If you're stumped about what to get the iPhone lovers on your holiday gift giving list this year, I have a few suggestions for you.
In this edition of Ask Maggie, I offer one reader several suggestions for buying accessories as gifts for his wife who has an iPhone 5. I also offer my thoughts on why U.S. wireless operators aren't likely to sell some of the interesting new feature-phones developed by Nokia for the developing markets.
iPhone accessory holiday gift ideas
I just purchased a new iPhone 5 for my wife who seems quite pleased but also overwhelmed by the panoply of accessories. I am looking for suggestions to accessorize her new toy for holiday gifts. I'm thinking that she'll need an adapter to connect to the various iPhone 4 gadgets around the house. Maybe a cute set of capacitive-fingered gloves. Perhaps a simple slim case to protect the device while it's in her purse.
Can you make any suggestions?
Helpless in Seattle
Dear Helpless in Seattle,
Smartphone accessories are a great idea for Christmas gifts. And believe me there is a lot to choose from. You've come up with some great ideas. I'll go through them and offer some advice on which ones to consider. And I'll even throw in a few other accessories that you may not have considered.
Let's start with the adapter. The iPhone 5 is the first Apple device to be launched with a brand new connector called Lightning. It is different from the 30-pin connector that all previous iPhones, iPods, and iPads have used for years. What this means for your wife and other iPhone 5 users, is that all their old power cords and accessories used for the iPhone 4 as well as other Apple products, will not work with the iPhone 5, which has a connector with only eight electrical contacts, has been controversial just for this reason.
But as you stated in your question there are adapters available that will allow your wife to use many of the old accessories and chargers that she had for her iPhone 4.
Apple sells the Lightning adapter for $29. And it sells the longer 7-inch adapter for $39. But there are other companies that offer generic versions of the adapter for a lot less. Nanotch is offering the 7-inch cable adapter for $17.95. And iTronz is selling the smaller stub adapter for $9.99.
While I believe that the Lightning adapter is a very fine and practical gift for your wife, especially since it sounds like she may already have tons of iPhone 4 accessories, I think you definitely need to couple it with a much more exciting gift. Giving someone an adapter for Christmas is like giving socks as a gift. Sure they're useful and everyone wears socks. But has anyone ever been really excited Christmas morning to unwrap a package of socks?
My advice to you, as a technology reporter, but most importantly as a woman, is that you want to make sure you've got something else under the tree for her, too.
So what else might you consider? Here are a few more accessories that I think make a nice complement to the adapter.
Some people may argue that gloves are as boring as socks as far as holiday gifts go. But I disagree. I always appreciate a nice set of gloves, scarves and hats for Christmas. I think stylish gloves or mittens can spark up your winter attire and also be functional at the same time.
A set of cute gloves that allow you to use a touch screen smartphone like your wife's new iPhone 5 without getting your hands cold in the winter is a great idea in my book.
There are several options available when it comes to smartphone-accessible gloves. Smartphone screens, such as the one on the iPhone, use what's called capacitive touch technology. The device's screen detects a change in electrical signal or impulse, which is naturally generated from your body and transmitted via your fingertips. Ordinary gloves and jackets are made with non-conductive material, so that's why gloves often get in the way when you're trying to answer your phone with gloves on.
Now several companies make gloves that have conductive material on the gloves so that people can use their smartphones, without taking off their gloves and risking getting cold hands.
My experience with these gloves has been a mixed bag. The biggest problem I find with many of the ones I've tried is that fingers can be bulky and cumbersome, making it difficult to actually type anything (accurately) on your smartphone. Also, sometimes the conductive material slips around on your finger and that also causes inaccurate typing.
But there are a few brands of new gloves that have woven conductive material into the fabric of the whole glove. They also fit more snugly on the hand, which makes typing a bit more accurate.
Agloves and Mujjo each makes gloves in which silver strands are woven into the fabric of their knit gloves to make them conductive. Agloves, which range in price from $20 to $35 a pair, come in five styles. But even though the gloves are all different styles, they pretty much look the same. What's more they come in only one color: charcoal black with silver specs.
I prefer the looks of the gloves from Mujjo, which is based in the Netherlands. This company offers a wider variety of colors than Agloves. In addition to black, it offers the gloves in gray, sandstone, lavender and coral pink. The gloves cost about $32 a pair. The company also offers a leather pair of gloves for about $167.
Of course, there are other gloves. REI sells a pair from the outdoor clothing company The North Face. The Etip Apex gloves are water-resistant and they have the conductive material on the pointer finger and thumb. These gloves cost $55, and they come in a variety of colors.
The fitness apparel retailer Lululemon also sells its Brisk Run Gloves that have conductive material on the pointer finger and thumb of its gloves. They cost $28.
If you think the gloves with the conductive material are too bulky and you don't think your wife will mind exposing a tiny part of her finger to the cold, you can try a pair gloves like the Horny Toad Touch Screen I-Gloves made of lambswool and Angora wool available on the Sierra Trading Post Web site.
