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New iPod, Old Accessories

Finding new life in some ancient iPod add-ons By Kevin Schmitt

Ahh, 2002. The Patriots won their first Super Bowl, Attack of the Clones was in theaters, and the President had a run-in with a pretzel. Though it seems like a lifetime ago, 2002 was also the year I purchased my first iPod?a second-generation 20GB model that today, when compared to my recently-acquired iPod Video, looks about the size of your average doublewide. But faced with the daunting prospect of shelling out potentially hundreds of additional dollars for all-new accessories, I wanted to see if anything could be used with the latest model.

Good news for more up-to-date iPods

Before I get into my particular experience, it's worth noting that if you already happen to own an iPod model with the now-standard Dock connector on the bottom of the unit, it's quite likely that most accessories that were designed for said connector should still work identically with the newest iPods. However, one annoyance is that these new iPods (the nano and the full-size 5G models with video) will no longer sync over a FireWire connection. So while you may already have a cable with a FireWire plug on one end and a Dock connector on the other, you'll still be able to charge your iPod using that cable, but you won't be able to sync the iPod with iTunes. Whether that particular annoyance is minor or major depends on your situation; if you're stuck on a machine without a USB2 port your experience is probably going to be less than ideal. Anyway, the upshot is that most accessories designed for the Dock connector should still be usable on the latest iPods with little hassle.

And for the rest of us...

I didn't go too hog wild with accessories for my 2G iPod, but I do like to think that I have a pretty standard line-up of add-ons. Since the older iPods did just about everything through a standard FireWire port and a headphone jack (fig. 1), at first glance it would seem that one would be stuck starting from scratch with a new iPod, especially since Apple no longer ships any accessories save for a USB cable. However, being the cheap skinflint that I am, I was determined to find out for myself whether I could reuse anything I already had before I was forced to give the ol' credit card yet another workout. To my surprise (and delight for the aforementioned credit card), I was able to put most of my old iPod accessories to good use with the 5G iPod Video.

Figure 1: All the magic happened at the top of the old iPods.

The lineup

As I've already said, while not extensive, I have what is likely a pretty typical selection of accessories, some of which came with my 2G iPod and some of which were purchased later. Here's what I have and what I did (or didn't do) to use them with the new iPod:

Item One: Wall Charger
Included with the 2G iPod, this little brick plugs into the wall at one end and attaches to any 6-pin-to-6-pin FireWire cable on th other, providing power to charge the iPod.

The Problem: The new iPods get their power from the Dock connector. So obviously, I can't just plug this thing into the new one.

The Solution: I can't not have an external charger, and since Apple didn't include one with the new iPod, I made my first purchase?SendStation's PocketDock FireWire. Now, this is normally a $19 accessory, but I was one of the lucky ones who got one for free during a recent holiday promo SendStation was running. I just had to pay in the neighborhood of $6 for shipping. Score.

Anyway, the PocketDock FW is very simple, yet very useful. On one end, it plugs into your iPod's Dock connector. On the other, a standard 6-pin FireWire port. So the chain goes like this: 2G wall charger, any 6-pin-to-6-pin FireWire cable, PocketDock, iPod. Bam. Saved my wall charger. Even if I had paid the full price with shipping, the PocketDock probably still would have been worth it, as we'll see in just a moment. The one drawback is related to the new iPod and the previously mentioned inability to use FireWire to sync the unit, and therefore you can't use the PocketDock and a FireWire cable to sync the iPod with iTunes. You can recharge your iPod through a FireWire port on your computer using the PocketDock, just no syncing. Damn you, Apple!

Alternative Options: The new USB version of the wall charger, which is more or less identical to the older FireWire version, is available for $29 from the Apple Store. Incidentally, the iPod accessory section of the online Apple Store is a good resource to research not only Apple-branded accessories, but also a large selection of third-party ones. It doesn't necessarily have the best prices, but it's usually a good starting point to figure out what's available.

Current Total: $5.80

Figure 2: The PocketDock is tiny, but oh-so-helpful.

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Related Keywords:ipod, pocketdock, itrip


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