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Magellan intros Echo Fit sports smart watch

Magellan has introduced Echo Fit, an iOS-compatible sports smart watch. It comes in two models — the base Echo Fit ($150) and Echo Fit with Heart Rate Monitor ($200), which includes a Bluetooth Smart heart rate monitor. The ruggedized, water-resistant watch is an upgraded version of its Echo smart watch, adding activity and sleep tracking. Echo Fit tracks steps, distance, calories, and hours slept, wirelessly uploading data to the Magellan Active app. A number of popular sports apps are also compatible with Echo Fit.

Echo Fit also uses Bluetooth Smart to stream app data from an iPhone to the watch; the watch can also act as a remote control for app functions and music controls. Tapping the screen “turns the page” to reveal more data screens. Magellan’s Echo Fit uses a 1” high-resolution display with a backlight. It has a coin-cell battery that is said to last 4-8 months “with typical usage.” Echo Fit comes in four colors — black, pink, gray, and blue — and is expected to launch in September.

Apple posts official Beats welcome announcement

Apple has officially welcomed Beats to the Apple family, commemorating the finalization of its $3 billion acquisition initiated earlier this year. Noting that “[m]usic has always held a special place in our hearts,” the announcement includes a link back to beatsbydre.com, where a similar announcement can be found from Beats perspective, describing Beats as a new “instrument” joining Apple’s legacy of music-enabling products. Notes on Beats’ customer service page indicate that all inquiries related to sales and order info should now be directed to Apple, and that all online purchasing for Beats products will now go through the Apple Store.

Square announces new Reader for chip cards

Square has announced Square Reader for chip cards, a new credit card reader built to handle EMV chip cards—credit cards equipped with microchips, as already found in many countries around the world. The major U.S. credit card companies have planned to implement a fraud liability shift in October 2015, which will transfer liability for some fraudulent transactions away from merchants using EMV reader technology, and Square is looking to stay ahead of the curve. It appears as if the new Square reader will increase in size from the current model. The new reader will work with both chip and magnetic stripe cards, and use a Micro-USB port for charging. No release date or price information has been announced as of yet.

Adobe intros Ink and Slide iPad accessories, new apps

Adobe officially introduced its Ink and Slide accessories for iPad today — the accessories were previously announced as the Project Mighty cloud pen and Napoleon ruler. Ink is a three-sided aluminum stylus that uses Adonit’s Pixelpoint technology, which was also seen in today’s earlier announcement of the considerably less expensive Adonit Jot Touch with Pixelpoint. Adobe Slide is a digital ruler for precision sketching on iPad. The Ink and Slide accessories come together in a $200 package, and the set should be available today.

In addition to Ink and Slide, Adobe also introduced two new apps today — Adobe Lightroom for iPhone and Adobe Photoshop Mix for iPad. The former is an iPhone version of Adobe’s photo editing and organization program, and requires both Lightroom 5 and a Creative Cloud plan. Photoshop Mix is a new mobile editing program based on Adobe’s popular Photoshop. Both apps are free to download.

Adonit releases Jot Touch with Pixelpoint stylus

Adonit has released its newest stylus, the Jot Touch with Pixelpoint ($120). Pixelpoint is a 3.18 mm fine point tip designed to improve precision and accuracy. The new stylus comes with programmable shortcut buttons and the ability to connect to Adobe Creative Cloud. It also offers 2,048 levels of pressure sensitivity and palm rejection when connected to a Bluetooth 4.0-equipped device.

Jot Touch charges using USB, with Adonit claiming about 11 hours of battery life for continuous use, and a month while in sleep mode. It takes about 90 minutes to charge the accessory. Jot Touch with Pixelpoint comes in black or white and is available now.

Nest Protect alarm returning to stores with lower price

The Nest Protect Smoke + Carbon Monoxide Detector is returning to stores with a new retail price of $99, down from $130, The New York Times reports. Nest recently halted sales of the alarm after finding a safety feature — Nest Wave — could cause the alarm to have a delayed reaction to fire in some circumstances. Users with installed Nest alarms connected to the Internet had the feature deactivated by Nest, and it will be reactivated remotely once the company solves the issue. The announcement is not unexpected, as Nest said weeks ago the alarm would soon be back on the market.

