Case-mate has introduced its new Patriot Line of cases for the fifth-generation iPod and iPod nano. Available in stars and stripes or camouflage, the form-fit leather cases feature an inner plastic shell, a removable belt clip, screen and click wheel protectors, and a microfiber cleaning cloth. “No matter which style you choose, you’ll be supporting our troops while protecting your music,” explains Case-mate. “Whether it’s an iPod or nano case you take home, a portion of the proceeds from the Patriot Line goes directly to the United Service Organizations (USO) which serves military personnel serving around the world.”
By reader request, iLounge today debuted the first of several new features planned for our Reviews section: “Sort by ratings and categories.” Found at the top of our Sort by Category Reviews Index page, this new tool is the equivalent of the Report Cards published in our Free iPod Books and Buyers’ Guides, but updated in real time. The simple pull-down menu lets you immediately see the top-rated products in any category of iPods or accessories we have reviewed. With over 900 products now reviewed on the site, and over 1,300 in our larger accessories database, this our goal is to help you quickly sort out top-rated products from the not-so-good ones.
Please note that the feature is approximately 90% complete, with several handfuls of products (including a number of lower-rated ones) still yet to be added. We intend to make sure that all of our reviews are searchable via the system by the end of the week. Enjoy!
Targus has announced two new security locks for the iPod. Joining the company’s previously available Eyelet Security Lock for iPod ($20) are the Mobile Security Lock for iPod ($40; shown right) and Desktop Security Lock for iPod ($30). The iPod locks feature a keyless, user-settable three-digit combination, and are designed for use with any dock connector iPod (3G, 4G, 5G, nano, and mini). The Mobile Security Lock features a compact case that houses a retractable cable and combination lock. The Desktop Security Lock has a 6.5-foot galvanized black steel cable that secures the iPod to any stationary object.
The Wall Street Journal reports that Microsoft is currently in talks with Hollywood studios about licensing movies and TV shows for use with a forthcoming Microsoft portable device. The company has reportedly told at least one studio that it may launch the iPod rival as early as the fourth quarter of this year. Analysts believe, however, that the device will have a bigger impact on Microsoft’s current partners. “We believe the biggest issue with Microsoft entering the portable hardware business is that it puts it in direct competition with its partners,” American Technology Research analyst Shaw Wu said in a research noted provided to iLounge. “While the focus is on Apple, we believe this move will likely have a much larger competitive impact on Creative Technology, Sony, Samsung, MTV Networks, and others.
Pacific Design has announced the NanoGo, a new multipurpose case for the iPod nano. The $30 case features a carabiner clip, wristlet strap, integrated cord management, and a clear ID compartment and an additional area to store cash or credit cards. The NanoGo is made of leather-feel polyurethane (PU) material and comes in black with red detail and hot pink with white detail.
ABC has announced that its prime-time shows were viewed more than 11 million times on its website during the network’s free online pilot program. In one month, the ad-supported ABC.com TV show trial outperformed the results ABC parent company Disney has seen in its nine-month agreement with Apple. Disney said that since last October, it has sold more than 6 million downloads of shows like Desperate Housewives and Lost on the iTunes Music Store. The company said the test program will end on June 30th and will be relaunched in the Fall.
Apple said today that it has begun a “thorough audit” of the Chinese iPod factory operated by Foxconn, which recently came under fire for poor working conditions. “Apple has begun a thorough audit of the manufacturing plant operated by Foxconn in Longhua, China,” said Apple spokesman Steve Dowling. The audit will look at “employee working and living conditions, interviews of employees and managers, compliance with overtime and wage regulations, and other areas as necessary to insure adherence to Apple’s supplier code of conduct,” Dowling said. Foxconn denies any wrongdoing. “Foxconn’s employment practices are completely in accordance with the requirements of Shenzhen labor supervision departments and the Shenzhen Labor Supervision Bureau can come to our factory to carry out inspections,” Foxconn spokeswoman Miss He said.
