Tech Tuesday: Tech Armor Ballistic Gear

Apparently the tech industry was startled, confused, and alarmed by the revelation that was my Apple Watch Review not so long ago. As a result Tech Armor got in touch with me to see if I would interact and review a few of their products. I’m happy to do so!

So here’s what they sent me:

How did it all stack up? Here’s my thoughts:

Ballistic Glass Screen Protector

I’ve never been a fan of screen protectors on my iPhone or iPad devices. Probably because the first generation versions were horrible, didn’t last long, and were hard to install. I hated them. So I was skeptical about putting a screen protector on my iPad. But I was willing to give this a go for the protection and interest in seeing if it would be a hinderance to me at all.

Installation was not too terribly difficult, but it did have a few tricks. I was supplied with an alcohol wipe, microfiber rag, “dust tape”, a squeegee, and even a couple of suction cups to give me a handle on the screen protector to install it. If you get one of these pay careful attention to the directions, watch the install video, and you’ll have no problem at all. It worked for me for the most part but the squeegee wasn’t really that helpful to get the remaining air bubbles out.

The screen looks like a normal screen on an iPad and interacts that way as well. I hardly notice that there is a glass screen upon a glass screen and actually feel pretty good about it protecting the actual screen well. There is no discoloration, residue or any of that between the two screens either.

Ranking: A

iPad Mini TPU Flex Case

This little case is not so great. It hardly fits over the iPad mini with the Ballistic Glass protector on it and frankly looks pretty sloppy. The case I received appeared to have been used before, had a greasy film on it, and scratch marks. It feels cheap and slippery on the iPad. I don’t like it.

Ranking: D

Braided Lightning USB cable

This was a pleasant surprise for me. At 6 ft. long this lightening cable is capable of recharging my iPad from across the room. Given it’s braided cord design it seems to be durable, rugged, and won’t fray or come apart at the seams like a few of the other lightening cables around my house seem prone to do. The slate gray color is nice as well. I’m sure this will come in very handy and is a great accessory for your device that charges via Lightning adaptor.

Ranking: A


Overall I’m very happy with the Tech Armor products, although the case is a real disappointment and I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone. The Ballistic Glass and Lightening cables are the real deal and worth the investment to protect your devices. Tech Armor carries Ballistic Glass for iPhones, iPads, and some Android devices as well. Stay away from the rubbery cases and go for the protective glass. You’ll be glad you did. 


I received the products mentioned above for free from Tech Armor in the hope that I would mention it on my blog.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.” I'm always happy to review products anybody sends me. 

Essential Tools: Pencil & Penultimate

Since the iPad first came out in 2010 I have been longing for a way to use my iPad as an actual pad. You know, a pad for writing notes, jotting down ideas, keeping handwritten track of meetings, information, ideas, brainstorms, drawings, etc. To some degree of success or another I've used several different means to do that. I've drawn with my fingers, written with a stylus or two that haven't been to great, and tried to make it a regular habit to keep notes on my iPad. None of those methods have stuck or worked well for me. In fact, my attempts to write handwritten notes over the last four years have largely been failures.

For the most part the stylus was the main barrier towards keeping those notes. I couldn't find one that worked great and felt like writing with a pen or pencil. The inking apps weren't that useful either. They were slow, made my handwriting look worse that it already does, weren't searchable and just didn't seem to do the trick for me. Because of my desires to keep things well categorized and organized I couldn't find an app that seamlessly worked for me either. For the most part I had given up on writing handwritten notes with my iPad. That all changed with two useful solutions. 


First, I found Pencil.

For over a year now a free drawing and sketch app, Paper, by FiftyThree has been on my iPad as a place to doodle ideas here and there. It's a pretty good app. But it isn't a note-taking app. One day as one of my kids opened the app to draw a notification appeared for a new product they were developing, the Pencil. Immediately it was appealing to me. It looks like a carpenters pencil, it has bluetooth capability (which is becoming more and more essential for inking apps), and it feels fantastic. I decided to give one a run and see if was the stylus I had been longing for. Boy were my expectations exceeded. 

The Pencil is the first stylus for the iPad I've used (of four or five I've given attempts to) that actually feels like writing with a pencil (or pen). It fits comfortably in my hand, glides across the screen and drops digital ink where I expect it to. My handwriting looks likes, well, my handwriting. If you use the Pencil with the FiftyThree Paper app you get the bonus features of a Bluetooth compatible stylus that works even better. It had palm recognition that allows you to rest your hand on the surface of your iPad and as if you were writing on a real paper surface and have your ink only fall on where the pen touches the surface. Plus, it has a rubber "eraser" on the top of the Pencil that in Paper allows you to clear an area just by flipping the device over. Calling it a "stylus" doesn't seem to do it justice. 

While FiftyThree's drawing app, Paper, is nice for drawing, it really isn't a one-size fits all app for taking notes. So I needed another solution. For a long time I have been typing my meeting notes and other minutia into Evernote. The ideal situation would be that my handwritten notes would end up there as well. I had tried a few apps but nothing really seemed to be the magic I was hoping it to be. In my search I rediscovered Penultimate.


Penultimate was the original inking app on the iPad. Initially it had a lot of promise, but didn't seem to be the power users app of choice. Evernote saw the promise of the app and bought the Penultimate company and software. Shortly after that purchase they began to upgrade the app and allow it to sync and interact with Evernote itself. Penultimate users could draw, write notes, scribble thoughts and the like and they would sync and be searchable within Evernote. Perfect.

After a few more software updates Penultimate brought in zoom and "drifting" features that allow someone to write notes in real time as if they were writing on a real piece of paper.

Suddenly, I've found note-taking Nirvana. The Pencil is quite simply the best iPad writing device I've ever used. Paired with Penultimate the combination is amazing. Almost every meeting or thought I'm trying to write down is going into Penultimate (and thereby Evernote) with my Pencil. I'm hoping that Penultimate implements the forthcoming Pencil SDK so I can utilize the Bluetooth capabilities of the Pencil (and the eraser) within the app, but even without it Penultimate and Pencil are two of the best solutions to making your iPad function more like a real paper and pencil pad.

Here's an example of what my Pencil/Penultimate connection has formed. 

What tools do use for digital note taking?