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Accessories: Appendix B - iPhone: The Missing Manual

by David Pogue

Like the iPods that came before it, the iPhone is inspiring a torrent of accessories that seems to intensify with every passing month. Stylish cases, speakers, docks, cables—the list goes on.

This appendix gives you a representative sampling. It also points you in the right direction so you can find iPhone accessories that look good, sound good, and most importantly—fit.


iPhone: The Missing Manual, Second Edition book cover

This excerpt is from iPhone: The Missing Manual, Second Edition. With its faster downloads, touch-screen iPod, and best-ever mobile Web browser, the new affordable iPhone is packed with possibilities. But without an objective guide like this one, you'll never unlock all it can do for you. Each custom designed page helps you accomplish specific tasks for everything from web browsing, to new apps, to watching videos.

buy button

Like the iPods that came before it, the iPhone is inspiring a torrent of accessories that seems to intensify with every passing month. Stylish cases, speakers, docks, cables—the list goes on.

This appendix gives you a representative sampling. It also points you in the right direction so you can find iPhone accessories that look good, sound good, and most importantly—fit.

Proper Shopping for the iPhone

This is the most important thing to remember when you're looking for iPhone hardware: Not all iPod and iPhone accessories are created equal. (Or, as Yoda might say: Created equal, not all iPod and iPhone accessories are.)

For example:

  • The iPhone 3G's shape is different from the original iPhone' s. Form-fitting cases, sockets, and accessories designed for the original iPhone don't fit the new one.

  • The first-generation iPhone's headphone jack is recessed, so regular headphone stereo miniplugs don't fully connect.

  • The iPhone is also a phone, with components inside that can cause static, buzz, and interference when used with external speakers (which have their own electronic innards). So accessories intended for the iPod may not work.

To help you identify accessory get products that are compatible with the iPhone, Apple has its own "Works with iPhone" logo program. As the company puts it, products bearing the logo are "electronic accessories designed to connect specifically to iPhone and certified by the developer to meet Apple performance standards."

Getting stuff with the "Works with iPhone" logo should save you the grief that comes with "Buying the Wrong Thing."

Some good places to look include:

  • Apple's iPhone Accessories page. Here are all of Apple's own, official white plastic cables, the optional iPhone 3G dock, power adapters, Bluetooth headsets and more. (www.apple.com/iphone/accessories)

  • Digital Lifestyle Outfitters. DLO has been turning out handsome iPod cases practically since the little white MP3 player took the first spin of its scroll wheel. Somehow, they had iPhone cases and other accessories in stock before the first iPhone hit the street. (www.dlo.com)

  • XtremeMac. Another iPod stuffmaker, XtremeMac makes fashionable car chargers and other powerful products that work with the iPhone. (www.xtrememac.com)

  • Griffin Technology. Cables, cases, and many audio accessories. (www.griffintechnology.com)

  • Belkin. From acrylic cases to sporty armbands, Belkin markets several iPhone items, including an adapter for the headphone port on the original iPhone. (www.belkin.com)

  • EverythingiCafe. If it works with an iPhone, you can probably find it here by clicking the Store tab: cleaning cloths, screen protectors, Bluetooth headsets, cases, and on and on. It's not just a shopping center; user forums, reviews, and news make the site live up to its all-encompassing name. (http://store.everythingicafe.com)

If you're looking for specific categories of products, say a not-too-geeky belt case or a Bluetooth headset for handsfree-dialing, the next few pages give you an idea of what's out there.

Protecting Your iPhone

With its glass-and-chrome good looks, keeping the iPhone from getting scuffed, scratched, or dented is a priority for many people who've just dropped $200 or more on the thing. Two types of accessories in particular can bring an extra layer of protection (and peace of mind): cases and screen protectors.

Cases

Tucking your iPhone inside a leather or rubber covering can make it easier to handle and help it hold up inside your pocket or purse. When you shop for a case, keep in mind the ways you use your iPhone. Into sports and activity? Perhaps a brightly colored rubberized covering that lets you dial without taking it out of the case would work best. Using it as you stroll around the office all day? Consider a leather holster-style case with a belt clip.

Here are some examples:

  • Griffin Technology Flexgrip. Wrap your iPhone 3G in a layer of textured silicone to help keep it from slipping out of your hand. Available in black, red, pink, or white. ($15; www.griffintechnology.com)

  • DLO HipCase. Available in black or brown leather (or black nylon), the HipCase lets you holster your iPhone at your side. ($30; www.dlo.com)

  • Belkin Clear Acrylic Case for iPhone 3G. Many cases cover up the iPhone, but this see-through plastic number has nothing to hide and protects your investment in rigid acrylic armor. ($30; www.belkin.com)

Screen Protectors

People who've used stylus-based Palms, Pocket PCs, or smartphones are big fans of screen protectors—thin sheets of sticky plastic that lie smoothly over the glass to provide a protective barrier.

  • ZAGG invisibleSHIELD. Designed to protect both the front and back of your iPhone, this screen-protector has a formidable pedigree: its thin polyurethane film was originally created for the military to protect the leading edge of helicopter blades. And now that same military technology has a mission to keep your iPhone from getting scratched up. ($25; www.zagg.com)

  • DLO SurfaceShields. Available for the original iPhone and the iPhone 3G, you get five sheets of antiglare screen covers per pack. They cling to the iPhone's screen by static adhesion so they don't leave gunk on your phone and can be easily readjusted. ($15; www.dlo.com)

Making the iPhone Heard

Your iPhone comes with a pair of wired, mic-equipped earbuds and its own not-very-powerful external speaker. If you want a bump up from this factory equipment, you can find plenty of other options. Hate wired headphones? Go with a Bluetooth headset. Want wireless headphones in stereo? Get a stereo (A2DP) Bluetooth adapter. Want to blast the music on your iPhone? A set of external speakers takes care of that.

