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.
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.
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 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 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.
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 $10 U.S. in local currency. Similar concerns over sparking and exploding iPad chargers have been raised, as well.
Flying under the radar due to a messy legal battle, the consumer electronics arm of Philips—temporarily renamed “Woox Innovations”—was quietly sold late last month to Gibson Brands, the musical instrument and audio equipment company. Gibson will apparently license the Philips name for an initial term of seven years, and sell previously-announced Philips products that were temporarily placed under the Woox Innovations name, including Fidelio speakers, headphones, app-assisted video cameras, and in-car accessories. According to Philips, “Philips-branded audio and home entertainment innovations will continue to be available to consumers worldwide” as a result of the deal.
In 2013, Philips announced the sale of its audio, video, multimedia and accessories business to Japanese electronics company Funai, citing a decision to focus its attention on medical equipment. Late last year, Philips accused Funai of breaching the purchase agreement, and subsequently sought another buyer for the business. With this deal, Gibson will considerably expand its footprint in the Apple accessory industry, assuming that the Woox team continues to design Lightning, Bluetooth-compatible products, and headphones.
Following up on the original AR.Drone quadricopter and its modestly-tweaked sequel, Parrot has announced Bebop Drone ($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 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.
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 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.”
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 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.
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.
GN ReSound has launched ReSound Linx, an MFi hearing aid. First announced last October, the hearing aid connects directly to an iOS device.
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 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.
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]
Fitbit has issued a voluntary recall of its Fitbit Force Wireless Activity & Sleep Wristband. The company has also pulled the fitness tracker from the market — Fitbit’s Force webpage notes the product is “currently not available for purchase.” Fitbit is citing skin irritation as the reason for the Force’s recall and removal from the market.
A letter from Fitbit CEO and co-founder James Park claims “only 1.7 percent of Force users have reported any type of skin irritation.” Park points out that Force contains commonly used materials, but “some users may be reacting to the nickel present in the surgical grade stainless steel used in the device. Other users are likely experiencing an allergic reaction to the materials used in the strap or the adhesives used to assemble the product.” FitBit is offering a refund of the device’s full retail price, and the company has set up a page dedicated to the recall. [via TechCrunch]
Twelve South has introduced its new stand, Compass 2 for iPad ($40), the sequel to 2011’s Compass Mobile Stand. Compass 2 is a metal stand with new dimensions for holding iPad Air and iPad mini, in addition to past iPads. The stand is made to work in either portrait or landscape mode.
Compass 2 includes a rear locking leg and secondary leg that folds down for a comfortable typing angle. It is available now in black, red, or silver.
Bose has released SoundLink Bluetooth speaker III ($300), the newest edition in its mobile Bluetooth speaker line. Featuring a new design, the SoundLink III boasts up to 14 hours of battery life with its rechargeable lithium-ion battery. SoundLink III has four drivers, two passive bass radiators, and Bose claims digital signal processing improvements allow users to listen to music at louder levels than SoundLink II — reviewed here.
Bose is offering gray, blue, green, orange, and pink covers for the device as separate $35 purchases. SoundLink Bluetooth speaker III is available now.
Scosche has announced the release of its MagicMount system for iPhone, iPod, and iPad. First introduced at CES 2014, the system includes four separate mounts — MagicMount ($20) is for desks and tabletops, MagicMount Window ($25) is a windshield or dash mount, and MagicMount Surface ($15) is for wall mounting. MagicMount Power ($30), a mount with a built-in USB charging port, will be released at a later date.
The mounts come with a Magic Plate which magnetically affixes the device to its mount; the Magic Plate can be applied directly to a device or rugged case, or between a device and its case or battery cover. Scosche’s MagicMount system was winner of an iLounge Best of Show Finalist award at CES. MagicMount, MagicMount Window, and MagicMount Surface are available now.
IK Multimedia has announced iRig Mic HD ($100), an updated digital version of 2011’s iRig Mic. Briefly seen at CES, the microphone is noteworthy for its use of a Lightning plug to connect directly to iOS devices—it also supports USB and Dock Connector—as well as its high-quality audio performance.
The accessory has a 24-bit audiophile-grade A/D converter, a 44.1/96 kHz sampling rate, and a low noise/high definition pre-amp. Thanks to its traditional shape, iRig Mic HD is compatible with standard microphone stands. It will be available in “early Q2,” according to IK Multimedia.
Apogee Electronics has introduced the JAM 96k ($129) guitar interface and MiC 96k ($229) microphone. Both iOS-compatible products are new, upgraded versions of previous accessories — the Jam and MiC. As the names of the new products note, both accessories offer up to 96kHZ recording — an upgrade from their previous iterations.
Apogee’s JAM 96k guitar interface comes with a nickel-plated finish and includes a Lightning cable. MiC 96k, a studio quality microphone, includes a Lightning cable and a microphone stand adapter. Both accessories also come with an iOS Dock Connector cable and USB cable. JAM 96k and MiC 96k are available now.
Harman/Kardon recently announced its BDS 3D Blu-Ray systems, the BDS 580 ($1,099) and BDS 280 ($510). The iOS-compatible Wi-Fi Blu-Ray players have built-in AirPlay and Bluetooth functionality, enabling iPads, iPhones, and iPods to stream content directly to the receiver. Dolby Volume is included, which balances the volume between loud and quiet scenes without user involvement.
The BDS 580 is a 5.1-channel, 325-watt system, while the BDS 280 is a 2.1 channel, 130-watt system. Release dates are unknown at this point, as both Blu-Ray systems are only listed on Harman/Kardon’s European website.