Pros: Particularly useful USB cable adapter for typical PC users converts most scanner or printer cables into iPod cables, and has FireWire support too. Brilliant travel-ready size and design.
Cons: Slight retail price difference between this and Apple’s official USB 2.0 + FireWire Cable may deter some buyers, despite PocketDock’s superior versatility.
Some of the most useful accessories for the iPod are ones your eyes might pass over on store shelves; our recent reviews of Global Source’s retractable cables and JAVOedge’s thin iPod screen protectors are prime examples. The newest addition to the “small but handy” accessories list comes from SendStation, manufacturer of tiny PocketDock adapters compatible with third-generation and mini iPods. PocketDocks are designed to transform standard male-to-male FireWire and USB cables into Dock Connector-ready cables.
iLounge has had the first crack at PocketDock’s two newest adapters, and we think they’re definite winners. One is a “FireWire & USB” adapter, which at a $22.95 MSRP may well become a must-have item for third-generation iPod buyers with PCs. The other, the $29.95 “FireWire & Audio Line Out” adapter, could easily become a must-try accessory for iPod lovers with dreams of custom in-car modifications.
FireWire & USB
Each of SendStation’s offerings works in the same way: a standard PC or Mac cable is rendered iPod-ready by adding a PocketDock Dock Connector plug to one end. The company’s first adapter, which we reviewed, was a good idea for a specific audience: the small (1” by 1.5” by .4”) PocketDock FireWire transformed a male-to-male FireWire cable into an iPod cable, which would be good for light-traveling Mac and iPod users whose Mac friends used only old FireWire cables.
SendStation’s newer PocketDock FireWire & USB adapter is considerably more useful. It contains two ports: one female 6-pin FireWire port and one female Type B USB port, an smart combination that takes into account the large number of PC users with USB Type A to Type B cables, and adapts the side (Type B) least likely to connect to a computer. Only moderately thicker than a standard Dock Connector plug and weighing only .45 ounces (12 grams), the new PocketDock is even more practical than the last one, giving both Mac and PC users the most likely adaptation options they’ll need on the road.
This particular PocketDock flavor is an important one for one major reason: Apple doesn’t include a USB cable with third-generation iPods, which means that the average 3G iPod buyer will either need to own a FireWire card (~$35), an Apple USB2.0 + FireWire Cable ($19), or a PocketDock and any existing USB cable with a Type B male plug at the end. Given the infrequency with which the average iPod will be connected to a computer, and the usefulness of the PocketDock as a miniature “just in case” travel alternative, we’d be inclined to recommend the PocketDock for the average PC user despite its slight price premium over Apple’s cable. For people who can’t open their own computers and install FireWire cards, adapting an existing cable – and having the ability to do so again on the road – is a better option than buying a new cable or having to perform a potentially tricky installation.
The beauty of both of the new PocketDocks is that they eliminate the need to own and carry around bulkier items, namely cables, full-sized Docks, and in the case of the USB + FireWire PocketDock for PC users, even potentially FireWire cards. Value-priced and low-profile, the PocketDocks are equally destined to be impulse buys in the iPod Store checkout lane of the future, and no-guilt accessories in the bags of travelers today.
In addition to its usefulness as a travel companion, a PocketDock can facilitate even better iPod in-car installations: even without a car charger attached, the FireWire & Audio Line Out version specifically provides audiophiles with a small and easy route to the iPod’s cleanest sound signals. Some will prefer SiK’s din or imp, but the bundles present different pack-in options, and we think there’s plenty of room in the iPod world for both companies’ offerings.
For different reasons, we see both of the PocketDocks as great accessories, though the cheaper of the two is also more likely to be useful for typical iPod users, and thus more deserving of our Excited rating. We’ll keep our fingers crossed for an inexpensive USB & Audio out version of the PocketDock, too.
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: SendStation Systems
Compatible: iPod 3G, 4G, iPod mini, iPod photo