Apple’s largest manufacturing partner Foxconn may be planning to sell its own line of iPhone, iPad, and iPod accessories, according to the Wall Street Journal. According to executives with the company who declined to be named, Foxconn has been looking for ways to diversify beyond contract manufacturing, with investments in media content and software and is now apparently reviewing plans for its own brand of electronics accessories to include data transmission cables, headphones, and keyboards under the Foxconn brand. It also plans to license Apple’s technology to produce accessories compatible with the iPhone and iPad.
Foxconn is also expanding into the software and content market with the aim to directly supply content for all of the devices it assembles. The company has reportedly begun hiring software engineers for a research and development centre in southern Taiwan to focus on developing mobile applications, cloud computing technology, and smart watch apps.
OtterBox announced today that it has acquired fellow case maker LifeProof, one of its main competitors in the protective case market. “This is a big strategic move for us,” OtterBox CEO Brian Thomas said. He said the LifeProof name will remain part of the brand. Thomas cited the move as a way for OtterBox to get further into the waterproof case market — the company decided to integrate rather than compete with LifeProof. Interestingly, LifeProof just announced a new protective case — Frē for iPad mini.
LifeProof has introduced its Frē case for iPad mini. As expected from a LifeProof case, Frē for iPad mini is billed as waterproof, dirtproof, snowproof, and shockproof, notably sharing its name with the previously-released Frē for iPhone 5 rather than the Nüüd for iPad. The company says the iPad mini case is fully submersible in water up to 2 meters deep for one hour.
Frē also meets a military standard of withstanding drops from 4 feet. No pricing has been announced yet for Frē, though the company says that the case will be available in June.
Logitech has introduced its Wired Keyboard for iPad ($60), which the company is billing as “[t]he first wired keyboard for iPad specially designed for the classroom.” The keyboard comes in two versions, with either a Lightning or 30-pin connector. It features a spill-resistant design and a promised key lifespan of more than five million strokes.
Unlike many of the keyboards that have been designed to match the sizes and shapes of various iPad models, Logitech’s Wired Keyboard for iPad boasts full-size keys, including shortcut keys. It is currently available for preorder; the Lightning version is expected to arrive in August, and the Dock Connector version is slated for an October release.
Moshi has released its USB Cable with Lightning Connector ($20). While it’s not terribly different in price or size from Apple’s official Lightning to USB Cable, this one-meter Lightning cable uses fancy aluminum plug jackets rather than the plastic ones favored by Apple.
Moshi’s USB Cable with Lightning Connector comes in black or white. Teased by the company at CES earlier this year, it is available now.
Swedish headphone maker Jays has announced its new a-Jays Five ($100) earphones. The in-ear earphones feature a custom driver and flat, tangle-free cables. A redesigned three-button remote is thinner than previous Jays remotes, and the microphone with built-in echo cancellation won’t degrade over time, according to the company.
Offered in black or white, a-Jays Five will come with five different sizes of silicone tips, a cable clip, and a carrying case. No current release date is listed, but the earphones are “coming soon,” according to Jays’ website.
IK Multimedia has announced iKlip 2 ($40), a universal microphone stand adapter for iPad or iPad mini. An updated version of the iKlip Microphone Stand Adapter, iKlip 2 attaches to a microphone stand and holds an iPad or iPad mini, depending on which version of the adapter a user purchases. The new adapter lets a user view an iPad or iPad mini from a wider number of angles thanks to a rear ball joint, and it can now be attached to thicker mic stand poles measuring up to 1.2” in diameter.
IK Multimedia also announced the iKlip Studio for iPad mini ($30). A desktop stand, the iKlip Studio for iPad mini is a smaller version of the existing iKlip Studio, designed for 7”-8” tablets. Both products are available now.
Newer Technology has introduced the GripBase Podium ($45) for the iPad and iPad mini. A floor stand podium, GripBase Podium extends from a 38-inch height to nearly five feet, enabling users to view and interact with an elevated iPad or iPad mini.
