With Apple rumored to be doing away with the headphone jack on its new iPhone, Cirrus Logic is offering a development kit to aid headphone makers looking to simplify the switch to Lightning connectors. The company’s MFi Headset Development Kit includes reference designs for creating Lightning port connected headphones and a development board to be used in programming, debugging and testing audio performance. The design is compatible with earbuds or over-the-ear headphones and pre-programmed to support both digital audio playback and voice capture. With very few Lightning-connected headphone options currently available, the area is poised for rapid expansion.
Mobile device accessory maker Incipio Technologies has announced plans to acquire Skullcandy, which specializes in audio solutions, and gaming products through its Astro Gaming brand. This is the fourth in a spate of recent acquisitions by Incipio, with the company having acquired Incase and Clamcase last year, and Braven back in 2013.
Jawbone CEO Hosain Rahman says the company is “still committed” to the wearables business, refuting recent reports that Jawbone is exiting the wearables business or going out of business altogether. In a blog post on the company’s website, Rahman denies recent media reports as “unequivocally false,” noting that the speculation appeared to come from “wrongful insinuations” made by “a particular digital publication,” and although the publication later made a correction, this was not done until after other media picked up on the news and spread it further. Rahman emphasizes that Jawbone “remains wholly committed to innovating in and building great wearables products” and has technology in the pipeline that they “look forward to sharing ... with the world.”
Apple has added a new Accessibility category to its online store, highlighting accessories specifically designed for people with physical and intellectual disabilities. The new section also includes specific sub-categories to allow users to filter by accessories geared to assisting in visual, physical and motor skill, and learning & literacy areas. The Accessibility section is limited in selection compared to other sections in Apple’s online store, with only 15 different accessories available at this point.
Bowers & Wilkins, a U.K. maker of high-end audio equipment, has been acquired by Silicon Valley-based EVA Automation. The companies said the merger will pair Bowers & Wilkins’ acoustic engineering talents with EVA Automation’s A/V technologies to enable both companies to grow in new directions. Former Bowers & Wilkins owner Joe Atkins will stay on as CEO and EVA founder Gordon Yu will act as executive chairman for the combined company. We reviewed Bowers & Wilkins’ Zeppelin Wireless Speaker and P5 Wireless Headphones last year.
Invoxia has added support for Amazon’s Alexa Voice Service to its acclaimed Triby connect kitchen speaker, making it the first non-Amazon device to add support for the voice assistant. Following the launch of its Echo voice controlled speaker last year, Amazon also debuted the Alexa Skills Kit, a free SDK allowing third-party developers to integrate the service into their devices, and Invoxia has now risen to the challenge and added Alexa support for all existing Triby owners via a software update. As per Invoxia’s support FAQ, Triby users will need to be running software version 10.35 or above and have the latest version (2.9) of the Triby iPhone app, available from the App Store. Once enabled through the iPhone app, an Alexa icon will appear in the top-left corner of Triby’s e-ink display, and users can simply call out “Alexa” to begin asking questions.
Accessory maker Logitech said it has agreed to acquire Jaybird, which is known for its wireless earbuds and fitness trackers geared toward the workout crowd. (Read our review of Jaybird’s X2 here.) Logitech paid $50 million for the company with provisions for up to $45 million in additional payments dependent upon Jaybird hitting growth targets. Like Ultimate Ears, a Bluetooth speaker company Logitech purchased in 2008, Jaybird will continue to sell products under its own name even after the acquisition. Bracken Darrell, Logitech president and chief executive officer, said the move gains Logitech entry into the burgeoning wireless audio wearables market and will allow his company to combine its audio engineering and design capabilities with Jaybird’s sports expertise.
Dozens of users have taken to Apple’s customer support page to complain about problems with call quality when using their iPhone SE over Bluetooth. Those pairing their device with car Bluetooth systems are reporting scratchy and distorted audio when using their phone to make calls. Some also reported poor audio quality when using their phones for GPS navigation in the car, and one user said his Jawbone Bluetooth headset experienced similar audio problems when connected to the iPhone SE. The phone audio quality is fine when not paired to Bluetooth, and the connectivity issue doesn’t seem to affect music streaming over Bluetooth.
