There’s no question that the iPhone delivers one of the best user experiences around. It’s great for Web browsing, listening to music, and staying connected through e-mail. In addition, it delivers a first-rate video experience for YouTube clips, music videos, and even full-length movies. Here are some accessories and apps that will make your viewing experience even more enjoyable.
View video on high-tech eyewear
Myvu Crystal is a futuristic-looking video eyewear system that makes it seem like you’re watching video on a large screen. This product is the perfect solution for those of you that commute regularly and want to view movies or videos with some privacy. It displays a full VGA-quality image on tiny built-in screens and includes stereo earbuds for listening to the audio component. The sound quality is excellent—it really creates a theater experience.
Myvu Crystal is powered by a rechargeable battery that provides up to 4 hours of viewing. The battery is built into a controller resembling a pendant, which is connected to the device through thin cables. The pendant has a controller that allows you to adjust the volume, as well as the brightness and contrast of the video. I did notice some color variations when I compared a video played through the Myvu Crystal to the same video played on the iPhone’s screen. You can use this accessory to view videos but not to view games or other iPhone apps. If possible, I’d like to see that capability added in a future release.
A number of optional accessories are available, including a wall-charger kit, a travel case, and a splitter cable. You can even purchase clip-on lenses to compensate for your prescription glasses. For $19.95 you receive three clip-on lenses: one with -2 prescription lenses, one with -4, and an empty frame for a custom prescription.
Myvu promotes these by claiming that the experience is similar to the viewing of a 64” monitor. That’s a bit of an exaggeration, but I still think you’ll enjoy using them. If you really want a big screen experience, check out the next accessory.
Project video on a wall
$219 ($14.99 iPhone cable); aaxatech.com
The P1 is an ultra-portable video projector that’s almost the length and width of the iPhone but about an inch thick. It connects to the iPhone or iPod touch via an optional cable. (The cable currently available for the P1 is only compatible with the iPhone OS 3.0. Aaxa Technologies is working on a new cable that will work with OS 3.1 and future OS updates.) The P1 is capable of projecting a video up to 60 inches wide on a wall, at a resolution of only 640x480. I was actually very surprised at the quality of the video, even with its relatively low resolution. However, since it only puts out 12 lumens, you’ll need to view the video in a very dark room.
The P1 can also serve as a stand alone projector, and its onboard file menu and decoder play virtually all media formats, including MP4, AVI, WMA, JPG, GIF, etc. Media files can be saved in its 1 GB of built-in storage or on the 1 GB MicroSD card that ships with it. The P1 has an on-board speaker, but it’s small and hard to hear—you’ll definitely need headphones or computer speakers to hear your video.
The P1’s rechargeable battery only powers the projector for about an hour, so it’s best to plug it into a power outlet when you use it. The P1 is a reasonable solution if you don’t already have a big plasma TV. If you do, check out the next product.
AV Dock Station with Remote
Connect to and display video on your TV
The AV Dock Station connects directly to your television using the included AV cable, allowing you to play iPhone media content on your TV. You can view movies, YouTube videos, and photos, and listen to music stored on your iPhone. Just slip the iPhone or iPod touch into the dock and use the remote that comes with the product to control the playback. The video quality is limited to the iPhone’s VGA output (640x480 pixels) and is not all that great. (Apple offers component AV cables for $49, but they don’t have a remote control and don’t come with a docking station that lets you power and or charge the iPhone.)
The remote control that ships with the Dock Station lets you select songs and videos, control volume, and play/pause without ever having to leave your couch. And the Dock Station’s charging capabilities allow you to watch video or listen to music without draining the iPhone’s battery. It also doubles as a charging dock when you’re not using it with your TV.
Keep in mind that if your videos are formatted for viewing on the iPhone, they may not look very sharp on a television. If you’re interested in higher-quality video, take a look at Dexim’s Premium AV Dock Station. It costs $79.90 and lets you view pictures and watch videos in 720i (1280x720 pixel) resolution.
TubeStick Hybrid, TubeToGo app, Live TV app
Receive, record, and view cable and broadcast TV
TubeStick Hybrid: $129.95; TubeToGo: Free; Live TV: $3.99;equinux.com
TubeStick Hybrid is an adapter that connects to your Mac or PC, allowing you to receive digital (cable) and analog (over the air) television signals on your computer. It ships with The Tube 2 software, which lets you view and record these TV programs on your computer.
Once you have TubeStick and The Tube software set up, and have recorded some TV programs, you can sync them with your iPhone or iPod touch using iTunes. In addition, you can stream your TV recordings to your iPhone via the free TubeToGo Web service and view them using the free TubeToGo app. You can also use this Web service to remotely schedule and manage your recordings library. Streaming your videos to your iPhone works best when you have a Wi-Fi connection, but you are able to stream while using 3G as well. Video streaming works seamlessly and saves storage space on your iPhone.
Finally, Equinux has a very cool app called Live TV, which allows you to watch live television on your iPhone. Your iPhone will have to be connected to the Web via Wi-Fi. Your computer will need to be connected to the Web, equipped with the TubeStick Hybrid adapter, and have “The Tube” software installed.
TuneSTREAM Bluetooth Headphones
Stereo headphones enhance audio experience
Scosche’s TuneSTREAM Bluetooth Headphones fit comfortably on your head and include easy-to-use volume controls. They are adjustable, so it’s easy to find the perfect fit. The audio quality is quite good, and I didn’t experience any audio lag with the videos I watched.
Battery life is rated at eight hours, so you should be able to watch at least four movies on your next flight to Europe without having to recharge them. They even have a built-in microphone so you can use them for phone calls.
The developer should consider replacing the proprietary cable/charger with a mini-USB cable so you don’t have to carry yet another power adapter with you. Also, they should include a carrying case with the product to protect it.
Freedom Bluetooth Headphones
Stereo Bluetooth earphones
The Freedom Bluetooth Headphones are geared towards the more active user and are excellent for listening to music or answering phone calls while walking, jogging, or engaging in other on-the-go activities. I like to use them when I’m watching videos because they deliver a full surround sound experience and because they’re so lightweight you hardly notice them. In addition, you can control the volume of your iPhone from the headphones.
The battery life lasts a little over five hours, but the small size of these headphones limits the size (and capacity) of the battery. Also, because I wear glasses, using over-the-ear style headphones is a bit awkward. Finally, you have to charge these headphones with a dock that comes with the product. I would have preferred a mini- or micro-USB port for charging.
There are lots of accessories you can choose to enhance your viewing and listening experience on your iPhone and iPod touch. Now, wherever you are, you can enjoy your iPhone as if you’re at a theater or concert venue.