Apple has updated its Apple Watch Nike+ web page, adding an Oct. 28 release date for the new special edition of the Series 2 Apple Watch. When Apple debuted the Apple Watch Series 2 last month, the company announced a special running-focused Nike+ model would be coming in “late October.” The Nike+ watch includes exclusive watch faces, a special perforated band, and a custom Nike app which more proactively promotes and tracks running workouts, allowing users to compete with other Apple Watch Nike+ users. It remains unclear whether this app will be exclusive to the Apple Watch Nike+ edition or be made available for other Apple Watch models after the Nike+ edition’s release.
Sonos announced today on Twitter that its wireless speakers will be listed on Apple’s online store today and sold in Apple Stores starting October 5. Customers buying a Sonos system through Apple’s website or in an Apple Store before December 31 will receive a gift card giving them three months of Apple Music for free (ostensibly on top of the three-month free trial Apple already offers to new users). The deal further solidifies Sonos’ ties to Apple Music, following the company’s move earlier this year to make Apple Music available on all of its speakers for users without an Apple device. Apple Music users can add the service by selecting “Add Music Services” from any Sonos controller app, scrolling down to the Apple Music icon, and logging in.
Apple also announced during today’s event that the W1 technology powering its new AirPods wireless earbuds will also be included in three new Beats earphone and headphone models, specifically the Beats Solo3 Wireless On-Ear Headphones ($300), the Powerbeats3 Wireless Earphones ($200), and the BeatsX Earphones ($150). The W1 chip will provide improved power efficiency, allowing Solo3 to get up to 40 hours of battery life, or 12 hours and 8 hours for the Powerbeats3 and BeatsX, respectively, as well as taking advantage of the same seamless iOS 10 detection and pairing features from which AirPods users will be able to benefit.
As part of the announcement of the new iPhone 7 models today, Apple also unveiled AirPods, a new set of Apple wireless earbuds. Featuring a new Apple-designed W1 chip for low-power Bluetooth-based communications, the AirPods pair seamlessly with an iPhone, sharing pairing information via iCloud with other devices such as iPads and Macs. AirPods include motion accelerometers for touch-sensitivity and Siri activation, voice accelerometers to recognize vibrations to determine the source of a user’s voice, and beam-forming mics to reduce external noise. Optical sensors detect when one or both AirPods are in your ears, automatically pausing playback when they’re removed, or switching to monaural audio when you’re using only one AirPod. The AirPods will provide 5 hours of battery life on a single charge, and come with a battery storage case that provides an additional 24 hours of battery life; 15 minutes of charging in the case will add an extra 3 hours of listening time, and the case and AirPods can be charged simultaneously via an included Lightning-to-USB cable. AirPods will be compatible with iPhone 5 and later models, iPad mini 2 and later, all iPad Air and iPad Pro models, and the sixth-generation iPod touch. They’re expected to be available in late October for $159.
Logitech has announced Circle Safe, a new subscription-based video storage plan for its Logi Circle camera that allows users to keep and replay video footage beyond the default 24 hours. Priced at $10/month or $100/year, Circle Safe allows users to keep up to 31 days of video footage in their Logitech Circle account, along with the ability to create custom time-lapse Day Briefs covering a specific time frame, rather than an entire day’s worth of footage. All Logi Circle users can take advantage of a 31-day free trial for Circle Safe, and plans are available at discounted rates for a limited time. Users can sign up through the updated Logi Circle app.
Incipio Group has announced the acquisition of Griffin Technology, the latest in a series of acquisitions that have recently included Skullcandy, Clamcase, Incase, and Braven. “Griffin has a 25 year history of designing, manufacturing and distributing iconic mobile accessories,” stated Andy Fathollahi, Founder and CEO of Incipio Group. “As part of Incipio Group, Griffin strengthens our product development and manufacturing capabilities, complements our existing product lines in rugged cases, power and connectivity, and allows our brands to reach a broader domestic and international audience through enhanced distribution in the business-to-business, enterprise and education verticals.” Griffin will continue as a stand-alone brand and retain its global headquarters in Nashville. Other terms of the transaction were not disclosed.
