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iHome unveils new SmartPlug, speakers at CES 2016

iHome has unveiled a collection of several new products at this year’s CES, including an updated version of its original HomeKit-enabled SmartPlug, a new model building on its Kineta speaker lineup, and several new speakers and clock radios.

The new iHome Control iSP8 SmartPlug ($50), expands on the company’s original HomeKit-enabled plug, adding power consumption monitoring capabilities and compatibility with Android, Nest, Wink, and more in addition to the iOS HomeKit support. A remote control is also included in the package to allow the plug to be used without a smartphone or tablet.

The new Kineta K5 ($70) builds on the new K-Cell battery equipped speakers iHome debuted last year with a new design, Bluetooth-enabled wireless FM clock radio, and built-in speakerphone. It’s equipped with Reson8 speakers and includes the same K-Cell battery technology as the original models — a removable battery pack that can be popped out to recharge mobile devices on the go.

IK Multimedia debuts iRig BlueTurn, iKlip A/V

Just before this year’s CES officially kicks off, IK Multimedia has unveiled iRig BlueTurn ($70), a new compact Bluetooth-based page turner for musicians, designed to allow hands-free navigation of set lists, scores, lyric sheets and more on iPad, iPhone, iPod touch, and Mac. BlueTurn is a small foot controller with two backlit soft-touch buttons, similar in design to the company’s earlier iRig BlueBoard MIDI controller. iRig BlueTurn can be paired with IK’s own iKlip Stage setlist management app as well as many other popular page-turning and document viewing apps. iRig BlueTurn is expected to be available in February 2016.

Griffin debuts Travel Power Bank for Apple Watch, Survivor bags + iPad Pro case, more

While CES 2016 doesn’t actually start until Wednesday, companies are already announcing new products from the show. Griffin has introduced a number of new products, including Travel Power Bank ($70) for Apple Watch. Travel Power Bank is a portable 800 mAh battery with a built-in Apple Watch charger. Griffin claims Travel Power Bank can deliver four full charges to an Apple Watch before it needs recharged, which makes it an ideal accessory for a trip. It even comes with a keyring to attach to a set of keys or a hook. It should be available in the second quarter of 2016. Also for Apple Watch, Griffin has unveiled Uptown Leather Band ($60) and Trainer Watch Band ($40), a silicone band. Both of those are set for a Q3 2016 release.

Report: Apple to release accessibility-related accessories in early 2016

Apple is preparing to release new accessibility-related accessories early next year, Macotakara reports. Such accessories may be released sometime from January to March 2016. It’s unclear what these accessories may be at this point, but Apple has repeatedly shown a commitment to increasing accessibility options for the disabled and impaired within its products, and releasing dedicated accessories for these users seems like a natural next step. Conceivably, such products could be introduced quietly during the next few months, or unveiled at a spring event with other new products.

Philips reverses course on Hue blocking of third-party bulbs

On the heels of yesterday’s news that Hue was set to begin blocking uncertified third-party bulbs from the Hue ecosystem due to “interoperability” issues, the company has now rapidly reversed course as a result of customer feedback. Philips has revised the notice on its developer blog, noting that while the decision was “made in good faith” to ensure an optimal customer experience, the company underestimated the impact that it would have on customers, and that in view of this it has decided to reverse the software upgrade so that lights from other brands will “continue to work as they did before” with the Hue system. The post notes that the company is working on the reversal of the upgrade and will soon confirm when this will be available to affected customers.

Philips is still encouraging third-party accessory makers to join the Friends of Hue partnership program so that their devices can be tested and certified to work seamlessly with Hue, and notes that customers using uncertified lights will likely still experience the same incompatibility issues that they have in the past, although Philips will no longer stand in the way of customers using other ZigBee LL capable accessories.

FAA announces drone registration program

The Federal Aviation Administration has announced its new registration program for owners of “small unmanned aircraft,” known to most as drones. The program will require owners to register all drones weighing between 0.55 and 55 pounds, including payloads such as on-board cameras. A short list of examples has been compiled by the FAA — for instance, Parrot’s Bebop Drone must be registered under the new program. The normal registration fee is $5, but that will be waived for owners who register within the first 30 days (Dec. 21, 2015 to Jan. 20, 2016).

 

Cook responds to criticisms of new Apple iPhone Smart Battery Case

In an interview with Mashable, Apple CEO Tim Cook responded to various criticisms of the Apple’s new iPhone 6s Smart Battery Case, ranging from the “hump” on the back of the case to the idea that the release of the case is a tacit admission by Apple that the iPhone 6s’ battery life is insufficient. Regarding the protruding “hump” on the back of the case — a feature that many see as an “un-Apple” aesthetic — Cook notes that it was a conscious design decision to keep the case flexible in order to make it easier to insert and remove the iPhone, as compared to other battery cases which are so rigid that it takes “considerable strength and patience” to remove or insert an iPhone into them.