The podium twists and swivels to view from any angle, while a heavy-duty, plastic-coated 12.55 pound base anchors the podium. An included GripStand case fits the second-, third-, or fourth-generation iPad; iPad mini users will need to separately purchase a GripStand case specific to their devices. GripBase Podium is available now.
Geneva has announced its Model S Wireless ($300), an updated version of the company’s Model S speaker. The new Model S Wireless removes the 30-pin dock from the top of the speaker, replacing the Apple-specific connector with more broadly compatible Bluetooth streaming capability. It features two full-range 3” drivers, a digital FM radio and digital clock.
Geneva’s Sound System Model S Wireless comes in white, black, or red, each including a metal table stand. It is available now, and the prior Model S has dropped in price, apparently on its way to discontinuation.
Newer Technology has announced the NuGuard GripStand and GripBase for iPad mini ($35-$60), a smaller version of the GripStand and GripBase we reviewed for full-sized iPads. Fitting seamlessly with Apple’s Smart Cover, NuGuard’s GripStand mini lets users swivel the integrated circular stand 360 degrees to position at any angle. The stand can also be used as a handle to carry the iPad mini like a very small briefcase. GripBase is a more substantial desktop base that elevates the iPad mini above a flat surface.
Sold separately, GripStand for iPad mini is available now for $35. The GripStand can also be purchased with the GripBase in a bundle for $60.
After a long absence from the bleeding edge of the high-end earphone market, Shure has just debuted a four-driver canalphone model: the SE846 Quad Driver Earphones ($1000). Using 10 laser-cut, laser-welded stainless steel plates, Shure boasts that the SE846 earphones offer a true subwoofer experience through a revolutionary low-pass filter. The earphones feature two low-frequency drivers, one mid-frequency driver, and one high-frequency driver. Users will be able to choose between three sound signatures — warm, balanced, or bright — while listening.
The SE846 Quad Driver Earphones feature removable cables and offer a transparent look. Shure claims the earphones will isolate up to 37 decibels of ambient noise. The earphones are available for pre-order at Earphone Solutions, and are estimated to ship in June.
Having been less conspicuous in the Apple speaker market for the last few years, Klipsch has just released its KMC 3 Wireless Music System ($400), a new Bluetooth speaker. KMC 3 is a 2.1-channel wireless music system with a 5.25” subwoofer and two 2” full range drivers. A USB input is included for charging devices, and the speaker can run on 8 D batteries when unplugged.
Klipsch’s KMC 3 Wireless Music System comes in black or white. According to Klipsch’s website, it is available now in black in “limited quantities,” with a “spring” release planned for the white version.
Scosche has released its RH1060 Bluetooth stereo headphones ($200), which were featured in a First Look in January, though the original pricing was announced at a higher price of $250. One of our Best of Show finalists at CES 2013, the RH1060 headphones feature 40mm drivers and playback controls on the exterior of the right ear cup.
Scosche’s RH1060 headphones use Bluetooth to connect wirelessly to iOS devices, with a range of 33 feet. A rechargeable lithium ion battery allows for up to 8 hours of continuous playback, and a micro USB cable can fully recharge the headphones in less than three hours. The RH1060 headphones are available now.
Adobe today announced Project Mighty — a pressure-sensitive Bluetooth pen that will rely on the company’s Cloud servers for the transfer of settings, enabling the pen to be used on multiple devices without reconfiguration. The pen features a rechargeable battery, interchangeable tips, and on-board memory. Few other details are available at this time.
The company also announced Napoleon, a ruler device that can interact with tablets. Napoleon was shown projecting traceable digital lines onto an iPad. Both products were shown while connected to an iPad via Bluetooth. [via The Verge]
Thanks in part to Apple’s switch to more expensive Lightning connectors, as well as the ascendance of Bluetooth wireless connectivity, Apple’s grip on accessory makers is starting to slip, according to a New York Times report. While many retail stores and hotel rooms previously featured Dock Connector accessories, the market has expanded and broadened, reducing Apple’s presence. A number of accessory makers expressed frustration with the Lightning connector transition, as companies were not notified of the change in advance, and fees for both licensing and manufacturing have gone up. Consequently, accessory makers opted to leave Apple docks out of their products; Logitech, Voxx, and Geneva Lab told the Times that they’ve dropped physical Apple connectors from most or all of their products.