These stylish gloves have little slits in the pointer finger and thumb so you can poke out your actual finger to operate your smartphone. These gloves are on sale now for about $18.
A case is also a great idea for your wife. What you need to consider here is how much protection you think she needs. Does she just want to protect the phone from scratches, or is she looking for something that will protect if it's dropped down the stairs? There are hard cases and rubberized. There are even cases that offer screen protectors. Some even have a little slot for holding your cash. And then there are cases that are more fashionable than they are functional.
My CNET Reviews colleague David Carnoy has put together thiswith some of the cases now available for the iPhone 5. There are so many different cases on the market, that it's hard to create a "best of" list. But David's suggestions are a good start and should steer you in the right direction for finding a case for your wife's iPhone.
Beyond adapters, gloves and cases
Adapters, cases and gloves are only just a few of the many accessory options on the market. There are plenty of other options that you can buy to complement your wife's new phone.
AirPlay speakers: If your wife is into music and you're willing to throw down some serious coin on her gift, you may want to consider getting some nice speakers for her. In general AirPlay offers better sound quality than Blutetooth. But this technology doesn't come cheap. These speakers start out at around $200 and go up to more than $700. It's also important to note that AirPlay only works on Apple devices. So that means it works on iPhones, iPads, iPod Touches, and PCs and Macs running iTunes. The CNET Reviews team has already put together this list of of AirPlay speakers.
Bluetooth speakers: If AirPlay speakers are a bit too expensive for your Christmas gift list, there is a more affordable option. Bluetooth offers a cheaper alternative to the expensive AirPlay. And it's great for households that aren't strictly Apple-centric, since Bluetooth works with nearly all smartphones (Android, Windows Phone, BlackBerry) and many Android tablets, as well as all iPhones, iPads, and all iPod Touch models (except for the first-gen Touch).
The only real downside to Bluetooth speakers is that the audio fidelity is often a step down from the non-Bluetooth options like AirPlay speakers. But CNET Reviews editor Matt Moskovciak says that many people can't hear the difference. He also notes that Bluetooth audio has improved quite a bit in the last couple of years. He has put together this "best of" that you can use as a guide. Prices range from $50 to $700. But there are plenty of options below $100.
If your family already has a nice stereo set-up, you could get your wife the affordable Belkin Bluetooth Music Receiver, which allows you to stream music to anything with audio (auxiliary) input, or a pair of powered speakers. And it's only $22.
Apple TV: If you want to share your photos and videos on your big screen TV, you may want to consider getting your wife the Apple TV. For $99 you can get the little box, which will not only allow you to buy video from iTunes to watch on your TV but will also sync with your wife's iPhone 5 or any other iOS device. Apple's AirPlay wireless technology lets you wirelessly stream what's on your iOS device to your HDTV and speakers via Apple TV. This means you can get access to all your photos, movies, and games from your phone on your big screen TV. Check out CNET's review of Apple TV to get more information about it.
If your wife likes taking pictures, you might also consider getting a lens or several lens that she can attach to her iPhone 5's camera. While there are many apps available that can create all kinds of different effects for the camera, there are also physical lenses that can be added.
The company iZZi Gadgets is selling a case called the Orbit, which offers three different lenses for the iPhone 5. One of them is a 180-degree fish-eye view. Another one is a 2x optical zoom lens. And the third is a 67x wide-angle lens. The case is a bit pricey at $239. iZZi Gadgets also sells individual lenses for much less. The telephoto and wide-angle lenses are $20 a piece. And the fisheye lens is $25.
This is just a sampling of the accessories that are available. There are dozens if not hundreds of others. I hope Ask Maggie readers will also add their own suggestions in the comment section below. So be sure to check back later to see if there is more good information from the Ask Maggie community.
Good luck with your Christmas shopping. And Happy Holidays!
Will Nokia ever bring the Asha line to the U.S.?
Thanks for your column yesterday about "non-smart" phones. We need a couple of new ones and the new Nokia line of Asha phones for developing countries sounds pretty good. What do you hear about them being offered by a U.S. carrier and, if so, when?
Thanks for writing. Unfortunately, I don't see any U.S. carrier ever offering the Nokia Asha phones here.
Why? Wireless operators in the U.S. would much rather push their 4G data services, so they are not going to offer these 3G phones. They are much more interested in selling smartphones, which require data plans. And they will do all they can to encourage their customers to buy smartphones and pay for expensive data plans.
That said, it looks like you can buy an Asha phone on eBay. And since it's a quad band GSM phone, an unlocked one can be used on either AT&T or T-Mobile USA. The price on eBay right now for an unlocked Asha 302 is about $120.
Thanks for your question!
Ask Maggie is an advice column that answers readers' wireless and broadband questions. The column now appears twice a week on CNET offering readers a double dosage of Ask Maggie's advice. If you have a question, I'd love to hear from you. Please send me an e-mail at maggie dot reardon at cbs dot com. And please put "Ask Maggie" in the subject header. You can also follow me on Facebook on my Ask Maggie page.