Review: Griffin Charge Converter FireWire to USB for iPhone and iPod
It has become a familiar and unpleasant component of new iPod and iPhone hardware releases: random collections of iPod accessories turn out not to work properly with the latest Apple devices. For the iPhone 3G, iPod nano 4G, and iPod touch 2G, the latest accessory victims were chargers, more specifically, "FireWire chargers," any number of docks, car kits, and speakers that had used Apple's originally recommended battery charging standard rather than its newer USB charging standard. Because accessories were never labeled as using one standard or the other, and even Apple's $349 iPod Hi-Fi used FireWire charging rather than USB, users had no idea that their favorite add-ons were about to stop working, and there was only one way to know for sure: if a given accessory worked with the new iPhone or iPods without bringing up a warning screen, they were USB-based, otherwise, they were FireWire-based and all but worthless for charging purposes.
Well, sort of. Scosche and Griffin have both released $30 accessories that may be able to help some users: Scosche’s PassPort and Griffin’s Charge Converter (aka Firewire to USB Converter) are both chunks of plastic with a female Dock Connector port on one end and a male plug on the other. Connect your iPhone 3G or your recent iPod to either adapter and—most likely—you will find that your old accessory works properly again. Both pass through the appropriate audio, video, and control signals, and ensure that the connected iPhone 3G or iPod is receiving the correct electrical current for safe charging.
If there’s any major reason to prefer one of these adapters over the other, that would be Griffin’s approach to making the Charge Converter useful with different types of old accessories. Due to its 1.15” height, the half-glossy, half-matte black Charge Converter can be used both with cable-style chargers and with speaker docks, putting comparatively limited strain on the Dock Connector in the accessory—particularly if you’re connecting the lightweight iPod nano 4G or iPod touch 2G. We had no issue connecting the Charge Converter to an iPod Hi-Fi with the heavier iPhone 3G. But if the potential for strain or aesthetics concern you, Griffin separately sells a plastic $2 Charge Converter Adapter for use with the original Bose SoundDock—not the Portable or SoundDock Series II—which is probably the single most common accessory that doesn’t work with the iPhone 3G and new iPods.
By comparison, Scosche is selling PassPort in two versions—the all-glossy black PassPort shown here for $30, and another $40 version designed to be used in home docking stations. This strikes us as too high of a price to swallow; Griffin’s one-converter, shell-if-you-want-it design is just more practical, and cheaper. While most of the $30-$40 pricing is attributable to the developers’ incorporation of two separate Apple Dock Connectors, users shouldn’t need to buy multiple converters for different devices. That having been said, the 1.8”-tall standard PassPort still works just fine with docks and speakers, though it places a bit more strain on the accessory’s Dock Connector than Griffin’s design.
There’s one noteworthy caveat here. Though most FireWire charging accessories will work, Scosche disclaims PassPort’s compatibility with some accessories—Griffin currently doesn’t, but probably should, as there are some car kits and oddball accessories that may not work perfectly with these types of adapters. We haven’t had any issues with the accessories we’ve tested, but would advise that you make your purchase only from a retailer with a good return policy, just in case the adapter you pick doesn’t work as expected with your device and intended accessories.
Overall, both PassPort and the Charge Converter are recommendable alternatives for enabling your old iPod accessories to charge your iPhone 3G or recent iPod nano and touch models. Neither is a bargain, but we’d give the edge to Griffin’s design because of its smarter approach to device compatibility.