XtremeMac has added a white version of its MicroMemo audio recorder for fifth-generation iPods. “In response to consumer interest, we have decided to make MicroMemo available in white as well as black,” said the company. “The white units will ship approximately 4-6 weeks after the first black units begin shipping. Both the white and black versions are now available for pre-order via our website.”
Advance Auto Parts is now offering free iPod-compatible car repair “how-to” videos. The video clinics show viewers how to perform a variety of maintenance tasks, including replacing brake pads, changing oil or installing shocks and struts.
Apple CEO Steve Jobs is determined to have $9.99 pricing for full-length movies in the iTunes Music Store, according to Variety. Jobs is reported to be currently in negotiations with the major film studios about licensing movies, but has been met with resistance. “Studios have resisted Jobs’ initial insistence that feature films be priced at the easy-to-remember $9.99,” reports Variety. “After all, library titles are typically sold to Wal-Mart and Best Buy significantly cheaper than new releases. Studios now are trying to convince Apple to sell similar content at multiple price points, something the company has never done. Also complicating the deals: The studios are working out terms with a host of other distributors, including Amazon, Movielink and BitTorrent, in part to make sure that one company does not dominate. It seems that none of the studios wants to be first in making a deal with Apple.”
iSkin has announced two special edition Nacho Libre iPod cases to coincide with the release of Paramount Pictures and Nickelodeon Movies’ film, Nacho Libre. Based on iSkin’s eVo3 and iSkin Duo designs, the silicone cases for the iPod nano and fifth-generation iPod feature designs based on the movie’s colorful lucha libre theme. The Nacho Libre skins feature click wheel and screen protectors, removable rotary belt clips, and will begin shipping this week. The Nacho Libre iSkin Duo is priced at $35, while the eVo3 version is $40.
Foxconn Electronics has “sternly denied” last week’s report on working conditions in its Chinese iPod factories. “Edmund Ding, spokesman for Foxconn, said there were huge discrepancies between the truth and the claims in the report, which he said seems like a vicious attack on the company,” reports DigiTimes. “He added that the company reserves the right to take legal actions over the report… He maintained that Foxconn, as an international company, abides by the employment law in China, which stipulates that the minimum wage for a worker in the Shenzhen Special Economic Zone is 810 yuan (US$101) a month, and 700 yuan outside the special economic zone… The company also has been actively making improvements to workers’ living conditions.”
Energizer has announced a new line of portable battery-powered chargers for iPods, cell phones, and gaming devices. The Energi To Go Power Pack ($30) provides immediate power to iPods from four AA batteries. It works with any dockable iPod and includes a reusable charger, a dock connector tip, and four Energizer e2 Lithium AA batteries. Also announced were the Energi To Go Cell Phone Charger ($20) for various mobile phones, and the Energi To Go Gaming Power Pack ($30) for the Sony PSP, Game Boy Advance, and Nintendo DS. All three Energi To Go chargers will be available in September.
Speck Products today announced that its SpeckTone Retro tabletop speaker system is now available. The $150 unit features a built-in iPod dock, a 4” subwoofer and two 3” drivers, and support for 4G and 5G iPods, the iPod nano and iPod mini. The SpeckTone Retro’s all-wood speaker cabinet comes in three lacquered finishes—green, black, and white. “SpeckTone Retro looks like nothing you’ve seen for the iPod. The elegance of 1950’s style makes a dramatic statement while enhancing the clean, modern look of the iPod,” says Speck.
In an effort to cut down on traffic accidents caused by driver distraction, the Canadian Automobile Association is pressing provinces in Canada to ban the use of MP3 players, cell phones and other devices while driving. “Restricting the use of electronic devices, such as cell phones, MP3 players and wireless hand-held devices, [allows drivers to] truly focus on the driving task,” said CAA President David Flewelling. “It is also our hope that a preventative measure like this one will create a generation of motorists who recognize the severe implications of driver distractions. Driver distraction is the greatest unreported traffic safety issue in Canada.”
