Essential accessories: Clutter busters and travel-bag basics

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Portable power strips: Macally offers a similar but more-portable product in the $25 3-Outlet Power Strip with USB Charger. A little less than half the overall size of the Targus product, and weighing just 4.8 ounces, Macally's version plugs into a single wall outlet and sports three AC outlets--one on the front, one on the left, and one on the right--making it easier to connect bulky power adapters without covering other outlets. The USB-charging ports each provide 1.5A of power; they can charge an iPad, but they do so more slowly than the Targus model. The prongs fold into the body of the charger for travel. Macally says the 3-Outlet Power Strip offers surge protection, but doesn't list the protection rating.

For road warriors who need a USB hub and power, Macally sells the $40 Portable Power Strip with USB 2.0 Hub and Charger. At 5.5 inches long, 2 inches wide, and 1.6 inches thick, this 9.5-ounce power strip is a bit bulkier than the Macally product above, but it boasts two power outlets (alas, two-prong versions), a 2.1A USB-power port for charging an iPad or other tablet, and a four-port powered USB hub. (One of the ports on the hub offers 1A of power for charging an iPhone or other smartphone.) You connect the USB hub to your computer using the built-in, 10-inch USB cable, which slips into a groove in the body of the Power Strip when not in use. The Power Strip comes with a 6-foot power cable, and also offers surge protection via a built-in "power switch with protection circuit breaker"; but as with the 3-Outlet Power Strip, Macally doesn't indicate the protection rating. (The product was originally available in white; the current model, available soon, is black.)

Looking for a permanent fix for the charging challenges in your home or office? Several vendors sell replacement outlets with built-in USB-power ports. We'll have reviews of some of these products later this fall.

Accessories for your accessories

Yes, you can even find accessories for your accessories--or at least for your iPhone and iPad chargers. Most aim to control cable clutter and give you a place to stick your devices during charging.

Go fish: When traveling, many people charge their iPhones and iPads through their laptop's USB ports just so they don't have to deal with packing yet another charger. For those times when the laptop doesn't come along, consider Nice By Design's $16 CableKeeps. Each CableKeep looks like a fish that hosts your iPhone or iPad charger in its gaping mouth; the fish's cleverly designed tail provides a place for you to wrap your USB-charging cable (30-pin or Lightning), with notches to secure the end of the cable. The tail also serves as a convenient stand for an iPhone or iPad during charging.

The CableKeeps Goldie fits Apple's iPhone/iPod charger, the Nibbles accommodates the iPad charger with the standard two-prong plug, and the Gulp fits the iPad charger with Apple's international adapter. Each model is available in five colors: red, orange, green, light blue, or dark blue.

Apple pi: If you like the idea of a built-in charging stand, take a look at the $9 Pi Mount, which snaps onto your iPhone's USB charger--thanks to pi-inspired legs--and provides a convenient cradle to hold your iPhone or iPod, even in a thin case, as it charges. Unfortunately, it offers no cable management, so unless you have a short charging cable, your USB cable will dangle down--I'd love to see the Pi Mount's maker include a 6-inch charging cable, even if doing so increased the price of the Pi Mount. Still, for $9 including shipping, this is an inexpensive option.

Bluelounge's $20 MiniDock and Scosche's $25 ReviveLite II, which we've covered in the past, are a bit more elegant in that they don't have dangling cables. But they're also considerably more expensive--and they work only with older iPhones and iPods that use Apple's 30-pin dock-connector port.

Oodles of options for iPhones, iPads, and iPods

When Apple's new Lightning connector debuted with the most recent iPhones and iPods, it meant that iPhone and iPod accessories originally designed for the older 30-pin dock-connector port would no longer work with the latest devices. And, of course, scads of devices out there still use the 30-pin port. If you don't want to go out and buy new speakers and chargers for your new iPhone, hold on: We're starting to see adapters for newer devices to work with older gear. And many vendors are still making new accessories for older devices.

Lightning adapters: Apple sells a $29 Lightning to 30-pin Adapter and a $39 Lightning to 30-pin Adapter (0.2 m), a 20cm cable version of the adapter. Both let you use older audio and charging accessories with the latest iPhones and iPods. But if you need something longer, CableJive's $30, 20-inch DockBoss+ is designed to let you use your iPhone 5 or new iPod with 30-pin-dock speakers and chargers. You connect the DockBoss+'s 30-pin female connector to your speaker or charger, and then connect your iPhone's Lightning-to-USB cable to the DockBoss+'s USB port--suddenly you have audio and power. (If your speaker dock is older and employs analog audio, use the included 3.5mm audio cable, which connects from your iPhone's headphone jack to a separate audio plug on the DockBoss+.) It's not elegant, but it works.

Dock-connector audio: If you want to pipe high-quality audio to your stereo or speaker system, look to CableJive's updated $11 LineOut Pro, which is a 3-foot cable that connects to the 30-pin dock-connector port on an iPhone, iPod, or iPad to grab that port's higher-quality line-level audio output (in lieu of connecting to the device's headphone jack). The other end of the cable sports a 3.5mm stereo miniplug for connecting to a speaker system, receiver, or car stereo.

Another one of my favorites, also recently updated, is CableJive's $26 DockXtender. This 2-foot extension cable allows you to connect an iPhone, iPad, or iPod to any speaker dock or other 30-pin accessory. It's great for using an iPhone or iPod in a bulky case with a dock that wouldn't otherwise accomodate it, as well as for using an iPad with a dock made for iPhones and iPods. The updated versions of these two cables have a much thinner dock connector that should work with any case that fits Apple's stock dock-connector cable. CableJive says that it has also upgraded the internal wiring of each cable.

Long-distance charging: I'm a huge fan of long dock-connector cables, which give you room to move when you want to use your iPhone, iPad, or iPod while charging. I previously covered a couple options, including Griffin Technology's $30 3 Meter USB to Dock Cable. Another recent alternative, available for the same price, is StarTech's 3-meter Dock Connector to USB Cable. The StarTech version has a slightly thinner (but still heavy-duty) cable that's more flexible than Griffin's product, but the bigger advantage is that while Griffin's dock-connector plug is too thick to work with many iPhone, iPad, and iPod cases, StarTech's plug has a stepped design that's thinner at the end for better case compatibility.

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