eFashion 101: Accessorizing (The iPod Way)

by Robert J. Elisberg

May, 2007. A couple months back in March, we

took a look at the iPod, clearly the 800-pound gorilla in the room of media

players. Wildly successful, it's also

very good. But there are other very

good players around. One of the things

that sets the iPod apart from the pack, however, is the world of

accessories. It's almost mind-numbing

how many products are made as a third-party market for iPods, especially

compared to other devices. At one end

of the spectrum, automakers are now building iPod connection into their car

lines – at the far other end, there are lamps with iPod docks on them, for some

unknown, mystical reason.

Now, if you're in the market for a media player, you may

never have any interest in peripherals other than say, oh, an earphone. But if you do have an iPod (and the number

of those folk are growing like weeds), it's a massive smorgasbord of available

products. Here's an opening serving of

just a very few.

 

 

 

OVERVIEW

OF PROTECTIVE CASES

Cases for an iPod might seem like a superfluous item, and

particularly things to be avoided for getting in the way of the beloved iPod

design. However there are reasons for

them – and more with the iPod 5G with Video models. Part of the iPod design allure comes from their slickness, yet

that very element lends itself to more dings, scratch marks and scuffing than

most other MP3 players. More

importantly with the 5G, since watching video on them is a significant upgrade,

it follows that protecting the screen becomes all the more important.

So, what makes a good case?

To a large degree, it's personal taste.

After all, some may actually want to re-design their iPod's

appearance. But certain core factors do

come into play. Ideally, a case should

be light and not add much to the size of the total unit. It should be easy to put on and take off – and fit correctly over the screen and Click Wheel. It should permit proper control of the Click Wheel. There should be convenient access to jacks and ports. And…the case should protect

the iPod. Other factors, such as

whether it has a belt attachment are, as noted, personal choice.

 

AGENT18

VIDEOSHIELD v30

Agent18 offers a gem of a case. Its hard, clear polycarbonate not only protects the iPod, but is

scratch resistant itself.

iPod Agent18 flatview

It also doesn't

cover the Click Wheel – which I find far more preferable than cases which have

a protective film. Though some people

might want Total Protection, scratches on a Click Wheel seem profoundly low on

the pole of concerns compared to the whole point of the Click Wheel itself,

which is providing impeccable, sensitive control of the iPod. Considering the likelihood of even

scratching it in the first place, it seems all the more pointless to cover up

something that won't need that protection anyway.

iPod Agent18 covers

Also in the VideoShield's favor is that its pure, clear

plastic lets the design of the iPod continue to stand out without intruding. It's not be flashy (though some side molding

is a subtle touch and even gives a good grip), but it's the iPod you just spent

a minimum of $250 for. Why have a piece

of plastic get in the way of that? The

case snaps open easily with the twist of a coin in a slot, and the iPod's

screen and Click Wheel fit in perfectly and snuggly. The cover is reasonably light, and while the polycarbonate is

thick and will increase the bulk just slightly, it's not at all pronounced and

ultimately that's what provides such good protection. The case retails for $25, and for $5 extra (on sale at the time

of this writing) the "Kit" version includes a viewing stand, steel belt click and

dock connector – not tested for this review.

 

GRIFFIN

iCLEAR

Almost a twin of the Agent 18 is the Griffin iClear. It's a strong, scratch resistant

polycarbonate two-piece cover. The main

differences are completely cosmetic.

The back of the iClear is lightly frosted, but fully transparent on the

front. The Agent 18 is the opposite: it's clear in the back, but the lower front

(the part beneath the screen protector) is lightly frosted. Also, the iClear's front is completely flat,

while the Agent 18 has a slight design indentation where the screen sits.

Griffin iClear case

It's solidly made and a hard plastic. The earphone port and dock port on the

bottom are good size to allow proper plug-in.

No kit with viewing stand is available for the iClear, but it provides a

second, deeper bottom, so that the package fits either the 30 GB or 80 GB

iPod. One final huge different – though

a temporary one: at the time of this

writing, the iClear was on save for a mere $4.99. Far and away the best deal around. No contest.

 

iSKIN

eVo3

The eVo3 (that's "3" as in "cubed") is the most interesting

of cases here. In some ways the best,

in others the most problematic. It's a

two-part product. The main feature is

the outer, soft, flexible silicone jacket.

