While potentially a mundane topic to some of iLounge’s readers, Apple today introduced the “Made for iPod” certification, a badge that iPod accessory developers can display to differentiate their Apple-authorized accessory products from unauthorized ones. The Made for iPod badge addresses a subject of increasing concern to iLounge in recent weeks - the proliferation of certain low-quality and potentially dangerous iPod accessories that may harm your hardware, even when used as advertised and intended. Currently, it appears that vendors receiving the badge are only those whose products interface electronically with the iPod, rather than case makers.
According to some vendors on the show floor at Macworld San Francisco, Apple’s motivations behind the Made for iPod program may be equal parts financially driven, marketing driven, and consumer protection driven, perhaps in that descending order of importance. iLounge was told that the Made for iPod badge was originally proposed as a potential royalty stream for Apple - a means by which the company would collect revenues from sales of “authorized” accessories, and suggested that vendors might be able to charge even more for officially sanctioned accessories. Key to the program is Apple’s continued interest in licensing its proprietary male Dock Connector plugs and female ports - now also called the “iPod Connector” - while warning iPod owners about the dangers of insufficiently tested accessories that may create electrical disruptions in iPod hardware.
Like other company seals - such as Nintendo’s once-famous Seal of Quality - the Made for iPod program may have benefits for consumers, or may just be an opportunity to increase company licensing revenues while offsetting marketing costs. As iLounge has itself witnessed and heard external accounts of peripherals that wreak havoc with iPods and their batteries, but remains concerned about the slowly upward-creeping price of iPod accessories, we will continue to closely monitor this story in the months ahead.
At Macworld Expo in San Francisco today, iLounge spotted new iSkin mixed color silicone eVo2 cases with additional new twists: a plastic pop-in Click Wheel control protector, and co-branding with famous recording artists such as the Chemical Brothers and numerous professional sports teams, including the entire NBA. These special edition eVo2 cases will be offered in team colors and feature team graphics on their Click Wheel protectors.
iSkin also previewed a new version of its eVo case, featuring an exclusive anodized aluminum clip system that integrates beautifully with the rubber case body. Better yet, the company has reengineered its upcoming case bottoms to permit easier Dock Connector access, addressing a key iLounge concern in past reviews, and plans to roll out legitimately improved plastic belt Revoclips for upcoming eVo cases as well.
Shure has announced the its E4c sound isolating earphones, the latest addition to its line of premium audio accessories. Like the others products in the company’s consumer line, the E4c earphones utilize Shure’s sound isolation design to “prevent ambient noise from compromising the listening experience and to deliver the ultimate in audio quality.”
Shure said the new isolating earphones incorporate the same components used by professional musicians to monitor their performances on stage, and feature high-definition drivers with Tuned-Port technology for an ultra-wide frequency soundstage with brilliant highs and extended bass. The E4cs are also the lightest in Shure’s family of E Series earphones and are a good match for iPod users.
Shure is showcasing its roster of audio accessories at Macworld Conference & Expo in San Francisco all this week.
Digital Lifestyle Outfitters (DLO) today announced a special offer: everyone who purchases an iBoom Boombox at dlodirect.com during the Macworld Conference & Expo—which runs Jan. 11 through Jan. 14—will receive a free Boombag. The Boombag, a carrying case made specifically for the popular iPod iBoom accessory, features a shoulder strap, pockets for storage and padded neoprene for protection. The DLO BoomBag is also on sale separately for $29.99 (normally $44.99).
Apple has released iTunes 4.7.1 and iPod Updater 2005-01-11. The new version of iTunes includes support for the new iPod shuffle and other performance improvements. iPod Updater 2005-01-11 includes iPod shuffle Software 1.0 for iPod shuffle. The update also contains the same iPod software included in iPod Updater 2004-11-15 for all other iPod models.
On a day in which Apple CEO Steve Jobs promised “a lot of firsts,” the company unquestionably delivered: most importantly, a $499 iPod-matching “Mac mini” was introduced with a January 22 release date, followed by the announcement of “iPod shuffle,” the least expensive and smallest capacity iPod at a $99/512MB configuration. Both products were touted as the cheapest ever introduced by Apple in their respective categories, and offered in modestly upgraded versions at $50 and $100 premiums. Prices for their higher-end brethren were left unchanged, such that iPods now range in price from $99 to $599, and Macintosh computers from $499 to $2999.
