At the beginning of every year, the Editors of iLounge judge hundreds—sometimes thousands—of yet-to-be-released iPod and iPhone products, identifying the ones that are the most exciting and promising for the months to come. Hours of looking, testing, and debating culminate in a final group discussion that can last late into the first night of a major trade show, with a small, exclusive group of winners and potential winners selected strictly on the basis of merit.
For the 2010 International CES, we are elated to tell you that the number of potential winners was higher than at any point in memory: companies from around the world debuted a wide variety of innovative new designs for speakers, headphones, cases, apps, and in-car accessories, plus some very cool outside-the-box ideas. What follows is our list of two categories of award recipients: Best of Show winners, and Finalists that were impressive, but a little shy of our top selection standards. We extend our sincere congratulations to all of the winners, and to the entire iPod and iPhone industry, which put on a far better and more interesting show this year than in 2009—a great sign of things to come in 2010.
2010 Best of Show Full Award Winners.
Case-Mate iMakeMyCase.com. Though the cases it produces are simple thin plastic shells, Case-Mate’s iMakeMyCase.com web site is a brilliant idea, providing an animated interface to let you design your own iPhone case with beautiful artistic elements drawn from seven different artists—including really great ones. If you’re not good enough to put something together yourself for $40 shipped, the artists’ premade versions are available for $35.
Dexim Power Case for iPod nano. This new $50 Swiss Army Knife of iPod nano cases includes a full nano-charging battery, an FM radio antenna, a stand, a bigger speaker, and a powerful little LED light set to illuminate your videos—all useful if you don’t need headphone access to your device.
iHome iA100. iHome debuted two different clocks with iPhone/iPod touch application compatibility, and the iA100 ($170) is the more amazing of them—a supercharged sequel to its iP99 that adds Bluetooth connectivity, an iPhone speakerphone, and full compatibility with the company’s iHome + Sleep app.
iHome + Sleep App. iHome’s great new iPhone clock app (free) integrates with its new app-enabled clock radios, turning the iPhone into a beautiful clock screen with multiple alarms—including ones that can update your Facebook and Twitter status with the time and song you woke up to—plus a funny sleep statistic tracker. Way, way smarter than the average clock app.
iHome iP2. The second Bongiovi Acoustics Studio Series speaker from iHome drops the price to $200, layers .75” drivers on top of 3” drivers, and continues to offer powerful sound despite a smaller enclosure. iP2 preserves the prior clear acrylic and black aesthetic while making the curves a little more gender-neutral.
Incipio Dotties Case. Buy an iPhone 3G/3GS or iPod touch case in your choice of colors and then customize its back with included packages of silicone dots, which vary in texture and colors; special camera-ready holes let you leave the camera open or closed… even on a future iPod touch. A very popular item in the iLounge Pavilion; lines have formed to grab them.
Incipio Special Award For Innovation. In recognition of Incipio’s complete lineup of cool and sometimes even groundbreaking new case designs, our special Innovation award broadly covers new and interesting designs such as duroSHOT DRX and Q.
JayBird BlueBuds. We’ve been waiting years for someone to get wireless stereo Bluetooth earbuds right; the $130 BlueBuds are the closest anyone has come. This advanced design uses super-small earpieces connected by a cable to offer iPhone- or iPod touch-to-earbud A2DP streaming, powered by a 4-5 hour rechargeable battery.
Just Mobile Xtand Go. This very nicely designed $40 car mount for the iPhone includes a super-simple adjustable suction cup for windshield attachment, a cradle for bare iPhones, adhesive attachments for encased devices, and a cool new style of pivoting and rotating connector to hold everything together. Versatile and innovative.
Maximo iM-790. The magic of these new $80 metal earphones from Maximo is their ability to switch sound signatures: a smart new bass port design enables you to change from a slightly warm skew to stronger bass, just by turning the cable joints. We were really impressed by both extremes; due in April or thereabouts, this will be a great accessory for people who want to guarantee that they’ll like the bass in their earphones.
Parrot AR.Drone. A stunning example of what can be done with iPhones and iPod touches, this iPhone OS-controlled quadricopter will have its own SDK—open to other developers—transforming Apple’s devices into remote controls for padded hoverplanes. Is this 2010 version of kite flying? Pricing is yet to be announced.
Scosche Bluetooth Plug-and-Play Handsfree and Streaming Audio Car Kit. Two versions of this new car accessory offer users excellent options in bringing iPhone handsfree calling into cars with auxiliary audio ports. Both add a smart user-positionable Bluetooth noise-canceling microphone and an auxiliary audio cable to the car, allowing the vehicle to play phone calls through its speakers; the $60 version lacks stereo Bluetooth streaming support, and the $80 version includes it. Both include chargers and batteries to run for 5 hours of actual use or 24 hours of standby.
Scosche Special Award For Innovation. In recognition of Scosche’s complete lineup of new products, which showed the broadest collection of innovations from any iPod and iPhone company at the 2010 CES.
Speck See-Thru Satin for iPhone 3G + 3GS. Continuing Speck’s series of See-Thru cases, Satin is a high-quality $30 semi-hard case for the iPhone with a soft-touch coating and a strong lineup of current and future colors. The Tiffany-style blue one, available only as a limited edition at Speck’s booth at the show, is especially awesome.
