iLounge’s 2013 CES Best of Show Awards: iPad, iPhone + iPod Gear
For the past two months, the Editors of iLounge have been quietly previewing new iPad, iPhone, iPod, and Mac accessories that are making their first official debuts at the 2013 International CES in Las Vegas. Even before CES opened, we saw new products from numerous companies, and then hit CES’s floor to explore hundreds of booths and thousands of products. After extended discussions and debates, our team selected only the very best new products for our awards: full Best of Show Winners offer the rare combination of great design, features, and pricing, while Best of Show Finalists demonstrate excellence in two of those categories but fall a little short in the third.
Congratulations to all of the winners! [Update: Read more about the process behind our Best of Show judging, here.]
Overall Best of Show 2013 Winner
Incipio OffGrid Pro for iPhone 5: Incipio’s improved iPhone 5 version of the best-of-breed iPhone 4/4S battery case OffGrid Pro was our editors’ clear pick for the Overall Best of Show Award. Now bundled with twin 2000mAh cells and a dual-battery charger that doubles as a standalone 4000mAh USB battery pack, the case remains tightly tailored to the latest iPhone’s body, and features an integrated Lightning connector. A phenomenal value at $100, and a battery case that all of our iPhone 5-using editors would pick for travel.
Best of Show 2013 Winners
Adonit New Jot Touch: Based upon last year’s pressure-sensitive stylus Jot Touch, Adonit’s New Jot Touch ($90) makes tangible improvements, including a more affordable price, Bluetooth 4 with one-month battery life between recharges, and an enhanced pressure sensor with 2,048 levels of sensitivity. Software support continues to improve, and the stylus tip remains amongst the most precise around regardless of whether the power’s on.
Griffin Crayola Light Marker: Building upon the company’s earlier Crayola iMarker with a different concept, the new Light Marker ($30) lets kids draw on their iPads with a magic wand that just happens to be shaped like a Crayola marker. Using the iPad’s camera for advanced position tracking, the Light Marker pairs with a new app for sketching, puzzles, connect-the-dots, and other games kids will love.
IK Multimedia iRig BlueBoard: Compact, affordable, and powered by AAA batteries, iRig BlueBoard ($99) is a foot pedal Bluetooth MIDI controller that works with any Core MIDI-compatible app to send program, bank and other MIDI messages. Convenient to carry anywhere, it nicely rounds out the company’s collection of musician-ready offerings.
IK Multimedia iRig HD: As a deluxe version of IK Multimedia’s popular iRig guitar input, iRig HD ($99) is an enhanced, digital model. Recording artists can choose between included Dock Connector, Lightning Connector and USB interface cables for a variety of connectivity options, while a built-in 24-bit DAC and preamp gain control improve upon the already impressive audio quality of the prior version.
Incipio - Special Innovation Award: 2013 is going to be another big year for Incipio, which received this special Best of Show award in recognition of its impressively broad array of innovative products. From a pioneering augmented reality tape measure case to advanced new battery cases and numerous impressive enhancements to prior case designs, Incipio is delivering impressive innovations across many product genres—and shows no sign of stopping any time soon.
Incipio Atlas: Waterproof iPhone cases have become more numerous over the past couple of years, but Atlas ($90) is the ultimate evolution of the concept: easy to put on, easy to access the ports, yet pocketable, rock solid, and featuring a full glass screen protector. Better yet, U.S. customers get a one-year warranty against liquid damage to the encased iPhone 5.
Incipio OffGrid Family: Between the $80 OffGrid with a 2500mAh battery, $100 OffGrid Pro with twin 2000mAh batteries and spare charger, and the new inductive charging version OffGrid Qi, Incipio’s collection of slim, nicely designed battery cases offers something for everyone—and plenty of power at any price point.
LifeProof - Best Booth of Show: While it’s not the flashiest booth at CES, LifeProof’s was the most thoughtfully “on point” of any we saw: stations and exhibits effectively show off how the company’s cases can be subjected to harsh conditions, ranging from dunks in liquid to blocks of ice, and work in different real-world situations. Very effective at building additional trust and recognition for a growing brand.
myCharge Freedom Battery Cases for iPhone 5: Offered in 1500mAh ($80) and 2000mAh ($100) versions, the new Freedom cases aren’t the least expensive we’ve seen, but they have some major selling points. A huge array of very interesting colors and textures include some very eye-catching materials, and a novel approach to charging the iPhone with a flexible Lighting connector. This solves a problem many iPhone 5 users don’t yet know they have—Apple’s stopping battery cases from offering pass-through wall charging—so you can switch between wall and battery power (or other accessories) as necessary.
