Review: Apple Computer iPod USB Power Adapter
Pros: Apple’s official USB-port equipped version of the iPod FireWire Power Adapter that comes with all Dock Connector-iPods; made mostly for on-the-go recharging of the iPod shuffle, but is also compatible with Dock Connector iPods.
Cons: Duplicates the charging functionality of most PC owners’ powered USB ports, high price for a cableless power cube.
Though Apple’s iPod shuffle Dock was certainly amongst the simplest products we’ve reviewed, the company’s new iPod USB Power Adapter ($29) is in the same league. Developed primarly for use with the iPod shuffle, the iPod USB Power Adapter is identical to the standard FireWire-compatible charger that ships with every iPod save the shuffle, only with a female USB port instead of a female FireWire port.
Currently, iPod shuffle owners who want to recharge their batteries need a computer or a standalone device with a powered USB port (such as Apple’s AirPort Express ($129, iLounge rating: A-)) to accomplish the feat. For obvious reasons - namely, the shuffle’s super-small size - travelers and commuters may not want to carry a charger that’s considerably larger and/or more expensive than the shuffle just to keep its battery topped off. The iPod USB Power Adapter is Apple’s least expensive standalone shuffle charging solution. You plug it into the wall, and the iPod shuffle directly into its USB port, and your battery safely recharges.
Interestingly, the iPod USB Power Adapter doesn’t follow the green packaging conventions of the iPod shuffle Dock - it ships in a standard white iPod-badged accessory box, and its instruction manual touts its compatibility with all Dock Connector iPods. When connected to a Dock Connector iPod, it performs the same recharging functionality as a computer, or as the FireWire-based charger; the only difference is that it takes advantage of the second of two Apple cables included in every Dock Connecting iPod box. There’s no USB cable included in the Power Adapter’s box, so if you’re already using your iPod’s pack-ins (or didn’t receive a USB cable with your third-generation iPod), you’ll need to buy one separately.
In our view, the value of the iPod USB Power Adapter will depend on the person and iPod using it. It’s best suited to iPod shuffle owners who use the shuffle a lot but don’t have constant access to a computer for recharging, and is also potentially useful for Mac and other FireWire users who would prefer not to disconnect their FireWire cables from their computers for in-wall recharging. These people may like the fact that the iPod USB Power Adapter is easily paired with the 4G/mini/photo iPod’s packed-in USB cable and a Dock for connection to a home stereo, or just with the USB cable for recharging at a second location. Everyone else, however, will likely find the iPod USB Power Adapter unnecessary. Apple’s almost universally packed-in FireWire charger is perfectly suited to the needs of most PC users, who typically keep their USB cables connected to their computers and FireWire cables connected to their walls.
Though the iPod USB Power Adapter is fairly marketed as an iPod and iPod shuffle accessory, it’s telling that Apple didn’t release it until the shuffle debuted: it wasn’t otherwise necessary, and is far more a shuffler’s peripheral than a standard iPod owner’s. We won’t harp on the iPod USB Power Adapter’s $29 price, beyond to repeat what we said when Apple released the iPod shuffle Dock: the price is high, and it would have been nice if the two items were packaged together. Spending our own money, we would put the $29 towards Apple’s slightly larger but certainly more useful AirPort Express (depicted in last photo above), which will charge your iPod and do plenty of other exciting things, besides. But if you just need a standalone USB charger and you’re on a budget, no one’s marketing a direct alternative to this one - yet.
Jeremy Horwitz is Editor-in-Chief of iLounge.