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Developing Smart Connector accessories proving to be a challenge for everyone but Logitech

While Apple touted the iPad Pro’s Smart Connector as a valuable new port for charging and linking accessories, so far only Apple itself and its close collaborator Logitech have produced anything to make use of it, Fast Company reports. While Apple has confirmed “multiple companies are now developing Smart Connector accessories,” those in the industry are looking at a daunting task when examining the market advantage Logitech has in being able to launch its iPad Pro-friendly keyboard offerings on launch day or shortly after. “With an iPad Pro keyboard on the market already, we are evaluating the market’s appetite for another iPad Pro keyboard and identifying if there are any gaps that we can fill,” said Kelly McElroy, a spokeswoman for Incipio. “So we are developing with having a point of difference in mind rather than developing to be quick to market.”

mXers Audio announces Modular Earbuds

mXers Audio has debuted a new modular earphone system via a Kickstarter campaign. The new system features a patented connector design that allows the earbuds to be disassembled into separate parts so that any wire or earbud can be interchanged in seconds, allowing users to customize for features, fit, or simply their preferred choice of color and style. The interchangeable parts also make the Modular Earphones easier to repair, since only a single broken part such as a wire needs to be repaired or replaced, rather than an entire set of expensive earbuds. The system will offer both wired and wireless Bluetooth 4.2 base modules onto which either a standard set of mXers earbuds can be connected, or the bass-heavy xBass earbuds, both available in color choices of blue, red, or pink. Pricing via the Kickstarter campaign ranges from $30 for a basic wired set to to $120 for a set of three earbuds with the wireless module.

Cochlear reveals first Made for iPhone cochlear implant sound processor

Cochlear Limited is rolling out its new Nucleus 7, the first Made for iPhone cochlear implant sound processor to aid the hearing impaired. The new implant allows users to stream the sound directly from compatible iPhones, iPads and iPods over Bluetooth. Reuters reports that Cochlear’s previous sound processors only worked with mobile phones when implant wearers connected the sound processor to an intermediate Bluetooth device that would then pair with the phone or tablet. “It’s the first time people with an iPhone will be able to pick up the phone normally, or just listen to music, without any additional devices,” Jan Janssen, senior vice president of research and development at Cochlear, said. Apple developed the protocols with hearing aide firms like GN ReSound and Starkey, and is now licensing it to the other firms for free. Sarah Herrlinger, director of global accessibility policy for Apple, said developing a solution for users whose doctors recommend different devices for each ear — often from different manufacturers — was a big challenge. “We had to figure out how you could do a bi-modal solution where you’re able to simultaneously pair, control and hear both of them running at the same time,” she said. “That was a really interesting engineering opportunity for us to solve.”

IK Multimedia announces iRig Pro I/O

IK Multimedia has announced the release of the iRig Pro I/O, a new pocket-sized mobile audio/MIDI interface for iPhone/iPad and Mac users. The successor to the company’s highly rated 2013 iRig Pro, iRig Pro I/O raises the bar with a plethora of new features as well as bundled software and apps to enhance the digital musician’s experience. iRig Pro I/O provides a wide range of connectivity options, with inputs for guitars, basses, studio mics, vocal mics, keyboard, and more, with a combo XLR and 1/4” input as well as MIDI inputs for digital instruments. Built-in 24-bit analog-to-digital and digital-to-analog converters with a 96KHz sampling rate provides for professional audio quality in a device that can fit into your pocket and be ready to go with your iPhone or iPad for spontaneous jam sessions. A high-quality 1/8” headphone/line out is included with level control to provide pass-through audio for connecting to headphones, mixers, and powered monitor speakers — particularly applicable for iPhone 7 users — and built-in device charging is supported with an external power adapter for extended playing sessions. iRig Pro I/O retails for $150 and is available now from the IK Multimedia online store and other IK authorized retailers. We’ll be publishing a full review in the coming weeks.