Parrot announces MiniDrone release dates, pricing

Parrot has announced availability and pricing for its two new MiniDrone products that originally debuted at CES 2014. Rolling Spider ($100) is an ultra-compact flying drone that can be used indoors or outside. It includes removable wheels that allow it to roll from floor to ceiling.

Jumping Sumo ($160) is the company’s first ground-based toy—a two-wheeled rover that can drive along, zig-zag and make zero radius turns and even jump up to 80cm in height. An integrated camera allows the user to see the world from Jumping Sumo’s perspective as it roams around. Both new devices will be available in August 2014, along with an updated version of the company’s FreeFlight app.

Update: We had a chance to meet with Parrot and get some more information and demos of both new MiniDrones at their media event in Toronto last night. The Rolling Spider will be available in three colours—blue, red, and white—and will include a set of twelve stickers for customization. The camera on the bottom of Rolling Spider can take snapshots that are stored in the drone’s 1GB on-board flash memory and can be transferred off via a micro-USB connection. Jumping Sumo will be available in black/red, white/black and khaki/yellow colour combinations and includes a set of three stickers to personalize its style or mood. Both devices work with the same rechargeable Lithium Polymer 550 mAH battery packs, so packs can be interchanged; Rolling Spider will get 6-8 minutes of use from a single charge while Jumping Sumo can roll about for up to 20 minutes on a full battery.

Report: Apple plans Lightning cable MFi headphones

Apple has added a specification to its Made For iPhone/iPad/iPod program allowing manufacturers to create headphones with Lightning connectors, rather than traditional 3.5mm headphone plugs, according to a new report from 9to5Mac. While not currently supported by iOS devices, Lightning headphone support will be enabled in a future software update. According to the report, the Lightning standard will allow for stereo 48 kHz digital audio output from iOS devices, and mono 48 kHz input for integrated microphone support, though the actual sound quality will depend considerably on superior headphone and microphone components. It will also allow power to transfer between the headphones and the iOS device in both directions, which could eliminate batteries in noise-cancelling headphones, and enable other headphones to add backup power to the connected device.

The report also states there will be two configurations: Standard Lightning Headphones, and Advanced Lightning Headphones. The former “are described by Apple as using minimum components when paired with a digital-to-analog converter supported by the Lightning Headphone Module,” while the latter use a digital signal processor and digital/analog converter, and allow for “digital audio processing features like active noise cancellation.” Lightning headphones would likely be physically incompatible with non-Apple devices, as well as Mac computers, unless Apple adds Lightning ports to Macs.

Samsonite acquires Speck Products for $85 million

Luggage company Samsonite International S.A. has announced its acquisition of leading case manufacturer Speck Products for $85 million. Speck is the maker of a number of well-reviewed iOS cases, most notably its often-imitated CandyShell. The acquisition is Samsonite’s “first foray outside of what is considered the ‘traditional’ luggage space, into a different, yet complementary, product segment,” Samsonite CEO Tim Parker said in a statement. By all indications, it appears the Speck brand will remain intact.

Beats introduces new Solo2 headphones

Following Apple’s official acquisition announcement Wednesday, Beats has introduced its new Solo2 ($200) headphones. The headphones are a redesign of the previous Solo model. Beats claims Solo2 “offers a wider range of sound and enhanced clarity.”

The headphones come in pink, black, blue, white, gray, and as an official (RED) product. Available for preorder now, Solo2 will be widely available June 1.

Apple confirms Beats Electronics acquisition for $3 billion

Apple today confirmed that it has purchased Beats Electronics, maker of the Beats by Dr. Dre line of headphones and speakers, as well as the Beats Music subscription music streaming application. Combined, the purchase will cost Apple $3 billion, which according to the company’s statement consists “of a purchase price of approximately $2.6 billion and approximately $400 million that will vest over time.” Notably, this is less than the $3.2 billion price originally reported in early May, but the price matches a recent New York Post report. Beats co-founders Jimmy Iovine and Dr. Dre will join Apple as part of the acquisition. The transaction is expected to close in the fiscal fourth quarter, subject to regulatory approvals.

