The iHome iP49 is sort of a hybrid iPod/iPhone audio system. On one level it does a perfectly good job as a compact bedside clock radio that charges your device when docked. But it also has a built-in rechargeable battery and a fold-up design that allows you to take it on the road--or just out to the patio or pool.
The iP49 is relatively small, but its 2.1-pound weight is enough to give it a bit of heft. When closed, the unit looks a little like an overweight portable DVD player with a slightly rounded, bulging top. But swing open the top half of the clamshell and you're suddenly looking at a speaker that props up to an almost 90-degree angle behind a standard iPod dock. A small LCD screen with blue backlighting sits in the right corner of the speaker.
The iP49 is an all-black affair and has a rubberized finish (on the exterior) so it has a nice feel to it when you carry it around in the closed position. Along with a set of buttons on the unit itself (on either side of the dock), you also get a small remote that allows you to control your iPod or iPhone's basic playback features as well as jump to one of the six preset stations on the iHome's built-in FM radio. The alarm can be set to go off on weekdays, every day, or just on weekends. A snooze button, which also doubles as a dimmer for the LCD, is conveniently placed just to the right of your iPhone or iPod as it sits in the dock.
As we said, the iP49 has a built-in lithium ion rechargeable battery. It's rated at 8 hours at moderate volumes, so you should be able to get a full day of operation outside. The only downside is that it doesn't charge your iPhone or iPod unless the AC adapter is connected. (Some portable audio systems will recharge your mobile device from their rechargeable batteries.) On the plus side, the iP49--like all iPhone-certified speakers--is GSM-shielded, so there's no need to switch an iPhone into airplane mode when using it.