If you ever ride the bus or take the subway in a busy city, chances are you'll see a lot of people wearing headphones to enjoy their music. Walk around a college campus and you'll probably see a similar scene as students study, zone out on the lawn or walk from one class to the next with various MP3 players.
There's also a strong possibility that the majority of those headphones are easily recognizable white earbuds, and the MP3 player in question in an Apple iPod. Although there are several different portable music players on the market, the iPod has dominated MP3 players in sales since its debut in 2001, owning more than 70 percent of the dollar share [source: SF Gate].
One thing that's grown up alongside the iPod is the iPod accessory business, which includes secondary equipment for the MP3 players like iPod covers and docks. Although Apple designs and sells its own accessories at Apple stores around the world, a large number of third-party developers have thrown their ideas into the pot. It's even possible that accessories have nearly been as successful as the iPod itself. Some value the accessory market at an estimated $1 billion [Source: Business Week].
With such a wide variety of iPod accessories available, there's bound to be something for everyone. And when we say everyone, we mean everyone -- the weird, the quirky and the bizarre. To learn about 10 of the strangest iPod accessories out there, read on.
One of the advantages of the iPod nano is its size. With a height of 2.75 inches (69.8 mm) and a width of 2.06 inches (52.3 mm), it fits easily in the palm of your hand and weighs only 1.74 ounces (49.2 grams) [source: Apple]. That makes traveling easy, and most listeners either hold onto their iPods or simply carry them in pants or shirt pockets.
One fashionable way to let everyone get a good look at your iPod is to wear it. Joggers, for example, can purchase handy wristbands or clips that hold their MP3 players during their run. Some accessories, on the other hand, take wearing your iPod even one step further. One company, appropriately named TuneBuckle, sells special canvas belts designed to carry the iPod nano.
You don't wear the MP3 player on the side, though; instead, the belt's aluminum buckle is actually a case that's perfectly shaped to hold the nano. Three different styles are available: The Original, which displays the entire front of the iPod; Full Moon, which covers everything except the click wheel; and Full Metal Jacket, which protects the whole front of the iPod and looks like a sleek airplane seat belt buckle.
If you like to keep your iPod really close, there's also the iBox -- men's cotton and spandex boxer shorts with a built-in pocket for an iPod. Let's just hope a pair of these never catches on fire.
Even stranger might be the accessories the iPod itself wears. To learn about how iPods and underwear go together, read the next page.
People have designed all sorts of interesting covers for iPods. If you stroll around the mall and happen to find an iPod accessory kiosk, you'll find all kinds of iPod covers from fluffy and furry to animal print to glitter and plastic.
The one that tops them all in terms of wackiness, however, is the iPod nano thong. The nano thong is just what it sounds like: A thong-shaped case that your iPod can wear. Nano thongs are made out of leather and fit comfortably around the iPod, and although it may redefine what's sleek and sexy in the world of Apple, this accessory isn't the most practical -- the bulk of the thong covers half of the iPod's screen and the entirety of the click wheel. It makes it nearly impossible to use while it's scantily clad, so unless you really like risqué lingerie or just enjoy a silly joke, the nano thong isn't the most useful iPod accessory on the market.
If you're fully clothed and in your car with an iPod, the next strange accessory might intrigue you, so check out the next page.
The iPod and many of its accessories were built with driving in mind. Not only is the nature of the iPod, with lots of storage for music and on-the-go playlists, well-suited for the highway, but automotive devices like cigarette lighters are helpful for charging iPods. Cup holders are also the perfect size to keep iPods from bouncing around and receiving too much damage.
It's evident that some people must be taking less care of their iPods in their cars. Maybe they're simply throwing their iPod up onto the car's dash, only to scream in horror as the expensive MP3 slides off during a sharp turn, falling out of the window and crashing into a million pieces on the pavement. Enough people must be doing this,
in fact, that the company HandStands developed the iSticky pad, which firmly secures an iPod to the car's dash. The pad is washable, removable and reusable, and it doesn't use any sticky, gummy adhesives or potentially software-damaging magnets.