“Music is such an important part of all of our lives and holds a special place within our hearts at Apple,” Apple CEO Tim Cook announced in the statement. “That’s why we have kept investing in music and are bringing together these extraordinary teams so we can continue to create the most innovative music products and services in the world.”

“I’ve always known in my heart that Beats belonged with Apple,” Iovine said in the statement. “The idea when we started the company was inspired by Apple’s unmatched ability to marry culture and technology. Apple’s deep commitment to music fans, artists, songwriters and the music industry is something special.”

Initially reported by The Financial Times as a deal in progress, the acquisition was seemingly a certainty after Dr. Dre appeared alongside actor Tyrese Gibson in a Facebook video, describing himself as the “first billionaire in hip hop.” Some analysts and commentators have questioned the wisdom of the deal for Apple, while others have cited Beats’ strong following in the African-American community as a potential customer base for Apple, and suggested that Beats Music will increase Apple’s footprint in the subscription streaming music category.

Update: “We could build about anything that you could dream of. But that’s not the question,” Cook told Re/code. “The thing that Beats provides us is a head start, and it provides us with incredible people, kindred spirits.” It’s also noted that Apple will keep both the Beats hardware and Beats Music streaming service brands intact.

In a separate story from the AP, Cook said of Iovine and Dre: “We’ve dated, we’ve gone steady and now we are getting married. This relationship started a decade ago, so we know there is an incredible cultural fit. These two guys have a very rare set of skills. It’s like finding a particular grain of sand on the beach. It’s that rare.”

Twelve South debuts HoverBar 3 iPad flexible mount

Twelve South has introduced HoverBar 3 ($100), the newest iteration in its flexible iPad mount series. HoverBar 3 comes with three clips to hold iPad Air, iPad mini, and iPad 2/3/4. It can attach to any ledge up to one inch thick for hands-free use.

A detachable display stand is also included for using the iPad without the flexible arm. HoverBar 3 is available now.

Blog spotlights risks in cheap, counterfeit iPad chargers

Comparing $19 Apple iPad 10W USB Power Adapters and clones sold on eBay and elsewhere for $3, Ken Shirriff elucidates the risks unknowingly assumed by buyers of knockoff accessories. Cosmetically all but identical from the outside, the iPad chargers actually differ dramatically inside, with the Apple version providing a more stable flow of 2-Amp power with overheating and electrocution protection. By contrast, the clone produces only around 1-Amp power despite branding to the contrary, and cuts corners on everything from stability of the current to protection against temperature, moisture, and other electrical failures. Beyond supplying an inadequate flow of power to quickly recharge an iPad, Shirriff notes that the counterfeit charger’s board “is unsafe. If you use the charger in a humid bathroom and a drop of water condenses across the 0.6 mm gap, then zap!”

Counterfeit and other low-quality power adapters have been blamed for a number of iPhone-related electrocutions and deaths, most notably but not exclusively in China. In response to concerns, Apple offered to replace knockoff chargers last year for the equivalent of $10 U.S. in local currency. Similar concerns over sparking and exploding iPad chargers have been raised, as well.

Gibson buys Philips’ Apple accessory brand, Woox Innovations

Flying under the radar due to a messy legal battle, the consumer electronics arm of Philips—temporarily renamed “Woox Innovations”—was quietly sold late last month to Gibson Brands, the musical instrument and audio equipment company. Gibson will apparently license the Philips name for an initial term of seven years, and sell previously-announced Philips products that were temporarily placed under the Woox Innovations name, including Fidelio speakers, headphones, app-assisted video cameras, and in-car accessories. According to Philips, “Philips-branded audio and home entertainment innovations will continue to be available to consumers worldwide” as a result of the deal.

In 2013, Philips announced the sale of its audio, video, multimedia and accessories business to Japanese electronics company Funai, citing a decision to focus its attention on medical equipment. Late last year, Philips accused Funai of breaching the purchase agreement, and subsequently sought another buyer for the business. With this deal, Gibson will considerably expand its footprint in the Apple accessory industry, assuming that the Woox team continues to design Lightning, Bluetooth-compatible products, and headphones.

