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.
Nike is stopping production of wearable hardware, including its FuelBand fitness tracker, CNET reports. Most of the team responsible for the development of FuelBand has reportedly been fired, as Nike is shifting its focus from hardware to fitness and athletic software. A new, slimmer version of the FuelBand was canceled, as have “all future physical product projects under the Digital Sport helm.” Nike will continue to sell its second-generation FuelBand SE — reviewed here — for the time being. While the report notes that it makes less sense for Nike to stay in hardware when there are so many fitness trackers on the market — a somewhat confusing suggestion given the FuelBand’s popularity — the company could also avoid competing with upcoming devices such as Apple’s iWatch. Apple reportedly hired some key FuelBand developers last year.
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.
Blackberry won a preliminary injunction against Typo Products last Friday, banning the Typo Keyboard Case from being sold in the United States. Judge William Orrick said Blackberry established a “likelihood” of patent infringement, according to Reuters. Blackberry, which first filed suit against Typo in January, said the ruling will “help prevent further injury to Blackberry from Typo’s blatant theft of our patented keyboard technology.” Typo announced that it plans to appeal the decision.
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.
New accessory maker Azoi has announced Wello, a shell-style case for iPhone 5/5s with health monitoring capabilities. With its combination of sensors and electronics, the case can track blood pressure, electrocardiography (ECG), heart rate, blood oxygen, temperature, lung functions, and other vital statistics.
According to the company, simply holding the case for a few moments is all that’s needed for it to register the information, which is then transferred to a companion app. Wello is currently available for pre-order, and will sell for $199. It’s slated to be released in fall 2014, pending FDA approval.
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]
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.
Lunatik, the design company headed by Nike watch designer Scott Wilson, and known for its iPod nano watchbands, has launched a preview of its Lynk smart watch collection. Four smartwatches are included: Lynk, Lynk Pulse, Lynk Vapor, and Lynk Extreme. Lynk Pulse appears to be a heart-sensing version of the Lynk smart watch.
Lynk Vapor is a more streamlined band-style watch, while Lynk Extreme is a more heavy-duty model. No pricing or release information has been announced yet.
Incipio has announced the launch of its Cashwrap Mobile Wallet Case ($70) for iPhone 5/5s. First seen at CES 2013, Cashwrap is the first NFC case for iPhone 5/5s. The case uses Isis Mobile Wallet to make payments with a tap of the iPhone.
Incipio notes that Cashwrap payment card information is stored on a DeviceFidelity microSD-based secure element platform for additional protection. The case comes with a micro-USB cable. Cashwrap will be available online today and in AT&T retail stores Jan. 31.
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.
Jawbone has released Era ($130), an updated version of its 2011 Bluetooth headset. The new Era is being billed as “the smallest, lightest, most comfortable” headset made by Jawbone. Its NoiseAssassin technology eliminates background noise.
Era offers up to four hours of talk time, which can be doubled with use of its charging case. An app displays battery life and lets users program the Talk button to access Siri directly from the headset. The headset comes in four different colors and is 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.
iLounge has announced our 2014 International CES Best of Show Award winners and finalists. We’ve picked the absolute best products we’ve seen at CES — a very select list of Best of Show winners and Best of Show Finalist winners. ZeroChroma took home the Best Overall Product award for its Folio Slide for iPad mini with Flux-Stand. Incipio/Braven also netted four awards — two Best in Show awards and two Finalist awards. For all the award winners and the best products, click here.