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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
- Agent18 Videoshield
- Griffin iClear
- iSkin eVo3
- Power Support Silicone Jacket
- Griffin PowerDuo
- Griffin AirClick
- Griffin iFM
- TWW NOTES
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 offers a gem of a case. Its hard, clear polycarbonate not only protects the iPod, but is
scratch resistant itself.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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