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.
- June 3, 2014
- iPhone Accessories,
Razer has introduced Junglecat ($100), a game controller for iPhone 5/5s. The Junglecat is a sliding keyboard built into an iPhone case — it slides out from under the case with a d-pad, pause button, four action buttons and two bumper buttons. A Junglecat companion app lets users remap the buttons, adjust button pressure sensitivity, and store personalized profiles.
The case includes front ports for audio, as well as open access to the iPhone’s ports and buttons, though the camera is blocked when the controller tray isn’t out. Razer Junglecat comes in black and white and is available now.
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.”
- May 21, 2014
- iPhone Accessories,
Nest Labs has issued an official recall of all of the Nest Protect Smoke + Carbon Monoxide Detector units it has sold, about 440,000 in all. Sales of the device were halted early last month after company CEO Tony Fadell issued a letter saying the fire alarm could be delayed under certain circumstances. As previously reported, Nest offers an over-the-air update that disables its Nest Wave feature, which caused the possible issue. The company has yet to receive any reports of incidents, injuries, or property damage from the potential issue. Customers can also seek a full refund for the alarm — Nest can be contacted at (800) 249-4280 or at nest.com. [via Gizmodo]
Update: Nest told The Guardian nothing has changed since the company’s initial announcement, and a Nest spokesman said “we’ll be bringing Nest Protect back on the market in a few weeks.”
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.
- April 21, 2014
- iPhone Accessories,
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.
- March 31, 2014
- iPhone Accessories,
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.
- March 6, 2014
- iPhone Accessories,
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.