Google today launched notable new challengers to the Apple TV and iPad families, starting with Chromecast ($35), a plug-in dongle for accessing online videos and music on an HDTV. Chromecast is compatible with iOS devices — it uses the device as the remote, and to stream content to the TV. Users plug Chromecast into an HDTV, connect it to Wi-Fi, and the device controls streaming of content from the Internet, offering some of the functionality of an Apple TV at a much lower price point.
Power is supplied to the dongle via an included USB power adapter. Content for the dongle comes from services such as Netflix, YouTube, and Google Play, as well as mirroring of one tab from Google’s Chrome browser. Customers who purchase Chromecast from Google Play, Best Buy or Amazon have an offer for three free months of Netflix — the offer extends to current Netflix subscribers, meaning that Netflix subscribers with the $8 a month streaming plan can get Chromecast for a net cost of about $11. Chromecast is available now.
Google also debuted its new Nexus 7 tablet as an improved rival to the iPad mini. The 7” tablet display comes in at 1920x1200, with a 323 ppi pixel density — almost twice that of the iPad mini. Nexus 7 also packs dual-stereo speakers, a 1.5 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro processor, 2GB of RAM, and two cameras — 1.2MP for the front camera and 5MP for the back. It will ship with Android 4.3 and will hit the market July 30. A 16GB model with Wi-Fi is $230, or $99 less than the comparably specced iPad mini, and the 32 GB model is $270, undercutting the $429 mini. A 4G LTE 32GB model is $350, or $209 less than the comparable iPad mini LTE version.
Google also announced it will bring textbooks to Google Play Books, mirroring Apple’s addition of textbooks to the iPad in the iBookstore. All five major textbook publishing houses have signed on to the service, which lets users purchase textbooks or rent for six months. The new service will work on iOS devices, and it should arrive in early August. [via 9to5Google]
Beats Electronics has unveiled its redesigned Beats Studio headphones ($300). The new Studio headphones come with an enhanced 20-hour rechargeable battery, dual-mode adaptive noise canceling, and “reengineered sound.” An auto on/off switch helps conserve battery power, and a battery gauge lets users monitor power. The battery can be recharged via micro-USB cable.
The new Beats Studio headphones come with the company’s new DSP software, Beats Acoustic Engine. Beats also claims the new Studio headphones are lighter and stronger than the previous edition, with softer ear cups and a more comfortable headband. Coming in black, white, and red, Beats Studio headphones will be available in August.
Plantronics has launched its BackBeat Go 2 stereo earbuds ($80). The lightweight, wireless Bluetooth earbuds feature listening time up to 4.5 hours or talk time of up to 5 hours with the included microphone. Plantronics’ DeepSleep hibernation mode keeps the BackBeat Go 2 earbuds charged and ready for use for up to six months. The BackBeat Go 2 is also sweatproof for moisture protection.
The earbuds feature an iOS-ready battery status meter, and voice prompts that alert users about remaining charge and device pairings. Three eartip sizes are included. An alternate version sold for $100 includes a charging case, capable of adding an hour of listening time after only 20 minutes of charging, in addition to offering up to 14.5 hours of listening time when fully charged. BackBeat Go 2 is available now in black or white.
Cypress Semiconductor has announced a new development kit that allows companies to quickly create audio accessories for iOS Lightning devices. The CY8CKIT-033A PSoC 3 MFi Digital Audio Development Kit for Lightning is being offered to developers for $199, and as the name suggests, it streamlines the process of designing a custom system-on-chip (SoC) solution to process “bit-perfect” USB digital audio data from Lightning devices.
Cypress notes that Apple’s Made for iPod/iPhone/iPad (MFi) connectivity specification has become very complex, now running more than 250 pages long with numerous changes and revisions. The CY8CKIT-033A incorporates the latest MFi specifications and is MFi-licensed, letting developers use a software solution to prototype hardware for Lightning audio accessories such as speakers and musical instruments. Over 100 components are found in the PSoC Creator software, which uses a drag and drop interface to lay out the processor’s feature; support for Lightning, older Dock Connectors, MIDI and USB interfaces are all included. Developers interested in the Kit will need to obtain an Apple MFi license before buying the kit directly from Apple’s MFi web site.
Griffin today announced the release of its PowerDock 5 ($100), a device charger that can hold up to five iOS devices at once. First seen at CES 2013, PowerDock 5 takes up about as much desk space as an iPad, featuring five USB charging ports and a clear backrest to prop up each iOS device. Each port features 10-watt, 2.1 amp charging—enough for full-speed recharging of non-Retina iPads, as well as all current iPhones and iPods.
Because of its design, PowerDock 5 allows devices to be charged while still in their cases. However, USB cables are not included. PowerDock 5 is available now.
CableJive has introduced dockBoss5 ($30), an adapter that converts a 30-pin Apple-compatible dock into a universal charging station, complete with audio output. The adapter uses a full-sized USB port, allowing for non-Dock Connector devices to charge or play audio.
CableJive’s dockBoss5 comes with a three-foot USB to micro-USB cable and a three-foot audio connection cable. Users can self-supply Lightning to USB cables for connection of recent-model iPods, iPhones, and iPads. It is available now.
Just Mobile has released the Gum++ ($90), a new stylish high-capacity backup battery for smartphones, tablets, and other USB-powered devices. The Gum++ incorporates a 6000mAh battery encased in a glossy, durable hard ABS shell, and provides enough capacity to recharge an iPhone up to 3 times or add additional charge to an iPad, including the ability to provide up to 2.5A of current for full-speed iPad charging.
The Gum++ is available in a range of colours and is bundled with a USB-to-micro-USB cable for recharging the battery from any USB power source.
