Adding Hardware to Your iPod
The easiest way you can extend your iPod is by buying hardware attachments. Recent iPods, such as the generation 3+ and iPod Minis, come with the ability to be plugged into a synchronizing cradle. The connection is made with a 36-pin plug at the bottom of the iPod. This connector allows new hardware tools to be created for the iPod. I've noticed three main groups of hardware tools emerging for the iPod:
Beaming music away from the iPod-FM
Belkin's array of cool attachments
Adding battery life to the iPod
Beaming Music Away from the iPod
When you get your iPod, you'll be amazed at the quality of sound you receive from the small white buds you stick in your ears. But what if you're driving? In some places, driving while using the ear buds is illegal. Some of the first hardware tools for the iPod were designed to beam music from the iPod to another music device, the most common being an FM broadcaster. Most FM broadcasters are devices that plug into the headphone jack on the iPod. The device works by broadcasting to your car radio on a predetermined FM frequency. Tune your radio to the FM frequency, and you'll hear the signal from your iPod. The quality can be mixed. The first FM broadcaster I used did broadcast to my FM stereo, but it was too quiet. The next one I used came from Belkin. The Belkin TuneCast is really the tool you need to broadcast to your stereo. All you need is two AAA batteries in the small device, and you'll have the best FM broadcaster for your iPod.
Belkin's Array of Cool Attachments
Belkin enjoys a special relationship with Apple. This was clearly demonstrated at the 2004 Macworld Conference, where Steve Jobs demonstrated Belkin's Voice Recorder and Belkin Media Reader.
The Voice Recorder is a device you can plug into the headphones of your iPod and record memos and messages on the go. The audio syncs with iTunes, allowing you to get to your audio recordings. You can record more than two weeks of continuous audio memos with the Voice Recorder.
The Belkin Media Reader turns your iPod into a portable backup for your files from your digital camera. The Media Reader allows you to move files stored on most popular media-storage devices to your iPod. Later, when you sync with the iPod, you can move the images to your computer. You can use the following storage devices:
Of all of the new hard ware features for the iPod, this is the most interesting to me, as I can use the iPod for storing content without having to use a computer to move the files to the iPod.
Adding Battery Life to the iPod
The most frustrating thing to happen when using your iPod is the battery dying. As with most MP3 players, the battery in the iPod cannot be changed. The only solution Apple offers is to send the dead iPod with a check for $99, and they'll send you a replacement. There are alternatives, however. Extending the battery life of your iPod depends on how you get electricity into the iPod. Dockable iPods are currently the only versions that can have extended battery life. Belkin, for instance, sells the Mobile Power Cord for iPod with Docker Cable. This device plugs into the car's power source, providing power for and powering up your iPod as you drive.
Belkin also sells the Belkin Battery Pack, which allows you to add up to 20 hours of battery life to your iPod even if your iPod battery is completely dead.
Of course, the real solution would be for Apple to make better batteries that last longer and work more reliably.