The ins and outie of the iPod touch

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If, while strolling through a dark alley, a ne’er-do-well were to accost you with a threatening mop and demand that you immediately and accurately compare the iPod’s Dock connector to the human belly button, the response most likely to save you from a sodden fate would be “outie.” And why not? Ponder docking an iPod and you think speakers, FM transmitters, multimedia docks, video cables—connections that demand the iPod pass data to another device through its Dock connector.

Unlike “outie” devices, which are extremely common, “innie” devices are just-as-extremely rare. Offhand I can think of these very few—the iPod Camera Connector, the iPod Radio Remote, the handful of iPod microphones that allowed you to record audio via a built-in microphone or line-input, and The iPod + Nike Sport Kit. (I’m not counting those FM transmitters that, through the developers’ wizardry, display frequencies on the iPod’s screen—these, at heart, remain outie devices despite their slick interfaces.)

Rarity aside, the common element that these innie devices share is Apple’s involvement with their existence. Those who make outie devices need only pay Apple for the right to use the Dock connector. Making an innie product is far tougher. The iPod Camera Connector, iPod Radio Remote, and iPod + Nike Sport Kit are home-grown products. Legend has it that iPod microphones worked only because of an Apple-supplied technology. From all appearances Apple kept the ability to access the innards of the iPod to itself.

With the existence of the iPod touch and iPhone, I’m hoping that will change. And the reason I’m hoping that will change is because of Wi-Fi.

An iPod or iPhone with Wi-Fi means you have a conduit to the world in your pocket and this strikes me as a desirable thing. For example:

iPod Camera Connector II In the old days, you could jack your camera into the Camera Connector via a USB cable and upload the pictures to the iPod and view those saved as JPEGs on the iPod. Let’s do all that and more with the next iteration. Connect your point-and-shoot, upload the full-sized images, and email some to mom, send them to an updated version of iPhoto so they’re waiting for you when you get home, or tap an Order Prints button and send them along to Apple’s favorite photo developing service. And if your point-and-shoot does movies, there’s no reason your iPod touch or iPhone couldn’t take those too.

Camera The ability to input images via an all-seeing attachment could be handy. The iPhone has a camera but not the iPod touch. It could with a Dock connector attachment. No camcorder? The camera could handle that too. And where’s Wi-Fi fit in? Web-cam, baby.

Scanner Need to steal into a foreign embassy, obtain classified documents, and send them to The Service? A portable hand scanner attachment could help.

Reader Care to avoid a trip to the cash register? No problem. Just use your iPod’s bar-code reader attachment to input prices and automatically pay the bill with the credit card attached to your Apple ID.

Radio and TV Last time I looked the iPod touch and iPhone lacked an antenna and radio and TV tuner. Perhaps an attachment could bring these capabilities to your favorite portable media player, record their input, and transfer the results to your computer or Apple TV.

Microphone II The iPod as portable recorder is still a fine idea. The iPod touch as a dictaphone and portable VOIP device is even finer.

I understand that Apple may be reluctant to dangle devices from the iPod touch and iPhone. They’re beautiful objects and an attachment could seriously mess with their sleek lines. But oh, the added functionality is tempting, doncha think?

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