Foxconn has demonstrated an iPhone-compatible smart watch, which it plans to release on its own as an iOS accessory. The watch can measure vital signs, as well as check phone calls and Facebook posts. Though other iOS-compatible Bluetooth smart watches have already been released — such as Martian’s Passport Watch, ConnecteDevice’s Cookoo and Pebble — Foxconn’s watch is notable because the company has been Apple’s key manufacturing partner for years, and most likely would not want to damage its relationship with the Cupertino company by directly challenging it. [via WantChinaTimes]
A new Wall Street Journal report notes Google is also developing an Android-powered watch. Samsung is also developing a watch, ensuring Apple will have plenty of competitors for its own rumored watch-like device.
Following an earlier public disclosure that it was looking to sell its Harmony remote control business, Logitech has announced that it will retain the well-known product line. In a release, Logitech said, “The company has determined that retaining ownership is in the best interest of its shareholders. The Harmony product line has gained momentum following the April introduction of the Hamony Ultimate product, which is available in major retail locations including select Apple stores in the U.S., and has exceeded the company’s expectations for customer connections.”
Logitech also announced that the Logitech Harmony Hub – a bundled component with Harmony Ultimate and Harmony Smart Control that turns iOS devices into universal remotes – will be available for purchase as a standalone $100 product this August. Harmony Hub is a universal remote control accessory for iOS devices, consisting of a wall-powered 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi receiver, Infrared blaster, and Bluetooth 3.0 chip. The glossy black accessory transforms Wi-Fi commands sent by an iOS device into Infrared or Bluetooth control signals for TVs, A/V components, and game consoles. It’s an upgraded version of the company’s prior Harmony Link, notably adding better software and Bluetooth support.
A photo of what appears to be an iOS-specific gamepad accessory has been leaked. The controller is reportedly made by Logitech — a look at the gaming section of Logitech’s website shows the same “G” logo seen on the gamepad — and was apparently demonstrated following Apple’s WWDC keynote in San Francisco.
Apple’s recently posted guidelines for official game controller development show two types of controllers. The leaked gamepad resembles the first controller, made to fit an iPhone 5, with the control pad and buttons on each side of the inserted device. Given the similarities in shape between the iPhone 5 and fifth-generation iPod touch, it’s possible that both devices could work inside this accessory. [via Kotaku]
Following a quiet demonstration earlier this year at CES, Scosche officially announced its iOS-compatible smartRoll electronic gaming dice at E3. smartRoll is a pair of two Bluetooth Smart powered gaming dice with built-in accelerometers and motion sensors. Rolling the dice displays the results on an iOS device’s screen. LEDs flash when the dice are in motion. The dice are evenly balanced for random results.
smartRoll dice are made of rubber and plastic and use a shake-to-wake function to conserve battery life. Three games — Trivia, Craps, and Music Challenge — are included with smartRoll. The replaceable coin battery is said to last for a year. Note that no launch date or pricing for smartRoll has been announced as of yet; Scosche is still seeking developers for apps.
Bose has introduced its QuietComfort 20 series in-ear earphones ($300). The noise-canceling earphones include an in-line control module for noise-cancellation — the module can run for 16 hours before needing a charge via Micro-USB. QuietComfort 20 earphones also allow users to enter “aware mode” to let in sound from outside. A three-button remote comes on the iOS version of the earphones, which should be available this summer.
Bose also debuted the SoundLink Mini ($200), a much smaller Bluetooth speaker than the company’s SoundLink Bluetooth Mobile Speaker II. Seemingly designed as a Jawbone Jambox alternative, the SoundLink Mini features two drivers and dual-opposing passive bass radiators. Playback controls are located on top of the speaker, which can play for seven hours per charge. The SoundLink Mini will be released June 11. [via Engadget]
Cannon Security Products has announced the RadioVault ($350), a highly unusual iPhone/iPod speaker dock with a biometric fingerprint-activated security drawer underneath it. The top half of the RadioVault functions like a standard iPhone audio dock, charging the device alongside a speaker, digital alarm clock, and FM radio.
The bottom of the RadioVault, however, is a stealth, steel-reinforced security drawer featuring a biometric fingerprint scanner. Up to 120 fingerprints can be programmed into the scanner. RadioVault is available now in a 30-pin Dock Connector version.
CE Week 2013 is quickly approaching, and iLounge is proud to bring the excitement of the Apple accessory industry to New York City. iLounge NYC offers media and trade professionals an opportunity to see the summer lineups of new Apple-related products from a number of top-tier companies.
Today, we’re inviting members of the media to a special VIP lunch on the first day of the CE Week Line Shows and Exhibits, June 26, from 12:00-1:30 p.m. Registered attendees will be provided with a special lunch menu, a wine and beer bar and desserts, with an opportunity to see new Apple accessories within the iLounge NYC area.
Qualified media who haven’t already registered for CE Week 2013 can do so by visiting CE Week’s registration site, which will include access to the special lunch. The iLounge NYC exhibition will run June 26-27 at the Metropolitan Pavilion on West 18th Street.
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.
Following a quiet announcement at CES, Griffin has released its Survivor + Catalyst Waterproof Case for iPhone 5 ($70). Submersible down to three meters of water, the Survivor + Catalyst is a polycarbonate hard shell case that uses a silicone gasket to keep water sealed out, with shock-absorbing bumpers and an integrated screen cover inside.
Survivor + Catalyst also protects from dust and dirt, and the case is shockproof for a drop up to six feet. It is available now.
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.
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.
Following an announcement earlier this year, iLuv has released Aud 5 ($150), a Lightning speaker dock for iPhone 5. Aud 5 features both full-range speakers and a passive radiator for bass. An iPhone 5 can be charged while docked in the center of the speaker on a pivoting Lightning connector.
iLuv’s Aud 5 also features a 3.5mm auxiliary input for backward compatibility. It’s 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.