The little silicone amplifier that sort of, kind of could

While shopping at the dollar store, my daughter and I stumbled across one of these: a silicone iPhone amplifier. For a buck? She looked at me, I looked at her. She won. The little amplifier came home with us for a test run.

My tiny battery speaker set has been a subject of dispute between us. She borrows it; she blasts horrific music; she forgets to switch it off; she goes through batteries like a ravenous bear goes through a dumpster. We decided to see if a power-free US$1 amplifier would solve the problem.

You stick the phone into the unit -- it's a bit of a squeeze, and you can't use a bumper or a case with it. It's important that the device is fully inserted because the horn depends on the placement of the phone's speaker.

Turns out the horn is also dependent on the placement of the phone's listener as well. Because although the amplifier does what it advertises, the cone is such that it does a pretty poor job of projecting to an entire room -- even a small girl's bedroom. I'm not saying the device is bad -- it's actually pretty good at projection, but that projection is unsurprisingly directional and more suitable for aiming at particular people than covering an entire space.

So who will this device be useful for? It's really hard to say. Nearly every scenario I could brainstorm would be better solved with either headphones or a normal docked speaker system. Maybe it would work well in a hotel room? For a modest sound boost?

What these little things have going for them is that 1) they're cute as buttons and 2) super cheap. Even if your dollar store doesn't have one, you can pick one up shipped off Amazon for under three bucks.

In the end, I'm glad we didn't pay retail for a device that's going to end up being donated to Goodwill or gather dust in a drawer.