Apple releases improved Lightning to SD Card Camera Reader

Apple has quietly replaced its old Lightning to SD Card Camera Reader with an improved model that supports USB 3.0 transfer speeds now possible with the iPad Pro. The size, shape and $30 price of the accessory remain unchanged, and older iPads will still top out at USB 2.0 transfer speeds, making the new card reader most useful to iPad Pro owners. As before, inserting the reader into an iPad or iPhone with an SD card inside automatically opens the Photos app and organizes your pictures. [via iDownloadBlog]

Apple unveils its first official battery case for iPhone 6s

Apple has introduced its first ever iPhone battery case, entering the market with the Smart Battery Case ($99) for the iPhone 6s. Available in charcoal gray or white, the case looks like Apple’s other simple silicone cases with an added hump on the back for the extra battery. The company’s “intelligent” battery will display its charge status on the iPhone’s lock screen and in Notification Center to give users a more complete picture of how much power they have left. The case is compatible with the Lightning cable that came with the iPhone or Apple’s iPhone Lightning Dock accessory, so it won’t need to be removed for charging. The product page says the phone and case can charge simultaneously. Apple claims the case gives the phone up to 25 hours of talk time, 18 hours of Internet use over LTE and up to 20 hours of video playback. We’ll post a full review of the new case in the near future.

Apple to drop headphone jack from next iPhone?

In a bid to slim its new iPhone down even further, Apple is considering removing the traditional headphone jack entirely, a “reliable” source tells Macotakara. The source said the new phones will likely be 1 mm thinner than current models, forcing Apple to ditch the headphone jack, since its port is based on a world standard that can’t be made thinner. While Apple has registered a patent for a thinner headphone plug, the new report suggests the company may be abandoning the idea of creating a completely new type of headphone jack in favor of connecting wired headphones through the Lightning port. The source said new “supplied ear pods” for the iPhone will have the Lightning connector, and Apple already supports Lightning cable MFi headphones, but very few of those have been introduced thus far. Bluetooth-enabled wireless headphones would also be an option for getting around the lack of a headphone jack, but obviously any change to the existing headphone jack risks serious blowback from users who would need new equipment to listen to their iPhone.

Apple CarPlay included in 2017 Mitsubishi Mirage

Mitsubishi is the latest auto maker to jump on the Apple CarPlay bandwagon, adding the feature to its 2017 Mirage. The hatchback is the first Mitsubishi model to offer the entertainment system, putting the company a year behind competitors GM and Volkswagen, which included CarPlay in select 2016 models.

Apple reveals Beats Pill+ speaker

Months after recalling the Beats Pill XL over battery overheating concerns, Beats has revealed the Beats Pill+ ($230), the company’s first speaker offering since it was bought by Apple last year. Not yet available for purchase, the Pill+ features four front-facing speakers, with Beats claiming users will be able to sync up playback with a second speaker using its dedicated app. The new speaker has a Lightning port for charging, boasts a 12-hour battery life on a 3-hour charge and is able to charge an iOS device while playing music. Beats Pill+ will be available in black and white color options, and it will launch in November.

Most screen protectors should work with 3D Touch

Apple’s Phil Schiller has confirmed that screen protectors should not interfere with the sensitivity of Apple’s new 3D Touch display on the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus, according to 3D Techtronics. While there were some concerns that the presence of a screen protector overlay might interfere with 3D Touch operations by changing the pressure sensitivity on the new displays, Schiller replies to an email from the blog stating that “screen overlays that follow [Apple’s] guidelines will continue to work with 3D Touch.”

Incipio acquires Incase

Mobile device accessory maker Incipio Technologies has acquired Incase Designs, which specializes in laptop bags and cases for Apple devices. The move comes on the heels of Incipio buying up iPad keyboard case and peripheral manufacturer ClamCase this June and two years after the company acquired speaker manufacturer Braven. Incase’s product lines further expand Incipio’s reach into Apple-specific accessories, while Incipio’s distribution network will allow Incase to expand its market globally. Financial terms of the deal remain confidential, but like Braven and ClamCase, Incase will continue as its own standalone brand with its own headquarters.

Numerous companies debut iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus cases

Today’s introduction of Apple’s new iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus has already led a number of companies to reveal cases for the upcoming devices. We’ve already received plenty of new iPhone 6s cases from Spigen, including Liquid Crystal, Neo Hybrid, Neo Hybrid Carbon, Neo Hybrid EX, Perfect Armor, Rugged Capsule, Thin Fit and Ultra Hybrid. All of those cases are advertised as 6/6s cases — once we have the iPhone 6s in hand, we’ll see how they all measure up and post plenty of reviews, but until then, you can take a look at these other newly announced offerings.

