Of the thousands of iPod accessories we have used over the past seven and a half years, there’s none—seriously, none—that has done more good for us in more situations than an add-on video screen. Memorex created the iFlip. Sonic Impact made the Video-55. Philips made some, too. There was probably no device that inspired more discussion amongst friends and family members, seemed as necessary wherever we travelled, or did more to relieve our early video iPod eyestrain. Turning those little 2.5” and 2” screens into 7” or 8.4” screens transformed little iPods into big entertainment devices, and true substitutes for portable DVD players.
You may or may not know what happened next: Apple quietly changed the video-out functionality in iPod models, rendering them all incompatible with these accessories. Manufacturers were stuck with warehouses of video screens they couldn’t sell, and also had to try and find a way to explain to new iPod buyers what had happened. Memorex and Sonic Impact apparently were hit so hard that they never released versions for the new iPods; Philips churned out a crummy sequel that we still can’t bring ourselves to use. Thus, a year and a half have passed, and nothing good has emerged as a replacement. In a word, it has been awful.
As our iFlip unit has weathered two years of use as a constant travel companion, and then as a way to display educational videos in the car, it has been tossed around, discharged, recharged, and kicked by baby feet. This weekend, on a trip back from California, and after many warning signs over the last six months, it finally gave up the ghost; the battery of the old iPod inside is on its way, too. But there’s nothing new we can buy as a proper replacement for them both. So we found ourselves placing an unusual order this weekend. Memorex and others were forced to liquidate their incompatible video accessories at low prices, and thus, the $200 iFlip fell to $149, $99, and then $49. Left with no other great options, we went to PC Connection and paid $13 a piece for two replacement iFlips. Yes, that’s $26 for two, coming to a grand total of $43.51 after shipping and tax. We’ll replace the iPod’s battery when it dies, but really, we’d prefer to be using something newer and better instead.
During this year’s Expo, we took the time to ask Memorex to look past the iFlip’s troubles—which weren’t its fault—and make another. If Sonic Impact had been there, we would have said the same thing to its representatives, and frankly, we’d encourage any company with decent design chops to come up with its own options, too. As nice as the iPod touch and iPhone’s 3.5” displays are, and even if Apple has bigger-screened devices in the marketplace, a high-quality, reasonably priced combination of add-on 8” screen, battery, and speakers strikes us as an absolute gimme for iPod and iPhone users. Developers: make it and we’ll be the first ones in line to try it. Now is the time. At a point when video content is now readily available all over the world, iPod and iPhone owners need video accessories more than ever.