For the full story of all of the major announcements at Apple CEO Steve Jobs’ keynote speech in San Francisco, please click on Read More. Today’s major announcements are as follows: the introduction of the iPod shuffle, a $99-$149 flash memory-based iPod, the introduction of the Mac mini, a $499-$599 Macintosh computer to attract ‘switchers’, a collection of new iPod shuffle accessories from Apple, changes to iTunes, a Motorola phone with an ‘iTunes client,” updated sales figures, and new Mac software.
Apple today announced it has teamed up with Mercedes-Benz, Volvo, Nissan, Scion, Alfa Romeo and Ferrari to deliver iPod integration with their car stereo systems this year. The iPod Integration Kit for Mercedes-Benz will debut this April in the 2006 Mercedes-Benz M-Class, and will be available for most other 2005 and 2006 models later this year. Volvo will offer two iPod connectivity options—The Volvo iPod Adapter and an FM transmitter—for their entire 2005 US model line. Nissan, Alfa Romeo and Ferrari will announce details of their iPod integration solutions later this year. These companies join BMW and MINI Cooper who began providing integrated iPod solutions in 2004.
“Music lovers want to listen to their digital music in their cars, and we’re delighted to be working with Mercedes to offer a fully integrated solution,” said Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO. “The iPod Integration Kit for Mercedes-Benz features the quality and attention to detail Mercedes is famous for, perfectly complementing Apple’s innovative iPod.”
iLounge is proud to present the world’s first photo gallery of the new iPod shuffle, Apple’s $99 iPod (512MB). A limited quantity of iPod shuffle units were made available at Apple’s San Francisco retail store, and iLounge was on hand for the launch. Additional units are shipping from Apple’s factory in Asia today, and should be available nationally this week.
The 512MB unit includes 120 song storage capacity, a 12 hour rechargeable battery, and headphones. A 1GB unit will also be available at $149.
Ipodlounge has six iPod shuffles. We’re giving away three to our readers. Stay tuned for the giveaway details later today.
Confirming months of speculation and publicized leaks from suppliers, Apple today unveiled the newest member of the iPod family, iPod shuffle. The compact digital audio player—built with flash memory instead of a hard-disk drive like other iPods—is the lowest-priced model yet, but also offers the least amount of song capacity. It is available immediately in 512MB and 1GB capacities for or $99 and $149, respectively.
Physically smaller than an iPod mini but made entirely from glossy white plastic like the front casings of most full-sized iPods, iPod shuffle is so named for its dramatic departure from iPod norms: it lacks its predecessors’ now iconic screen and Click Wheel controls, and is intended for casual, randomized music listening rather than storage of a full music library.
“iPod shuffle is smaller and lighter than a pack of gum and costs less than $100,” said Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO. “With most flash-memory music players users must use tiny displays and complicated controls to find their music; with iPod shuffle you just relax and it serves up new combinations of your music every time you listen.”
Apple said iPod shuffle takes advantage of iTunes’ new AutoFill feature, which “automatically selects the perfect number of songs to fill iPod shuffle from a user’s complete music library on their computer.” The company said that at any time, with a flip of a switch on the back of iPod shuffle, users can choose to listen to their music in order rather than shuffled.
Featuring a simplified four-direction control system to let users skip forward and backward, play/pause, and adjust volume upwards and downwards, iPod shuffle includes a headphone port at its top and standard Dock Connector port on its bottom to permit listening and file transferring, respectively.
The device, which can be plugged directly into a computer via USB, also doubles as a portable flash drive to back up and transfer personal files.
In addition to an included lanyard and earphones, Apple is selling an optional armband, clear sport case with neck strap, dock, USB power adapter, and battery pack that boosts battery life to up to 20 additional hours. All of the accessories sell for $29.
TEN Technology has announced three new naviPro eX models to its line of wireless remote controls for iPod. The new naviPro eX wireless remote models support all iPod models with Dock Connector, and offer additional functions including navigation of playlists, albums and chapters, shuffle and repeat modes. The naviPro receiver comes in three models—naviPro eX, naviPro eX black and naviPro eX mini. In addition, remote control of iPod photo slideshow is anticipated shortly with the same naviPro eX remote controller. The naviPro eX will begin shipping by end of January, and the naviPro eX mini and naviPro eX black in February. The suggested retail price for all models is $49.95.
