Ahead of Apple’s announcement tomorrow, 9to5Mac is reporting the new iPhone 6S, iPhone 6S Plus and iPad Pro are expected to feature a next-generation version of the Force Touch display, likely to be called “3D Touch Display.” The new screens will be able to detect and act on three different levels of pressure — a tap, a press and a deep press. Sources said this improvement allows Apple to add new shortcut gestures to apps in the iPhone version of iOS 9, eliminating the need for multiple button pushes to do things like starting navigation in Maps or adding songs to a playlist in Music.
In addition to the new screen, 9to5Mac said the iPad Pro base model will feature four stereo speakers and 64GB of storage — substantially higher than the 16GB starting capacity of previous models. The new iPad will likely also come in a 128GB model and be available with built-in LTE capabilities like current iPad Air and iPad Mini lines, but will feature an A9X chip considered to be a large leap over the iPad Air 2’s A8X. Upscale models are expected to cost more than $1,000, placing them closer to the price point now reserved for a smaller MacBook than that of the most expensive iPad currently on the market. Even with the top of the line model, Apple is expected to make customers buy the Force-Touch-integrated stylus and Bluetooth keyboard separately, further upping the price for those looking for a more robust experience. The company is rumored to have two versions of the keyboard in the works, with one similar to the Apple Wireless Keyboard previously sold with Macs and iPads and another that doubles as a case. While the new iPhones will probably be available in rose gold, the iPad Pro will start with the gold, silver and space grey colors we’ve already seen. Pre-orders may start in October, but production issues and supply constraints could keep the iPad Pro from shipping until the end of November.
Logitech has announced its new Logi BLOK family of cases for the iPad Air 2, the first group of products to appear under the new Logi brand, which was introduced last week. The family includes the Logi BLOK Protective Shell ($40), the Logi BLOK Protective Case ($70), and the Logi BLOK Protective Keyboard Case ($130), all of which feature square corners to help protect the iPad. Logitech indicates the cases have been tested to withstand drops from up to six feet high and onto surfaces such as hard concrete, providing good drop protection with much less bulk and weight than many ultra-protective cases. The cases are expected to be available in August, with black, red/violet or teal/blue color options.
Accessory maker Logitech has announced big branding changes in a blog post. The company revealed a re-imagined logo, creating a distinct “Logi” label to be applied to a new line of yet-to-be-disclosed products. Logitech has also hired its first chief design officer, Alastair Curtis, and touts a fresh dedication to “put design at the core of everything [they] do.” The new label will appear on the company’s “colorful and bold” new product offerings, but “Logi” doesn’t seem to be replacing “Logitech” as the company’s name completely. Instead, the company says the “Logi” logo will begin popping up “on select products in existing categories” as well as on new offerings.
Apple has introduced a new web page on its site featuring a list of third-party cases that the company has tested and certified for use with the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. Titled “Apple Tested Cases,” the page provides details on testing the company apparently does on third-party cases, including ensuring proper fit, performing drop testing, and making certain that cases don’t interfere with the camera, acoustics, various sensors, and cellular, Wi-Fi, and NFC signals. This move follows a report late last year that Apple would be introducing more stringent requirements for MFi case makers, and could be a result of these new standards for case certification. The bottom of the page provides a link to all of the cases sold by the Apple Store, all of which presumably meet all of the specified requirements under the MFi program.
Popular home automation device maker Nest has announced a major refresh of its entire product line, including the introduction of Nest Cam, a redesigned Nest Protect alarm, new features for the Nest Learning Thermostat, and a major update to its Nest iOS app. The new Nest Cam ($199) provides full 1080p HD video recording with motion alerts and night vision to allow users to keep an eye on their home from anywhere. A second-generation Nest Protect ($99) is now eleven percent smaller and provides a new split-spectrum sensor that uses two wavelengths of light to identify different types of fires and now provides the ability to silence alarms from the iOS app. The Nest Learning thermostat now gains the ability to notify customers when temperatures drop to help avoid frozen pipes, and adds tighter integration with other Nest products.
Apple has revoked Monster’s MFi program membership, according to a report from The Wall Street Journal. Representatives from Monster reported the news, indicating that the move was in retaliation to Monster’s lawsuit against the now-Apple-owned Beats Electronics. Monster has been making licensed accessories under the MFi program since 2005, and many of its accessories have even been sold in Apple’s retail stores. David Tognotti, general counsel for Monster, stated that Apple’s chief litigation counsel advised him that their MFi agreement was being terminated as of May 5 due to their relationship with Apple no longer being “mutually beneficial” and that Monster’s lawsuit against Beats would “destroy the working relationship” between the two companies. Monster has reportedly paid Apple more than $12 million in licensing fees since 2008, and more than 20 percent of the company’s products are produced under the MFi program license. Under the terms of the agreement, Monster will still be able to sell its existing stock of Apple-licensed accessories until September, but will no longer be permitted to manufacture new MFi accessories.
