So, because I’m always a bit behind the times on gadgetry (original Xbox, Palm TX, dumbphone), I do have an iPod touch but it’s the first-generation model. While there are certain applications (Skype, most notable) which use the included microphone on the newer versions, I haven’t really missed it, nor have I really had much complaint with my iPod’s slower processor and smaller capacity. What I have missed is the lack of an external speaker. I don’t usually put in my earbuds just to fiddle with something on my iPod and I’m not the sort who has music playing all the time, so it usually means that if I play a little game during a free minute or two, I experience it sans sound. And when my kids inevitably commandeer the iPod for playing their games, well, they have a lot of trouble keeping earbuds in. But now I’ve got a neat solution: the iMainGo 2.
This little device with the unwieldy name is a combination iPod case/portable speaker system. As a protective case, it does its job but adds a lot of bulk. But as a speaker, it’s a tiny wonder.
It’s about the size of an old Walkman cassette player (for those of you ancient enough to know what that is), and unzips so you can put your MP3 player in. It fits the iPhone, Zune, and all iPods except the Shuffle. The cord is a standard earphone plug, so you could conceivably plug it into a laptop to give the speakers a boost, as long as you don’t mind the short cord. The iPod is held in place with a piece of memory foam, a plastic plate, and a Velcro strap. The outside has a clear plastic window the size of an iPhone which allows you to see the screen and control the iPod wheel or touchscreen. The screen is pretty sturdy and protects my touchscreen from my kids’ greasy fingers. I found the controls to work fine except sometimes it was hard to access the very edges of my touch. (And the plastic film doesn’t look great–the little bubbles makes movie-watching and extended game-playing less than optimal.) One other caveat about using an iPod touch is that you can’t access the power button on top when it’s mounted in the case, but I can’t really picture any other similar case handling this differently.
The iMainGo runs on four AA batteries, which are included, and at full volume is surprisingly loud. I did get a little bit of buzzing at 100%, but at medium volume it was still plenty loud and the sound quality was great. I do wish the speaker had a volume control: a lot of my apps don’t have built-in volume controls, and the only way to adjust it is to start Music, adjust the volume there, and then return to the other app. I guess this is more of an issue with the iPod touch than the speaker system, but it’s why I like my Sony earbuds with the built-in volume dial. I fired up Pandora and (as long as I stayed within Wifi range) I could just pick it up and take it with me. In fact, my wife has taken it to her craft room the past couple days to listen to music while she works. For the way that I use my iPod, this is a great alternative to headphones. The marketing materials claim 30 hours of battery life, but I haven’t tested that out yet.
One other feature is the “Alarm” function. Most iPods (but not the touch) have an alarm function. You can set an alarm, turn the iMainGo’s power switch to “alarm,” and the speaker will sleep until your alarm wakes up the iPod. I tried it out with my wife’s Nano and it worked just fine.
Full disclosure: I received an iMainGo for review purposes. It’s about $40 retail, and I haven’t shopped around myself to see how this compares to other similar products. A quick search on Google suggests that this is cheaper than most of the non-portable docking station systems, but more expensive than the tiny speakers (that usually don’t serve as a case). I imagine that the sound quality must be significantly better than those that don’t have an additional power source. Whether or not it would make a good purchase for you depends on what type of music player you have and your own music-listening tendencies. Personally, I prefer having speakers to headphones, so this is a pretty good deal for me.
Wired: Good sound quality; alarm function wakes you up to your favorite playlist; first-generation iPod touch owners rejoice!
Tired: Bulks up your iPod a bit; Lloyd Dobler wouldn’t have been nearly as heartbreaking holding one of these above his head.
For more information, visit the iMainGo website.
All photos by Jonathan Liu.