Review: naviPod (iPod Wireless Remote Control)
Requirements: iPod (there are different versions of the naviPod for different iPods)
I’m a gadget geek. There, I said it. Some gadgets make it worth being saddled with this label, though, and the naviPod is one of them. I don’t need a remote control for my iPod, because it’s rarely out of arm’s reach, but having one is a convenience I’m certainly not complaining about. Those of you who use your iPods as part of a home stereo system, or who use them heavily in the car and don’t want to deal with reaching for the iPod to change tracks, will greatly appreciate this device.
The naviPod is a three-piece unit, consisting of a wireless IR remote control about 25% larger than a silver dollar, an IR receiver about the size of a container of dental floss that snaps onto the top of the iPod and occupies the FireWire and audio-out ports, and a chrome-plated metal stand that snaps into the back of the IR receiver. The whole apparatus is quite attractive, with the two electronics modules matching the iPod’s plastics and the stand matching the iPod’s chrome casing. Assembly is very intuitive, in the spirit of the Macintosh experience, requiring only the joining of the IR receiver and the iPod and the receiver with its metal stand. The only assembly issue I had was with the alignment of the FireWire and audio plugs on the IR receiver, which are designed to be somewhat adjustable, since the spacing between FireWire and audio-out ports on the various iPods differs slightly. A quick adjustment to the FireWire plug achieved perfect alignment and no further issues were had.
Remote performance is on par with a typical IR remote control for your television or VCR. I had no problems operating the unit at a distance of up to 30 feet, with a clear line of sight to the receiver. It remains to be seen how long the included CR2032 lithium button-cell battery will last, but I anticipate it to be similar to other IR remotes (i.e., a few years). Battery life on the iPod is shortened slightly, but probably not enough to be an issue, since the purpose of the naviPod is to be used in a semi-permanent setting where AC power is likely to be readily available.
The remote, like the wired remotes included with Apple’s second-generation iPods (and available separately for first-generation models with manual scroll wheels), controls audio functions only, including volume, play/pause, and skipping forward or backward track-by-track. The skip buttons function just as they would on the iPod, acting as fast forward or rewind buttons if held down. The iPod’s remote protocol makes no provision for accessing the menus, and thus the naviPod can’t either.
The biggest drawback to the naviPod is that its included stand renders it unusable with many iPod cases, including Dr. Bott’s own LeatherPod (which itself cannot function effectively as a stand). With the stand removed from the IR receiver, the case can be left in place without much fuss. The manual notes that although the pass-through FireWire jack on the naviPod allows for recharging of the iPod via the power adapter (or via computer), it does not allow for data transfer to or from the iPod, so the naviPod must be removed in order to synchronize your iPod with your Mac. Attempting to synchronize the iPod with a Mac through the naviPod will not damage anything, but it simply doesn’t work.
My only other complaint—albeit a minor one—is with the remote, which, while very attractive, seems to have been designed with a “function-follows-form” attitude in mind. The rounded bottom makes it nearly impossible to set on an angled surface without sliding. TEN should have taken a tip from Bose’s Wave Radio remote and made the naviPod remote rectangular and flat.
I’ve also been told that devices such as Griffin’s iTrip will refuse to work in conjunction with the naviPod; I hope to address some of these potential problems in future reviews. For now, I suggest anyone wishing to use two devices such as these at the same time contact both manufacturers and do some investigating, and please post your findings as feedback below.