You place the iPod into an inside pocket, which serves as a cover for

the Click Wheel. Then, you slip in the

hard, plastic resin VISOR, basically a shield for the screen. Finally, the eVo3 gets tucked around the

VISOR.

 iSkin evo

It offers very good, quite lightweight protection, with a

small, but accessible, flexible earphone jack opening, and a covered dock port,

from which you simply twist away. In

addition, there is a belt clip, something none of the other cases here

provide. And further, the belt clip is

removable with a few twists and turns.

Because of the two-part design, the front of the case has

its own curved appearance. Perfectly

nice, if you want a design, though it detracts a bit from the traditional iPod

look. But also, because of the two-part

design, it's the most difficult case to put around an iPod – most especially

compared to those that snap open, drop in and snap shut.. It's not truly hard, but definitely takes

some squeezing and tweaking. Of course,

if you're happy with the case and plan to keep it on all the time, that's not

an . But if you ever want to take it on

and off, it could be a little bother.

Particularly if you want to take the belt clip on and off regularly, it

could become a big bother. You could

always leave the belt clip on, but then it's a bit bulky. And if you remove it full time, you lose out

on one of the eVo3's distinct advantage.

In addition, the inner "pocket" which protects the Click Wheel gives a

somewhat stickier, rubber touch than the smooth, fast surface many users might

prefer. (Of course, for those who think

the Click Wheel is too slick for them, this might be right up your alley.) It retails on the higher-end, at $35. In some ways, most especially if you want a

belt clip, it's wonderful. In others,

you might want to look elsewhere.

 

POWER

SUPPORT iPOD 5G SILICONE JACKET

The iPod case from Power Support is a snuggly, form-fitting

piece of tear-resistant silicone that's medical grade. Soft, yet substantial, the iPod fits through

an opening in the top, with no parts to snap together. The iPod pushes out by squeezing up from the

bottom. The opening at the top doesn't

offer any protection for the iPod, though it makes all ports at the top easily

accessible. There's not much on the

iPod to scratch on top, other than some shiny metal, so that's less at risk

than the face of the device. However,

dirt and grime could conceivably make its way in. The bottom is well-protected, with only an opening for the dock

port.

Power Support case

Everything lined up as it should, though there is no

covering for the Click Wheel or screen.

Instead, you apply pieces of plastic before sliding your iPod into the

sleeve. It's a somewhat tricky process,

because you want to get all air bubbles out.

And hope you've secured it enough so that no bubbles later return. You also have to be sure the screen is as

clean as possible, because any smudges in place when you apply the plastic film

will remain there underneath. (Including

if you get fingerprints on the bottom of the film.) Be careful to center the plastic because it's difficult to pry

off. You're able to retain a good touch

on the Click Wheel, though it might be just ever-so-slightly slicker than some

people prefer.

Power Support film

The material offers very good protection, yet is thin and

very light, adding little bulk to the iPod.

It comes in either translucent or black. Black, being black, is probably unnoticeable with a black

iPod. The translucent, however, isn't

clear, but rather gray-ish. So, if you

like the pure white front of your iPod, this will alter that. There is no belt clasp. It retails for $30. The Power Support offers many benefits –

high of which are that it's very light and keeps the form small. But there are a few downsides that, personal

tastes being what they are, keep it from being a recommended choice.

 

GRIFFIN

POWERDUO

One of the failings of the iPod is not a technological one,

but practical. A basic item, AC

charger, is not included. Yes, you can

use the USB power adapter cord that

comes with the iPod and charge your device off your computer. But what happens if you, oh, say, go

somewhere? On a vacation, trip or a

visit somewhere? You're either out of

luck – or out the $29 Apple's optional charger costs. It has a nice touch, and is designed for Apple's international adapter

plugs.

Griffin offers an alternative, the PowerDuo. It has the nice, clean white look of the

Apple, and the plugs nearly fold away giving you a simple "block" to tuck away. However, it doesn't handle Apple's international

adapters and costs $40. So, why

consider it? Because it's actually two,

separate adapters – and also valuably includes an additional USB cord (two, in

fact, sort of).

Griffin PowerDuo chargers

The PowerDuo consists of the basic AC charger, as well as a

car adapter – plug it into your automobile's cigarette lighter and charge as

you go when on the road. You can listen

to it at the same time, of course. The

second cord is a mini-plug, in case you have a device that uses the iPod's main

dock port. As for international

adapters, as elegant as Apple's design may be, in truth any such adapters will

work. So, for $10 more, you can an

additional car adapter and two cords.

