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  • Physical Graffiti

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    • This album bears every flavor of genius from the five records that came before. It is, I believe, the band's finest. With Physical Graffiti, Zep came raging back to their musical home territory -- har
  • Clap Your Hands Say Yeah

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      Each song immediatel

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In-Depth Review

iHome iP99 Clock Radio & Audio System for iPhone

The iHome iP99 is the first iPod clock radio and audio system I've tested that is certified by Apple and bears the, "Works with iPhone" seal of approval. I had high hopes since other clock radios either displayed an error message (more on this in a moment), made ugly noises when an iPhone was nearby, made ugly noises when an iPhone was nearby and ringing, or all of the above. So a clock radio speaker system designed specifically to work with the iPhone sounded like a winner to me.

Alas, although the iHome iP99 has some very appealing features, "Works with iPhone" is a bit of a misnomer. While the iP99 does work pretty nicely with both the original iPhone and iPhone 3G, it has one fatal flaw that is a definite deal-breaker, at least for me.

I'll explain about that in a moment, but first, here are a few things I really liked about the iP99:

  • Very good audio quality for such a compact unit.
  • Small enough to fit on a crowded nightstand.
  • Unlike some other alarm clock systems, it offers an 8-level brightness control so the LCD display won't keep you awake at night.
  • The remote control is more functional than some others, offering iPod/iPhone menu navigation; treble, bass, and SRS WOW controls; snooze and sleep controls; radio presets; and more.

While those are appealing features, they are offset by one major flaw and a couple of minor ones.

The deal-breaker for me is that if your iPhone (original or 3G) rings when it's in the iP99's dock and you're listening to radio, an extremely ugly noise results. You don't have to take my word for it. I plugged in my trusty Blue Snowflake microphone and captured the ugly sound so you could judge for yourself. Click here: iP99 ringing with radio on.m4a to hear it. Would you enjoy hearing that when your iPhone rings while the radio is playing? I thought not.

In all fairness, if you don't listen to the radio while your iPhone is docked, this ugliness won't affect you. So if you are listening to music playing on your iPhone, for example, and a call comes in, the music's volume decreases gracefully and your iPhone ringtone plays through the iP99's speakers, just as you'd expect.

Which brings up another, albeit less serious, issue: If you answer a call while your iPhone is in the iP99's dock, you'll hear your caller through the iP99's speakers. So far so good. Unfortunately, your caller won't hear you very well unless your mouth is a couple of feet away from your iPhone, even if you put your iPhone in speakerphone mode. So you usually have to pull the phone out of the dock or use a bluetooth headset (which is what I do) to use the phone.

There was one other issue that was irksome but didn't affect the system's functionality -- when I docked my iPhone 3G I received the dreaded "This accessory is not made to work with iPhone."

Since my first generation iPhone had no such issue, I asked iHome what the deal was. Here's what they told me:

We have received word that some owners of iHome?s iP99 may have received a message ? ? not made to work with iPhone? on their iPhone3G when docked.? In the event this message appears on your iPhone3G simply press ?No? and begin enjoying the full functionality of your iHome.

Please know that the iP99 is certified by Apple as a ?Works with iPhone? product, and is completely safe to use with your new iPhone3G.

It turned out that was the case. The error message was apparently in error itself, and other than the aforementioned noise issue (which also affects first generation iPhones), the iPhone 3G was fully functional after tapping the No button.

The Bottom Line

The iP99 is a pretty nice iPod clock radio/speaker system, especially if you use it with an iPod. If you intend to use it with an iPhone, however, the noise you'll hear when a call comes in while the radio is on could be a deal breaker for you as it was for me.

Just The Facts

Pros:Good audio quality, nice size for nightstands, brightness control, full-featured remote control.

Cons:Horrible noise when call comes in while radio is playing, difficult to use the phone while it's docked, false error message with iPhone 3G, expensive.

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