For an accessory to keep iPod users warm when they're out of the car and in the cold, read the next page.
When it's cold outside but you still have to walk to work or to class, bringing along an iPod and listening to music can be a double-edged sword. On the one hand, big headphones can act like nice, warm earmuffs that also happen to act as speakers; on the other hand, wearing gloves to keep your hands warm makes it very difficult to maneuver the iPod's click wheel. That's because the technology behind the click wheel is touch-sensitive, meaning it relies on electricity from the tips of your fingers to tell the system which song to play next. Most gloves are made out of material that blocks electricity, making it hard to select music without constantly removing them.
Several companies have developed special iPod gloves. These gloves do the normal work of keeping your hands warm, but the additional feature that makes them stand out, and useful for the iPod, is PlayPoint technology. Added to the tips of the index and thumb are small, rectangular patches that conduct electricity from your skin to the iPod's click wheel, helping you scroll through your playlists while keeping your hands warm, even in the coldest of winters.
iPod gloves might be a slick, high-tech fashion statement to make during the winter seasons, but the next accessory is exactly the opposite: It looks backward, and it's really more suitable for walking down the beach. To learn how an iPod accessory goes retro, read the next page.
Back when cassettes were one of the more popular formats for playing music, boom boxes were fashionable. You've probably seen several montages from '80s movies that show beachgoers strutting confidently down the beach, aviator sunglasses on and a boom box blaring from the shoulder.
With retro and geek chic all the rage in today's fashion, it's no surprise the boom box is making its own tongue-in-cheek comeback. A wide variety of plastic boom boxes built to carry iPods or play FM radio are available now from several developers. Many are designed as women's shoulder bags, and the designs mimic boom box speakers and knobs. Some simply hold the iPod and have holes for headphone jacks, while others actually have working speakers built into the material and play whatever you select.
If you're not strutting your stuff on the beach, the next relaxing, elaborately designed iPod accessory might come in handy for you, especially on a lazy Sunday morning. To learn about how you can keep your iPod close while you slumber, read the next page.
Some people like to fall asleep with the television on, while others will read until they're slumping over, barely hanging onto their book. About 45 minutes of soft music, however, such as jazz, folk or orchestral music at about 60 to 80 beats per minute, is the most relaxing way to fall asleep, according to a group of Taiwanese researchers [source: BBC News]. Slow, ambient music can lower heart and respiratory rates, and it doesn't have any of the negative side effects that might come with taking sleeping pills.
The people at DesignMobel, makers of beds, furniture, linens and other accessories, had this in mind when they came up with the Pause, most likely the world's largest iPod dock. Although it looks like any other modern bed unit you might find at a place like IKEA, the bed's headboard extends out to form small bedside tables, and the right side section has a special dock made just for the iPod. Your iPod can either play music through two Bose speakers while you lie in bed to rest or it can charge when it's not playing. Pause is sold in Australia, but those outside of Australia and New Zealand can still order the bed if they want their iPod next to them for a solid eight hours of sleep.
The design of the next accessory, especially its interesting shape, should keep you awake. To learn how one iPod accessory can broadcast music in an old-fashioned style, read the next page.
If you thought the boom box shoulder bag combinations you read about earlier on were the ultimate in retro, think again. When recorded music was a new thing, people listened to vinyl records on turntables, and the sound didn't come out of stereo speakers either -- instead, it came out of a single horn. This combination of turntable and horn is called a phonograph, or a gramophone in England.
In 2006, designer Tristan Zimmerman of design group Science and Sons decided to combine cutting edge with antique and came up with the Phonophone, an iPod speaker and dock that's shaped like an old phonograph. And that's not it -- the Phonophone uses no external power or batteries. Listeners simply place their iPod earbuds into two tiny receptacles, and the acoustics of the horn boost the audio. The device only reaches a small-sounding 55 decibels. That's about the same performance level as the speakers on a laptop computer, but for a cool price of $500 a sleek, ceramic phonograph that plays your iPod might be the perfect bizarre centerpiece to an office or bedroom.
