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Accessories for video iPod, nano on display at Expo

Posted by iNext - 2006-01-10

No matter what Apple chooses to release, or not to release, Macworld Expo should be quite exciting for iPod owners this year.
 
When Apple released the iPod nano and iPod with video, the company got rid of the remote port—the small, oval-shaped slot next to the headphone jack. While it’s a change some iPod owners might not even immediately notice, it was a big deal for accessory makers as many products—especially FM tuners, transmitters, and remote controls—relied on the remote port to operate.

What’s more, both of the most recent additions to the iPod line feature new, slimmer, form-factors. The result: many old bottom-out dock accessories looked like an infant in a chef’s hat. While these accessories might still work well—or not, due to stability issues—having an accessory twice the size of your iPod is not most users’ idea of quality industrial design.

As a result, accessory makers have been scrambling to roll out new products designed with the nano and video in mind. And thankfully, some of those products are beginning to come to market.

Many of these new add-ons will be on display at Macworld Expo—some for the first time, others appearing at Expo after debuting at last week’s Consumer Electronics Show. Over the past few weeks, Playlist has been talking to accessory makers, and we’ve come away quite excited about all the new products that are hitting retail shelves in the coming weeks.

Of particular interest are the new generation of FM transmitters that allow you to play music stored on your iPod through the FM band of a car stereo or radio. We’ve come a long way from early models that sucked up battery life, performed poorly, and required you to pull over or risk certain peril if you ever wanted to change the station while driving.

Belkin (Booth 717 on the Expo show floor) will be showing off its new TuneBase FM and TuneBase FM for iPod nano. Both $80 devices—which also appeared at CES last week—are both small and sleek to complement the new form-factors of the video and nano, respectively (though the TuneBase FM has adjustable trays to work with work earlier full-size iPods and the iPod mini). The transmitters charge and mount through the automobile cigarette charger port, with a flexible neck that allows each to sit upright and face the driver. Four built-in buttons allow drivers to flip between preset stations—anything between 88.1-107.9. Both come in black or white and will ship in January.

Coming a bit later from Belkin but also to be on display at Expo are the $50 TuneFM and Tune FM for iPod nano. Belkin tells Playlist these are designed to be more portable than its TuneBase line—designed for on-the-go use by the pool, in a hotel, or elsewhere that the car charger and mount might not be handy. Like the TuneBase line, each has four buttons on the bottom where users can enter FM presets, which are shown on the iPod’s display. These FM transmitters rely on the iPod battery for power, but both also have a mini USB connector that attaches to an included auto power cable for on-the-go recharging.

Interestingly, the Tune FM for iPod nano uses both the 30-pin (dock) and the 3.5-mm (headphone) connections. Belkin says this is to reduce stress and prevent wear and tear on the 30-pin connection.

Belkin will also be showing its Tune Command AV, an $80 AV dock that will play an iPod’s music, photos and videos over your television and stereo speakers. Not shipping until April, the Tune Command connects either via S-Video or standard AV cables and has an interchangeable tray design to fit fourth-generation, nano, mini, photo, and video iPods. An RF remote controls with system without requiring line-of-sight; Belkin claims it has a range of up to 120 feet.

DLO (Booth 425) is showing its $100 Transpod, a bottom-out FM transmitter for the iPod that will work with the nano and video, as well as earlier models of docking iPods. The Transpod broadcasts from 88.1 to 107.9, and displays the station information on a backlit LCD at the base of the device. Plugging into a car cigarette lighter port, the Transpod acts as a mount for the iPod and charges it while in use. The Transpod is shipping now.

DLO will also be showing its new $100 HomeDock, a docking base that allows users to seamlessly connect their video-capable iPod to a home entertainment system. The HomeDock connects to a home entertainment center or television either via an S-Video connection or a standard AV cable, and will pipe your videos from your iPod to your television. There’s a USB connection in the back for syncing with a computer, while a 14-function IR remote allows users to wirelessly control all the action.

Griffin Technology (Booth 1935), maker of one of the first FM transmitters, the iTrip, will be showing its new $50 iTrip nano. Already available for purchase, the iTrip nano uses the nano’s screen to display station information, and works via plug-and-play with no software to install. It remembers three user-programmable preset stations at a time, and has a mono mode for areas with a lot of interference. The sled-shaped design cradles an iPod nano from the bottom and back side and allows it to charge while it is in use.

For the same price as the iTrip nano, Griffin is also selling its revamped iTrip ($50), which has been redesigned to use the dock connection rather than the headphone jack and remote port. A backlit LCD screen displays station information, and broadcasts can range from 88.1-107.9. A control knob on the side allows for easy switching between stations.

Griffin will also be showing the iTrip Auto, a $70 FM transmitter specifically designed for the car. The iTrip Auto, which fits third-generation or newer iPods (including the iPod with video) uses the audio line out from the iPod’s dock connector to broadcast a signal. Users can select any FM station between 88.1 and 107.9, and the iTrip Auto will display the channel number on a backlit LCD display. An attached cable connects to the cigarette lighter port to charge the device and iPod while in use.



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