The popularity of the iPhone as not only a mobile communication device but also a portable media player is clearly through the roof. Still, many iPhone owners still keep another iPod or two around for their music needs, which is why it's imperative that speakers coming on the market today offer compatibility for both. Such is the case with Altec Lansing's latest travel model, the InMotion Compact IMT320, a magnetically-shielded unit that works great with iPhones, iPods, and just about any other audio source you choose to connect. The speaker is light on extras but features a slick design, good sound quality, and a reasonable price tag ($79.99).
If you've taken note of the InMotion line that's currently on the shelves, the Compact IMT320 is sure to look a bit familiar. The speaker clearly takes its design and style cues from the rest of the line, from the all-black casing and speaker grille to the sharp lines and fiercely rectangular shape. It's a simple and understated look that should suit most tastes, though it may not be exciting enough for some. A universal iPod cradle that will accept the iPhone or any docking iPod sits dead center and features a rubber nub that provides support as you press on the player to control music playback--a necessary motion since there is no remote for this unit.
The InMotion Compact IMT320 doesn't offer very many extras, but what it lacks in bells-and-whistles it makes up for in sleek design. A nifty integrated flap serves to both protect the speakers during transport and prop them up in listening mode. The leatherette design gives the overall unit a refined look when it's folded closed, and at 9.8 inches long by 5 inches wide by 2 inches tall, it won't take up much room in your suitcase or carry-on. Like any travel speaker worth its salt, the InMotion Compact offers a battery power option, and you can expect to get up to 24 hours of playback from four AA batteries. We'd have preferred an integrated, rechargeable cell, but replaceable batteries do offer certain benefits since they can be popped in and out on the fly.
Once you plug in your iPod, iPhone, or other audio source (via the auxiliary line input on the back of the unit), you're ready to start listening to music through the InMotion Compact. Provided the speaker is plugged into wall power, it will charge any docked player, including the iPhone, so you don't have to worry about a dead device once you're on the go again. The unit also automatically pauses playback when you get a call on your phone, and it doesn't make any annoying feedback noises at any time. Overall sound quality is quite good for a unit of this size, with nice details through the high end, a smooth midrange, and present (but not thumping) bass. Audio doesn't reach stellar levels--music falls short of providing that shimmery, buttery sound we crave--but it definitely lives up to what we expect from sub-$100 speakers. The InMotion Compact also gets shockingly loud for speakers of this size, and there is no distortion at high volumes.