Tech Lab Plus

This iPhone case can take a hit

Hitcase Pro ruggedized iPhone case.
Hitcase Pro ruggedized iPhone case.

Hitcase Pro ruggedized iPhone case

$129.99 at

Apple Inc.’s iPhone is a surprisingly tough little gadget, but it has its limits. Even its rigid frame and robust Gorilla Glass can collapse amidst the rigors of mountain biking or snowboarding. Which is why a fan of extreme sports might want to plop down $130 for this exceedingly tough smartphone case.

The Hitcase Pro, for the iPhone 4 and 4S, has a primal, almost brutish look to it. Unlike cheaper, simpler ­cases for everyday use, the Hitcase is primarily intended for heavy-duty ­action. It is much too bulky to tote in a pocket, but never mind.

This waterproof, shock-resistant case uses a locking system that lets you insert and remove the phone with ease. Its strong but flexible front shield still allows access to the phone’s touchscreen controls, though you’ll have to push a bit harder.


The case comes with attachments for bolting it to a helmet or to the handlebars of a bike. Launch the ­iPhone’s video camera and make a permanent record of your daring feats. The company offers a free app that ­connects to the iPhone’s GPS and records your speed, altitude, and G-force acceleration as you go.

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In addition, the Hitcase Pro has a built-in wide-angle lens extension for the iPhone’s camera. It significantly expands the scale of your videos; it’s just the thing for capturing the vastness of a challenging downhill ski run.

Sure, you might break a bone or two on the way down. But with the Hitcase Pro wrapped around your phone, you will probably still be able to call for help.

IRISNotes Executive 2 pen

IRISNotes Executive 2 pen.

$149 at

I would rather type into a computer than scribble with a pen. That is partly because my handwriting is lousy, but mainly because typed text is instantly digitized and ready for e-mailing and printing. But here is a pen that turns your scrawls into digital text.

The IRISNotes system uses a ballpoint pen with a wireless transmitter inside. You also get a little recording device that clips to the paper you are writing on. IRISNotes­ captures your handwriting by detecting the motions of the pen across the paper. Next, you plug the recording device into a computer or an Apple iPad, and use software to download your writings. On the screen you see the exact image of the words you wrote on paper. The software then attempts to translate your handwriting into digital text that can be loaded into word processors or e-mail programs.


It all works surprisingly well, though I recommend it only to people with very good penmanship. The software had some trouble making out my scratchings. Still, if you’ve got decent handwriting and want an effective way to turn your words into digital text, the IRISNotes system deserves a look.

Droid Razr HD smartphone,

Droid Razr HD smartphone.

by Motorola Mobility Inc.

$149.99 at

These days, Samsung Corp. is the dominant maker of smartphones that run Google Inc.’s ­Android operating system. But it was Motorola’s original Droid that became the first serious challenger to Apple’s iPhone. And now that Google has acquired Motorola, the company keeps banging out some quite impressive products.

The Droid Razr HD follows in the footsteps of the ultra-thin Razr Motorola introduced last year. That was one of the loveliest smartphones ever, but its thinness came at the cost of lousy battery life. The Razr HD is much thicker, thanks to a battery that promises to last all day long. But ­Motorola has kept on sheathing the phone in Kevlar. This famously ­bulletproof material gives the Razr HD a wonderful feel in the hand: warm, comforting, and light, yet solid as a brick.

The updated Droid carries a 4.7-inch display that uses the same kind of organic liquid crystal technology found on Samsung phones.

OLED screens are famed for their rich high-contrast color; this one is also especially sharp because it supports 720p high-definition video.


In most respects, the Droid Razr HD is technically middle-of-the-road, with a decent dual-core processor and 16 gigabytes of built-in memory.

The new Droid is hardly a breakthrough product, but its sharp screen and solid construction make it a worthy choice for Android fans.

Hiawatha Bray can be reached at