For its part, Apple says it doesn’t mind accessories continuing in a more wireless direction. Apple spokesman Tom Neumayr said, “Apple provides users with the best wired and wireless connectivity options to work with the broadest range of accessories.” Still, sales of speakers with docks dropped 16% in 2012, while sales of wireless streaming speakers jumped 175%, according to an NPD Group report.
Gear4, the U.K.-based brand behind Apple accessories such as AlarmDock Halo 2 and Renew SleepClock, has gone bankrupt and cut most of its U.K. workforce, but has effectively been re-formed as a new entity in Hong Kong. Disruptive Hong Kong bought the rights of all designs, brands, and intellectual property from Disruptive Ltd — the company behind the Gear4 branding — and the company is relocating its headquarters. Disruptive founder and CEO Tom Dudderidge said the economic climate forced the company to review its operations, including “product development, business model and location.” According to the company, all U.K. customer warranties will be honored, and the company will retain a small number of sales and marketing workers in the U.K. [via The Channel]
Logitech has introduced the FabricSkin Keyboard Folio for iPad ($150), a folio with a thin, fabric, Bluetooth keyboard that resembles the Microsoft Surface keyboard. The folio case also includes a view stand for the iPad, and a magnetic clasp to keep the case closed. Keys are full-sized and feature a liquid repellant coating.
Logitech claims the battery will last up to three months on a full charge, based on two hours of typing per day. A USB cable is included for recharging. FabricSkin Keyboard Folio comes in six different colors, including black and blue in leather, blue and yellow in cotton, and gray and orange in fabric. The keyboard case is now available for pre-order.
Avid has announced the launch of Fast Track Solo ($179) and Fast Track Duo ($299), two new portable audio interfaces compatible with iPad. Both interfaces feature a metal chassis, a Bus-powered USB port, and the ability to capture two sources simultaneously at 24-bit, 48 kHz resolution.
Fast Track Solo includes one mic preamp and one instrument input; Fast Track Duo includes two mic preamps/instrument inputs and two line inputs. Pro Tools Express software is included with both interfaces. Both Fast Track Solo and Duo are available now at Avid resellers and will be “available soon” at Avid’s website.
Stepping beyond the physical protection offered with traditional waterproof cases, both Incipio and LifeProof have recently announced peace-of-mind augmentations in the form of waterproof warranty coverage. Notably, the companies are taking different approaches to offering waterproof warranties. LifeProof has introduced an optional Total Water Protection Program that will cover any of its iPhone or iPad cases, offering one year of protection for a registration fee of $10 for iPhone, or $20 for iPad. If the device is damaged by water while in the case, LifeProof will repair or replace it for $50 if it’s an iPhone, $75 if it’s an iPad.
Incipio, however, is selling its new Atlas iPhone 5 case with an included one-year, nontransferable water damage warranty at no extra charge. In cases of accidental water damage to a device, Incipio will repair or replace the device. Users can optionally extend their warranty coverage to two years for an additional fee. Atlas is available for pre-order and is estimated to ship in three to four weeks. For now, both programs are only available in the United States.
Soundfreaq has announced Boom Freaq ($350), a special edition of its Sound Stack speaker. Boom Freaq is a Bluetooth wireless speaker that can dock either Dock Connector or Lightning devices — a 30-pin dock is built-in, and a Lightning adapter is now also included. Like other iterations of Sound Stack, the speaker features two full-range drivers and two active subwoofers. A USB port is included for universal charging.
Boom Freaq’s look is inspired by classic boomboxes, and is the newest addition to the company’s Novogratz Collection. Boom Freaq is available now for pre-order and will ship in 4 to 5 weeks.