For many iPhone X owners, two of the most hotly anticipated upcoming Apple products are accessories. Both previewed during last fall’s keynote address at Steve Jobs Theater, the AirPower wireless charging mat and AirPods wireless charging case arrive on the heels of another high-profile Apple accessory – the HomePod.
While Apple’s accessory strategy is more ambitious and important to their success than ever before, the company’s assent for accent has a storied past. Just like the products they complement, accessories come and go with the seasons, and after touring desk drawers and closet shelves for a few years often find themselves abandoned by time.
Browsing the halls of obscure and forgotten Apple accessories reveals a winding and surprising assortment of products. From cases, to cables, to chargers, how many do you know?
Lightning to Micro USB Adapter
The iPhone 5 was the first iOS device to drop the familiar 30-pin connector for charging and syncing in favor of the Lightning port. Alongside the phone’s introduction in September 2012, Apple quietly released the Lightning to Micro USB adapter for the European market.
The dongle appeased an odd EU legislation that made it necessary for all smartphones to offer a micro USB connection. In November 2012, Apple made the adapter available to customers in the United States. You can still pick one up on Apple’s website today for $19.
The original Apple Remote debuted alongside the iMac G5 in October 2005, and was designed to work with Apple’s Front Row home theater application for Mac OS X and universal iPod docks. The first-generation remote looked a lot like the original iPod shuffle, and was made entirely out of plastic. Power came from a small, button cell battery that popped out of the bottom of the device. The Apple TV adopted the Apple Remote as its controller when it went on sale in 2007.
Apple released a longer, aluminum redesign of the remote in 2009, complementing the maturing aesthetic of newer Macs and iOS devices. While you can still buy the remote on Apple’s website for $19, Front Row no longer exists, and iPods are mostly a thing of the past.
Today, Apple ships the more modern Siri Remote with new Apple TVs, which includes a touch surface instead of a directional pad.
Apple USB SuperDrive
One of the biggest concerns for early adopters of the MacBook Air was how to use existing CDs and DVDs with a computer that had no optical disk drive. Apple’s solution was to offer the MacBook Air SuperDrive, which debuted alongside the original Air in January 2008.
As other computers in Apple’s lineup stopped offering internal optical drives, the product was rebranded as the Apple USB SuperDrive, compatible with all Macs manufactured after 2008. Today, most people have completely moved on from physical media, but you can still buy a USB SuperDrive from Apple for $79 if you’re looking for an expensive dose of nostalgia.
iPhone TTY Adapter
First introduced for the original iPhone in 2007, Apple’s TTY Adapter is probably one of the most niche accessories the company has ever made. The 3.5mm adapter is designed to let an iPhone interface with standard TTY accessibility devices. Despite the fact that the iPhone X, 8, 8 Plus, 7 and 7 Plus have no headphone jack, Apple still sells the adapter for $19. Since iOS 10, you can make TTY calls from your iPhone without using additional hardware.
Pride Edition and International Collection Woven Nylon Apple Watch bands
In June 2016, Apple distributed special pride-themed Watch bands to employees participating in San Francisco’s annual LGBT Pride Parade. A year later, the same bands were made available to the general public for $49 on Apple’s website. By September, the bands were no longer for sale, making them one of the shortest lived Apple Watch collections to date.
Even more limited was Apple’s International Collection of nylon bands created for the 2016 Olympic Games. A series of 14 bands themed after the flags of competing countries debuted in time for the start of the games in August 2016. While the bands sold for the same $49 as other nylon designs, they were available exclusively at Apple VillageMall in Rio de Janeiro.
This past January, Apple created a special Activity ring-themed band for employees participating in an internal wellness challenge. The band has not yet been made available to the general public.
iPod touch loop
The fifth-generation iPod touch was the first and only iOS device to include a mounting button for a color-matched loop accessory. The iPod touch has long been a favorite choice for children, and the loop was designed to save iPods from costly falls.
OS X Lion USB Thumb Drive
OS X Lion was the first version of Apple’s desktop operating system to ship after the release of the Mac App Store, and the first version of OS X not distributed on DVD. To accommodate users unable to upgrade by digital download, Apple offered the OS X Lion USB Thumb Drive in 2011 and 2012.
At $69, it was significantly more expensive than the $29.99 App Store version of the operating system. While a similar thumb drive was not offered for subsequent releases of OS X, Apple did bundle the drive with MacBook Airs for a time prior to Lion’s release.