Urban Armor Gear rolls out Metropolis Series cases for 10.5” and 12.9” iPad Pro models

Urban Armor Gear has revealed its new Metropolis Series cases for 10.5” and 12.9” iPad Pro models, featuring a smart cover that both protects the screen and functions as a multi-position stand. The case has a spot to keep the Apple Pencil secure when it’s not in use, and corner bumpers provide extra drop protection for the iPad’s display. The case can be removed from the adjustable stand — making the case compatible with Apple’s Smart Keyboard — and features oversized ports and cutouts to make sure that all the buttons are easily accessible and the device is still able to use various third-party cables and accessories. The 10.5” case costs $60, and the 12.9” costs $90, with both models available in red, black and blue.

Audeze iSine now available in Apple-exclusive Colorway

Back in January, we reviewed the innovative Audeze iSine 10 in-ear planar magnetic headphones and thought they were pretty amazing. In fact, we think Audeze’s Sine and iSine headphones are still the best expression of what can be done with headphones and the Lightning jack.

For those still on the fence, Audeze just announced a new colorway for the iSine10 which will be exclusive to Apple’s online store and retail locations. The new Black/Steel version has a silver grille which we think complements the design nicely. Like the original iSine10, the new version comes with Audeze’s CIPHER Lightning cable with inline DAC & amplifier, works with any iOS device with a Lightning Port, and is upgradeable and tuneable using the free Audeze iOS app. The price remains the same at $399.

Anki announces global launch of Cozmo

Anki has announced that its robotic sidekick, Cozmo, will be launching in Canada this July, followed by a broader rollout in the U.K., France, Germany, and Nordic countries later this year. Best known for its Anki Drive that took the stage at WWDC 2013 four years ago, Anki is a robotics and AI company that aims to bring cutting-edge technology to consumer experiences. Released in the U.S. last fall, Aniki’s newest product, Cozmo, is a sophisticated consumer robot that was built by a world-class team of roboticists, animators, and game developers to create an interactive experience powered by advanced AI. Cozmo not only responds to interactive commands, but uses learning algorithms to adapt its behaviour to its experiences and interactions with its owner, exhibiting an endearing personality in the process through complex facial expressions displayed on its OLED face, as well as face detection algorithms that allow Cozmo to recognize people and pets and respond to them in different ways.

Logitech releases Slim Combo keyboard case for 10.5” and 12.9” iPad Pro models

After Apple unveiled its new 10.5” and 12.9” iPad Pro models at yesterday’s WWDC keynote, Logitech revealed its Slim Combo keyboard case for the new devices. The detachable backlit keyboard connects through the device’s Smart Connector and is powered by the iPad, so there’s no need for a battery. The case provides a 50-degree range for reclining the iPad to find the right angle for viewing and has a place to store the optional Apple Pencil accessory. The Slim Combo for the 10.5” iPad Pro costs $130 while the 12.9” version is $150, and both are currently available on Logitech’s website and in Apple’s online store.

Report provides new insights into Apple’s upcoming Siri smart speaker

Apple’s long-rumoured Siri smart speaker is already in production, according to a new report by Mark Gurman at Bloomberg. Citing people familiar with the matter, Gurman lends his weight to recent rumours that Apple may in fact debut the speaker next week at WWDC, although he stops short of declaring that a sure thing, and notes that sources suggest the device will still not be ready to ship until later in the year.

Gurman’s report also provides a few additional insights into Apple’s plans for differentiating the new device from competing Google and Amazon offerings, noting that Apple will naturally offer “deep integration” with its product lineup, as well as focusing more heavily on audio fidelity by offering virtual surround sound technology, providing better sound quality, and possibly even sporting advanced features such as integrated sensors to measure a room’s acoustics and adjust audio settings accordingly. However, the speaker will not feature any kind of touchscreen, according to sources who have seen the actual product.