After Monday’s big iPhone SE reveal, Apple’s online store seems to be acknowledging that most 5/5s cases will work with the new SE. Cases that were once listed as being for iPhone 5/5s are now shown as compatible with 5/5s/SE. All of Speck’s existing iPhone 5/5s cases are compatible with the SE, and the company will make its CandyShell Clear ($35) case, pictured above, available in the new size starting in April. A number of other companies have debuted cases for Apple’s newest devices.
French website NowhereElse has posted what it claims to be several leaked photos of a silicone iPhone 7 case obtained from an accessory manufacturer, fueling previous rumors that Apple is doing away with the headphone jack. The clear case appears to fit a phone similar to the iPhone 6 and 6S in shape and button placement, but with a cutout for a second speaker where the previous phones had a 3.5 mm headphone port. Apple has been rumored to be looking to drop the headphone jack in favor of adding a second speaker for stereo audio, and is expected to launch cord-free Beats earphones alongside the new iPhone 7.
Apple Stores worldwide began offering screen protector installation for iPhone 6, 6s, 6 Plus and 6s Plus users starting today. As previously reported, Apple has partnered with Belkin to place specialized screen protector installation machines in the back of stores, allowing customers to have their screen protector properly installed free of charge after they buy it. Two types of screen protectors — “Invisiglass” and “Anti-Glare” — are being offered. Apple will guarantee the installation of screen protectors and offer a free replacement and re-attempt at installation if the protector isn’t installed successfully for the customer. Many stores began rolling out the new process last week, but it is available everywhere as of today.
Accessory manufacturer Zagg has announced that it has signed a merger agreement to acquire iPhone battery case maker Mophie for $100 million plus additional adjusted earnings over $100m across a 12-month earn-out period. In a press release on Zagg’s website, the company notes that the combination of the two companies will create a market share leader in the battery case, external battery, screen protection, and tablet keyboard accessory categories, and that the combined 2015 net sales of the two companies were about $470 million. The merger will also create expanded distribution opportunities for both companies, and allow strengthening and consolidation of engineering and manufacturing resources in China. The merger is expected to close during the first quarter of 2016, subject to the usual regulatory approvals.
Apple has issued a voluntary recall covering some of its AC wall plug adapters and world travel kits. The recall affects AC wall plug adapters designed for use in Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Continental Europe, New Zealand and South Korea, noting that in very rare cases, the affected two-prong adapters may break and create a risk of electrical shock if touched. The adapters shipped with Mac and some iOS devices between 2003 and 2015 and were also included in the Apple World Travel Adapter Kit. The release notes that Apple is aware of 12 incidents worldwide, and specifies that the issue does not affect any other Apple AC wall plug adapters designed for use in Canada, China, Hong Kong, Japan, United Kingdom, or the United States, nor does it affect any Apple USB power adapters. Customers should stop using affected plug adapters immediately and visit www.apple.com/support/ac-wallplug-adapter for information about how to exchange their affected adapters for new, redesigned adapters.
As the International CES 2016 begins to wind down, we wanted to point out that there won’t be any CES Best of Show Awards given out by iLounge this year. Our on-site staff was limited this year, and we didn’t think it was fair to our readers — or to these companies — for other members of our staff to participate in making such judgments without seeing the products in person. Visit our CES page for the full index of reports from this week, and from past Consumer Electronics Shows. We’ll be back next week with more of our typical content.
CableJive has introduced two new add-ons for its HeroDock for the iPhone — a Landscape Dock that can hold an iPad mini, and the other to dock an Apple Watch. As seen above, the final iPad mini dock will require a Lightning connector in another position for it to work properly. The new attachments are expected to arrive in Q3; pricing has not been announced.
Apple is currently prototyping an entirely new design for Beats Bluetooth earphones, according to a new report by 9to5Mac. Expected to launch alongside the iPhone 7 later this year, the new earphones will apparently be completely wireless, omitting even a cable to connect the left and right earpieces. Sources cited in the report suggest that the headphones will follow a concept not unlike the Motorola Hint and Bragi Dash. The earphones are also expected to include a noise-cancelling microphone system to facilitate better communication with Siri, and include multiple ear sleeve sizes for accommodate variations in users’ ear canals. An included carrying case will double as a rechargeable battery to power up the headphones when they are not being used. The new wireless headphones are expected to be a premium option that will almost certainly be sold separately from the iPhone 7.
