Mobile / Hands-on Review

Holiday 2012: Accessorize the iPhone 5


Whether you’ve already upgraded to an Apple iPhone 5, or you’re considering taking the plunge, you may be curious about the various accessories that are available. Even though this phone has only been around for a short period of time, there are already many exclusive accessories for the iPhone 5, and you can bet that many more are on the way. In this article we’ll take a look at the latest camera lens upgrades and protective cases for the iPhone 5, and we’ll also cover adapters, wireless speaker systems and headphones that are compatible with other Apple gadgets, but still relevant to iPhone 5 users.

iPhone 5 Camera Upgrades

While the image quality that the iPhone 5 produces for video and stills isn’t nearly as good as full-blown professional camera systems, it’s often acceptable for certain kinds of work. Plus, you can’t beat the convenience the iPhone offers for sending and sharing your files. People inevitably started using iPhones for light journalistic work, and the need for improved optics, stability and sound quality was born. A company called alm (action life media) delivered a solution with their mCAMLITE products, and a new model is now compatible with the iPhone 5.

The mCAMLITE is a solid aluminum frame for the iPhone, and it features a lens mount, a cold shoe, multiple mounting threads for tripods and other gear and access to most of the phone’s controls. The metal frame adds weight, which helps you shoot steadier shots. It comes with a 37mm wide angle lens, which makes it easier to frame decent looking shots, especially in tight quarters. Part of this lens can be unscrewed and removed, and the remaining glass acts as a macro lens. It enables the iPhone to focus noticeably closer to subjects and achieve more of a blurred background. A snugly fitting silicone case for the iPhone 5 is also included to safely seat the device inside of the aluminum frame.

Some of the kits ship with an external microphone that attaches to the headset jack on the iPhone 5. The microphone provides a more directional pick-up pattern than the built-in microphone on the phone. The external mic can also be swung forward to be pointing in the same direction as the lens and turned 180° to be facing behind the camera. This makes it possible to interview a subject directly in front of the camera with good sound. If you want to capture the audio of the person asking questions behind the camera, you can swing the mic backwards, and then swing it forward again to capture the subject’s answer.

The mCAMLITE is available in several kits. If you just want the aluminum body and the 37mm wide/macro lens, you can pick up the mCAMLITE Starter Kit for iPhone 5. If want a kit that features those items and the 180° external microphone, you can grab the mCAMLITE mount for iPhone 5. Another interesting option for improved audio performance is the MoJo Pack for iPhone 5. This kit includes a Røde M3 handheld microphone and a special splitter cable that lets you plug in a pair of headphones so you can monitor the audio as you shoot. If you need to capture more than one angle when you shoot and you don’t have two people to operate the cameras, the alm Multicam Pack with mCAMLITE offers an interesting solution. This kit comes with two mCAMLITE frames, lenses and a crossbar. You can mount both of the frames to the crossbar, mount the crossbar to a tripod, monopod or a pistol grip and have the cameras pointing in different directions.

Lightning-Friendly Adapters

One of the big shifts that came with the iPhone 5 is its new, more compact Lightning dock connector. The old 30-pin jack had been the standard on Apple mobile gadgets since 2003 and a massive industry of hardware accessories had been built around it. Many people own speaker docks, alarm clocks and other devices that rely on 30-pin connectors to interface with iPods, iPads and iPhones, which won’t be compatible with the iPhone 5.

If you own a product that requires a 30-pin connector, you can affix your iPhone 5 to it with the Apple Lighting to 30-Pin Adapter. This item is a straight-forward adapter with a female 30-pin port on one end and an 8-pin male Lightning plug on the other. If you use a protective case on your iPhone 5, like the ones featured in the next section, it may make more sense to opt for the 8-inch Apple Lightning to 30-Pin Adapter. This adapter has the same connectors, but the two ends are separated by a short 8-inch (20cm) wire. Both of these adapters are also compatible with the iPad mini, the fourth-generation iPad, the fifth-generation iPod touch and the seventh-generation iPod nano.

iPhone 5 Cases and Protection

The iPhone 5 is a seriously beautiful piece of engineering. Its glass face, precision machined bezel and solid aluminum back are glorious to look at and touch, but this phone is also somewhat fragile, especially if you plan on keeping it in pristine condition. Despite the fact that the official dimensions of iPhone 5 were kept secret until mid September 2012, there are already stacks of compatible form-fitting cases available for it. Let’s take a look at some of the standout choices.

Otter Box Commuter Case for iPhone 5

Otter Box has built a good reputation for making cases that effectively protect Apple gadgets. An earlier version of the Commuter Case was made for the iPhone 4 and 4S and it received good reviews from owners. The Commuter design has been updated to be compatible with the iPhone 5, and it features a similar screen protector, interior slipcover, port protection and camera/flash hole. The exterior is strong, but it’s also intentionally slick so your phone can still slide in and out of your pocket. The Commuter Case for iPhone 5 is available in Black, Avon (pink), Bolt (orange), Boom (purple), Glacier (white), Night Sky (blue) and Punk (green).