XtremeMac today announced the debut of Shieldz, translucent clip-on covers for the iPod mini. Shieldz are designed to add color while providing protection, according to the company. Shieldz come in five colors; Sky, Rose, Tangerine, Lilac, Kiwi and Ice (clear). They work with the iPod mini belt-clip and armband and are also compatible with XtremeMac’s Accessory kit for iPod mini. Shieldz sell individually at a suggested retail price of $12.95.
Griffin Technology today introduced the Xpress Stand for Apple’s Airport Express. The Xpress Stand increases effective range and signal efficiency for AirTunes by raising the base station higher up in the room. It also makes it easier to check the network status light at a glance. The design includes built-in cable management, and a weighted, chrome metal base. Pricing for Griffin Xpress Stand has been set at $24.99. Pre-orders are being accepted at Griffin’s website for shipment beginning in the first quarter of 2005.
My, how the world has changed. Three years after Apple Computer’s October 2001 introduction of the iPod, the company famous in technology circles for its Apple ][ and Macintosh personal computers is arguably even more famous in the mainstream for its portable music players. And while the bi-annual Macworld Expo - the American exposition of new Apple and third-party hardware and software - seems to shrink with each passing year, the presence and importance of iPod developers within that expo continues to grow.
Leading iPod accessory vendors including Belkin, Dr. Bott, Griffin, iSkin, Marware and XtremeMac have rapidly expanded their Macworld Expo San Francisco show staff and floor space to accommodate new product lines, each seeking to broaden its offerings to provide more complete solutions to iPod owners’ needs. Last year’s smaller iPod vendors - TEN Technology, Eroch Studios of LiliPod fame, and MacMice, as examples - now have two, three or four times their previous number of offerings on display.
Some consolidation of even smaller vendors’ better offerings into large companies’ distribution networks is evident. Key case manufacturers are moving to sell plug-in iPod hardware developed by newly hired staff or smaller Asian affiliates. Larger companies are seeing executive-level changes, as evidenced by the just-announced movement of former Griffin Vice President of Marketing and Design Andrew Green to a similar position at rival Digital Lifestyle Outfitters.
And yet Macworld’s tent is getting smaller. On the heels of its announcement months ago that it would shrink the venue at its summer Boston Macworld to create a cozier atmosphere for the decreasing number of attendees and exhibitors, expo host IDG has now shifted the San Francisco show’s primary exhibition floor entirely into a single tent at Muscone Center South from its previous two-tent Muscone North and South spread. A few vendors are in smaller booths, or appear not to be represented on the floor at all. Though corporate inbreeding hasn’t recently been foreign to the world of Apple third-party development, the gene pool looks - but perhaps only looks - smaller inside Macworld’s convention hall.
New excitement and new blood may well be needed. And it is anticipated that lower-cost Apple products to be announced for release this year may begin that process. iLounge will be reporting live from Macworld Expo San Francisco all week with the details.
United Kingdom-based magazine and iLounge friend Macworld U.K. has exclusively reported the following on Apple’s new flash memory-based iPod:
“The micro iPod is white, and will hold 240 songs – but has no screen so will play the unlisted tracks in a set order or in random fashion. Four buttons are arranged in a square formation – two large buttons and two smaller ones.
Apple’s slogan for the iPod is ‘240 songs a million ways’.”
Following an exclusive pre-Macworld Expo interview with Griffin Technology representatives Chris Heric and Sharp Emmons, iLounge was blown away by the company’s new SmartDeck audio cassette adapter ($24.99) - a patent pending in-car solution for iPods that both transmits an iPod’s music to a car stereo and permits that stereo’s existing controls to operate the iPod. SmartDeck will ship in the second quarter of this year.
White in color and otherwise externally almost identical to Sony’s CPA-9C cassette adapter, the SmartDeck connects to an iPod’s headphone jack and four-pin top accessory port with a single white cable, and is inserted into a car’s cassette tape player to enable inexpensive and clean iPod-to-stereo audio transmission. However, SmartDeck differs internally from the CPA-9C and less reliable competitors, using optical technology to map the stereo’s fast forward, rewind, and other buttons to the iPod’s internal controls. Moreover, Griffin’s engineering representative promised that the product would outperform Sony’s adapter - our benchmark for reliability - in performance and longevity. As Sony’s adapter shames low-end products made by companies such as Coby, we can’t help but be excited for its potential.
