Baby stroller with built-in iPod speaker.
We generally don’t review baby strollers on Playlist. But, then again, we generally don’t see baby strollers with “built-in iPod compatibility.” Kolcraft’s iBaby advertises exactly that, and as such brings it firmly within our purview.
As a stroller, the iBaby is an inexpensive “umbrella” stroller similar to Kolcraft’s $40 Tour Sport. Although the iBaby feels a bit flimsy — common for a stroller in this price range — it does include locking rear wheels, shock-absorbing front wheels, a reclining back (the design of which is difficult to use if your baby is actually in the stroller), padded handles, a storage bag in the rear, and a cup holder. The most obvious negatives for the stroller are that it uses a three-point harness, rather than the safer (and fairly common) five-point harness with shoulder straps, and the sun shade is so short from front to back that it’s nearly useless on a sunny day.
The iBaby’s iPod compatibility is provided via a mesh pocket on the side of the sun shade. Inside this pocket is a plastic iPod cradle with a small speaker on the back; the speaker points down into the stroller, towards your child, through a mesh opening in the sunshade. You slide your iPod into the cradle — foam inserts are provided to fit different iPod sizes, though full-size and mini iPods fit the best — and plug the attached cable into your iPod’s headphone jack. It’s easy to put your iPod in the cradle and remove it, which is a good thing, since you’ll need to remove your iPod from the cradle/pocket whenever you want to access its menus or adjust the volume. (The iBaby’s speaker is actually powered by your iPod’s headphone jack, so you control volume using your iPod’s Click Wheel.)
The cradle can also be removed from the pocket; its speaker section pivots away from the cradle to form a makeshift stand for listening away from the stroller. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to get the cradle/speaker assembly out of the mesh pocket. And it’s debatable if you’d want to use the iBaby’s speaker separately: It’s an inexpensive, headphone-jack powered component, and as such produces tinny audio and is limited to very low volumes. (Although, to be fair, the low maximum volume is probably a good thing: You may be tempted to turn the volume up loud enough for you to hear it clearly while pushing the stroller — a volume level that would likely be harmful to your child’s ears, which are sitting very close to the speaker. The low volume level of the speaker prevents this. In fact, I wouldn’t be opposed to the iBaby’s maximum volume being even lower.)
Whether or not playing music for your child in a stroller is a desirable thing is up to each parent. However, if you want to do so, the iBaby isn’t much more expensive than a comparable budget stroller without the iPod cradle and speaker. Just be aware that you get what you pay for: This is indeed a low-cost stroller, and although the iPod cradle and speaker are convenient, sound quality is mediocre at best.–Dan Frakes