Whether you're waiting in traffic, taking a long family drive, or driving from San Francisco to Atlanta, traveling can be a headache and a bore. It helps to have a good companion, but if you're reading this, you already have one. The iPod touch was already my favorite tech toy, but thanks to three accessories I discovered, it's now my constant travelling companion.
Most cars now include a satellite radio option, but it's often an expensive add-on. If you're an iPod touch or iPhone user, you're in luck.
The XM Skydock ($69.99, shop.xmradio.com) lets you access XM Satellite radio no matter what car you're in and play it through your vehicle's audio system. All you need is your iPhone or iPod touch and a cigarette lighter. Set up is simple:
- Take it out of the box and plug it into your vehicle's cigarette lighter.
- Install XM Skydock (free, app2.me/3171) on your iPhone or iPod touch.
- Positioned the antenna per the directions and plug it into the Skydock.
- Connect Skydock to the AUX port on your car's audio system. (You can also connect wirelessly to an unused FM frequency.)
It took less than 30 seconds for Skydock to acquire a signal and receive updates. I then activated it using the activation code that appeared on my iPod touch. I was told to wait 15 minutes for the activation process to complete. While I was waiting, I took the time to secure the antenna cabling. I ran it under the dash and behind the molding of the driver's side door and into the well of the door. I then ran it up the well of the left side of the windshield and secured it with clear silicone calking. I positioned the magnetic antenna on the far left front of the roof.
After 15 minutes I was able to instantly get any channel I wanted. Remarkably, it even had reception inside my garage under several fully-leaved trees. The sound quality and clarity was as good as my OEM installed XM Radio in my ‘09 Chevy. I heard all the highs, lows, bass, and treble perfectly.
GPS and a versatile case
Even with satellite radio at your finger tips, traveling can be tiring. You may be tempted to take a break from the long stretches of interstate highways and explore a side road or stop at some scenic wonder and take a hike. In those situations, GPS and a versatile case come in handy.
The iPod touch does not have GPS built into it, but it can be added with third-party accessories. And there are a variety of cases available to protect the iTouch. However, Magellan provides both in one product: the Magellan Tough Case ($179.99, magellangps.com/toughcase). To access its GPS capabilities, you'll also need a GPS navigation app. I tested the case on both a 2G and 3G iPod touch with the following GPS apps: Magellan RoadMate ($49.99, app2.me/3172) and AccuTerra ($4.99, app2.me/3173). I used it both as a hand carried unit and mounted on the dashboard vent of my car.
With my iTouch inserted in the Tough Case and the apps installed and running, it took less than 20 seconds to acquire the GPS signal. Magellan RoadMate calculated my route of about 130 miles in about 15 seconds. While I knew the route I was going to take, I purposely got lost to see how quick the recalculation would take, and it was impressively fast; less than 10 seconds.
AccuTerra was the second app that the device was tested with. Since I travel and hike through the parks and woods of Massachusetts and New Hampshire, I decided to take a nice summer hike in the White Mountain National Forest. I knew where I was and how to get back to my car, but I wanted to let the Tough Case AccuTerra show me the way. I marked my position and started on a one hour hike. I recorded my every movement. When I decided to head back to my car, I simply reversed myself and tapped the return button on my iPod touch and AccuTerra and the Tough Case got me within 25 feet of my car… outstanding!
The case itself includes a rechargeable 1,840 mAh battery, which is advertised to double your iPhone/iPod touch battery life. I tested this with GPS and gaming use; I got 6 hours of usage.
The case makes your iPod touch or iPhone about 2-3 times thicker, but conforms to IPX-7 waterproof standards of up to 1 meter for up to 30 minutes. I took the risk, inserted my iTouch in the case, and dropped it into my fish tank for about 20 minutes. When I removed it, my iTouch worked perfectly—no moisture damage and no condensation on my device.
Individually, these products work great. But taken together, they really make your traveling experience a pleasure.