If I recall correctly, the first time I saw an Apple Store was in Chicago in 2003, but at that stage I was not the Apple fanboy you see before you today, and so probably didn't get a lot out of it. In Adelaide, we have a small shop masquerading as an Apple Store, but it's not quite the same as the stores in larger US cities. I must admit, all the Mac and iPod gear out on display looks pretty nice, and it's fun just killing some time looking at all the stuff I can't afford. I recall reading some (other) breathless Apple fan commenting on how popular these stores are—they really are almost always completely packed. Now, I don't want to rain on the parade of the renaissaince of Mac popularity, but let me tell you why people flock to these stores: free Internet access. All the machines are net-connected, and anyone can use them for as long as they like at no charge. Which means, in a city like San Francisco where there's (very sadly) no easyInternet chain, you're fighting for standing room with every bored backpacker in a five mile radius.
Anyway, I was in San Francisco recently, and I did spend some time in the Apple Store near Union Square. While two friends dropped $US 399 on their very own 60GB iPods, I headed towards the accessories rack. After the iPod drowning incident of late July, I figured a nice neoprene cover might be in order:
And, from the back:
It's not waterproof, but it should stop me from doing lesser moronic things to the iPod. It cost $US 24. I also bought a Belkin FM transmitter for car use. $US 39.
There were about five different models of FM transmitters. I chose the Belkin for aesthetic reasons, if anything. Frankly, I don't like the look of the iTrips, which seem to be quite popular. Sure, they're white and smooth, but they look like some weird sausage-tumour jacked into the top of the iPod where they sit. So I chose the Belkin because it's standalone: there's a short cord between the headphone jack on the iPod and the transmitter. It has a digital display, and stores four preset frequencies. It works nicely. Oh, and the iTrip, as far as I could tell, came with a CD which I think contained custom software you had to install on the iPod. Err, no thanks. The Belkin transmitter works well in my car, though power consumption is a little hefty. It takes two AAA batteries, and it seems to have almost consumed a pair already after only a few hours of use.