Apple Universal Dock
As the iPod line diversified, the need arose for a dock that could support any device with a 30-pin connector. In 2005, Apple released the first of three versions of its Universal Dock. A revision in 2007 brought a tweaked design and bundled the Apple Remote, and a final version in 2010 added new dock adapters and the refreshed Apple Remote.
The Universal Dock wasn’t refreshed to support the iPhone 5 in 2012, and it wasn’t until September 2013 that Apple re-entered the market with dedicated iPhone 5s and 5c docks. A standard Lightning dock debuted in 2015, months after the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. Today, aluminum versions are available in 4 color-matched finishes.
Apple Battery Charger
The Magic Trackpad was the third member in Apple’s desktop accessory line to rely on AA batteries for power. Alongside its introduction came the Apple Battery Charger, an environmentally friendly initiative.
Bundled with 6 AA batteries, the charger was priced at $29. In 2015, when versions of the Magic Mouse, Magic Trackpad, and rebranded Magic Keyboard were released with built-in rechargeable batteries, the need for an external battery charger was diminished. Apple now provides information on how to maximize your battery performance.
iPad Camera Connection Kit
iPhone photography was significantly less popular in 2010 when the original iPad was released. At the time, Apple’s iPad Camera Connection Kit was the best way to get photos from your digital camera onto your iPad for viewing and editing. Like the iPod Camera Connector before it, the dongle used the 30-pin connector for data transfer from a USB device or SD card. Early adopters quickly discovered that other USB devices could be unofficially used with the kit, too.
iPad Keyboard Dock
Long before the iPad Pro Smart Keyboard, there was the iPad Keyboard Dock. Launched in 2010 and discontinued with the release of the iPad 2 in 2011, the $69 accessory was essentially Apple’s wireless keyboard with a 30-pin dock connector instead of AA batteries.
With a set of iOS-specific function keys and the exact same key travel as a standard keyboard, the dock brought a true desktop feel to the iPad. However, the reliance on the 30-pin connector for power and connectivity meant that the iPad had to be in portrait orientation while in use. This constraint led some to prefer third-party solutions or Bluetooth keyboards.
First-generation iPad Case
Another forgotten iPad accessory is Apple’s first-generation multifunction case. While customers were still figuring how best to integrate the iPad into their workflows, Apple predicted that watching video and typing would be popular activities. The case’s cover was designed to flip around and fold to create a stand for the iPad in both upright and typing positions.
iPod shuffle in polished stainless steel
In September 2009, Apple refreshed the storage capacity and colors of the third-generation iPod shuffle, adding an Apple store exclusive version with a polished stainless steel finish. The device was functionally identical to every other model in the lineup except in price, retailing with 4GB of storage for $99 instead of the standard $79. A year later, Apple replaced the entire line with a completely redesigned iPod shuffle.
Apple would employ a similar product strategy with the first-generation Apple Watch in 2015. Stainless steel and gold watches were functionally identical to the entry-level Sport collection, but were priced significantly higher. Both the premium Apple Watches and exclusive iPod Shuffle before it were positioned as fashion products.
iPhone Bluetooth Headset and Travel Cable
As with the iPad a few years later, Apple experimented with several unusual accessories for the original iPhone when it debuted in 2007. One of the more interesting was the iPhone Bluetooth Headset, which today could be mistaken for prototype AirPods.
Unlike AirPods, however, the Bluetooth Headset was designed first around making calls, not listening to music and using Siri. Since the earpiece didn’t ship with any kind of charging case, Apple bundled (and later sold separately), a Travel Cable that allowed you to charge both your phone and the headset simultaneously.
iPhone Dual Dock
Complementing the iPhone Bluetooth Headset was the iPhone Dual Dock, a $49 accessory that was exactly what it sounds like – a dual docking station for your iPhone and Bluetooth Headset. The dock was never updated to fit the iPhone 3G in 2008, and was discontinued following its release. Today, the dock feels like an ancestor of the AirPower charging mat – a unified station for charging your iPhone and accessories.
Nike + iPod Sport Kit
Leather Case for iPod and iPod nano
When Steve Jobs unveiled the iPod Hi-Fi in early 2006, he also announced a line of leather cases for the first-generation iPod nano and fifth-generation iPod. Made of Italian leather with a microfiber interior, both cases sold for a pricey $99.
Unlike Apple’s leather iPhone cases, the iPod models came only in black and were designed to protect your iPod during travel, not during use. A small ribbon at the top of case let you easily pull the iPod out completely or just enough to view the screen. The cases were never refreshed for the final iPod classic or second-generation iPod nano.
iPod Radio Remote
In today’s era of streaming music, the idea of listening to FM radio on an iPod sounds quaint, but in January 2006, it was a big enough deal to warrant its own press release out of the Macworld Expo.