Apple’s Smart Keyboard for both 9.7” and 12.9” iPad Pro models is now available in several new languages. Apple’s websites in regions where the new keyboard options are available allow users to select keyboards configured for Arabic, British English, French, Spanish, Italian, Korean and other languages. The rollout seems to have been done by region, so the British English model is available on Apple’s United Kingdom-based site and the Arabic option is listed on Apple United Arab Emirates site. So far, sites in Canada and the United States only show the standard English option as available for sale and Apple Stores aren’t offering the ability to order any of the specialized models.
Photos that have popped up on Chinese search website Weibo appear to show new Apple EarBuds with a Lightning connector in place of the old 3.5mm headphone plug. Since Apple bundles EarPods with all of its iPhones, this is another indication that rumors about Apple ditching the headphone jack may be true. The Lightning connector on the pictured EarPods is a bit thicker than the one that comes with the current iPhone’s cable—perhaps due to the added bulk of the technology required to transfer digital audio—which could be an issue for some iPhone cases if the images prove to be legit. [via NowhereElse]
With Apple rumored to be doing away with the headphone jack on its new iPhone, Cirrus Logic is offering a development kit to aid headphone makers looking to simplify the switch to Lightning connectors. The company’s MFi Headset Development Kit includes reference designs for creating Lightning port connected headphones and a development board to be used in programming, debugging and testing audio performance. The design is compatible with earbuds or over-the-ear headphones and pre-programmed to support both digital audio playback and voice capture. With very few Lightning-connected headphone options currently available, the area is poised for rapid expansion.
Mobile device accessory maker Incipio Technologies has announced plans to acquire Skullcandy, which specializes in audio solutions, and gaming products through its Astro Gaming brand. This is the fourth in a spate of recent acquisitions by Incipio, with the company having acquired Incase and Clamcase last year, and Braven back in 2013.
Jawbone CEO Hosain Rahman says the company is “still committed” to the wearables business, refuting recent reports that Jawbone is exiting the wearables business or going out of business altogether. In a blog post on the company’s website, Rahman denies recent media reports as “unequivocally false,” noting that the speculation appeared to come from “wrongful insinuations” made by “a particular digital publication,” and although the publication later made a correction, this was not done until after other media picked up on the news and spread it further. Rahman emphasizes that Jawbone “remains wholly committed to innovating in and building great wearables products” and has technology in the pipeline that they “look forward to sharing ... with the world.”
Apple has added a new Accessibility category to its online store, highlighting accessories specifically designed for people with physical and intellectual disabilities. The new section also includes specific sub-categories to allow users to filter by accessories geared to assisting in visual, physical and motor skill, and learning & literacy areas. The Accessibility section is limited in selection compared to other sections in Apple’s online store, with only 15 different accessories available at this point.
Bowers & Wilkins, a U.K. maker of high-end audio equipment, has been acquired by Silicon Valley-based EVA Automation. The companies said the merger will pair Bowers & Wilkins’ acoustic engineering talents with EVA Automation’s A/V technologies to enable both companies to grow in new directions. Former Bowers & Wilkins owner Joe Atkins will stay on as CEO and EVA founder Gordon Yu will act as executive chairman for the combined company. We reviewed Bowers & Wilkins’ Zeppelin Wireless Speaker and P5 Wireless Headphones last year.
Invoxia has added support for Amazon’s Alexa Voice Service to its acclaimed Triby connect kitchen speaker, making it the first non-Amazon device to add support for the voice assistant. Following the launch of its Echo voice controlled speaker last year, Amazon also debuted the Alexa Skills Kit, a free SDK allowing third-party developers to integrate the service into their devices, and Invoxia has now risen to the challenge and added Alexa support for all existing Triby owners via a software update. As per Invoxia’s support FAQ, Triby users will need to be running software version 10.35 or above and have the latest version (2.9) of the Triby iPhone app, available from the App Store. Once enabled through the iPhone app, an Alexa icon will appear in the top-left corner of Triby’s e-ink display, and users can simply call out “Alexa” to begin asking questions.