For example:

  • DLO iPhone speakers. This compact sound system looks like a big black Easter egg before you open it and connect your iPhone. The system runs on 4 AA batteries or its own AC adapter, and if you need to take a call while you're rocking out, you can do so on a really loud speakerphone. ($50; www.dlo.com)

  • V-MODA Vibe Duo headphones. Not everyone likes white plastic, and Apple's trademark headphones have traditionally taken hard knocks for wimpy bass. Matching the chrome edge of the iPhone, the Vibe Duo noise-isolating earbuds give you more boom, style and a mike pickup for calls. ($101; www.v-moda.com)

  • Griffin SmartTalk Headphone Adapter + Control & Mic for iPhone. Have a favorite pair of headphones? This headphone adapter has a built-in a microphone and control box, so that you can use the headphones of your choice. The control box and mike let you play, pause, or skip tracks—and pick up a call when one comes in. ($20; www.griffintechnology.com)

  • BlueAnt Supertooth 3 speakerphone. The iPhone's speakerphone isn't all that loud even when it's cranked up all the way. And you still have to take a hand off the steering wheel to pick up a call if you're driving. Pair up your iPhone and upload your contacts to the Supertooth 3, though, and you get a more robust mobile speakerphone that doubles as a secretary. The device reads the contact information of the incoming caller and announces the name out loud. You just have to say "OK" to pick up the call. ($120; www.myblueant.com)

  • Infinixx AP23 Stereo Bluetooth adapter. If you have a set of Bluetooth headphones or speakers, this little snap-on gadget lets you stream the music wirelessly—and in A2DP stereo. ($62; mobile.brando.com.hk)

  • Apple iPhone Bluetooth headset. It almost looks like something out of the prop department on a science-fiction movie, but Apple's single-button headset fits in either ear and automatically pairs itself with your iPhone. ($100; www.apple.com)

Note

Speaking of audio, see the section called “Pairing with a Bluetooth Earpiece” for a discussion of Bluetooth wireless headsets for the iPhone.

Power to the iPhone

The iPhone 3G wasn't out for more than a day before people started complaining about the battery life. If you're on the road for hours and away from your charger, here are a few products designed to boost your battery and keep that iPhone running as long as you are.

  • iPhoneck Backup Battery for iPhone. It may add a couple of inches onto the end of your iPhone, but iPhoneck's backup battery also adds on several hours of usage. Models are available for both the original and iPhone 3G. ($30-$35; www.iphoneck.com)

  • Mophie Juice Pack. It's an iPhone case! No, it's a backup battery! Wait, it's both. Mophie's form-fitting lithium polymer battery (housed in a soft-grip case) adds eight hours of talk time and six hours of Internet time when you're on the go. It's designed for the original iPhone, but a 3G version is in the works. ($100; www.mophie.com)

  • XtremeMac inCharge Auto. If the 12-volt outlet in your car is the only place you can gas up your iPhone during the day, this sleek black charger should do the trick. A self-resetting fuse keeps the power flow nice and even to your trusty companion. ($20; www.xtrememac.com)

Tip

Inventive and exciting iPhone products are coming out all over the place. If you don't have time to keep up, let the gadget blogs do it for you. A few to hit regularly if you want to see the latest in cool: Gizmodo (gizmodo.com), Engadget (www.engadget.com), and Crave (news.cnet.com/crave). And for a thorough examination of just about every major iPhone and iPod accessory hitting the shelves, don't miss the news and reviews over at iLounge (www.ilounge.com/).

Double-Dipping: iPod Accessories

The "Works with iPhone" logo ensures happy shopping, but your existing iPod gear might play nice with iPhone. If you're game, keep the following advice in mind.

External Speakers

Most speakers that connect through the 30-pin port on the bottom of modern iPods also fit iPhone. You may need one of Apple's Universal Dock adapters—a white plastic booster seat that makes most iPod models sit securely in speaker docks—for a good fit, especially if you have an iPhone 3G. (And frankly, external woofers and tweeters sound infinitely better than the iPhone's tiny, tinny speaker.)

One major thing to remember, though: electronic interference. If you forget, the iPhone will remind you. If it senses you're seating it in a non-"Works with iPhone" speaker system, you'll see a message suggesting that you put it in Airplane mode. Doing so takes care of the interference, but it also prevents you for making or getting phone calls. You can blow past the warning and keep Airplane mode off, but you may get some unwanted static blasts with your music.

FM Transmitters

Those little gadgets that broadcast your iPod's music to an empty frequency on your dashboard radio are a godsend for iPodders who don't want to listen to the same 40 songs over and over on commercial radio. Unfortunately, these transmitters are not so hot for the iPhone. Again, electronic interference is an issue, unless you put the phone into Airplane mode. Transmitters that connect through the headphone jack, meanwhile, probably won't fit the first-generation iPhone.

Earphones

If you've ditched your telltale white iPod earphones for a higher fidelity headset, you probably won't be able to connect it to the Original iPhone's sunken headphone jack—at least not without an inexpensive jack adapter from Belkin and other manufacturers. Thankfully, the second-generation iPhone 3G has a normal unrecessed headphone port; you can plug just about any regular headphones or earbuds into it.

If you enjoyed this excerpt, buy a copy of iPhone: The Missing Manual, Second Edition.

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