iFrogz was back at CES this year. Last year, most of its new products were iPhone and iPad cases, but this year the company is branching out. In addition to a USB gaming headset called the Caliber (it vibrates when loud sounds are played, "enhancing" the audio), iFrogz also has a product called Boost, which is a little speaker about the size of the iPhone, which amplifies whatever you play.
What's interesting is how it works. iFrogz calls it "near-field audio," but essentially what happens is that they've embedded a mic in the speaker itself, and whatever it "hears" coming in gets amplified and pushed out louder than before. It's actually pretty ingenious. As soon as you lay the iPhone (even in a case) on the speaker, any audio it puts out is amplified surprisingly well.
Unfortunately, as you might imagine, the quality suffers quite a bit, so this isn't a device for audiophiles. You'll still hear the sound and even understand lyrics, but if you want your full range of highs and lows to come across, you'll probably just want a set of speakers you can plug into. Still, the novelty of just laying your iPhone on the speaker is neat, and the sound should work well for a desk situation, or even a quiet room.
The speaker is US$39.99, which is actually a little pricey for what it is. But if the idea intrigues you anyway (and you can think of a good use for it), you can check out the Boost when it arrives at retail this Spring.