Review: Gloves with fancy fingers for iPhone use

Review: Gloves with fancy fingers for iPhone use
A person wearing Tavo gloves holds an iPhone 3G in Montreal, Canada, Sunday, Jan. 26, 2009.
MONTREAL (AP) - Winter tests the patience of many iPhone users.

After all, Apple Inc.'s device, like other gadgets with touch-screen technology, will work only with the touch of an uncovered finger. So if you're wearing gloves, you have a dilemma: Bare your hands to use your beloved devices, or let calls, texts and e-mails go unanswered while you're braving the elements?

A company called 4sight Products Inc. has a solution: $40 gloves that have electrically conductive gold-colored material on the tip of the index finger and thumb. Apple must think it's a good idea as well - it has filed an application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for gloves that would essentially do the same thing. (Apple didn't return a call seeking comment.)

The gloves, sold under the Tavo brand, aren't perfect. But they could be a welcome addition for people who need to answer a call in the cold, or can't wait to get to a warmer location before firing off a text message or e-mail.

My first encounter with using my iPhone 3G in very cold temperatures happened while I was visiting Chicago in late December. That presented challenges I usually don't encounter in my warmer home base, Virginia.

It hadn't crossed my mind that I wouldn't be able to answer my phone with gloves on, but alas, as the iPhone rang, I tried sliding the button on the touch screen to answer. Unable to get a reaction from the phone, I frantically pulled off one of my gloves, just in time for the call to go to voice mail.

For the rest of the trip, taking off my gloves to use the phone became an unwelcome ritual.

So I took the Tavo gloves when I made my next trip: to the subzero temperatures of Montreal.

Walking along the snow-piled streets in my bomber hat, the last thing I wanted to do was take off my gloves. And for the most part, the gloves allowed me to use my phone with few problems. The gloves have a tactile grip, which makes it easier to hold on to the iPhone.

Handling calls worked best, since the touch-sensitive area of the iPhone screen is larger when you're making phone calls.

But typing proved to be a bigger challenge. While trying to send a text message to a friend with the gloves on, I couldn't manipulate the small on-screen keyboard buttons as quickly and as accurately as usual. That meant standing in the cold longer in order to send the message. I even decided to take the gloves off a few times when I got too frustrated.

Nevertheless, I was certainly glad to have the Tavo gloves when I needed them most. When it's minus 22 degrees Fahrenheit, I'd rather not have to choose between missing a call and missing a finger.