Review: Griffin PodPod/iSqueez Auto Cradle
Pros: Works to mount an iPod in cars that otherwise prove difficult for cup holder mounts, soft and won’t cause scratches, fair price.
Cons: Lacks height adjustment and angle adjustment features of many competing solutions, may not be highbrow enough for some users.
Sometimes doing things the “simple” way turns out to be the smarter way after all. Case in point is Griffin Technology’s new in-car iPod cradle, the PodPod. (Editors’ Note - 2/15/04: Griffin has renamed the PodPod to iSqueez; the two products are the same.)
While some might think it to be the simplest iPod accessory ever released, we’d beg to differ. Unlike iPod screen protectors and case stickers - ahem, HP Printable Tattoos - there’s more to the PodPod ($9.99) than first meets the eye. Remove it from its box and you’ll see an oddly-shaped iPod cradle made from foam rubber, nothing more, nothing less. And if you’re like us, your first thought will likely be, “this thing probably costs around $2 to make and package.”
And then you’ll take the PodPod to your car. Following the scant directions, you’ll put it into your car’s cup holder. And it will fit. Almost no matter what size the car’s cup holder is - oversized, small, or whatever, your cup holder will become a safely padded iPod cradle. Seriously. The PodPod worked even in the oversized multipurpose cup holder of our Lexus test vehicle, which has previously proved impossible to use with other iPod cup holders. And it also worked in the car’s other cup holders, which are more “normally” sized, but not as conveniently located.
As it turns out, simple and cheap as it might be to make, the PodPod’s gray glazed foam rubber design is just the right idea for properly and inoffensively fitting an iPod in any cup holder, at least from one major standpoint. Because it starts out on the large side and compresses in a sponge-like fashion to fit the available space, the foam can accommodate all sorts of oddly sized vehicle cup sizes.
iPods fit pretty well, too. The PodPod is designed with two sides, one ideal for holding on an angle any third- or fourth-generation iPod, the other sized properly for the iPod mini. Even when the PodPod’s squeezed into a cupholder, there’s always enough space for the iPod to angle in securely - but not enough space for more than one iPod at a time. However, Griffin wisely left a reservoir and rear cable slots to accommodate common Dock Connector accessories such as car chargers, and top access to the iPod is similarly available, so you can connect a remote control to the iPod if you desire. And best of all, because it’s so soft, the PodPod’s not going to scratch either your iPod or your car.
The one and only issue we have with the PodPod is its lack of any sort of height or angle adjustment. When compared with Belkin’s TuneDok, a very simple plastic in-car mount, the PodPod did a better job of fitting our most difficult test vehicle’s best cup holder, but wound up sitting at a very low viewing angle - the lowest we’ve seen in any such car mount. We also tested the PodPod in our other test vehicle, a Honda Element, and found that its only likely placement would be so low in the vehicle that the iPod would be all but inaccessible and unviewable. Other options we’ve tested have been a lot more customizable than the PodPod, for obvious reasons.
As a result, it seemed like an equally viable option in Element-like vehicles - at least from a protective standpoint - would be an iPod case, which would sit a bit less easily in most cup holders, yet would be more useful outside of the car. Whether this option is better for your own needs is entirely for you to decide. We suspect that the PodPod will be most useful for people whose cup holders are mounted closer to eye level, where the low-tech solution is least in need of adjustment.
In summary, Griffin’s PodPod does one thing and does it well for many users: it makes virtually any car’s cup holder into a safe place to rest your iPod or iPod mini, even when connected up to a Dock Connector accessory. It’s one of those odd accessories that we didn’t expect we’d like as much as we do, and as with a couple of other recent Griffin products, it’s certainly not in keeping with the company’s “technology” traditions. That said, for the $9.99 price, we recommend it without hesitation to those people whose cars have proved unfriendly to “standard” sized iPod cup holder mounts and other less stable mounting solutions.
Jeremy Horwitz is Senior Editor of iLounge and practices intellectual property law in his spare time. His recent book, Law School Insider, has been called the “best book about law school - ever,” and he continues to contribute to Ziff-Davis electronic entertainment magazines.