Parrot reveals enhanced AR.Drone sequel Bebop Drone

Following up on the original AR.Drone quadricopter and its modestly-tweaked sequel, Parrot has announced Bebop Drone ($TBD), a smaller and more expensive model planned to ship in the fourth quarter of 2014. Like the prior versions, Bebop Drone is significantly limited in flight time—approximately 12 minutes—but makes improvements to the stability and camera hardware to appeal to videographers.

Most notably, Bebop Drone replaces the prior AR.Drone front-facing camera with a 180-degree fisheye lens and 14-Megapixel image-stabilized sensor, using a software solution to grab only a 1080p portion of the ultra-wide lens’s data. While this camera solution reduces the need to rotate Bebop Drone itself for panning shots, fisheye lenses are known for significant distortion, so it’s unclear whether the image quality will be great or mediocre. Parrot claims that the 0.88-pound unit benefits from new inertia measurement hardware and camera shake compensation software, “to guarantee optimal stability of the quadricopter” during flight. Videos recorded using the Drone are saved by the copter itself, and can be transferred off after each flight is complete.

Bebop Drone can be controlled over Wi-Fi using a new FreeFlight 3.0 app for iOS, with four antennas supporting up to 802.11ac with 2.4GHz, 5GHz, and MIMO options. An optional Skycontroller accessory adds two physical joysticks, plus Wi-Fi-boosted 802.11a/b/g/n for a two-kilometer range. Parrot also promises support for the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset, enabling users to view nearly-realtime footage from the camera while Bebop Drone is in flight. Prices have not been announced for the new products, but are expected to be significantly higher than the AR.Drones’ $300 entry cost.

Nest Protect subject to safety issue, sales halted

Nest Labs CEO Tony Fadell has issued a public letter informing customers that Nest Protect Smoke + Carbon Monoxide Detector’s (iLounge Rating: B-) alarm may be delayed in the case of a fire under the right circumstances. This issue is related to Nest Wave, a feature that allows the alarm to be turned off with a wave of the hand, and has been discovered in laboratory testing only; no issues have been reported from customers.

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Nest is offering an over-the-air update that disables Nest Wave, while leaving the smoke and carbon monoxide capabilities in place. For those that don’t have access to Wi-Fi for the update, full refunds are being offered. Until the issue has been resolved, Nest will not be selling Nest Protect.

Philips announces Hue Lux and Hue Tap

Philips has announced new additions to its Hue lightbulb line — Hue Lux and Hue Tap. Lux is a white-only Hue bulb. The Hue app can control the brightness and set schedules for the Lux bulb, which comes in a starter kit with two bulbs and a Hue bridge for $100. Hue Lux will be released “after summer 2014.”

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Hue Tap is a light switch for Hue which requires no batteries or wires; the switch works using kinetic energy from finger taps. The switch lets users control bulbs and activate lighting scenes. Tap will be available “after summer” in North America and Europe for $60.

Twelve South intros SurfacePad for iPad mini

Twelve South has introduced SurfacePad for iPad mini ($70), a leather case. The thin case uses adhesive to affix itself to the back of the iPad mini. SurfacePad for iPad mini also includes a multi-angle viewing stand.

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SurfacePad for iPad mini comes in red, white, and black, and is available now. Twelve South noted that SurfacePad for iPad Air will be available in late spring 2014.

ReSound Linx MFi hearing aid launches

GN ReSound has launched ReSound Linx, an MFi hearing aid. First announced last October, the hearing aid connects directly to an iOS device.

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The ReSound Smart app will let users adjust volume, treble, bass, and geo-tag locations for preferred settings. A price was not released for the ReSound Linx, but a past report claimed the hearing aid would likely cost more than $3,000.

Mad Catz unveils C.T.R.L.i iOS controller

Mad Catz has introduced its C.T.R.L.i ($80) iOS controller. The Bluetooth-enabled controller comes with a removable clip with a mount that can hold current iPhones, and can also adjust for larger devices.

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The controller will reportedly come in black, white, blue, red, and orange. C.T.R.L.i is set to launch in April. [via Engadget]

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