Welcome to our new, continuously-updated First Looks - a collection of previews showing brand new iPod, iPhone and iPad accessories that we’re currently in the process of testing. Here’s what’s hot right now:
Company: H2O Audio
Model: Swimbelt for iPod nano
Compatible: iPod nano
As the third piece in H2O Audio's new waterproof accessory line for the iPod nano, the company's new Swimbelt ($40) is designed to let surfers, wakeboarders, swimmers and kitesurfers wear their encased nanos at waist level. Made mostly from soft neoprene and clear plastic, the belt is designed for waist sizes between 22 and 42 inches, and provides access to the nano's screen, controls, and headphone port while holding them firmly against your body. To use the Swimbelt, you'll need H2O's Waterproof Housing and Waterproof Headphones, each sold separately.
Compatible: PC Only, iPod 5G
These two new pieces of Windows PC software are designed to quickly convert movies into iPod-compatible files. DVD Copy 4 - here in the Platinum H.264 Edition ($80) - promises to convert DVDs and other movies into iPod format in three steps. It can also create DivX files, and copy DVDs. You insert a disc and select it in the program, choose an output type (DVD, VCD/SVCD or video file) and format (iPod), then press the burn button. iVideoToGo for iPod ($30) is streamlined for iPod conversion, taking DVDs or video files in numerous formats (AVI, MPEG, WMV, MOV, MP4, DivX, ASF, DVR-MS, 3GP) and converting them into MPEG-4 or H.264 format with ease. Free trials of both programs are available through InterVideo's web site. Updated: Neither program is capable of reading or transferring copy-protected DVDs (read: anything sold in a store) to your iPod, a fact you'll discover on your first attempt to run either of them. You'll need an additional program - not provided by InterVideo and of varied legality depending on your country - to do that.
Model: iPod Software
This new collection of six different software titles from Avanquest Publishing includes some of the most popular potential tools we could imagine, ranging in price from $30 to $50. Other than the company's iPocketBible and PodPresenter, all of the programs are for Windows PC users only, and attempt to simplify various iPod content creation and management tasks for novice and intermediate users. The programs are sold in boxed or downloadable formats through the company's web site.
DVD2iPod (PC only, $30) promises 1 step DVD (MPEG-2) and video (AVI) conversion to the iPod (MPEG-4), with “highest picture and sound quality” and “seamless integration with iTunes.” Updated: During installation, DVD2iPod discloses that it cannot read or convert copy-protected DVDs (read: anything sold in stores) to iPod format. You’ll need an additional program - not provided by Avanquest and of varied legality depending on your country - to do that.
iPocketBible (PC/Mac, $40) includes a professionally narrated New Living Translation audio edition of the Bible, plus Notes-formatted text to read along.
WebPodStudio (PC only, $50) lets you create audio and video podcasts, create RSS feeds that are iTunes-compatible, and auto-announce new podcasts to blog news services - there’s even a built-in teleprompted for your audio. It’s similar in concept to Apple’s latest Podcast Studio-enabled version of GarageBand for Macs, but with a few twists.
PodMediaCreator (PC only, $30) helps you create iPod-compatible movie files, photo slideshows, and remixed MP3 audio files, with automatic conversion of video (MPEG4/AVI/DIVX/WMV), audio (MP3/WMA/WAV), and photo (JPEG/GIF/PNG) content into iPod-readable formats.
PodPresenter (PC/Mac, $30) allows you to easily transform PowerPoint presentations into iPod slideshows, preserving the presentations in PowerPoint- or PodPresenter-editable format so you can make changes (with any computer, even one lacking PowerPoint) on the road. Editing features, graphics, and templates are included in the package.
Memeo iExtend (PC only, $30) lets you back up files onto your iPod, turn RSS feeds, e-mail, appointments, contacts and tasks into iPod-readable text, and upload iPod photos to Shutterfly for online sharing.
Like a number of other lanyard-style headphones we've seen for the iPod shuffle and iPod nano, this pair of Philips Neckstrap Headphones - model SHE7600, an Asian import model available from Warehouse123.com - uses a fabric necklace and user-adjustable headphone and neck length cords to minimize cable clutter and dangling. A strap is included to attach the headphones to a case, not included, and "turbo bass" performance is promised.
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