by Josh Centers
Here’s a common problem: you’re doing stuff around the house and want to listen to music from your iPhone. There are numerous ways to do that, but many of the obvious ones have downsides. You could:
- Just listen to the iPhone’s speakers. That might be OK on an iPhone 7, which has stereo sound, but older iPhones don’t have as good volume or sound quality.
- Connect to wireless Bluetooth speakers, but good ones are expensive, and even those don’t sound great, plus you’ll have another battery to charge.
- Use headphones, but wired headphones snag easily, and wireless ones tend to be expensive and have battery issues.
- Plug into wired speakers, which can be a good solution but requires more setup. And, of course, new iPhones will need a Lightning-to-headphone adapter.
- Stream over AirPlay to an Apple TV or to an AirPort Express base station connected to a stereo. That works but isn’t cheap or quick to set up, can suffer from audio dropouts, and may be on the way out if Apple stops making AirPort base stations.
- Stream to a Chromecast Audio device, but it has to be plugged into wired speakers, and Chromecast doesn’t work with Apple Music.
- Stream to a Sonos system, which is reportedly excellent, but by far the most expensive of these solutions.
Happily, there’s a simpler, cheaper solution for casual listening, one that requires no electricity and looks good in your home or office. Enter the Mangobeat, the brainchild of Germain Ekamby in Alpharetta, Georgia.
The Mangobeat is an all-natural, wooden amplifier for your iPhone. It’s carved from Thai mango wood grown in sustainably managed forests, thus the name.
Simply set your phone down in its leather slot and the Mangobeat’s horn-like shape does the rest. Don’t worry about the Mangobeat rolling off your counter, because it has flat spots milled on the bottom to prevent that. It’s that simple, and it works great. The slot holds iPhones of any size, even my beefy iPhone 7 Plus in Apple’s leather case.
I showed off the Mangobeat on a recent MacJury holiday gift guide episode.
Mangobeat won’t compete with a high-quality powered speaker, but the improvement in volume and clarity over the phone’s unassisted speaker is clear. Better yet, it’s a durable conversation piece that’s always available. You never have to worry about whether the batteries are charged, if a cable is handy, or if your network will flake out. I’d say that it’s plug-and-play, but you don’t have to plug anything into anything else.
I purchased my Mangobeat directly from Germain Ekamby at the Gatlinburg Craftsmen’s Fair a few months ago, and it has been a constant companion in our kitchen ever since (you can order yours through Etsy). It’s extremely durable and has withstood all the abuse our three-year-old has thrown at it, without even a scratch.
The Mangobeat comes in a variety of colors and designs, and costs just $35.99. Whether you’re looking for a way to improve ad hoc iPhone listening or are searching for an affordable and unusual gift that won’t suffer from any compatibility issues, the Mangobeat is worth a look.