Soundfreaq Sound Platform 2: Beyond completely overhauling the original 2010 Sound Platform with improved aesthetics, Soundfreaq rethought the product’s functionality with some big new features for Sound Platform 2 ($150): used on its own, it’s a powerful stereo speaker, but when you wirelessly pair two of them using a new DSS mode, you get dramatically wider stereo separation and unbelievable volume levels. Dual USB ports offer charging options, and black or white versions will be available at first, with two-colored Horizon models in the near future. Better yet, the company plans to offer sets of two Sound Platform 2s for $250 as a special deal.
SwitchEasy FreeRunner: Insanely protective. Only $35. SwitchEasy’s new FreeRunner comes in multiple colors with a distinctive dual-layer design, and provides more high-quality drop/shock coverage for an iPhone 5 than any other case we’ve seen at its price point. Full integrated screen, button, and port protection are all highlights—it’s about as safe of a case as you can get without going into a dramatically more expensive waterproof option.
Best of Show 2013 Finalists
id America Cushi Plus: Based upon the earlier Cushi stickers, Cushi Plus ($25) forms the equivalent of a complete iPhone 5 case by combining three-dimensional front and rear adhesive designs with clear screen film and a rubber bumper. Beautiful new designs run the gamut from looking like knitting to metal or plastic cushions—the best stickers we’ve ever seen.
iHome iDL100: Embracing Apple’s Lightning connectors, iHome created iDL100 ($150) as a deluxe clock radio and charging station for up to three devices. Two Lightning-equipped iOS devices go on the top, with a USB port on the back for connection and charging of whatever else you prefer—Dock Connector devices, for instance. The look, feel, and functions are otherwise classically iHome.
The Joy Factory Ergos with Stand: Part of the Ergos series of 2100mAh battery packs for iPhone 5, this $90 version adds a flip-out stand that ideally positions the iPhone for FaceTime calls. The stand doubles as a bumper for the iPhone 5’s body.
The Joy Factory Charis Wheelchair Mount for iPad mini: Designed to make iPad mini access easy for users in wheelchairs, Charis ($180) is made from resilient carbon fiber, metal, and plastic, using a combination of clamps, ball, and screw joints to tilt the tablet in any desired position. A three-year warranty adds appeal, as does The Joy Factory’s commitment to customizing each unit to the specific wheelchair needs of the customer.
Just Mobile aluPocket: If you’re particularly space-constrained or just want a way to mount your iPhone on a wall when it’s not in use, aluPocket ($30) provides a beautiful solution. Designed with a space to connect your choice of cables, and with internal grips that can hold bare or encased iPhones, the aluminum and plastic mount uses nice-looking adhesive strips to bond with your wall.
Macally Wi-Fi SD: Users who need more space to store music, photos, or videos will find Wi-Fi SD ($60) to be a highly appealing solution. Built with a battery, 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, and an app to manage its contents, Wi-Fi SD has a slot that accepts an SD card, plus a port to connect to a USB storage device. You can use it to transform any SD card(s) or USB hard drive into a temporary wireless media source for up to five iOS devices at once—you just have to supply the card or hard drive.
Mobee Magic Juice: Building on the company’s growing inductive charging ecosystem, Mobee’s Magic Juice ($79) is a 5,200mAh battery that can be recharged with an included micro-USB cable, or with any of the company’s flat inductive charging solutions. No matter which way you want to use it, it’s nicely designed and has a respectable amount of power.
Native Union Switch: Minimalist and attractive, Switch is a $150 box-shaped Bluetooth wireless speakerphone and speaker with a large circular volume knob—the knob either is on the unit’s top when it stands upright, or on the side when you lay it down in stereo mode.
PureGear Retro Game Cases: These new $30 iPhone 5 cases have classic ball bearing games built into their backs, including mazes and ball-launching games. They’re fun without adding appreciable thickness to your iPhone 5, and definite conversation starters.
Scosche boomBottle: Designed primarily for bicyclers, the boomBottle ($150) is a water-resistant tube-shaped speaker system loaded with twin audio drivers, a microphone, and a rechargeable battery. It’s shaped to fit inside standard bike water bottle cages or car cup holders, performing relatively loud audio whether you’re inside or outside.
Scosche Realm RH1060 Headphones: Continuing Scosche’s Realm headphone lineup, which is very similar in looks and appeal to the Beats by Dre family, RH1060 ($250) is a Bluetooth headset that can also be used in wired mode. Expect good sound quality even when the integrated rechargeable battery isn’t being used for wireless streaming; the highs pick up a bit when it’s powered on and being used in Bluetooth mode. If you wanted a Bluetooth pair of Beats by Dre headphones but don’t like the price, RH1060 offers a viable alternative.
Speck CandyShell + Grip for iPad mini: While they’re highly similar to earlier versions for the iPod touch and iPhones, the CandyShell and CandyShell Grip for iPad mini ($45) are some of the best cases around for Apple’s new tablet—relatively thin, highly protective, and stylish.
Once again, congratulations to all of the Best of Show Winners and Finalists, and thanks to everyone in the Apple accessory and application industry for such a fantastic collection of new products this year!
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