Apple extends repair coverage on iPad Pro Smart Keyboards to three years for ‘functional issues’

One week after extending warranty coverage for Apple Watch Series 1 batteries, Apple has also boosted its coverage of iPad Pro Smart Keyboards, 9to5Mac reports. An internal memo to retail staff and authorized service providers says Apple will now provide free service for up to three years for “functional issues” like sticking or unresponsive keys, sensor problems, connection issues and failures in the magnetic connector. The company will also be issuing refunds to customers who paid for replacement keyboards if they meet the newly announced criteria.

Logitech reveals Slim Folio Bluetooth keyboard case for fifth-generation iPad

Logitech has revealed its Slim Folio ($99) Bluetooth keyboard case for the fifth-generation iPad. The keyboard features large keys spread out to the edges of the case and includes a full row of iOS shortcut keys tailored to the iPad. The flexible stand includes a magnetic lock to keep the tablet in place and the advanced Bluetooth Smart Technology allows users to sync up their device once and have the keyboard automatically connect any time the iPad is put into the typing position. The low-energy Bluetooth connection is powered by coin cell batteries that Logitech claims can provide nearly 3,000 hours of use. The Slim Folio is available for pre-order now and is set to be released sometime this month.

Urbanears launches new lineup of Wi-Fi Connected Speakers

Urbanears has announced its entry into the Wi-Fi speaker market with a new lineup of Connected Speakers supporting Bluetooth, AirPlay, ChromeCast, and Spotify Connect for wireless music streaming. The first speakers to be released in the company’s new lineup are Stammen ($350) and Baggen ($450), featuring a minimalistic design in two different sizes; Stammen incorporates two 3/4” neodymium dome tweeters and a 4” woofer, and is intended for small to mid-sized spaces like bedrooms and studio apartments, while its larger sibling, Baggen is suited to larger spaces like patios and open-floor-plan homes, with its two 2.5” full-range drivers and a 5.25” woofer. Both models are individually wrapped in acoustically transparent fabric, available in six different colors, and also include multi-room and solo room capabilities, allowing them to be combined into a multi-room system with a different mood set to each room, or grouped together for synchronized listening. The on-speaker controls also reflect the minimalist design, with two knobs that can be pushed or turned to pause and resume playback, change modes, adjust volume, or select from up to seven Spotify or Internet Radio presets. An Urbanears Connected companion app will also be available to take users through the set up process and manage presets, speaker groupings, and equalizer settings. Urbanears’ new Connected Speakers will be available on Mar. 30 from Urbanears.com.

Apple patent points to possible new Smart Keyboard with dedicated ‘Share’ and ‘Emoji’ keys

A new Apple patent application outlines some possible ideas that Apple may be working on for a new iPad Pro Smart Keyboard, including the addition of new dedicated keys for sharing, accessing search and Siri features, and bringing up the Emoji keyboard. The patent application, titled User Interface for a Touch Screen Device in Communication with a Physical Keyboard, primarily concerns itself with “user interfaces for viewing, creating, editing, and sharing content on an electronic device” in relation to accepting multiple inputs — both on the touchscreen surface, as well as in conjunction with a physical keyboard. Much of the information outlined in the patent application reflects techniques already in use by Apple, such as finger gestures, focus selectors, and use of cursor keys and key combinations. However, the patent notably outlines new keys, such as a dedicated Share key that would bring up the iOS share sheet, an Emoji key that would presumably activate the on-screen emoji keyboard, and a magnifying glass key that could be used to bring up the Spotlight search window and/or activate Siri. As with most Apple patent applications, of course, it’s unclear whether any of the new features illustrated here will ever come to fruition. [via MacRumors]

 

Delayed BeatsX headphones to hit stores Feb. 10

The delayed BeatsX will be available at Apple stores in the U.S. and on the company’s website starting February 10, CNET reports. The $150 neckband-style headphones will feature Apple’s new power-efficient W1 chip already seen in AirPods, and will come in white or black. Beats has also announced gray and blue colors will be added, but there’s no official timeline for when those will appear or when international stores will be getting the headphones.