The $49 iPod Radio remote was an intermediary device that attached to an iPod or iPod nano via the dock connector, and offered a headphone jack on the other end for connecting a bundled pair of shorter Apple earbuds. The iPod’s software was updated to display radio controls, but the remote itself provided eyes-free control.
In September 2009, when the fifth-generation iPod Nano gained built-in support for FM radio, Apple discontinued the iPod Radio Remote.
iPod nano Lanyard Headphones
Unlike the iPod mini before it, the iPod nano was thin and light, and built using flash storage instead of a spinning hard drive. The device was so light that Apple released a set of headphones in 2005 that doubled as a lanyard, turning the iPod nano into a wearable of sorts. The headphones were updated for the second-generation iPod nano in 2006, but were abandoned during the transition to the “fat Nano” in 2007.
iPod nano Tubes
The original iPod nano gained a reputation for being easy to scratch, even leading to a class action lawsuit and settlement agreement with Apple.
One of the more affordable protection options for those worried about damaging their iPods was a set of iPod nano Tubes. The $29 set of 5 tubes came in clear, blue, purple, green, and pink, depending on your mood. The cases were made of silicon and were compatible with the iPod nano Lanyard Headphones.
iPod mini Lanyard
Similar to the iPod nano Lanyard Headphones and iPod shuffle lanyard, Apple offered an optional lanyard for the iPod mini as well. The accessory was priced at $19 and was discontinued with the introduction of the iPod nano. iLounge reviewed the lanyard in 2005.
First-generation iPod shuffle accessories
Starting at just $99 in 2005, the original iPod shuffle was practically an accessory itself. Yet for an additional $29 each, Apple offered a surprisingly comprehensive variety of uncommon add-ons for the entry-level music player. An Armband, Sport Case, Dock Connector, and Battery Pack were some of the most notable offerings, all of which were discontinued when Apple redesigned the iPod shuffle in 2006. Only the iPod’s dock would be updated for the new design, coming standard in the box.
Macworld reviewed the Sport Case back in 2005, offering a in-depth look at the obscure accessory. Interestingly enough, the case shipped with a headphone jack dongle to preserve its water protection abilities.
A fan favorite for many years, iPod Socks enjoyed a considerably long life in Apple’s online store, first introduced in October 2004, and not removed from sale until 2012. Apple claimed that the socks were compatible with every single iPod and iPhone model from the original 5GB iPod in 2001 all the way through the iPhone 4s.
iPod Socks shipped in a pack of six vibrant shades of green, purple, grey, blue, orange, and pink for $29. Like other early Apple cases, the socks were designed only to protect iPods during travel rather than in use.
AirPort Express Stereo Connection Kit with Monster Cables
When the AirPort Express shipped in 2004, it was the first Apple router to support AirTunes (later AirPlay), an easy way to stream music wirelessly in your home. To make the set up process easier, Apple offered an optional $39 AirPort Express Stereo Connection Kit.
The kit included a Monster mini-to-RCA left/right audio cable, a Monster mini-to-optical digital Toslink audio cable and an AirPort Express power extension cord. By connecting your stereo to an AirPort Express, it would instantly become available for music streaming.
In 2012, Apple redesigned the AirPort Express but did not release a similar stereo kit for the new model.
iPod mini and nano Armband
From January 2004 until September 2010, Apple sold first-party armbands for the iPod mini and later the iPod nano. The band’s design was updated for every single generation of iPod from the original iPod mini through the fourth and fifth-generation iPod nano. Each band was priced at $29, and let users exercise while keeping their device safe and easy to access.
When the tiny sixth-generation iPod nano debuted in 2010, wearing the device as a watch became popular, although Apple didn’t offer an official first-party band. Today, the Apple Watch fills the void left by the iPod nano.
iPod In-Ear Headphones
For those seeking a more premium listening experience than offered by standard earbuds, Apple introduced the iPod In-Ear Headphones in January 2004. The original set was priced at $39 and complemented the styling of Apple’s cheaper earbuds that were bundled with every iPod. Three different sized caps were included that could be swapped out for a better fit.
In September 2008, Apple moved their premium earbuds upmarket, announcing the Apple In-Ear Headphones with Remote and Mic for $79. Aside from a higher price tag, the new headphones featured more impressive sound isolation and were designed with the iPhone in mind. The second-generation earbuds are still available for the same price, but use the now-obsolete 3.5mm headphone jack to connect.
iSight camera and Accessory Kit
Before the term was used to reference the cameras on older iOS devices, iSight was the name of Apple’s external video conferencing camera, announced alongside iChat AV at WWDC 2003. The camera mounted on any Mac’s display or on your desk, since none of Apple’s computers had built-in cameras at the time.
