintServer to your network, plug in your printer, and it handles the configuration for you. It even includes an Ethernet cable in the box so you don't have to go looking for one, and all for $99.95.