7 essential travel accessories for the iPhone 3GS (all road tested!)

Enjoying the comforts of home when you hit the road is a whole lot easier when you're packing an iPhone 3GS. Equipped with the best music player in the world, easy e-mail, constant connectivity, and spiffy good looks make it a great travel companion. To do justice to this power-hungry, easily scratched, way-too-delicate, yet versatile iPhone 3GS, you'll need only the best road-tested accessories.

I've been toting an iPhone since its inception, constantly challenging it on the road, and refining its accessory kit as the choices have grown way beyond the manageable level. Two years later, I've narrowed it down to seven essentials that I've personally put through the crucible of various aircraft and their associated airports, multi-thousand-mile road trips, cross-country train travel, and even a boat or two. Here's the hard-won, battle-hardened list.





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1. AT&T Navigator by Telenav

Finally, turn-by-turn navigation finds its way to the iPhone, and this one's almost as good as a Garmin. Its maps are as up-to-date as you can get, and it's traffic-aware, giving you lots of information every step of the way, and there's a gigantic point-of-interest database, otherwise known as The interwebs.

You'll pay a monthly fee of $10 a month directly through your AT&T bill, but the application itself is free on the iTunes app store. Pricey? If you figure a GPS unit costs around $250, and then you have to buy annual map updates, the price is just about right.

Another plus: you can listen to your music on your iPhone at the same time you're navigating. Slight downsides: the iPhone speaker is not loud enough, and constant navigation runs the battery down way too quickly.

Bottom Line: Solid GPS navigation, as long as you keep it charged.




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2. Griffin PowerJolt Auto Charger

If you use that iPhone GPS in your car, don't rely on battery power. This Griffin PowerJolt gives you a USB port, juicing your iPhone better than any charger I've seen. Better still, it has a cool-looking illuminated LED casting an eerie glow on your car's interior.

Strangely enough, not all USB car cigarette lighter adapters will work with the iPhone, but I've used this trusty PowerJolt enough to know that it works beautifully with both the iPhone 3G and 3GS. If you've lost your iPod AC adapter, go for the Griffin Power Duo Charger bundle, a $40 combo that gives you both this PowerJolt and a wall USB adapter that works just as well as Apple's stock model.

Bottom Line: So what if the iPhone 3GS still has batterius interruptus — this handy attachment will let you roll on through the night.




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3. Arkon car mount

You can't just hold that iPhone in your lap when you're navigating the world over. You're going to need a holder, and these low-priced Arkon models fit the bill in oh-so-many ways, holding your precious iCargo securely.

I'm currently using the $20 suction cup mount for the windshield, but you can pick a beanbag mount for the dash, affix it onto any part of the dash with sticky disks, mount one in your cup holder, and there's even a lighter socket pedestal that holds onto your cigarette lighter, and then gives you a pass-through for the outlet.

Bottom Line: Holds that iPhone up in your face any way you want.




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4. MiFi 2200 Intelligent Hotspot

Anywhere you can snag a 3G signal, you can set up an intelligent Wi-Fi hotspot with this tiny trinket. Until AT&T implements iPhone tethering (which could be months from now), this is a great way to share a 3G signal with a bunch of your closest friends, distributing it as Wi-Fi that's accessible with an access code.

We connected an iPod touch, an iPhone 3GS and two notebooks, all sucking beaucoups bandwidth from the MiFi, and it wasn't even breathing hard. It works for four hours on a charge, and setup is a snap. Too bad it's so damn expensive ($99 with 2-year contract, and $60/month for 5GB), or we'd use it all the time.

The MiFi came in especially handy when AT&T's network had crapped out or stepped down to EDGE, while the mighty Verizon 3G kept on going and going. In the hotel room, that Verizon connection was faster than the $12.95 a day in-room Wi-Fi.

Bottom Line: Someday, all broadband will be sucked up this way.




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5. Monster Outlets to Go 3

I don't go anywhere without my Monster Cable Outlets to Go 3, turning scarce power outlets in hotel rooms into a gracious plenty. Sure, Monster Cable is that company that rips off unsuspecting consumers by charging them $75 for a $7 HDMI cable, but never mind that. They have a hit with this $18.46 power strip, whose plug wraps around and plugs into itself for easy packing.

Bottom Line: This is the best portable power strip you can get, and now the Monster Cable Outlets to Go USB can charge up your iPhone.




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6. Incase Slider hard shell case for iPhone 3GS

I like my gadgets naked. But once my lovely traveling companion dropped the brand-new iPhone 3GS onto the pavement, breaking the screen, I learned my lesson. Is there a case that doesn't ruin the iPhone's lovely design? Yes, the $35 incase hard-shell Slider looks better than the iPhone's basic black or white, and doesn't spoil the iPhone's svelte good looks because it's only 1mm thin. No, there's no screen protector, but we're not going to go that far.

Bottom Line: So good, my only regret is that I didn't get the bamboo one.




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7. Sony MDR-NC500D noise-canceling headphones

I've tried a lot of noise-canceling headphones, and these $400 Sony MDR-NC500D cans are the very best in the world. They do their magic when there's a constant sound, such as the wind noise of an airplane traveling at 550 mph, the drone of a train rolling down the track, or the constant whine of tires on pavement.

Pick from three noise profiles, and these phones will give you sweet quiet. You can choose to listen to them without music, or plug them into that iPhone for some great-sounding tunes at a lower volume than you've ever thought possible in a noisy environment.

Bottom Line: Just ditch their clunky case, and they're road-ready — fighting fatigue in a near-miraculous way.