If you’ve had an iPhone for more then a month, you’ve probably noticed that the iPhone is kind of like in that it actually spends more money than it costs (in accessories, data plans, apps, songs, etc). You go to a cafe, hear a song you like, grab it with the and click to download, you’re out a buck. You want to try playing that song on or a , you’re out another $2. You want to use your earphones to listen to that song instead of using the crappy ones that Apple provides with the phone? That’ll be another $39.99, ma’am (price at the Apple store). And that’s before you consider the $30 per month data plan. So what is one to do?
I admit, I’m an iPhone accessories junkie. I have the cool dash mount, the unbreakable protective case, the FM transmitter that lets me listen to songs on my car radio, you name it. Friends have asked me where I get all my gear and while a few of the accessories have been purchased at the Apple store, many others were bought on and and that’s not only gotten me better products, but I’ve saved some cash along the way. In this post, I’d like to recommend some of the essential accessories that are out there and show you how you can save big getting them (and when you shouldn’t).
The car charger is probably one of the most important accessories you can buy and there are many choices out there. If you go to the , click on the Car audio or section and you will see that they recommend the Griffin PowerJolt products. has a detachable cable that you can use to connect the phone to your computer and is just a straight plug in, but they are both $20 + tax and shipping.
Better price: A quick will find you online retailers that sell the charger for about half the price. One of the more reputable ones is Newegg.com. for the product page. This is a good practice in general, since Apple stores typically sell OEM products at higher prices than competing retailers, sometimes at a 100% mark up.
Alternative products: There are lots of car chargers available for iPhone, some of which have advanced features like multi-color LEDs (like the ), protection fuses and other bells and whistles. Do an ebay search for “iPhone 3G car charger” and you’ll find products for as little as $5 with free shipping, but most of them will be from no-name after-market manufacturers based in Hong Kong. I’ve seen some of these and they feel and look cheap, and most of them don’t have a surge protection fuse.
Verdict: For $10, get a fuse-protected charger from a reputable manufacturer, such as Griffin or Kensington. Go to ebay, Amazon or any online vendor and compare the prices for yourself.
The dash mount is essential if you plan on making any hands-free calls and certainly for GPS navigation. Here too, there are some expensive options at the Apple store which you can find for less at the online retailers. It’s difficult to know what to look for if you’ve never owned a dash mount before. What I’m using is the mount, which I am very happy with:
Better price: The Bracketron mount retails for , but I bid $4.50 and won it on ebay a couple of weeks ago. I would have paid double that if the bidding would have gone higher. My suggestion: Do a quick ebay search, maybe you’ll get lucky too? In my opinion (and Mocciat’s), it’s worth the $20.
Alternative products: Here too, there are many cheap, no-name dash mounts with wobbly goose-neck windshield arms and cheap air vent holders. I bought two of these useless pieces of junk on ebay before getting lucky with the Bracketron. You may not notice the wobbly goose neck or the flimsy plastic arms or the low quality suction cup in the beginning, but if you’re anything like me, they will start grating on your nerves eventually.
Verdict: Don’t waste your time and money on cheap alternatives, get the Bracketron or other similar name-brand dash mount.
Head phone adapters are used for connecting your existing headphones to the iPhone’s proprietary headphone jack. for creating a proprietary jack may be beyond the understanding of the masses, but the bottom line is that you will need an adapter to connect to it. This adapter serves a dual purpose: splitting the signal in to audio out (for a regular headset) and audio in (for the microphone) and acting as an adapter between Apple’s jack and a standard headset plug. is a nice roundup of the different types of adapters out there and some photos. There are a handful options on the Apple store, such as the which sells for an outrageous $39.99. You will see similar products at the AT&T store and salesmen in both stores will assure you that you need to buy the adapter from a reputable manufacturer like Griffin, Bose or Shure. This is a flat out lie. I have heard music and talked on the phone using after-market no-name adapters and I’ve tested the Shure adapter and there is NO DIFFERENCE in the call quality, music playback or voice quality.
Better price: We’ll skip this section, since there is really no need to buy the Shure or Griffin adapters for even a highly discounted price.
Alternative products: Again, the answer can be found online. Do an ebay search for “iPhone 3G headphone adapter” and see how many options come up. Look for one that has all the features you want, as there are several features that may or may not be important for you, such as: A volume dial, A call accept / end button, A tie clip, A long cable… like I said, there are many options. I bought one for $4.99 (including shipping) from a no-name Hong Kong seller that had all the bells and whistles and I am very happy with it. Here’s a stock photo:
Verdict: Seek online!
That’s should do for now… in Part II of this post, which I hope to finish within the week, we’ll cover FM Transmitters, protective cases and screen covers. Thanks for reading and please feel free to leave feedback if you have any recommendations or comments. Adios!