The same sources have also corroborated recent reports that the iPhone 7 will eliminate the standard 3.5mm headphone jack, requiring wired headphones to connect to the Lightning connector instead. New Lightning-based EarPods will be released to support this as well, although it remains unclear whether Apple will continue to bundle EarPods with the iPhone or require them to be purchased separately.
Just Mobile has introduced a new minimalist dock, the HoverDock, in both iPhone and Apple Watch versions. The HoverDock for iPhone ($35) is a low-profile charging stand encased in a unibody aluminum disc that allows you to pass through your Lightning cable and stand your iPhone upright, and supports most cases.
HoverDock for Apple Watch ($35) follows the same unibody aluminum design as the iPhone version, allowing you to pass through the standard Apple Watch Magnetic Charging cable and keep your Apple Watch propped up for Nightstand Mode.
Edifier has introduced several new speakers at this year’s CES. The MA5 ($200) desktop audio system is Wi-Fi enabled and provides support for AirPlay and DLNA. It can stream music from app-based online music sources such as Pandora and Spotify. It also features a cloud-based speech recognition system for online music search and can act as a 2.4GHz Wi-Fi hotspot. MA5 should be released in Q2 2016.
The MP700 ($230) portable speaker comes in two versions, with a Bluetooth 4.0 model that features an NFC tag for quick connection with compatible devices, and an Wi-Fi model which features AirPlay and DLNA connectivity, and the same app-based online music source management and 2.4GHz Wi-Fi hotspot features as the MA5. Additionally, the MA215 ($300) is a desktop Wi-Fi speaker set for release in the third quarter of 2016.
Braven has announced several new speakers at this year’s CES, expanding its active and rugged speaker lineup with new options across the board. The new Braven 105 ($60) and Braven 405 ($100) wireless speakers add to the company’s Active Series, and the new BRV-XXL looks like an absolute beast of a speaker. Braven’s parent company, Incipio, also introduced a few new interesting items at the show.
Braven’s massive new BRV-XXL ($350) is designed to bring earth-crushing HD sound to any indoor or outdoor event. It features a tank-like design, titanic surround sound, and more, along with a 14-hour playtime, and a built-in 15600 mAh battery that can charge up iPhones and iPads. It’s built from aircraft grade aluminum and ABS, meaning it can withstand accidental falls, sand, dirt, dust, and rain (it’s IPX5 waterproof rated). NFC provides one-touch connectivity for compatible devices and it includes on-board controls for adjusting bass, treble, volume, and skipping tracks, and a 3.5mm microphone input allows you to use it as a PA system as well. If that weren’t enough, it even sports a built-in bottle opener on the carrying strap.
PhotoFast has announced MemoriesCable 1M, a new version of the popular MemoriesCable that provides users with even more reach. MemoriesCable is an MFi-certified Lightning cable for charging an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch that also includes up to 128GB of built-in flash memory storage directly in the connector. Supported by PhotoFast’s i-FlashDrive ONE app (the same app used with the i-FlashDrive MAX), users can store and backup data from various cloud-based services as well as popular social media accounts. MemoriesCable 1M is expected to start shipping at the end of January.
Withings has announced Thermo ($100), a new iOS-connected Wi-Fi thermometer. Using revolutionary HotSpotSensor technology, Thermo gives you precise results with a simple one-touch gesture, syncing your temperature readings via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth with the companion Thermo iOS app. Sixteen infrared sensors and the patented HotSpot sensor provide a highly-accurate temperature reading against the temple in under two seconds without requiring contact with any bodily fluids, while the app lets you store and track temperature readings, get reminders, and input related symptoms or medications right on your iPhone. Temperatures and related information are stored in a Thermo diary that can be easily shared with your doctor at any time. When taking readings, the Thermo unit will also provide color-coded temperature feedback based on the user’s age profile to help you easily understand the reading.