When Apple acquired Beats Electronics, the company killed a project aimed at creating WiFi-connected speakers that would play subscription music services straight from the Internet, Variety reports. Efforts to create a more complete, room-to-room Beats home listening solution ran into serious problems and delays, leading Apple to scrap it. In related news, Apple recently pulled the Beats Pill XL speaker off its website after a safety recall. The company has offered customers refunds, but no ability to fix or replace affected devices, fueling further speculation that Apple isn’t committed to the Beats hardware brand. Some of the Beats engineers working on the new speaker project have since left the company, and sources say around 50 percent of Beats employees have left or lost their jobs post-acquisition.
Parrot has announced a lineup of 13 new Minidrones, including two water-based Hydrofoil drones. The new collection includes six new jumping drones, including the Diesel, Buzz, and Marshall “night” drones which are equipped with night vision and variable-intensity LEDs, as well as the Max, Tuk-Tuk, and Jett “race” drones which are capable of reaching top speeds of 13 km/h (8.1 mph). Five new airborne drones have also been introduced, in “night” and “cargo” versions, with the Blaze, Swat, and Mc Clane providing dimmable LED running lights for maneuvering in the dark, and Travis and Mars capable of carrying small cargo loads such as LEGO characters or bricks. We reviewed two Parrot Minidrones last year — the Jumping Sumo and Rolling Spider.
The two Hydrofoil models, Orak and Newz, represent a new direction for Parrot, as a pair of flying drones that can descend onto a lake or pool and cruise around at a top speed of 5.4 knots (2.78 mph) while being able to make rapid turns without capsizing. All of the new drones feature standard cameras and other sensors, and are controlled with Parrot’s FreeFlight3 application using a standard Wi-Fi connection from an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch. The new drones range in price from €99 to €199 ($110 to $225 USD), and although Parrot hasn’t revealed North American release dates or pricing as of yet, iLounge will be attending a Toronto press event later this month where we expect to get more details on the company’s plans for the new models.
Mobile device accessory maker Incipio Technologies has acquired ClamCase, which specializes in iPad keyboard cases and peripherals. This is the second acquisition for Incipio in the past few years — in 2013, the company acquired speaker manufacturer Braven. Braven products are still sold under their own name and brand, and Incipio promises new ClamCase-branded keyboard cases will be available at select retailers later this month.
Apple has issued a voluntary recall of the Beats Pill XL speaker, citing concerns that the battery could overheat and pose a fire safety risk. The recall provides a link to the form for returning the speakers to Apple for Apple Store credit or an electronic payment of $325 (or equivalent amount of local currency for those outside the U.S.). Refunds take approximately three weeks, and returns will only be processed on the web — customers should not try to return the product to the store where it was purchased.
Mophie has debuted a new series of Space products for the iPhone and iPad mini. Building on last year’s Space Pack for iPhone 5/5s, the new lineup includes not only iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus versions of the battery and storage expansion case, but also a version for the iPad mini. Each of the new Space Packs are now available in 32GB, 64GB, and 128GB versions, and feature extra battery power capable of providing a 100 percent charge to an iPhone 6 or iPad mini (3300 mAh and 8000 mAh, respectively), or a 50 percent charge to an iPhone 6 Plus (2600 mAh). The iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus versions will retail for $150, while the iPad mini version sells for $200; all three cases are available for pre-order now from Mophie’s web site, and are expected to ship in the coming weeks. Mophie has also introduced the
Philips has debuted Hue Go ($100), a new connected LED lamp based on the company’s popular Hue smart LED bulb ecosystem. Powered by a rechargeable internal battery that provides up to six hours of portable power, Hue Go can be taken just about anywhere, allowing you to light up and transform any space in your home. It features a unique, spherical design that provides a balance between functional and aesthetic lighting, and like the Hue bulbs, it can be set to any of more than 16 million colors. Hue Go is fully customizable using the same Hue APIs as Philips’ own apps and the huge variety of third-party Hue apps, allowing users to set location-based geofences, program timers, and light “recipes” for a wide variety of moods and activities. Hue Go is expected to be available in late May or early June.
Apple has been threatening sanctions against third-party accessory manufacturers that design iPhone and iPad products based on leaked and other unofficial device specifications, according to a new report by 9to5Mac. Last fall, prior to the launch of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, Apple reportedly required a number of accessory makers to sign agreements that would prohibit them from seeking out information about unannounced Apple devices. Manufactures were encouraged to sign the agreement or risk losing “future business opportunities that Apple and/or its affiliates may present” to them, and the agreement apparently includes language that could be interpreted as prohibiting developers from even reading any web site or newspaper that talks about upcoming Apple products, although it more specifically prohibits manufacturers from using “specifications from any source other than Apple” when developing new products for the iPhone and iPad.
To preserve its veil of secrecy, Apple traditionally only provides manufacturing specs after new devices have been formally announced, which places accessory makers at a disadvantage when it comes to getting products to market in a timely manner. This leaves customers with few options for things like cases other than Apple’s own offerings, which of course are generally made available simultaneously with a new product’s release. There has already been a stark decline in the number of third-party cases available in Apple Retail Stores, seemingly in favor of Apple’s own iPhone and iPad cases, which now take up approximately 75 percent of the display space in some stores. While there has been some speculation that Apple is simply making room for the Apple Watch, several sources have told iLounge that Apple Retail has been moving more toward a ‘boutique’ experience when it comes to cases, preferring to limit options to unique selections that it believes matches and enhances the aesthetics of its devices.
