Review: Hook Industries Budfrog
Pros: An earbud cord management system for the iPod, available in twelve colors.
Cons: Overcomplicated design to turn iPod earbuds into “mini speakers” is not especially useful, fork tine-style top and iPod plastic clip integration create more problems (rough plastic edges) than they’re worth.
Like our brief review last month of Sumajin’s Smartwrap, our look this month at Hook Industries’ Budfrog ($6.95) briefly spotlights a cord-management product that may be of interest to some of our readers. Billed by its vendor as “the Ultimate iPod Accessory,” the Budfrog turns out to be more than a fair bit simpler than that lofty claim.
Both of these products are similar at the core: they’re designed primarily to temporarily shorten the length of certain iPod stereo cords. For example, you wrap your headphone cord around the product’s plastic center as much or as little as you like, reducing the distance between the headphone jack and the headphones. If you decide that you want more length at any point, you unwind the cord. And you can also use these cord management systems with similarly thin stereo jack cables, such as the ones in most cassette tape adapters, but not with thicker ones.
Wisely, Sumajin kept its cord management system simple, cheap, and soft. Smartwrap (iLounge rating: B) allowed you to wrap your lengthy iPod earbud cords around a soft rubber bone, and thereby provided a safe, pocketable or wearable way for you to reduce your clutter. It was unambitious, but useful, and it worked.
For a couple of dollars more, Hook Industries’ Budfrog goes a bit beyond the Smartwrap. Made from hard plastic in your choice of twelve colors, the Budfrog uses an unusual shape that vaguely resembles a fork, with tines at the top, a hole in its center, and two rounded prongs at its bottom. You stick your headphone plug through the hole and wrap your cord around its center. The company also suggests that you can prop up your earbuds between the top tines, like tiny left and right speakers.
The reason for the overcomplicated design is this: if you want to use the Budfrog just to manage your cord or hold your earbuds, you can, but Hook markets the device as an accessory that turns your earbuds into “mini speakers,” “which also comes in handy with the iPod’s alarm clock feature.” To test this claim, we tried our stock earbuds with the Budfrog, and while they mounted properly, their audio output was entirely unimpressive as a speaker system - even at top volume, they were nowhere near loud enough to wake us from a typical slumber, or be practically useful as speakers.
Hook also says that the Budfrog’s rounded bottom prongs render it compatible with “any Apple-produced iPod clip.” With the exception of the iPod mini’s packed-in plastic clip, you mightn’t even know that Apple produced similar plastic attachments for other iPods (see, e.g., M9647G/A); we’ll dare to guess that these clips are the least popular full-sized iPod accessories yet made. If you have one of them, however, you can mount the Budfrog on the top of your clipped iPod, and it will resemble a dramatically simplied version of Macally’s PodWave. Especially given the uselessness of earbuds as speakers, we’re not especially impressed by this feature, and wouldn’t ever really use it.
Designing this feature unfortunately increased the size of the Budfrog, and precluded its back from being totally flat: there are small edges on the mounting prongs that pop out at the bottom. Moreover, despite pretty good attempts by Hook, the mounting prongs on the Budfrog’s bottom aren’t perfectly rounded off. Therefore, unlike the soft and totally innocuous Smartwrap, we’ve hesitated to throw one into the same pocket as our iPods. Punctures to papers and softer materials are far more likely, however.
Between all of the prongs, the hard plastic, and the larger size of the Budfrog, the product manages to do two things that the Smartwrap doesn’t: feel unnecessarily big, and distract from its primary utility as a cord management device. We didn’t like it, and while it’s not awful, it’s certainly nowhere near the “ultimate iPod accessory” it’s billed to be. Sometimes a much simpler solution is a better idea.
Jeremy Horwitz is Editor-in-Chief of iLounge.