Griffin has expanded its Survivor line of cases, adding the Summit and Journey models to its existing All-Terrain offering. The multi-layered Survivor Summit ($50 for iPhone 6s, $60 for iPhone 6s Plus), can withstand a maximum 10-foot drop and provides a textured grip. The case fully weather seals all ports and device controls to protect against rain, dust and sand.

Google omits HealthKit support from Android Wear iOS app

Although Google released an iOS app able to link certain Android Wear watches to iPhones, the new interface doesn’t yet include support for Apple’s HealthKit, BuzzFeed reports. While Android watches can track steps, heart rate and other fitness metrics, the data won’t show up in Apple’s Health dashboard like data collected from the Apple Watch does. Instead, the information will be routed through Google’s competing health dashboard, Google Fit. An Apple spokeswoman was quick to point out that the choice not to integrate Android Wear watches with HealthKit was entirely Google’s, leading to speculation that Google is happy to tap into Apple’s iPhone user base, but reluctant to allow its watches to share data with competing platforms. It’s possible that Google could change its mind in the future and allow Android Wear to interact with HealthKit.

Google releases iOS app that links some Android Wear watches to newer iPhones

Google announced on its official blog that an iOS app rolling out today will finally let users pair some Android Wear watches with newer iPhones. Android Wear for iOS will let users running iOS 8.2+ on an iPhone 5, 5c, 5s, 6 or 6 Plus connect their phone to the LG Watch Urbane. Google said all future Android Wear watches — including those from Asus, Huawei and Motorola — will support the iOS app as well, but for now, only the Urbane offers support. Once connected, the watch will mirror the notifications on a user’s iPhone, display messages, and show info about incoming phone calls. In the announcement, Google makes a point of noting that Android Wear’s always-on display means users won’t have to move their wrist to “wake up” their watch — a clear dig at how the Apple Watch only turns its screen on to display notifications after a user rotates their wrist or taps the smartwatch. Android Wear is going after Apple Watch on the health front as well, allowing iPhone users to track heart rate, distance traveled, and progress toward fitness goals. The app also attempts to provide an alternative to Siri in offering the “OK Google” capability, which allows users to get responses to questions, check traffic or flight information, and create to-do list reminders on the fly.

Philips introduces dimmer remote kit for Hue lights

Philips has announced a new no-installation dimming kit for its Hue wireless light bulbs. The kit comes with a single Hue white light bulb and a battery-powered dimmer switch that can be mounted on the wall, or slide out of the base plate for use as a remote as well. The dimmer can control up to 10 bulbs at once through the Hue bridge, making it able to alter the lights in an entire room remotely. In a June Facebook post, Philips promised that Hue lighting will be integrated with Apple’s HomeKit “starting this fall,” but details about how the systems will integrate still haven’t been released. GE is also working on integrating its LED lighting system with HomeKit by the end of the year. Philips’ dimming kit will cost $39.95 (with additional Hue bulbs costing $19.95 each) and be available in North America starting in September.

Nike to offer customers cash in proposed FuelBand settlement

Apple and Nike have reached a proposed settlement in a class action lawsuit involving Nike’s FuelBand, with Nike offering cash to those affected. Apple is offering no compensation. The lawsuit, filed in 2013, claims that Nike and Apple made false claims about FuelBand’s ability to track calories burned and number of steps taken by users. Both companies still deny any wrongdoing, but Nike stopped producing FuelBands in April 2014 and Apple pulled the device from its stores this March. Under the proposed settlement, Nike is offering $15 cash or a $25 gift card to U.S. Nike stores for each member of the settlement class who submits a claim form and waives their rights to further action in connection with the lawsuit. U.S. residents who bought a Nike+ Fuelband between January 19, 2012 and June 17, 2015 are eligible for the settlement from Nike.

Logitech introduces new Logi label

Accessory maker Logitech has announced big branding changes in a blog post. The company revealed a re-imagined logo, creating a distinct “Logi” label to be applied to a new line of yet-to-be-disclosed products. Logitech has also hired its first chief design officer, Alastair Curtis, and touts a fresh dedication to “put design at the core of everything [they] do.” The new label will appear on the company’s “colorful and bold” new product offerings, but “Logi” doesn’t seem to be replacing “Logitech” as the company’s name completely. Instead, the company says the “Logi” logo will begin popping up “on select products in existing categories” as well as on new offerings.

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