STM opera case for iPhone 5

If you’re going to obscure the iconic design of your iPhone 5, you may as well cover it with another masterpiece. The opera case from STM features a textured back panel that was inspired by the ceramic tile patterns of the Sydney Opera House. The attractive pattern also serves as a grip, so you can better hang onto your gadget. This case protects the rear and sides of the iPhone 5, while giving you access to the camera, controls and ports. It’s easy to put on and take off and comes in Black, Gray, Blue, Pink and White.

Macally Folio Stand Case for iPhone 5

Give your iPhone 5 a traditional notepad look with the Macally Folio Stand Case. It features a faux leather exterior and a microfiber interior to protect the surface of the phone. Plastic inner clips hold your iPhone securely and it’s easy to pop your device in and out. A nice touch is that this case folds open and can be used as a horizontal viewing stand. It’s available in Matte Black, shiny Red/White and shiny White/Black color combos. This case was a recent recipent of the B&H Great Design Award.

HEX Wallet Cases for iPhone 5

Why head out the door with a separate wallet and phone, when they can be consolidated into one? A company called HEX offers two models, the Axis and the Solo, both of which act as wallets and cases for the iPhone 5 and protect the exterior with genuine leather. The Solo is a one-sided case with two slot pockets for credit cards and IDs. The Axis features an elastic enclosure that keeps your valuables secure, along with multiple slots for credit cards and IDs and an extra pocket for cash. Plus, a special hinge acts as a stand for watching videos hands-free. Both cases feature camera holes on the back. The HEX Axis Wallet is available in Black, Gray, Pink, Red and White, and the Solo is available in Black, Red, Gray and White.

Macally Aluminum Frame Case

Instead of covering up the front and back of your iPhone 5, the Macally Aluminum Frame Case adds a layer of protective aluminum around its sides. A mechanism slides and locks into place, making secure installation quick and easy. The metal bumper is raised around the edges, which will help to protect the front and back of your phone from surface scratches. Access to all necessary ports and controls is provided with cutouts in the metal. It’s available in Black, Gold and Red.

HEX Academy Core Case for iPhone 5

Humans aren’t the only ones who look stylish in denim. The Academy Core Case for iPhone 5 adds an additional layer of protection to the rear and sides of your iPhone 5, while giving it a distinctive new look. The denim exterior is water resistant (much more so than your iPhone, anyhow) and features the all-important port for the camera lens. It’s available in Gray, Black/Gray, and Khaki.

iLuv Snoopy iPhone 5 Cases

The Snoopy Series iPhone 5 cases from iLuv feature a durable hardshell construction with exteriors that have colorful graphics of Snoopy the cartoon dog. There are sports, holiday and vintage Snoopy themes to choose from. Like any good iPhone case, they offer access to all of the controls, ports and camera lens.

The Joy Factory Royce and Denim iPhone 5 Cases

Dress up your iPhone 5 in either casual denim or flashy synthetic leather with the Royce and Denim Series Cases from The Joy Factory. The Royce models feature a felt backing on the inside to protect your phone, and all of the Denim models have an external pocket for your ID, credit cards or business cards. The outer lip on both designs extends to protect the screen of your phone when placed face down, and they all come with a screen protector and a separate water-resistant sleeve.  

iLuv Camera Case for iPhone 5

The iLuv Camera Case for iPhone 5 features a synthetic leather exterior and it has a circular pocket that protrudes from its back. The external pocket can hold your earphones and it’s intentionally positioned to make the case visually resemble a traditional camera. The materials used on the exterior give it a vintage camera look, and the interior is lined with micro-suede to protect your iPhone 5. This case is available in Tan and Black.

iLuv Diary Case for iPhone 5

Those with a fondness for carrying around small notebooks and journals will appreciate the Diary case from iLuv. Styled after a bound book, the Diary case features a genuine leather exterior and a hard-shell cradle on its interior. There are two pockets inside for storing credit cards, IDs or cash. This case offers 360 degrees of protection for your iPhone 5. The Diary is only available in Black.

New York, New York iPhone 5 Case

Styled to resemble a designer handbag, the New York, New York iPhone 5 Case from The Joy Factory protects your phone with a healthy dose of whimsy. A silicone interior is present to help resist shocks and scratches. The handle is made of genuine leather and can be used as a wrist strap when you’re talking on the phone. This case also comes with a screen protector and a separate water-resistant sleeve. The New York, New York is available in Black, Lavender, Rose Pink and Turquoise.