Even more uncommon than the camera itself was an optional $29 accessory kit that included four multipurpose mounts. Design blog Minimally Minimal offers an in-depth retrospective look at the camera’s design and mounts.
The iSight camera wasn’t Apple’s first attempt in the videoconferencing space. All the way back in 1995, the company released the forgotten QuickTime Video Conferencing Camera 100.
iPod Carrying Case with Belt Clip
Early iPods were bundled with a lot of accessories. Starting in 2002 for the second and third-generation models, Apple included a Carrying Case with Belt Clip in the box, made out of a high-quality Schoeller woven nylon.
Later, when the Dock Connector replaced FireWire for charging and syncing iPods, Apple updated the case and started selling it for $39 as a standalone accessory. It would be replaced in 2006 by leather iPod cases.
iPod Remote and Earphones
Just like the aforementioned Carrying Case with Belt Clip, Apple’s iPod Remote and Earphones were bundled with higher capacity second and third-generation iPods, and beginning in 2004, sold for $39 as a standalone accessory.
Unlike the current wired EarPods which include a remote and microphone, the iPod Remote and Earphones could be clipped on your shirt or disconnected at the remote.
eMac Tilt and Swivel stand
Even while it was actively for sale, the eMac was a relatively obscure member of Apple’s Mac lineup. The computer was sold primarily to educational institutions, and eventually became the last member of the Mac family with a CRT display.
Apple sold an uncommon and optional Tilt and Swivel stand for the eMac, lifting the machine three inches off a desk and meeting European ergonomic certification standards.
The eMac was superseded by a special education model of the iMac in 2006.
DVI to ADC Adapter
Apple has absorbed a considerable amount of criticism in recent years over the need to use dongles and adapters to connect legacy hardware to the company’s increasingly wireless products. Today’s inconveniences seem minor, however, when compared to the massive DVI to ADC Adapter that Apple introduced in 2002.
The adapter was designed to connect to a PowerBook G4 and drive the 23-inch Apple Cinema Display. Power Mac G4 users could use the adapter to drive a dual display setup. The adapter included active processing hardware inside that regenerated both the digital graphics and USB signals coming from the computer.
Weighing almost 2 pounds and measuring 5 inches wide and 1.58 inches deep, the adapter was significantly larger and heavier than an Apple TV. Apple sold the accessory online for $99 through at least 2010.
DVD-R media kit
Apple introduced iDVD in January 2001 as a consumer-friendly tool for creating and authoring your own home movies. Of course, burning DVDs requires buying blank discs to write to. Apple’s solution was to sell their own DVD-R media kits online and at Apple retail stores.
Apple continued to promote iDVD and the SuperDrive for several years, until customers began favoring streaming media over optical discs.
Apple Pro Speakers
The Apple Pro Speakers began their story in 2000 with the Power Mac G4 Cube, the ill-fated desktop housed inside an 8-inch cube. Apple partnered with Harmon Kardon to create a set of custom speakers that were bundled with the computer and connected with a custom USB interface that only worked with the G4 cube.
In January 2001, Apple updated the Power Mac G4 with a new digital audio system and began offering a reconfigured version of the G4 Cube’s speakers as a $59 accessory. The new Apple Pro Speakers connected with a proprietary Apple speaker minijack that provided both power and audio.
AirPort Card and Base Station
When the original spaceship-style AirPort base station was released in 1999, Macs didn’t ship with built-in WiFi connectivity. Instead, Apple offered the AirPort Card, and later the AirPort Extreme Card to let users add wireless capabilities to their Macs.
Apple Studio Display (15-inch flat-panel)
While many long-term Mac users will remember Apple’s large CRT Studio Displays, the product line actually began with a relatively forgotten LCD display all the way back in 1998. The 15-inch flat panel Apple Studio Display was housed in a dark blue translucent case that didn’t match any of Apple’s other products at the time, but foreshadowed the iMac G3‘s design.
The display was replaced less than a year later in January 1999, when it was refreshed with a tweaked color scheme that matched the blue and white Power Mac G3 tower. The entire Studio Display line was redesigned and expanded in 2000.
While the accessories mentioned above represent relatively recent products, Apple has been building accessories for its computers since the days of the Apple II. While some have been forgotten, others will live on as favorites. Who could forget the iPhone 4 bumper or the classic white iPod earbuds? Let us know in the comments how many of the accessories mentioned you owned, or if you would add any to the list.
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