The Dual XGPS300 GPS Navigation & Battery Cradle increases the functionality of the iPod Touch by adding GPS capabilities and a battery extender. In the time since the XGPS300 was announced, both Magellan and TomTom have introduced their own GPS cradles for the iPod Touch, so the Dual kit now faces some stiff competition. So does Dual have a one-two punch with its dual-purpose accessory or has it just overcomplicated things?
The XGPS300 consists of two parts, a shell and a cradle. The shell slides firmly onto the back of the iPod Touch, locking into place over its dock connector. On the back of the shell is a three-position switch for choosing between its two modes, GPS and battery, and an off position for when you want neither. Also located on the back is a loudspeaker for turn-by-turn directions and a battery meter that lights up a series of LEDs at the touch of a button to display the battery charge state in approximately 25 percent increments. Four lights indicate a full charge.
Because the shell blocks the bottom edge of the iPod to attach to the dock connector, Dual has included a headphone jack pass-through on the bottom edge as well as a Mini-USB connection for syncing with a PC and recharging the iPod's battery and the shell's battery backup.
Along the shell's side, on a chin just below where the iPod mounts, are buttons for volume up and down. These buttons should be easier to hit than the iPod Touch's volume rocker--or lack of physical volume controls as is the case with the first-gen Touch.
The second part of the XGPS300's puzzle is the car cradle. Users are able to insert their shelled iPod Touch into the car cradle to hold the whole package in place when navigating. The whole cradle within a cradle setup is a bit odd--and more than a little clunky--but it sort of works. The car kit features a lever-actuated suction cup mount that connects to the body of the cradle via a single ball joint that allows the device to be rotated into a portrait or landscape orientation.
Besides simply holding the iPod Touch in place, the car cradle also features a connection point for the included 12-volt car charger and yet another headphone jack pass-through, this time for connecting the iPod to a car's analog auxiliary input. (An audio patch cable is not included.)
The Dual XGPS300 serves, coincidentally or not, dual purposes. The first function is adding location awareness to the iPod Touch. The XGPS300's shell features an integrated GPS receiver that, given a clear view of the sky, allows the iPod to measure its latitude and longitude without the requirement of Wi-Fi triangulation. This makes the iPod useful for turn-by-turn navigation--with the appropriate app installed, of course--but it also opens the device up to other games and apps that require positioning to function, such as certain apps that measure a vehicle's acceleration with GPS.
The second function is extending the battery life of the iPod Touch. The XGPS300's shell also holds a 1,100mAh rechargeable battery that can extend and charge the iPod's battery.