Moshi iVisor for iPhone 5

If your main concern is protecting the multi-touch display of your iPhone 5, you should check out the iVisor series from Moshi. They are sheet-style screen protectors that attach with a polymer-based adhesive. They are guaranteed not to bubble and can be applied, washed and reapplied an unlimited number of times. There are two models: the anti-glare iVisor AG version, which is available with Black or White accents, and the iVisor XT, which features optimal touch sensitivity in Black or White.

Enjoy the Freedom of a Wireless Speaker System

Having a speaker system with a dock for your Apple gadget is a nice feature, but the problem is that your iPhone is much more than just a music player. You want to have it at your disposal at all times, and if it’s on the other side of the room secured to a larger piece of electronics, it’s kind of hard to check your Facebook status. The most convenient way to get your tunes to play out of speakers is to obtain a system with wireless reception capabilities. Wireless connections can be made with either Bluetooth or another technology called AirPlay. In this section, we’ll take a look at a few options for both protocols.

Creative Labs D200

The Creative Labs D200 is a sleek and simple powered speaker system that connects to your iPhone 5 through Bluetooth 2.1. Pairing it with an Apple device is typically very easy, and the wireless range is up to 32.8 feet (10 meters), but could be less depending on your environment. Owners of this unit are generally satisfied with the sound quality and ease of use. This model requires AC power, so it must be plugged in and cannot be used with batteries.

Wolverine BTunes

If you need to rove further away from your speakers, the compact Wolverine BTunes connects through Bluetooth and offers up to 100 feet (30 meters) of range. The Btunes has built-in speakers and an internal rechargeable battery, so it can be used outdoors. It charges via an included AC adapter, or when connected to a computer through USB. The BTunes also features a 3.5mm auxiliary input, and a short cable is provided to connecting non-Bluetooth enabled media players.

Altec Lansing inAir 5000

Larger speaker systems typically deliver a fuller sound, and such is the case with the Altec Lansing inAir 5000, which features two drivers, two tweeters and a rear-firing subwoofer. This system utilizes Apple’s proprietary AirPlay protocol for wireless connection. Getting this system up and running involves downloading a dedicated app for your gadget and connecting to a Wi-Fi network. You only have to go through the set-up process once, and sending music to it is a breeze from then on. 

Samsung DA-E750

Vintage styling and vacuum tube circuitry unite with wireless Bluetooth and AirPlay streaming technology with the Samsung DA-E750 audio system. It features 100 watts total power, two speakers and a down-firing subwoofer. The DA-E750 supplies ample volume, and it’s compatible with both Apple and Samsung’s popular Galaxy series devices. Vacuum tubes and digitally controlled components combine to deliver a warm and articulate sound.

Sony NS310 Wireless Speaker

Not all AirPlay-compatible speaker systems are large, and the Sony NS310 is a good example of this. There is no battery-power option on this unit, so it must be plugged in to AC; however, it’s compact enough to pick up and carry into another room with ease. A free app is provided to help guide you through the setup process, and another app enables you to send it music from Pandora and other Web-based streaming services. An auxiliary input is provided to connect non-wireless media players.

Headphones: The Essential Accessory

Even though the iPhone 5 comes with a pair of Apple’s new EarPods, you eventually may want to consider upgrading. There are some great headphone options out there that deliver a comfortable fit, excellent sound and some really convenient extra features.

Klipsch Image S4i (II)

With tangle-resistant flat cables and an in-line, three-button remote, the Klipsch Image S4i (II) is a really nicely rounded set of earphones. Available in Black or White, the Image S4i (II) feature Klipsch’s patented oval ear tips, a shape that better matches your ear canal for a more natural sound. The three-button remote lets you adjust volume, control playback and answer calls. Multiple sizes of soft eartips are included so you can find the perfect fit.

Urbanears Plattan Plus Headphones

In-ear headphones are great to have, but having a good pair of full-sized headphones is also essential. A popular choice that both sound and look great are Urbanears Plattan Plus Headphones. These headphones rest on your ears, and do a good job of attenuating ambient noise. They have an Apple-certified in-line remote and mic for taking calls on your iPhone, and controlling playback and volume. What’s really neat is that the right earcup has an output jack, which allows another person to connect their headphones and listen to the music with you.

urbeats by Dr. Dre Earphones  

The wild success of Beats by Dr. Dre has been an international cultural phenomenon, so if you’re looking to upgrade your earphones, a really popular way to go is with the urbeats. With metal housings, these earphones are designed for rough everyday use. An in-line microphone and button enable you to answer calls on your iPhone 5 without needing to pop them out of your ears. Four sets of eartips and a storage pouch are included.

Thanks for reading this article. Hopefully, it gave you some ideas on how you can outfit your sweet iPhone 5. If you have any further thoughts or questions, we encourage you to contact a B&H Sales Associate via live chat, over the phone or in our New York SuperStore. Please feel free to submit a Comment, below.