Reader Editorial: Are iPod add-ons too expensive?

Though there are thousands of reader opinions rendered each month on iLounge, we try to keep track of the most insightful ones, as well as general commenting trends. In recent months, we’ve noticed two interesting developments: with rare exceptions, the prices of iPod accessories have been creeping upwards, and reader complaints about those prices have been increasing, as well.

Rather than editorializing at length on this topic, we wanted to turn the subject over to you, and provide a single comments thread where you can express – and if necessary, debate – your opinions. That thread is below.

What have we noticed, specifically? Once hovering at $20, suggested retail prices for non-premium iPod mini and nano cases have been inching upwards to match $30-35 prices for full-sized iPod cases. Electronic accessories such as FM transmitters have started to jump from $30 up to $50 or $60. And more companies are making premium-priced speaker and car accessories – read: $200 and up – designed only for the iPod.

From our perspective, growth of the iPod market to include premium-priced options is a good thing. iPod owners should have the ability to choose from accessories developed to meet different-sized pocketbooks and needs, and thanks to accessory makers such as Bose, Klipsch, Altec Lansing, iPort, Harman/Kardon, Monster, and others, they now do.

But inflation of prices for “the basics” is a bad thing for both accessory makers and consumers. New iPod owners considering “total cost of ownership” of an iPod nano plus a (now-required) case, wall charger, and so on may walk away, instead. Price increases from big players may also drive existing iPod owners towards poorly-made options from no-name companies.

After years of selling premium-priced computers to relatively few people, Apple now appears to be trying to find the right accessories and prices for the millions of “mainstream” customers it won with affordable ($299 and below) iPods. Some of its efforts have been impressive. For example, it has developed thoughtful cases like the great iPod shuffle Sport Case (iLounge rating: A), and five-packs of iPod nano silicone cases (nano Tubes), each for $29. It also released the shuffle Battery Pack (iLounge rating: A-), a great (if not entirely necessary) $29 combination of looks and extra battery life. On the other hand, it has released things like iPod nano Lanyard Headphones (iLounge rating: B-) for $39 – a price that just seems too high for a little white rope and some earbuds – and last year’s iPod Socks (iLounge rating: B-), fabric booties which showed little of the company’s trademark design ingenuity. There is definitely such a thing as a design premium, but it needs to be earned by smart design, not presumed.

Of course, Apple’s far from the only accessory alternative – a fact which has helped make the iPod as successful as it’s been – but other companies are clearly being tempted by dollar signs, as well. At $29, Apple’s five nano Tubes are collectively priced less than the cost of a single iPod nano case from one prominent third-party case developer. Which company’s cases will get your dollars? Or won’t they?

Please share your perspectives in the thread below. Have you passed on purchasing iPod accessories because of the price? What are the ones that you think are most reasonably priced? Or are a handful of vocal readers too concerned about nothing? We look forward to your comments.

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