Welcome to our new, continuously-updated First Looks - a collection of previews showing brand new iPod, iPhone and iPad accessories that we’re currently in the process of testing. Here’s what’s hot right now:
Company: id America
Compatible: All iPads, iPhones + iPods
id America's new Metropolitan in-ear headphones ($30) feature many qualities we'd expect from a more expensive pair. In addition to an aluminum casing for the 10mm drivers, the cables are fabric covered, and the headphones ship with memory foam ear tips. Three sizes of rubber ear tips are also packed in, along with a carrying pouch. An inline remote allows for playback control, and there's a microphone built-in as well. Metropolitan comes in six different metallic colors.
Model: OpticClear Screen Protectors
Compatible: iPod nano 7G
Cygnett's OpticClear Screen Protectors for iPod nano 7G ($10) seem like a good deal at first glance. For the price, you get three screen films, plus a cleaning cloth and squeegee. Unfortunately, we received three packs for review, and all nine of the films were cut incorrectly. The scoop for the Home button is too low, meaning that the bottom portion of the bezel is partially uncovered, and the film juts above the top of the screen. In the current state, we definitely can't recommend these films.
Compatible: iPhone 5 + iPod touch 5G
As was the case with past Apple devices, Uncommon has released new personalized cases for the iPhone 5 -- Clearly UN Deflector ($40), Deflector ($35), and Permafrost UN Deflector ($40) -- as well as Deflector for the fifth-generation iPod touch ($30). All of the cases are hard plastic shells, a style of case we generally don't review, but they're worth mentioning because of your ability to customize them. You can either load your own pictures onto Uncommon's site, or choose from its designs, including collaborations with college sports teams, and such companies as Uglydoll. The UN Deflectors offer various degrees of transparency, creating a cool visual effect. While the iPhone cases were all in good shape, our review unit of the iPod touch case exhibited some issues: the paint was peeling around the volume buttons, the loop button hole snapped the first time we installed it, and removal was rather difficult. Updated April 17, 2013: Uncommon contacted us to let us know that the iPod touch case we received was from an initial sample run, and was in fact, too tight. A replacement unit sent to us fits properly, and is easier to remove. It can be seen in the last picture below.
Model: Ice Diamond
Compatible: All iPads, iPhones, and Bluetooth-enabled iPods
Since the beginning of 2011, Yantouch has released numerous iterations on its original Black Diamond 3D Dock. Each time, the company has made tweaks and changes, transforming the product from a colorful iPhone-holding lamp to a standalone lamp controlled by touch to a Bluetooth-enabled speaker system with improved lighting. The latest version is Ice Diamond ($149), an update to the Black Diamond 3 speaker system. While the external changes are few, Yantouch has toyed with what's inside. The model we received for evaluation isn't quite complete, so rather than reviewing it in its current state, we wanted to offer this extended preview.
From the outside, Ice Diamond’s body looks exactly like that of Black Diamond 3, with one big exception: the color scheme has been switched from black to white. The solid-colored underside is now white, and the previously smoke-colored translucent faceted top has become clear. This is the first time the company has branched out from its typical dark design for a Diamond series lamp, coming closer to the look of its Jellywake series products. The size and shape are exactly the same as before, though, including a 1” speaker driver on each side, a set of two small holes on the top, and a single Mini-USB port on the back. Ice Diamond is about an ounce heavier than Black Diamond 3.
Yantouch has added and updated several features with this edition of the speaker. One of the most important is the inclusion of an internal battery with a promised four to five hours of portable listening, accounting for the weight gain. The Mini-USB cable and wall charger are still included for charging and can be used for stationary music playback or lighting. In terms of audio performance, the company claims the bass has been boosted by 50%—while the change doesn’t radically improve the audio quality, there is a small difference. Audio connectivity is still achieved via a Bluetooth wireless connection to your iOS device and relatively painless pairing.
The lighting itself has also been updated, both in terms of brightness and color variations. Ice Diamond will be able to light up an entire wall, something Black Diamond 3 couldn’t do, thanks to dedicated white LEDs that will enhance white light by 300%. That feature isn’t present in the model we received for evaluation, but Yantouch says that it will be specifically helpful for using the lamp for reading.
Like Black Diamond 3, Ice Diamond requires a remote control and has no physical controls on its body. The included remote has been updated with the goal of a more intuitive button layout. Although it looks pretty similar to the previous version, many functions now only require one button press instead of two, including toggling between multiple music-synchronized lighting modes. The remote is also available digitally in the company’s new BedTimeSocial app, with the same layout. Either way, you’re provided with music playback and volume controls, and multiple ways to adjust the light. We do wish that Yantouch had taken advantage of the app to break away from the fixed-button paradigm of the remote; it could’ve potentially done some really cool and intuitive things.
Still in early stages, Yantouch’s BedTimeSocial app includes three other features, each indicated by a tab along the bottom of the app. There’s a sleep timer and an alarm clock; both rely on skeuomorphic controls rather than practical ones—for example, to set your wake up time, you have to physically spin the hands on the alarm clock. The final tab is “Music,” which allows you to set playlists for wake and sleep, as well as record messages which can be sent to other users’ Ice Diamonds. For example, you can record a birthday greeting for a loved one and have it play on his or speaker upon waking, an interesting feature—assuming that the app is somehow left running to play the greeting through a properly connected speaker. The social integration wasn’t in place during our testing, but then, there aren’t a lot of Ice Diamonds out there yet.
Once we’ve received a final version of Ice Diamond, we’ll update this piece with a full review and rating.
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