Give a big hand for the iPhone glove

WE'VE had cases to protect them, speaker systems to make them louder and armbands to allow you to exercise with them as your constant companion.

Now iGloves to keep your all-important fingers warm are the latest accessory for keeping precious iPods, iPhones and other touch-screen devices in use during the coming winter.

The new generation of music players and smartphones can be difficult to use in the cold as they need the electrical charge conducted by bare fingertips to operate.

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A battle has now broken out among specialist glove manufacturers for the custom of the millions of iPod and iPhone users, whose numbers are about to soar.

The models now being offered for sale on the internet range from the rather lo-tech gloves with flaps at the end of the fingertips to versions with rubber dots to simulate finger feel and to gloves that carry electrical current. Apple, whose iPhone dominates the market, took out a patent on an iGlove earlier this year, while Karl Lagerfeld, style director at Chanel, is reported to be working on an upmarket glove for the fashion market.

One manufacturer, US-based Dot Gloves, said its version was aimed specifically at countries such as Scotland where winters can be notoriously chilly.

The problem for device users is that normal gloves are too cumbersome or slide over the glossy screen, designed to be activated by bare fingers.

The new gloves cost 10-30 a pair, depending on the design. Some, like Dot Gloves, incorporate three electro-static rubber "dots" in the fingertips to connect users with their screens even in the harshest of climates. Microfibre palm grips make sure they do not slip from freezing hands.

Another version, Freehand Stretch – made of wetsuit material – has fingertip flaps that allow fingers to touch the screen. The North Face E-tip has metallic fingertips to activate the smartphone. The patent filed by Apple proposes special gloves for iPhone users that have an extra inner layer, which would enable the screen to recognise the touch of a gloved digit.

Branding experts predict the new gloves will become a sales phenomenon after an expected rush of smartphones sales this winter, when O2's exclusive deal to sell the gadgets comes to an end.

The new touchscreen Palm Pre, from Palm, goes on sale in the UK this week, adding to the smartphone options that include the BlackBerry and T-Mobile Android.

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Although the gloves are only available through the internet at present, high street retailers will stock them as sales lift off, experts say.

Stephen Cheliotis, chairman of the UK Cool Brands Council and an analyst of consumer trends, said the gloves were part of a "massive industry" that had grown up around the popularity of the smartphone and other devices.

"In countries like Scotland, Canada and Norway, use of iPhones has been made more difficult by cold weather in the winter," he said. "The touch screens simply don't work if you have gloves on.

"These gloves will no doubt sell well and could well be an ever present on the high street before long.

"If the gloves are designed to look technical rather than fashionable, that might appeal to male consumers. There should also be more fashionable models for the female market."

Media consultant and blogger Shaun Milne, who has had an iPhone for two years, said: "There are problems using iPods and iPhones when you have gloves on. I can see these iGloves taking off.

"I have seen these on sale online, and think they do look quite cool, so they might be very popular with young iPhone users. For me, I could think of better things to spend my money on."

The company behind the new gloves claims they are specifically designed for cold countries like Scotland.

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A spokesman for Dot Gloves said: "If you own an iPhone and are in Scotland you'll know what it's like using the iPhone on those cold winter days.

"The screen doesn't work with gloves on and trying to use that iPhone touch screen with cold fingers is not an easy thing to do, but the gloves are a way around this."

Although aimed at recreational iPod and smartphone users, the company claims they could also be vital for outdoor workers, who need access to instant communications, such as telecom engineers, or even emergency services.

Apple has sold more than 30million iPhones – 200,000 in Scotland – since the gadget first went on sale in June 2007. Research by marketing consultants Gartner suggests demand for high-end smartphones may increase by 27 per cent in the next 12 months.

The new gloves are being marketed online prior to the expected boom. Apple's exclusive deal with mobile operator O2 to sell iPhones is about to expire, sparking an anticipated rush of sales as prices fall in the run-up to Christmas.

Orange and Vodafone have announced plans to enter the lucrative market in the next few weeks.