Pros: Cute little gimmicky add-ons let the iPod shoot lasers and flash a brighter light.
Cons: More than a bit pricey given the value of its components, precludes use of iPod’s top port when plugged in, not the world’s most practical additions to the iPod.
The iPod brand has grown, and its success has spawned an increasing number of novelty iPod accessories – products that from our perspective must have been made as corporate inside jokes or trial balloons, then sold for low prices as a test of what people will or won’t buy for their iPods. Our Buyers’ Guide, for example, mentioned a three-in-one miniature screwdriver, lightbulb and nine volt-to-iPod battery charger – no doubt not the average person’s iPod accessory.
Griffin Technology’s iBeam ($19.95) is another such novelty accessory package, consisting of two items you never would have thought to attach to an iPod – a miniature flashlight and a laser pointer. Each is housed in a white plastic shell, plugs into any iPod 3G, 4G, mini or Photo’s headphone port, and, well, shines a bright light. Griffin claims that the Class IIIA laser pointer is visible from a quarter mile away, and calls the flashlight “surprisingly functional” in “a dark car or doorstep.”
When they’re not plugged in, you can cover their headphone jacks with included plastic caps (“iBeam Caps”), and when they are plugged in, you can’t really use your iPod for, say, music. Unless you have a simultaneous use for a flashlight and the screen, the iPod’s only there as a battery.
Now sure, we could sit down and price out the costs of self-powered laser pointers and small flashlights, then suggest just what sort of value the iBeam’s components have, or something similar, but frankly, we don’t think that’s necessary. Unlike products that we receive for review that pretend to be useful but aren’t, if you don’t want the iBeam, you won’t need us to laugh it out of the review section in order to be dissuaded from buying one.
We will only say this: iLounge’s editors have dogs, and dogs either love or hate laser pointers, depending on whether you perceive immediate hyperactivity as love or hate. (We’re inclined to think the former.) The little red laser dots drive dogs nuts, and the official iLounge Siberian Husky puppy actually soiled a carpet in excitement chasing the iBeam’s red dot. In fact, the iBeam has proved a reliable means to get him out of bed when he’s sleepy, and move out of a corner when he’s hiding.
Was this why the iBeam laser pointer was invented? We doubt it, but there are tons of dog owners out there who might enjoy iBeam (or, darewesayit, a $1 laser pointer) for that reason. And with the exception of using the iBeam as a teaching or presentation tool, there’s not a lot else you can do with it. A laser equipped iPod pointer would be a good music instructor’s teaching tool, but you see how we have to reach to make it make sense.
The iBeam flashlight is similarly a bit gimmicky, except your dog would need really excellent vision to chase it at all in a decently lit room; only in true darkness is it visible. With approximately twice the lightcasting power of the iPod’s backlight (albeit in a more concentrated area), it doesn’t compare in power or brightness to a true flashlight, and is perhaps better compared to a better than average keychain flashlight (a hint better than the ones stores give away as promotional items) than a Maglite or similarly legit illuminating tool. As Griffin suggests, this might be a flashlight you’d use in a pinch if you and your iPod were locked in the trunk of a car, not the one you’d want for any other general purpose.
iBeam’s a gimmick, yes, but a fun one if you can find the right use for either of its tools. It’s not cheap at $19.99 and doesn’t merit our strongest recommendation, but it’s a cool little accessory pack to play with once in a while… or more frequently if you want to mess with your pets.
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.
Company and Price
Company: Griffin Technology
Compatible: iPod 3G, 4G, iPod mini, iPod photo