Mobile / Hands-on Review

Cool Gift Ideas for iPhone Users


There’s a sea of iPhone accessories available, but how many of end up in the hands of people who love photography, video and pro audio? The right iPhone accessory could prove to be the ultimate holiday gift. In this guide we’ll help you navigate the iPhone waters and introduce you to gadgets that dramatically improve the optics of your iPhone’s camera, audio upgrades that give you recording-studio-quality sound, and battery extenders that have enough juice to make it through the entire shoot.

Camera Lens Upgrades

No matter how you use the camera on your iPhone, it doesn’t hurt to upgrade the optics, especially if you have an eye for photography and you need a little more horsepower to get the images you want.

The alm OWLE Bubo does more than just give your iPhone a mere optics upgrade, it also improves the microphone, and makes it easier to stabilize the phone when shooting. An iPhone slides into the OWLE Bubo, and a 3.37mm wide-angle / macro lens is fitted over the phone's built-in lens. The OWLE lens features a thread for 46mm filters, it has a built-in cold shoe, four 1/4"-20 mounts, an included external microphone and a body with handles for stabilization. There are three versions of the alm OWLE Bubo available, one for the iPhone 3G and 3GS, another for the iPhone 4 and 4S, and a dedicated model for the iPod touch.

If you’re looking for something that encourages creativity, look no further than the Kogeto Dot. The Kogeto Dot enables you to shoot 360-degree video with an iPhone. If you can’t fathom what that is, just imagine a video player on a computer screen that interactively enables you to change the direction in which the camera is pointing. The system makes it easy to share your multi-directional videos online through Facebook and Twitter. The Kogeto Dot works exclusively with the iPhone 4 and 4S, and it’s available in black, red, pink and green.

Battery Upgrades

Battery extension products aren’t just for text-addicted teenagers. Producers and directors need to constantly communicate with their staff, and their phones need to stay alive for 19-hour work days.

The Mophie Juice Pack Reserve is a compact accessory that can live on your keychain. A protected 30-pin Apple connector and a USB cable are both built in, making it a self-contained, complete solution. It’s designed to charge your phone quickly and features an LED power indicator. It works with any iPhone and any iPod that can be docked.

The Mophie Juice Pack Plus more than doubles your battery life, and it protects your iPhone with a rubber-like exterior. All of the controls on the phone are still accessible and it can still be charged and synced with your computer using an included USB cable. The Juice Pack Plus is available in a rainbow of juicy colors: red, purple, cyan, magenta, yellow, orange and black.

The Aluratek Battery Power Case is a similar, yet more budget-friendly product that offers slightly less battery time and has a plastic (as opposed to rubber-like) covering.

Audio Upgrades

If you’re a guitar player and you own an iPhone, the must-have accessory is the Apogee Electronics JAM. It enables you to plug a guitar into an iPhone (as well as an iPad or a Mac computer) and interface with audio-recording apps like Apple’s Garageband. In professional recording studios around the world, Apogee is one of the most respected names. Now you can carry around world-class tone in your pocket or guitar case.  

Portable digital recorders are one of the hottest product categories in pro audio, and a simple accessory transforms your iPhone into one. The Tascam iXZ plugs into the headset jack on an iPhone and gives you XLR, 1/4" instrument and line-level inputs. With two AA batteries, the XLR jack can supply a condenser microphone with phantom power. You can opt to use the iXZ without batteries as well.

If you use an iPhone 4 or 4S for recording music or shooting videos, you need to check out the Fostex AR-4i. It’s a compact cradle that the iPhone slides into, and it provides you with a pair of adjustable external microphones, line-level inputs, improved analog-to-digital conversion of sound, an LED audio meter, a cold-shoe mount, a table stand and a pistol-grip support for handheld shooting. The AR-4i packs a lot of upgrades into a compact, almost case-like form factor.

The Griffin iTrip wirelessly connects your iPhone to your car stereo with an FM radio transmission. It plugs into the cigarette lighter for power, and connects to your iPhone’s 30-pin jack. It charges your phone as you drive, and enables you to pick up your iPhone’s music playback through the FM stereo in your car. A remote control is built into the iTrip, but you can also download the free iTrip Controller app and use your iPhone as the remote.   

Headset Upgrades

Bose pioneered noise-canceling headphones, and now it has brought this technology to the Bose Bluetooth Headset Series 2 (which is available in two versions: right ear or left ear). The Series 2 does a remarkable job of removing ambient noise (such as the sounds of traffic) and just leaving your voice. It also does an outstanding job of cutting down on wind noise.

If you already own a set of Shure SE315, SE425 or SE535 headphones and you want to add a built-in mic to answer calls and talk to Siri, just pick up the Shure CBL-M+K. In addition to adding the in-line mic, it also gives you a ControlTalk remote to control music playback, hang up and answer calls.

Grips and Mounts

Being able to shoot HD video on a mobile phone is an amazing advancement, but your footage won’t be very enjoyable to watch if the camera is bouncing and jerking around. A little stabilization goes a long way, and the Zacuto Zgrip iPhone Jr will help you shoot steady footage. The handgrip adds stability for handheld shots, and the 1/4"-20 thread at its base makes it possible to mount your iPhone 3GS to a tripod.

Tabletop mini tripods always make a great gift for photographers, but there’s a specific tripod made just for the iPhone 4 and 4S. It’s called the Joby Gorillamobile for iPhone 4, and it enables you to either stand up or mount your iPhone wherever you need it. The legs are ultra flexible and can be wrapped around poles and other objects to give you unlimited mounting options. It’s compact, lightweight and ready to travel.

Joby Gorillamobile Macally mCup

While no automobile is complete without a cup holder, no traveling iPhone user is complete without a cup holder iPhone stand. The Macally mCup sits in an unoccupied cup holder and cradles your iPhone, allowing you to swivel it vertically or horizontally. It’s compatible with any generation of iPhone.

iPhone Cases

It doesn’t matter if you’re a photographer, a filmmaker or an audio person; anyone is capable of dropping their iPhone. No matter how careful you are, that beautiful, Cupertino-designed device is going to come crashing down eventually. No article about iPhone accessories is truly complete without a couple of cases.

A good iPhone case must be tough. It must endure the impact of a nightmarish fall. It’s got to allow access to all of the buttons and controls, and enable the iPhone to dock into other equipment without having to be removed. Contour Design’s Hardskin Case (compatible with the iPhone 4 and 4S) excels in these areas, and it’s available in multiple colors such as Orange Plaid, Blue Horizon and Black. But what if you drop your iPhone on the floor in a dark movie theater? If you own the iLuv Glow-in-the-Dark Case for the iPhone 4 and 4S, all you have to do is quickly retrieve it from the sticky floor without groping around in the dark. The iLuv features a protective film for your screen.

And where do you stick an iPhone when it’s time to exercise? The Belkin ProFit Armband for iPhone 4 enables you to strap it comfortably to your arm. As the name implies, this model is designed for the iPhone 4, but it also works perfectly with the iPhone 4S. The clear cover allows you to control the iPhone; it’s water resistant, antibacterial and has a reflective stripe for safety.

Thanks for checking out this B&H InDepth article. These iPhone accessories perform well and are sleekly designed. If you have any questions about them, please ask them in the Comments section below.