Pros: A small “safety light” attachment for Dock Connector-equipped iPods, using five separate LED lights (four red, one bright white) to alternate between a decent flashlight and multiple safety/emergency flashing modes. Includes headphone port extension cable to guarantee iPod nano compatibility.
Cons: Price is high by comparison with even good standalone flashlights. “Flash to beat” feature doesn’t work very well.
Back in late 2004, Griffin Technology released iBeam (iLounge rating: B), an iPod accessory set that remains one of the most esoteric we’ve ever seen. iBeam offered iPod owners two separate top-mounting attachments – a flashlight and a laser pointer – which drew upon iPod battery power to achieve what could be done separately with… a flashlight and laser pointer. We and our readers thought the iBeam was pricey at $20, but still good for a few laughs.
Now two companies, Intuitive Devices and LUMi Ventures, have released their own light accessories for the iPod, each with a slightly different spin from iBeam and each others’ offerings. This review looks at LUMi’s Flasher for iPod ($25), which like Intuitive’s Blinkit (iLounge rating: C+) attaches to the bottom of any iPod 3G, 4G, 5G, mini or nano, adding a flashing LED light system that’s billed as “ideal for personal safety.” The first part of Flasher is a rounded bulb-like Dock Connector attachment with your choice of a black or white iPod-matching case, and five separate LED lights inside. One of the five lights is pure white, and located at Flasher’s center. The other four lights are red, and situated on its sides. A single button on the unit’s front lets you toggle between seven different light modes; holding the button down turns the unit off.
Flasher’s first mode is a flashlight, which uses only the white light to create a beam that’s surprisingly a little brighter than Blinkit’s dual-light flashlight bulb. One button press turns off the white light and activates alternating slow left and right flashes of two red lights; another press increases the power to slow alternations of all four side lights in 2×2 patterns; the third turns on a faster left-right alternator of the four. But with the fourth press, you start to get patterns that look good for emergencies. That press flashes all five lights rapidly and out of sync, a real attention-getter, while the fifth press moves through all of the lights in sequence from left to right, a Knight Rider effect. The sixth press (and final mode) activates a light show that’s supposed to move to the beat of your music, but like Intuitive’s Blinkit doesn’t do an especially good job.
The only little engineering oddity of Flasher is its shape. Intuitive did a good job of minimizing Blinkit’s profile, using a boxy enclosure that works properly on the bottom of any Dock Connecting iPod, including the challenging iPod nano. In part because it uses more LED lights, LUMi’s bulb is a little thicker and wider, just enough so to interfere with the nano’s bottom-mounted headphone port. LUMi wisely includes a headphone port extension cable so that nano users can use the device too, which while not ideal visually is as good of a solution as possible under the circumstances.
It’s worth a brief additional note that both devices consume relatively little power – Flasher a maximum of 57 milliwatts, when in flashlight mode, and Blinkit a maximum of 100 milliwatts when in its flashlight mode. Blinkit’s “typical” flashing mode, however, consumes less power (12mW) than Flasher’s average (46mW), and both devices consume hardly any power (4 microwatts for Flasher, 3 for Blinkit) in sleep mode. In other words, Flasher draws less juice as a flashlight, and Blinkit typically less when flashing. That said, you can minimize Flasher’s power draw by using its lowest intensity flashing mode (2 lights, slow), and still get an experience comparable to Blinkit’s.
In our view, though neither device is a great value in absolute terms, there’s no contest between Flasher and Blinkit. At $25, Flasher’s a bit less expensive than the $30 Blinkit, and we found its lights a little brighter, more interesting, and more safety-ready. Because of its five white and red lights and more varied display capabilities, we have little doubt that we’d have an easier time attracting attention with Flasher’s design than Blinkit’s, particularly given the emergency vehicle-like light show Flasher can perform. That said, the prices on all of these light attachment devices are a bit too high, as evidenced by the $20 iBeam’s lack of popularity – they remain fine choices for certain audiences, but more attractive prices and features would do a lot to win greater interest.
Company and Price
Company: LUMi Ventures
Model: LUMi Ventures
Compatible: iPod 3G, 4G, 5G, mini, nano