and iPhone Accessories
Some Low Cost Add-ons for your iPhone
An almost bewildering
variety of accessories are available for Apple's various
iPod portable music players.
It is kindest to comment that some are more useful than
others. Here are four interesting ones we've found.
Part one of a two part series on
iPod and iPhone accessories,
part two is here and please
see links on the right for more articles on iPods and other
MP3 type players.
Many companies have come up
with optional extra items to be used to extend the pleasure and
convenience you enjoy with your iPod or iPhone.
It can be hard to choose from
the bewildering variety of very similar seeming products, and
products tend to also be similarly priced, removing that
otherwise significant point of differentiation.
Add-on accessories are not only
helpful for you, they can be great stocking stuffer type gifts
to present to other people, offering a good solution to the
ever-present problem of 'what do I buy (anyone) for their
Here are two items to
consider (and two more in part two), with the headphones also able to be used with many other
similar products too, not just the iPod and iPhone.
A Huge Universe of Accessories
One of the compelling
reasons to buy an iPod is the huge range of add-on accessories
available for the unit.
In addition to the few
products offered directly by Apple themselves, there is a
booming industry of providing extra bits and pieces to enhance
your iPod experience. More recently, the iPhone - itself a
quasi iPod as well as cell phone, and with the same interface
connector on its bottom - is also being well served by a growing
range of after market accessories.
Surprisingly, with all their
marketing muscle, Microsoft has not been able to encourage the
same degree of third party support for its largely non-event
Zune players, and we continue to predict the Zune will never
become a serious iPod challenger.
We look at three interesting
accessories to consider plus a fourth 'bonus' accessory that is
hard to categorize, chosen for no particular reason other
than they caught our eye and interested us.
iFrogz Audiowrapz 3G Nano Case
just love our little 3G
Nano iPod (click link for review). It is a thing of
beauty and a work of art, as well as a gorgeous and compact
Of course, if you want to
play music from it, you must either connect it up to headphones
(see below) or to some sort of 'boom box' type amplifier/speaker
Now there is a third option
- the Audiowrapz by iFrogz. This is a silicone rubber type
case that protects the Nano, plus at the bottom of the case,
there is an extra 1.3" of body, inside which is a little
micro-speaker type unit plus two passive 'radiators' (these
route the sound from the back side of the speaker out the front
too), with their front grills protruding
slightly through cut away holes in the silicon protective case.
The unit is puzzlingly rated
at 'output power 126 +/- 3db'. Quite apart from the fact
that the unit of measurement should be a dB not a db, if it is
talking about sound pressure levels, 126dB is akin to a jet
taking off - deafeningly loud and capable of causing physical
pain. When I asked the company for clarification on what
this claim referred to, it was unable to explain!
Actual testing, on axis,
with a sound level meter placed one foot away from the unit,
playing a range of different music sources at maximum volume
showed the unit struggled to reach or exceed 50 dB. By
comparison, a quiet home has a 50dB level of background sounds
(mine is higher than this when the heaters are running) and
conversational speech, from 3' away, is ten times louder at
60dB. So, yes, the unit is quiet.
The case comes in various
bright and garish colors, as well as a more muted grey which I
chose for mine.
The case itself is an
excellent protective cover, but does add appreciably to the bulk
of the miniature sized Nano. Well, I guess 'bulk' is a
relative term, the case measures 4.2" x 2.2" and is 0.55" thick,
so it is still slightly smaller than a full size regular iPod.
And with reinforced corners, one can confidently drop the unit
from a reasonable height onto concrete or other hard surfaces
with no damage done to the Nano. It weighs 1.8 oz - very
light, and just slightly heavier than the weight of the Nano it
There are two cut away windows
- one each
for the Nano's screen and control wheel. An extra bonus is
a separate piece of clear protective film that you can stick
over the fragile and easily scratched 'glass' material of the
Nano's screen. I duly did this with no more than the usual
amount of difficulty that I always have exactly sticking sheets of film to displays.
The main feature of this
unit is its ability to play music through its built in
speaker. This is a moderately high efficiency speaker and plays
the music from the Nano without further amplification, so
there's no need for extra batteries or an external power supply
for the Audiowrapz case.
If you want to use
headphones, you can still do that. There's a headphone
jack on the bottom of the unit that will accept the same
headphones as can plug into the Nano itself, and when you plug
in headphones, the speakers cut out.
So, that's the theory.
How does it work in practice?
The quality of sound from
the speaker and augmented by the two radiators is more or less (mainly less) what you'd expect.
Very thin and tinny sound with no real fidelity to it at all.
And, even at maximum volume, the sound is very quiet and barely
audible if there is any type of background noise - for example,
as I type this, the sound of my typing is drowning out the sound
of the music from the Audiowrapz.
There's also a disappointing
design constraint. Although the headphone jack is passed
through to the bottom of the case, the charging slot/control
interface connector isn't passed through. So every time
you wish to recharge the Nano, you need to tortuously pull it
out of the case, and then plug it back in again when it is
The manufacturer explained
that if they added a pass-through of the proprietary Apple
connector, this would require them to pay a hefty per unit
licensing fee to Apple, which would have made it impossible to
offer the unit at such a bargain price.
And, talking about
recharging, the speakers are self-powered. They don't need
their own power source, but they do require the Nano to be run
at full volume all the time, which will deplete the Nano's
battery somewhat faster than would be the case when listening at
a lower volume (and therefore power) setting through headphones.