Vestalife Earphone Range: Boa, Bumble Bee + Scarab. Taking their inspiration from ancient Egypt, these three new $25 female-friendly earphones from Vestalife use the same surprisingly impressive drivers, but differ in the looks of their braided fabric cables and housings, which also include cool metallic, clear plastic, and fabric touches. Future versions will add remotes and microphones at higher prices.
XtremeMac TuffWrap Accent. This attractive two-tone textured silicone rubber case design uses playful colors to make your iPhone 3G or 3GS look fun, complete with XtremeMac’s classic case design touches.
Additional 2010 Best of Show Finalists.
Branex iTamtamGo M3. Though the prior versions of this super-sleek, stool-sized speaker by Branex Design were available in Europe, the latest one – iTamtamGo M3 ($400) – includes an 8-hour battery for those who want to remove it from wall power and move it around. A very interesting and innovative design, with multiple drivers providing a 360-degree sound field and a large bass driver for added richness.
Clingo by Allsop Universal Mobile Mount. Allsop employs a slightly sticky but non-adhesive technology called “Clingo” to provide a super-convenient way of mounting any iPhone or iPod instantly in your car: with the $30 Universal Mobile Mount suctioned in place, you simply stick your iPhone or iPod onto the green surface, which provides a secure but non-permanent bond until you’re ready to pull it off. Works with or without cases.
Etymotic etyBLU 2. This $129 update to the previous etyBLU hands-free Bluetooth earpiece employs a non-detachable, high-quality microphone and a new, more comfortable foam ear insert to let you hear your callers and callers hear you—even in the midst of a noisy conventional hall. It’s not the sexiest Bluetooth earpiece out there, but the audio performance is strong on both ends.
Etymotic mc5 earbuds. As with all Etymotic earphones, the new $80 mc5 focuses on accurate reproduction of sound, with two adjustments: a lower price tag than any prior Etymotic earphone, and a slightly more bassy audio signature. A more expensive version (not awarded) called mc3 adds a microphone and three-button Apple remote.
Geneva Lab Model S. Provided early enough for judging that we were able to offer a full review prior to its official debut, Geneva Lab’s $300 Model S iPod/iPhone speaker system combines a truly beautiful, minimalist cabinet with nice sound, as well as a capacitive touch control panel and retracting dock.
Griffin Hands-Free Mic with Audio Cable. Griffin’s latest new car accessory offers a cost-effective way of adding handsfree car audio into a car with an auxiliary audio input. For $30, you get a microphone with a remote control—one button to start and end calls—that plugs into a car stereo aux port, then into the iPhone’s headphone port. The car’s speakers perform audio, and the microphone picks up your voice, assuming that the aux port is close enough to your mouth not to pick up too much ambient noise; Scosche’s Bluetooth system increases vehicle compatibility at a higher price.
iHome iA5. iHome’s other iHome + Sleep app-compatible clock is a more basic $100 design with a neat integrated clock face and a single driver built in; the nice design and cool app integration are its star features. Once you plug in the iPhone with the app, its clock screen can disappear altogether, allowing the iPhone to serve as your clock if you prefer; multiple alarms are iPhone-programmable, with a more limited feature set when the iPhone’s not plugged in.
iHome iH150. As an updated version of last year’s great iH15, this color-shifting clock speaker can be fixed in one nano-matching color or left in a mode that gently cycles between different shades. The new feature is the clock, which appears directly in the center of the front.
Scosche FlipSync. Keep a complete iPod or iPhone USB charging cable on your keychain—that’s the premise of the miniaturized $20 FlipSync, which also has support for mini- and micro-USB connectors. If you’ve ever forgotten to bring your charger and consequently run out of juice, FlipSync’s appeal will be very obvious.
Scosche IDR655M with TapLine II. Like the $55 IDR355M, this $100 pair of canalphones employs a best-of-class remote and microphone solution Scosche calls TapLine II, decoupling the microphone from the three-button remote so that a tiny microphone dot sits near your neck, and the remote hangs at the Y junction lower down for easy visibility and use. The IDR655M earphones offer competitive audio quality for their price range, and use mirrored black finish on the remote, mic, and earpieces.
Speakal iCrystal. This budget-priced ($70) speaker from the creators of iPig, iPanda, iHog and other audio systems may well be the classiest item in the Speakal lineup: a set of two globes interrupted by teardrop-like lights, held together with an iPod dock. A neat little discussion piece.
SwitchEasy Nude for iPhone 3G/3GS and iPod touch. While the innovation in SwitchEasy’s Nude case won’t be obvious from photos, the company has created a new anti-scratch “Duo UV” coating that keeps both your device and the 0.8mm case from scratching; you can pick from colors that change your device’s look, or a clear version that lets the iPhone or iPod touch keep shining through.
XtremeMac MicroShield Mix. Some of the design cues in this new iPhone 3G/3GS case may seem familiar from prior Speck and Belkin designs, but the protective MicroShield Mix is an exercise in applying lessons learned from competitors to create a stylish hex-pattern case in white, black, and pink.
Congratulations once again to all of the winners and finalists!