Logitech’s Logi BASE for the iPad Pro provides a new take on a tablet stand by charging the device through its Smart Connector. Until now the Smart Connector had only been used to connect Apple’s Smart keyboard to the device, but Logitech has capitalized on the new port to provide charging capabilities to both the 9.7” and 12.9” models.
Accessory maker Logitech said it has agreed to acquire Jaybird, which is known for its wireless earbuds and fitness trackers geared toward the workout crowd. (Read our review of Jaybird’s X2 here.) Logitech paid $50 million for the company with provisions for up to $45 million in additional payments dependent upon Jaybird hitting growth targets. Like Ultimate Ears, a Bluetooth speaker company Logitech purchased in 2008, Jaybird will continue to sell products under its own name even after the acquisition. Bracken Darrell, Logitech president and chief executive officer, said the move gains Logitech entry into the burgeoning wireless audio wearables market and will allow his company to combine its audio engineering and design capabilities with Jaybird’s sports expertise.
After Monday’s big iPhone SE reveal, Apple’s online store seems to be acknowledging that most 5/5s cases will work with the new SE. Cases that were once listed as being for iPhone 5/5s are now shown as compatible with 5/5s/SE. All of Speck’s existing iPhone 5/5s cases are compatible with the SE, and the company will make its CandyShell Clear ($35) case, pictured above, available in the new size starting in April. A number of other companies have debuted cases for Apple’s newest devices.
The new 9.7-inch iPad Pro is expected to match the 12.9-inch model in functionality, including support for the Apple Pencil and a smaller version of the Smart Keyboard, but 9to5Mac reports the smaller device could sport improved cameras as well. Sources said internal prototypes of the 9.7-inch model appear to include a 12 megapixel rear camera — a big upgrade over the 8 megapixel camera that shipped with the first iPad Pro last November. The improved camera would make sense given the new iPad’s smaller size. As we noted in our review, beefing up the camera on a 12.9-inch device wouldn’t really make much sense given how difficult it is to use it for photography. The new iPad is also expected to include a FaceTime HD camera above the front display and be able to record 4K video like the iPhone 6s, both upgrades over the first iPad Pro.
Apple may be planning to limit the functionality of the Apple Pencil in iOS 9.3, according to a new report from MacRumors. Several iPad Pro users running the iOS 9.3 beta have noticed that, unlike in the current iOS 9.2 release, the Apple Pencil can no longer be used like a finger to navigate the iPad UI in the beta version. In iOS 9.2, the Apple Pencil can be used to tap on buttons, select text, scroll, access menus, and more, while iOS 9.3 betas limit the Pencil’s functionality to drawing and writing functions within apps. While many beta testers who have experienced this problem have assumed the omission may be a bug, it has now persisted into the fourth beta of iOS 9.3, with no mention of the limitations in the iOS developer release notes either. Further, Relay.fm co-founder Myke Hurley disclosed in a recent podcast that he had heard from insiders at Apple that this may in fact be an intentional design decision by Apple.
Accessory manufacturer Zagg has announced that it has signed a merger agreement to acquire iPhone battery case maker Mophie for $100 million plus additional adjusted earnings over $100m across a 12-month earn-out period. In a press release on Zagg’s website, the company notes that the combination of the two companies will create a market share leader in the battery case, external battery, screen protection, and tablet keyboard accessory categories, and that the combined 2015 net sales of the two companies were about $470 million. The merger will also create expanded distribution opportunities for both companies, and allow strengthening and consolidation of engineering and manufacturing resources in China. The merger is expected to close during the first quarter of 2016, subject to the usual regulatory approvals.