Given its inexpensive price, seemingly great audio quality and certain utility to millions of iPod owners, Griffin’s SmartDeck is the single most important product we’ve seen thus far before Macworld Expo. If the finished product delivers on Griffin’s promises - and on time - it will be a must-have accessory for iPod owners with in-car cassette decks. Click on Read More for a higher-resolution photograph, and expect additional information in the days to come.
Australia’s Standard TM (STM), maker of iLounge’s top-recommended iPod travel case Cocoon (iLounge rating: A), has delivered to iLounge final shipping product of its new and improved Cocoon Mini travel case for the iPod mini. Available in two colors - dark grey and blue - the Cocoon Mini features the same outstanding exterior design of its predecessor, with a dual-zippered fold-open body, integrated hard plastic belt clip and metal eyelet, but uses a new interior that’s even better than before. Like the Cocoon, Cocoon Mini includes an nice iPod-fitting case - now made from silicone rubber - and a detachable lanyard necklace. It also has a small mesh pocket for headphones, but entirely eliminates the use of Velcro inside by using a strip of clear vinyl to hold the iPod mini in place. Absent the Velcro, Cocoon Mini is now scratchproof inside and out. Click Read More to see more photos, and expect a full iLounge review soon.
In an iLounge exclusive pre-Macworld Expo tease, iPod accessory maker XtremeMac has delivered to us a new FM transmitter designed to compete directly against Griffin Technology’s popular iTrip: AirPlay ($39.95), a considerably smaller-than-iTrip transmitter that boasts a built-in LCD tuning screen and the slogan “Smaller. Simpler. Better.” As shown in the attached pictures (click Read More to see them), AirPlay’s black on bluelit screen is easy to read, and lights up only when you’re tuning. XtremeMac stresses that the built-in screen overcomes the single biggest issue - realtime tuning - that people have reported with the iTrip.
Despite its small size, AirPlay features a surprisingly robust broadcasting range and, under the right circumstances, impressively clear audio. One channel where it was tested - 88.3 - sounded superb, even at a considerable distance. (Like other FM transmitters, it struggles on channels with interference, but we haven’t run it through our regular tests yet to determine its usability in the most challenging radio market we’ve seen - Southern California.) Using a coiled antenna to compensate for its tiny packaging, AirPlay fits neatly on the tops of full-sized iPods and iPod minis, leaving either unit’s Hold switch exposed. Expect a full iLounge review soon.
Matias Corporation, maker of iLounge favorite iPod Armor, has introduced Key Maestro ($19.95), a software package for Macintosh users that eases use of iTunes in the background while you work in other applications.
“Lots of people like listening to iTunes in the background while they work, but it’s a pain to have to go into it just to skip a song or pause it or whatever else. With Key Maestro, you can keep working in the application you’re in, and control iTunes in the background using a keyboard shortcut. It’s really handy,” said Matias’ Vesna Vojnic. A free trial is available at Matias’ website.
Speck Products, long-time maker of soft plastic cases for the iPod, has introduced ToughSkin ($34.95), a new ruggedized plastic skin that boasts shock and tear resistance. Like Speck’s earlier cases, ToughSkin is made from soft Kraton plastic, but differs in its shape and features: ToughSkin includes brick-like bumpers on its corners and edges, screen and Click Wheel covers, and a detachable belt clip. Versions of ToughSkin will be available for fourth-generation iPods, the iPod photo, and the iPod mini, and five colors are expected: frosted clear, black, blue, orange, and red.
Pacific Rim Technologies today announced three new iPod products—a new add-on iPod mini battery and two new magnesium cases. The company said its iPod mini battery pack ($15.99) will extend the life of an iPod mini an additional 8 hours using 6 rechargeable AAA batteries. Pacific Rim’s magnesium alloy case for 4G iPods ($34.99) has a clear plastic front and will be available in three sizes for 20/40/60GB iPods. It is available in black or silver. The company’s new magnesium alloy case for iPod mini ($29.99; pictured at right) also has a clear plastic front, but is available in five matching iPod mini colors.