Company: Digital Lifestyle Outfitters
Compatible: iPod 4G/5G, nano, mini
DLO AutoPod Intelligent Car Charger for iPod, iPod nano and iPod mini
Contributing Editor, iLounge
Published: Thursday, December 22, 2005
Category: Car Kits and Adapters
Pros: A simple car charger that works, with the added bonus of a three-stage charge status light that glows brightly in red (no iPod connected), orange (iPod not full), or green (iPod full); Includes velcro pads for mounting of cable to dash or DC power plug.
Cons: As with other simple chargers we’ve reviewed, this one lacks an audio output port or other functionality, limiting especially for users of 5G iPods and nanos who have limited accessory-mounting options; Status lights very bright… a nighttime distraction?
As we’ve mentioned in several reviews of similar products, simple car charger devices for the iPod have undoubtedly become commodity products. DLO’s new AutoPod Intelligent Car Charger for iPod, iPod nano, and iPod mini is only slightly more innovative than its closest competitors: it’s “Intelligent” label comes from the fact that it has the capability to use its 3-color indicator to show whether the iPod is disconnected (red), charging (orange), or full (green).
Otherwise, the AutoPod product has a fairly average feature set. Available in either white or black for $19.99, the AutoPod seems both well designed, and well constructed.
The protruding section of its DC plug is a small cube with a silver face, from which a bright glow emanates whenever the device is plugged into the car (and regardless of whether or not an iPod is attached). It’s a bit unfortunate since the lights are the AutoPod’s primary defining feature, but we found the light’s brightness to be distracting for night driving, and we’d prefer it to have been a bit more discreet. How this distraction issue affects you, however, will clearly depend on both your personal preference and the position of your car’s DC power port.
As a very minor added feature, the AutoPod package includes small velcro tabs that allows its Dock Connector plug to be attached for storage either on the dashboard or the power plug itself.
Although the AutoPod’s Dock Connector plug is not quite as small or sleek as Apple’s, it isn’t too much larger, fitting many of cases we tried it with. However, some cases with slim, rigid protection around the iPod’s bottom aren’t compatible. This will be a point of worry for some potential buyers, as it’s quite sensitive. For example, Vaja’s iVod case accepts the AutoPod, but Kesari’s very similar Case-Ari case does not.
The AutoPod’s cable is of the same coiled variety used in many other car chargers, extending to a useful length while resting at a shorter length that’s easy to stow away without tangles. DLO’s website claims that the AutoPod’s cable rests at approximately 2 feet in length, extending to 5 feet long under tension. We found the 2-foot claim for unstreched length to be accurate, but in reality, a reasonable pull on the cable will only stretch it to perhaps 3 and a half feet: almost enough to reach a back seat operator, but perhaps not, depending on the vehicle.
Unsurprisingly, the AutoPod successfully managed to charge all of our test iPods without a problem.
One major issue with the DLO AutoPod and all “simple chargers” is the fact that they’re becoming decreasingly useful when considering Apple’s new 5G and nano iPods’ lack of their predecessors’ ports for top-mounting accessories. In the past, a simple charger made sense for top-mounting FM transmitter users, as such devices didn’t require use of the Dock Connector port. In today’s market, however, such devices mount to the iPod’s Dock Connector port, eliminating the ability to charge. (Save for XtremeMac’s AirPlay2, which includes a Dock Connector pass-through port). Since there’s now only one available option for accessory connection, we increasingly prefer devices that take advantage of the Dock Connector’s audio-out pins and provide, at a minimum, an attenuated output jack for use with tape adapters or other devices. Such chargers certainly exist, although typically at some significant price premium. As examples, we’d recommend Belkin’s $40 Auto Kit (iLounge rating: B+), SiK’s $30 Imp (iLounge rating: B+), or, even better, TEN’s $50 FlexibleDock (iLounge rating: A).
In the recent past, we’ve been awarding $20 simple chargers a flat “B” rating, as they’re certainly recommendable on the basis that they perform well at fulfilling the simple purpose they aim to fulfill. Despite the AutoPod’s small advantage over its competitors with its only minimally useful status lights, we’re reluctant rate this one any higher. Instead, we continue to recommend either a more fully-featured product for a little extra money, or a less expensive one that does the same job. On that note, DLO’s previous AutoPod model, sans status lights, is temporarily available on their website for the clearance price of $10.