IK Multimedia has announced iRig Mic Studio ($180), the latest product in its lineup of iOS-compatible audio accessories. An ultra-portable large-diaphgram digital condenser microphone, iRig Mic Studio contains a 1” diameter back electret condenser capsule in an extremely compact enclosure, making it easy to take with you for making professional recordings anywhere. The mic provides a 24-bit A/D converter with a 44.1/48 kHz sample rate, a built-in low-noise preamp, and a 133dB SPL rating, promising to provide high-quality recording in a wide range of environments and applications. iRig Mic Studio will include a Lightning cable for connecting to an iPhone, iPad, and iPod, with a 30-pin Dock Connector cable option available for users of older iOS devices, and additional USB and micro-USB cables bundled for connecting to Macs and other devices. The microphone will also include a portable tabletop tripod stand. The mic is designed to work with any iOS app supporting Core Audio, and will specifically work with IK’s VocaLive and EZ Voice vocal recording and effects apps. iRig Mic Studio will be available this quarter.
Apple is now enforcing more stringent requirements for case manufacturers in its Made for iPhone (MFi) program, 9to5Mac reports. The new requirements are intended to ensure that cases provide better protection for Apple devices from impact, as well as providing proper glass coverage. Case makers will now be required to ensure that devices are protected from drops of up to 1 meter onto a hard surface, from any possible device orientation. Cases will also be required to protect an iPhone, iPad, or iPod’s glass when resting flat on a surface such as a table, providing a buffer of at least 1mm between the cover glass and a flat surface — this can be accomplished either by including full screen protection or having the front lip of the case protrude slightly to keep the glass from touching a flat surface.
The report also notes that Apple is now listing a number of restricted substances and materials in order to lessen the environmental impact of MFi cases. The list of newly restricted substances includes “Formaldehyde, Endangered species of flora and fauna, PFOS, PFOA, PBDE, PBB, and Phthalates.” While companies are not required to be part of Apple’s MFi program simply to produce cases for Apple devices, Apple’s licensing program provides certification for third-party accessories, allowing manufacturers to include a “Made-for-iPhone/iPad/iPod” logo on their packaging.
Bose products might be making a return to Apple Stores, according to a new report from French blog iGen.fr. A report earlier this fall speculated that Apple’s acquisition of Beats may have caused the company to end its retail relationship with Bose, possibly due to the exclusive deal between Bose and the NFL that prohibited players form wearing other branded headphones during televised interviews. This latest report suggests that Apple and Bose may have now come to some kind of new agreement and that Bose products may begin reappearing on Apple Store shelves as early as next week.
Update: A number of Bose products have indeed turned up again on Apple’s online store.
In case you missed it last week, iLounge has released the Best of the Year Awards for 2014, highlighting this past year’s top accessories, apps, games, and more. Our editors have picked the best of the best in more than 25 categories, narrowing down a list of thousands of potential products. The list has been expanded from previous years and is now available here on the site, with no download needed, just in time for your holiday shopping. Click here to discover all the winners and notable runners-up!
Beats by Dr. Dre has announced the first new product in its lineup since the company was acquired by Apple last spring. The Solo2 Wireless ($300) on-ear headphones add wireless Bluetooth capabilities to the popular Solo2 headphones. It’s noted that the new Wireless headphones offer the same sound and design as the original Solo2. Users can take phone calls, skip songs, and change the volume using the “b” button and volume buttons on the side. The built-in rechargeable battery allows up to 12 hours of wireless playback, with a fallback to a wired connection if the batteries aren’t charged. Solo2 Wireless will be available later this month at Apple and other select retailers, with a Red version also being sold exclusively by Verizon Wireless.
iLounge has released its Best of the Year Awards for 2014, highlighting the past year’s top accessories, apps, games, and more. Our editors have picked the best of the best in more than 25 categories, narrowing down a list of thousands of potential products. In the past, iLounge has released a Buyers Guide containing our annual awards — the list has been expanded and is now available here on the site, with no download needed. Click here to discover all the winners and notable runners-up!
Belkin has announced that it’s bringing its line of QODE keyboard cases to iPad Air 2. The line includes the QODE Ultimate Pro Keyboard Case for iPad Air 2 ($150), QODE Ultimate Keyboard Case for iPad Air 2 ($130), and QODE Slim Style Keyboard Case for iPad Air 2 and iPad Air ($100) — the last of which is an already existing product that can fit the newer iPad Air. The updated keyboards have already been released for the first iPad Air — see our reviews for the original Ultimate Pro case here and the Ultimate and Slim Style cases here. While the QODE Slim Style Keyboard Case is already available, QODE Ultimate Pro Keyboard Case for iPad Air 2 and QODE Ultimate Keyboard Case for iPad Air 2 will be available in December.