Depending on your use, this is a very good bargain.

Griffin PowerDuo plugs

GRIFFIN

AIRCLICK

In their early days, iPods were held in the hand or stuck in

pocket or backpack, and that's it.

Today though, as the iPodlian world has expanded, connection ports are

built into all manner of products; indeed, hooking ones iPod to a powerful

sound system has almost become second nature.

However that created a problem for using a device that was no longer

conveniently in your hand. The Griffin

AirClick resolves that.

Griffin AirClick Dock

The AirClick is a wireless remote control whose tiny dock

snaps on to the bottom of an iPod.

(This increases the length of the iPod by about 1-1/2 inches.) The similar-sized remote has a clip on the

back, and comes with an arm strap for joggers.

It works easily and smoothly.

Just snap on and go, with five buttons – Play/Pause, Fast Forward, Fast

Reverse, and two for Volume.

Griffin AirClick Remote

Best of all, the AirClick uses RF (radio frequency), not IR

(infra-red), which means that you can be in another room and still control your

iPod, up to 60 feet. (From another

room, it oddly was occasionally temperamental.) Being a remote control, it will control any other AirClick in

range – which you may want, but a feature lets you disable this. Another feature allows you to convert the

AirClick so that it will show the photos on your iPod. The retail price is $40.

 

GRIFFIN

iFM

Several media players have FM tuners built in, but the iPod

is not one of them. Third-party

accessories, however, correct this. The

very small Griffin iFM plugs into the bottom dock of the iPod, and a wired

remote conveniently controls everything.

(You plug your headphones into this remote, not the iPod's main earphone

jack.) A toggle switch also allows you

to switch between radio and iPod playback.

And six station presets are available.

Griffin iFM combo

The challenge with most devices that provide FM, but aren't

standalone radios is that their range and sound is often very limited. That's not the case with the Griffin – it's

sound quality is extremely good. That

said, it's still susceptible to more interference than a high-end portable. This was most pronounced when fast-scrolling

for stations – in some areas of my home, it wouldn't automatically stop at

"found stations," although it found them if you manually (and slowly) clicked

frequency by frequency. But in most

areas, it found them and stopped just fine.

The biggest downside is that there's no AM band, though I've yet to find

any such device that does, so this isn't a specific criticism of the Griffin.

(It should be noted that when I tested the iFM plugged into

portable speakers, feedback interference created static that blocked several

stations. But that's not the way people

will generally use the device. With

earphones, there was no problem)

Incidentally, the iFM has a unique feature for world

travelers. A button lets you switch

between radio band frequencies in the U.S., Europe and Japan. This same button also will set a favorite

sound equalizer that you've previously configured on your iPod. It retails for $50 – a lot when you could

just as easily get an actual portable radio that also has AM, but this is for

people who use their iPod regularly and don't want to carry around yet another extra

bulky device. Moreover, it provides

very convenient remote control capability (albeit wired, so cords can get just a

bit messy).

 

TWW

NOTES

  • While

    there was hope among Mac users that Apple might release the latest upgrade

    of its OS X operating system (referred to as Leopard) in June, the company

    has announced that it will be pushed back until October. This is due to engineers being taken

    off the project to work on the iPhone.

  • For

    those who surf the Internet with the quietly popular Opera browser, version 9.2 has just been released. Among its new features are Speed Dial,

    which provides a new way for accessing websites, as well Fraud protection to

    provide anti-phishing security (that blocks malicious websites spoofing

    the names of trusted sites).

    Content Blocker lets you control ads or images from loading. You can add any favorite search engine

    to the browser with a right-mouse click, and right-clicking will also let

    you edit Site Preference for individual websites.


Note: The Writers Guild of America, East neither implicitly nor

explicitly endorses opinions or attitudes expressed in this article.

Copyright 2007, Robert J. Elisberg. All rights reserved.

Robert J. Elisberg has written about computers for such publications as C/NET, PC Games, CD-ROM Today, Yahoo! Internet Life, E! Online and Hollywood Screenwriter. He

also wrote a regular technology column for WGA.org Online and the

Television Academy Online. A screenwriter, he served for five years as

a member of the WGA, west website editorial board and Editorial

Advisory Committee.