Microsoft is said to be readying a handehld device and music service to compete with the iPod and iTunes Music Store. Following similar claims earlier this year, Reuters reports that the software giant has been privately demonstrating an entertainment device that plays videos and music. Microsoft has also reportedly held discussions with the music industry about licensing music for its own download service. A BusinessWeek report in January said Microsoft was “mulling its own digital device that adds gaming to music and video, in an effort to compete with Apple’s iPod empire.” The company was said to have reorganized its home entertainment and Xbox groups to better plan the device. In March, the Mercury News also reported that Microsoft was planning such a device.
ABC Family is using the iTunes Music Store to help promote the premiere of its new series “Kyle XY”. Beginning on June 20, iTunes users will be able to download the pilot show for free—six days before it makes its debut on TV. After June 27, episodes of “Kyle XY” will be available for $1.99 per episode. Multichannel reports: “An ABC Family spokeswoman said current plans call for the broadcast network to repurpose the first four episodes of the series, which follows the journey of Kyle (Matt Dallas), a mysterious teenage savant who is devoid of such human instinctive behavior as anger, joy and love, and the family who found him, four days after they premiere on the cable service.”
Following up on its earlier travel speaker i-Fusion (iLounge rating: B+), Sonic Impact Technologies today announced i-F2, a “second-generation Fusion with improved audio [and] remote control.” Like i-Fusion, i-F2 houses its speakers and an iPod dock within a zip-closed ballistic nylon travel case, which boasts water-resistant power and audio ports, plus an internal rechargeable battery for hours of play without wall power. Two compartments in the unit’s fold-open halves will be capable of holding the iPod and a small accessory, such as headphones, while you travel. i-F2 will be available in a black and silver color combination in mid-August for $149, the same price as its remote-less predecessor.
Philips has introduced two new iPod-compatible speaker systems as part of its “Holidays in June” product launch. “At a time when consumers applaud multi-tasking and innovation, Philips’ new micro systems combine home entertainment with mobility to provide the best of both worlds,” says the company.
The Philips MCM118D Micro System ($99; August 2006) offers 30W of total power and features a docking station that works with iPods and Philips portable GoGear players. The unit comes with a remote control and will be available in black or white.
The Philips MCM275D Micro System ($129; October 2006) is a silver wall-mountable system that features a built-in CD player with a front motorized disc door. The system also features a charging iPod dock, FM radio, sleep timer, USB connections, and remote control.
Two Wall Street analysts today lowered their iPod sales estimates for Apple’s current quarter. Merrill Lynch analyst Richard Farmer cut his iPod estimate to 8.1 million units from 9.2 million units based on historical sales data. Farmer lowered full-year sales estimates to 39.4 million from 43.4 million units. American Technology Research analyst Shaw Wu also lowered his estimates today, despite what he says is a strong reception to Apple’s recent back-to-school Mac-iPod promotion. Wu slightly reduced his iPod unit forecast to 8.3 million from 8.5 million. “We are seeing weaker iPod nano shipments (we believe in part due to Apple consciously drawing down inventory) offset by strength in vPods and iPod shuffle,” Wu said. “We continue to believe the iPod nano is in need of a refresh and will likely see one in the September quarter.”
Apple is set to introduce its next generation iPod, according to a high-ranking executive from the company’s Asian manufacturing partner, Hon Hai Precision. Bloomberg News reports that at an annual meeting this week in Taiwan, Hon Hai chairman Terry Gou said Apple is about to unveil a new iPod using a “none-touch” concept. Gou did not elaborate further, though he said he expects the company’s revenue to grow at least an average of 30 percent in the next five years based on rising orders from Apple and Sony. Hon Hai owns the Foxconn iPod factories in China, which are at the center of recent labor abuse claims.