To protect his iPod from the roughest of scrapes, one owner went a long way. To learn how one iPod cover can stop a bullet, read the next page.
One of the more traumatic events in an iPod owner's life can be when he or she drops it onto a hard surface like concrete, smashing to bits the $300 investment. Even worse would be getting caught in the middle of a gunfight, only to have a stray bullet pass through the iPod and cause even more damage.
Fortunately, a Japanese iPod owner took care of both situations. Although rumor has it the owner never actually experienced a gunfight while listening to music, he did drop his model on an overcrowded train and significantly damaged his iPod. This led him to develop a flashy, aluminum case for his MP3 player, which is allegedly strong enough to stop a .22 caliber bullet. If the case's architect did actually get into a gunfight, the iPod wouldn't be completely protected -- he provided the case with openings for the screen and click wheel. The case also weighs about 1 pound (450 grams), which is nearly 2.5 times the weight of an iPod without a case.
For what's likely the most bizarre iPod accessory anyone's ever thought of, read the next page.
Now it's possible to take your iPod with you wherever you go. You've read about the iPod's extreme portability on many of the pages in this very article -- you can wear one on your belt, bring one in the car, carry one in a faux boom box or sleep with one next to your bed.
The people at Atech Flash Technology (AFT) took that concept to the extreme with their design, the iCarta Stereo Dock for iPod with Bath Tissue Holder. This accessory is exactly what it sounds like: A toilet paper dispenser made exclusively for the iPod, so you can still enjoy your MP3s while nature calls. The wall-mounted holder has four "integrated high performance moisture-free speakers" and charges your iPod while it's in the dock. The two front speakers fold out to provide the knobs on which to place your bathroom's toilet paper.
For lots more information on the normal and not-so-normal world of iPods and MP3 players, follow the links on the next page.
iPods and iPhones are not just another gadget. They're so universal that even calling them a 'phenomenon' is inadequate. Learn more about the 7 best ways to charge your iPod without an outlet.
More Great Links
- "Boombox bags for retro geeks." GeekAlerts.com. July 7, 2007. http://www.geekalerts.com/boombox-bags-for-retro-geeks/
- "iCarta stereo dock for iPod with bath tissue holder." Atech Flash Technology. http://www.atechflash.com/products-icarta.html
- "Interesting iPod accessories." SlipperyBrick.com. Dec. 19, 2006. http://www.slipperybrick.com/2006/12/interesting-ipod-accessories/
- "iSticky pad cell phone holder - an iPod car accessory." Handstands: American Covers, Inc.http://www.handstands.com/retail/ipod-accessories/isticky-pad.php
- "Pause." Design Mobel. 2006. http://designmobel.co.nz/pause.html
- "Phonophone II." Charles & Marie, Inc. 2008. http://charlesandmarie.com/lifestyle-gems/search/search/product/phonofone/ ?tx_ttproducts_pi1[backPID]=544&swords=phonophone
- Ponce, David. "The iPod nano thong." OhGizmo.com. Sept. 23, 2005. http://www.ohgizmo.com/2005/09/23/the-ipod-nano-thong/
- Ponce, David. "The iPod nano wallet." OhGizmo.com. Nov. 18, 2005. http://www.ohgizmo.com/2005/11/18/the-ipod-nano-wallet/
- "Tavo Gloves." Tavo Products: 4sight Products, Inc. http://www.tavoproducts.com/TavoGloves.html
- "Top 10 strangest iPod accessories." TechBlog.com. Feb. 25, 2006. http://www.techeblog.com/index.php/tech-gadget/top-10-strangest-ipod-accessories
- TuneBuckle.com. http://www.tunebuckle.com/Products.htm