Apple makes very good hardware, but it does leave a few openings for third-party vendors as well, to create accessories. Some are useful, others less so.
The Strontium iDrive 3.0 USB iDrive isn't chemically reactive despite the name, but it's a chunky little storage device for iPhones and iPads. I got the 64GB model which costs around NZ$200 on the street, which is quite pricey.
WIth a quick-ish USB version 3.0 interface, the iDrive (which is jointly developed with PhotoFast, using Samsung Flash memory) is a handy device for sharing and storing files between computers and iPhones/iPads. It has one standard large USB connector at one end, and a small, eight-pin Lightning plug at the other for iDevices.
For some reason, it's formatted with the old FAT32 file system though. This means you can't store files larger than 2 gigabytes - but, it's easy enough to reformat the iDrive on a computer with the exFAT file system that allows for much larger files.
The iDrive comes with Photofast's iOS app for managing files, uploading and downloading them to and from popular cloud services, and copying data between the iDrive and the iDevice. It also works as media player, and can lock files with Touch ID.
Security measures in Apple's iOS 9 operating system makes file sharing using USB drives somewhat awkward, but the Photofast app can pass on documents and other data to different apps via the Share sheet. This is good, because the Photofast app is fairly basic.
With the iDrive and similar storage devices you can almost bypass Apple's high prices for additional space for data. Patience needed though.
I'm writing this column on the Apple Smart Keyboard cover, shrunk appropriately for the 9.7-inch iPad Pro tablet. It's pretty good to type on, although only at a fixed keyboard/tablet angle.
Now, I'm not choosing to write this with the BrydgeAir keyboard, which is beautifully crafted with good key travel, despite it promising to turn the iPad Pro into a clamshell laptop.
The reason for that is the Brydge device weighs 520 grams, which is more than the 444g for the iPad Pro. Combined, the BrydgeAir and iPad Pro 9.7-inch weigh more than a MacBook.
But not only that, the keyboard has dead space above the keys which hurts usability while the Apple Smart Keyboard is shallow, so you can touch type yet reach the screen to poke it. The iPad isn't very securely clamped into the BrydgeAir either, and kept sliding out when carried.
There are also two speakers in the BrydgeAir keyboard, but they sound very tinny compared to the four in the iPad Pro.
Besides, the Brydge keyboard means another device to charge, through a micro USB cable, although you supposedly get three months battery life. Back to the drawing board on that one.
I am more happy with the Parrot Zik 3 earphones, which do look a bit outlandish with their leather covers (you can pick what you like there) but which provide nice and clear sound.
And so they should, at $629 a pop. Apart from sounding much better than a sick parrot, the headphones come with adaptive noise cancelling, 32-bit audio processing and a removable 830 mAh rechargeable battery that lasts a long time.
What sets the Parrot headphones apart is the great integration with iOS: the iPhone/iPad app lets you change acoustics, going from silent and living room, to jazz club and concert hall ambiance, and there's a very good equaliser too. You can also get artist tweaking of audio to suit their songs, and there's even an Apple Watch and Android smartwatch app for the headphones.
Sliding your finger sideways on the right earcup to change tracks, and up and down to increase/decrease volume takes a while to get used to, but works quite well after that.
You can buy seven different leather covers for the Parrot Zik 3- my ones were black - and they are lightweight and comfortable to wear, as long as it's not too hot.