Who will find an Audiowrapz
a useful accessory? Perhaps parents who want to let young
children play with a Nano - this way, the Nano can be mishandled
or dropped with relative safety, and with the very low volume
coming out of the speakers, there's neither a danger of hearing
damage to the child or of a noise nuisance for other people in
It is definitely a device
with marginal utility, but at a bargain price of only $19.99 or
Amazon, and also available
from Walmart, Target, and probably elsewhere too, there's not a
lot of downside to buying one. A great 'stocking stuffer' gift,
or a good extra gift if you're also giving someone a Nano.
Flamingo Music Headphones
The standard ear buds
come with an iPod or iPhone give poor quality sound reproduction and
are not very
comfortable, being a 'one size fits all' for people with a huge
range of different ear shapes and sizes.
There are an almost limitless number of
replacement headphone options, ranging from very inexpensive but
junk, to $300+ miniature headphones and similarly
expensive full size headphones.
It seems the underlying
paradigm for a miniature MP3 player such as an iPod is that the
headphones should be small, so as not to compromise the
portability of the combination of player and
headphones. That means, for those of us who don't like
sticking things in our ears, we're going to have to accept
some degree of discomfort, or else have a massive size mismatch
between large on the ear or around the ear traditional style
headphones and a miniature MP3 player.
And now this new set of
headphones hopes to give you another alternative.
The Flamingo music
headphones claim to provide much better sound than regular
inexpensive ear buds, and a new way of
fitting the headphones into your ear that is comfortable,
secure, all in a size and weight package that is not much more
than regular ear buds.
Size wise, each ear assembly
is somewhat larger than a typical earbud, but in terms of how
much space they take to pack up and away, there's not a huge
difference in space needed, and with a weight of only 0.6 oz,
the extra weight compared to regular earbuds (which weigh about
0.4 oz) is totally trivial.
The design of the Flamingo
music headphones has a speaker part that lies partially on and
partially in your ear, and with a 'flange' that protrudes from
the top of each earpiece. This flange fits under one of
the curves in your ear, holding the earpiece in place, and
avoiding the need to wedge the earpieces tightly into your ear.
Flamingo provide six
different sized flanges, plus a seventh generic bud shape as
well. With seven different size/shape options, the chances
are you can customize the earpieces to comfortably and securely
fit in your ear.
The headphones come in
several different colors.
So, what do they feel like,
and what do they sound like.
I'm probably not the best
person to review these, because I really don't like sticking
things in my ears, making my comments perhaps more critical than
from many others. Certainly every day one sees countless
numbers of people apparently quite happy with Apple's default
supplied ear buds stuck in their ears, so I'm probably in a
minority. I find that after
only a few short minutes, regular buds become uncomfortable for me -
maybe I have non-standard sized ears?
However, with the Flamingo
headphones, and with seven different size adjustments that can
be made, the comfort issue is vastly improved. It still
isn't my first idea of fun to have have headphones in my ears,
but after I changed the size from the pre-installed #3 mounts to
a smaller #2 mount, the headphones became almost comfortable to
wear for extended periods of time. I reduced the size
still further to the #1 mounts, and they became even more
comfortable. So, in terms of comfort, I'll grudgingly give
them a thumbs up. Be sure to experiment when you get a set
- if they feel loose to start with, successively increase the
size of the flanges until they become too tight, then probably
go back one size to get 'just right'; and if they start off too
tight out of the box, start reducing the size flanges until they
become too loose, and then consider going back up one size to
again end up at just right.
This is a bit of a hassle to
start with, but you really will unmistakably feel the difference
as you change flange sizes and it is quite easy to determine the
size best for you.
And as for sound, the
improvement in quality was stunning and very obvious,
particularly in the bass notes. Sounds that were
completely absent through the Apple ear buds suddenly appeared
brightly and full of life in the Flamingo headset.
Individual instruments were more clearly defined and positioned
than with the Apple earbuds, and possibly the Flamingo
headphones are also a bit more efficient, requiring less power
to create the same volume of sound (and therefore allowing
longer battery life from the MP3 player).
That's not to say their sound
is equivalent to a high quality around the ear set of full sized
headphones, of course. But the sound quality is
appreciably better than Apple's earbuds, and for what they are,
it is a clearly discernable improvement in a set of headphones
that are only slightly larger than the supplied earbuds.
Because these in-ear units
rest lightly just outside the entrance to your inner ear, they
do not block out other sounds from around you. While this
is bad news in a noisy environment (you'll still want noise
cancelling headphones in such cases) it is good news in a normal
environment, making it easier to hear people talking to you,
warning sounds, etc.
Much better sound, and much
greater comfort, in a set of in-the-ear headphones only slightly
larger than Apple's earbuds. Most people will probably
join with me in feeling these to be well worth their $50 list price.
Available from the
website and doubtless elsewhere too.
Read more in our MP3
See the links at the
top right of the page to visit other articles
in our extensive series on personal music and video players and
related technology issues.
This particular article is
part 2 of a two part
article profiling some accessories to consider for your iPod
or iPhone. Please
iPod and iPhone Accessories Part One
2. iPod and iPhone
Accessories Part Two
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13 June 2008, last update
02 Jul 2017
You may freely reproduce or distribute this article for noncommercial purposes as long as you give credit to me as original writer.