Apple releases firmware 3.5.1 update for AirPods

Apple has released firmware 3.5.1 for its AirPods, which will be downloaded automatically to an iOS device that syncs with AirPods and will be installed when the AirPods are put into their plugged in charging case near the device while it’s connected to WiFi. The update fixes previously undisclosed bugs. [via Apple Insider]

Rumor: Apple working on second-generation Apple Pencil

New rumors from Apple’s Asian suppliers suggest that Apple may be working on an update to Apple Pencil to be released alongside new iPad Pro models widely expected to be unveiled in March. While the rumors are vague on what new capabilities will be included, a Bloomberg report several months ago noted that Apple was working on “wider operating-system support for Apple’s stylus accessory” with the possibility of allowing users to annotate objects throughout iOS, rather than only in those apps specifically designed for the Apple Pencil. The Bloomberg report speculated that such features could be added as part of an iOS software update in early 2017, in which case the update would likely be released around the same time as the new iPad Pro models. It seems that such enhancements wouldn’t require a new Apple Pencil model, although there’s also been speculation that the new Apple Pencil could incorporate functionality Apple has outlined in several patents, such as an antenna, and a magnet for attaching to the iPad when not in use. [via MacRumors]

Spigen AirPods Stand coming in mid-February

Spigen has created the first AirPods-specific charging stand, designed to hold the AirPods charging case upright while plugged in to charge. At $12, the stand could provide users looking to plug in the case without futzing with a cord each time a cheaper option than another Lightning dock. The dock’s opening requires an original Apple Lightning cable to fit through the dock opening. The AirPods Stand isn’t showing up on Spigen’s site yet, but is available for pre-order now on Amazon, promising to be in stock February 15. [via iPhone in Canada]

New Griffin Home lineup includes app-enabled Connected Mirror, Coffee Maker, Toaster

Griffin Technology has unveiled Griffin Home, a new lineup of smart, app-powered appliances designed to simplify everyday routines. The new collection includes a Connected Toaster, Connected Coffee Maker, and Connected Mirror, as well as two new charging devices, the PowerBlock Beacon and PowerJolt Beacon. Griffin’s new Connected Toaster ($100) is a Bluetooth-enabled smart toaster that can be controlled by a companion iOS app to allow users to set personalized settings. The two-slot toaster features digital temperature adjustment and settings for bread type, darkness, and even gluten-free breads. The Connected Coffee Maker ($100) is a Bluetooth-enabled 12-cup drip coffee machine that allows users to adjust coffee strength and save their preferences using the companion iOS app. Griffin’s Connected Mirror ($1000) displays time, weather, and status messages from other Griffin Home products, and users can customize the smart mirror with the companion iOS app to choose which information is displayed on the mirror.

Kanex reveals GoPlay Sidekick wireless game controller for iOS devices, Apple TV

Kanex has introduced its new GoPlay Sidekick wireless controller for iOS and Apple TV. The $60 Bluetooth controller is compatible with most controller-supported games on the App Store and claims to provide up to 20 hours of gameplay with its rechargeable battery. The pocket-sized controller’s clamshell case doubles as a stand for your device while playing a game. The controller features a standard four-button layout and includes a D-pad, two analog joysticks and left and right trigger buttons. The controller is specifically designed for Apple devices, even going so far as to use a Lightning cable to charge. The GoPlay Sidekick will be available starting in February.

AirPods coming to Apple retail stores Monday Dec. 19

Apple is planning to begin selling AirPods in its retail stores this coming Monday, Dec. 19, according to a new report by MacRumors. While Apple previously announced that AirPods would be in stores sometime next week, more specific information has surfaced that product is already in transit to retail locations and is expected to go on sale Monday morning. Shipments are also en route to Apple Authorized Resellers and carrier stores, so AirPods should be available at most retail locations come Monday morning, although initial stock will likely be limited; Apple has noted that its retail locations will continue to receive regular shipments, however.

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