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Review: Plantronics BackBeat Fit Bluetooth Wireless Headphones

One year ago, Plantronics stunned us with BackBeat GO 2, a pair of Bluetooth wireless earphones sold for a remarkable $80 entry price. This year, it's offering a new model called BackBeat Fit ($130), which despite a $50 premium actually is less appealing than its predecessor in several critical ways, while making improvements in others.

Apple content delivery network for faster downloads now live in US, Europe

Apple’s new content delivery network has gone live in the U.S. and Europe, according to Frost & Sullivan analyst Dan Rayburn. The network is able to deliver multiple terabits of data per second, which should allow Apple to offer faster iOS downloads. Rayburn claims Apple is still using other services for iTunes, radio, and app downloads, “but over time, much of that traffic will be brought over to Apple’s CDN.” It’s unknown when that traffic may shift to the new network. The new network delivers traffic directly to Comcast and other ISPs through interconnect deals. Apple has reportedly invested “well more than” $100 million in this new network. [via Ars Technica]

First Look: Tylt Energi 2K Smart Travel Charger

Not the first accessory to combine a USB wall charger and battery pack, Tylt's Energi 2K Smart Travel Charger ($40) still offers a valuable combination of features. The plastic brick has fold out prongs and a 1-Amp USB port, allowing you to charge any iPod or iPhone as you normally would from the wall. Inside, however, there's a 2200mAh battery, which means you have juice even when you're not near an outlet. The charger comes in four colors, and the Tylt Syncable Lightning cable pictured here is actually a separate purchase; you must provide your own.

Apps of the Week: NPR One, Crazy Taxi: City Rush, Interactive Alphabet 4.0 + more

New Apps

Beehive (free) — Beehive - The Social Network Filter from Kendall Innovations is that rare thing: a new social networking app that should be useful to certain people. The app takes your Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram feeds, and lets you narrow them down to the friends you care about most. All of those updates can then be viewed from the single Beehive app. Most appealing to those who would be interested in this sort of thing is the app’s anonymity. You never have to worry about deleting or unfollowing friends — just pick who you want to follow within Beehive, and they’ll be none the wiser. Additionally, Beehive doesn’t require an email address, or even the creation of an account. It’s also ad-free. Not all users will find such an app necessary, of course, but for those looking to cut down on their social networking time without missing anything important — or without offending people — Beehive might be the perfect answer. Right now the app is built for iPhone, but an iPad version will be coming soon.

NPR One (free) — NPR’s new NPR One app curates a stream of public radio news and stories for the listener. The app’s bizarre, meandering description describes NPR One as “a handcrafted experience” while noting the app also delivers the big stories of the day. Basically, it’s a different way of accessing public radio through a somewhat personalized set of recommended stories — users must sign in using their Facebook, Google, or NPR accounts.

Review: ClamCase ClamCase Pro for iPad Air

With enough time and effort, diligent developers can polish previously solid concepts into truly impressive products. Several generations after releasing its first iPad keyboard case, ClamCase has finally achieved that goal with ClamCase Pro for iPad Air ($169), an accessory that manages to achieve the best combination of iPad protection and unencumbered typing we've yet seen in a keyboard case. But there's one big hitch: a price tag that's markedly and unjustifiably higher than numerous rivals that deliver very similar experiences.

Mac: Shazam Entertainment Shazam

Shazam has been around for the iPhone since the earliest days of the App Store, and it’s one of those titles that’s really continued to get better with time. It’s not much of a surprise then, that the app has finally made it to the Mac; starting today, you can download Shazam Entertainment’s Shazam (Free) from the Mac App Store. The always-on tool lives in your Menu Bar, ready to name your tunes.

Daily Deal: GripGo Universal Car Mount, $14

In today’s iLounge Deal we’re offering the GripGo Universal Car Mount for only $14. Providing a universal mounting solution for your windshield or dashboard, GripGo’s unique polymer surface holds your iPhone, iPod, or other handheld device securely without leaving any sticky residue behind. A rigid 8” boom mount and 360-degree pivoting capabilities allow you to position your device at the ideal viewing angle and tap away without having to move it around.

Get the GripGo Universal Car Mount now for only $14

Report: Apple TV relaunch not coming this year

Apple engineers working on the new version of Apple TV have been on timelines that assume a 2015 launch, The Information reports. Those engineers “have been told by their bosses not to expect a launch this year.” It’s been expected for some time that Apple would release a newer version of its Apple TV with an updated TV service, with many reports stating it would happen this year. The initial timeline may have targeted 2014, but employees claim that cable companies are “dragging their heels,” and the Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger has also slowed down the process. However, cable executives and TV programmers place the blame at Apple’s feet, saying the company “needs permission from multiple types of rights holders” to create the service it has in mind.

Report: Apple eliminating positions of some Beats employees

Apple has started transitioning employees and technology from Beats, but not all Beats employees will be making the move, 9to5Mac reports. While many Beats employees in development and creative roles have been offered jobs at Apple, Beats’ support, finance, and HR departments “have already been largely dismantled,” according to the report — some employees have been laid off, others have been offered Apple positions, and some have only been offered a temporary position during the transition period. On the technology side of the transition, it’s been noted that Beats Music “is not easily compatible” with Apple servers, and that parts of the service “will need to be re-architectured.”

Update: The New York Post is reporting that Apple will cut about 200 jobs at Beats — about 40 percent of the company’s workforce.

Russian government seeks Apple source code

The Russian government is asking for access to Apple’s source code, in order to ensure the company’s products aren’t used for spying purposes, Reuters reports. Communications Minister Nikolai Nikiforov said in a statement, “Edward Snowden’s revelations in 2013 and U.S. intelligence services’ public statements about the strengthening of surveillance of Russia in 2014 have raised a serious question of trust in foreign software and hardware.” European software company SAP has also been asked to share its source code. The Russian Communications Ministry noted that Microsoft has shared its source code for Windows and other products with Atlas —a subordinate company that reports to the ministry — since 2003. Apple has declined comment.

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