Apple has been threatening sanctions against third-party accessory manufacturers that design iPhone and iPad products based on leaked and other unofficial device specifications, according to a new report by 9to5Mac. Last fall, prior to the launch of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, Apple reportedly required a number of accessory makers to sign agreements that would prohibit them from seeking out information about unannounced Apple devices. Manufactures were encouraged to sign the agreement or risk losing “future business opportunities that Apple and/or its affiliates may present” to them, and the agreement apparently includes language that could be interpreted as prohibiting developers from even reading any web site or newspaper that talks about upcoming Apple products, although it more specifically prohibits manufacturers from using “specifications from any source other than Apple” when developing new products for the iPhone and iPad.
To preserve its veil of secrecy, Apple traditionally only provides manufacturing specs after new devices have been formally announced, which places accessory makers at a disadvantage when it comes to getting products to market in a timely manner. This leaves customers with few options for things like cases other than Apple’s own offerings, which of course are generally made available simultaneously with a new product’s release. There has already been a stark decline in the number of third-party cases available in Apple Retail Stores, seemingly in favor of Apple’s own iPhone and iPad cases, which now take up approximately 75 percent of the display space in some stores. While there has been some speculation that Apple is simply making room for the Apple Watch, several sources have told iLounge that Apple Retail has been moving more toward a ‘boutique’ experience when it comes to cases, preferring to limit options to unique selections that it believes matches and enhances the aesthetics of its devices.
IK Multimedia has announced iRig Mic Studio ($180), the latest product in its lineup of iOS-compatible audio accessories. An ultra-portable large-diaphgram digital condenser microphone, iRig Mic Studio contains a 1” diameter back electret condenser capsule in an extremely compact enclosure, making it easy to take with you for making professional recordings anywhere. The mic provides a 24-bit A/D converter with a 44.1/48 kHz sample rate, a built-in low-noise preamp, and a 133dB SPL rating, promising to provide high-quality recording in a wide range of environments and applications. iRig Mic Studio will include a Lightning cable for connecting to an iPhone, iPad, and iPod, with a 30-pin Dock Connector cable option available for users of older iOS devices, and additional USB and micro-USB cables bundled for connecting to Macs and other devices. The microphone will also include a portable tabletop tripod stand. The mic is designed to work with any iOS app supporting Core Audio, and will specifically work with IK’s VocaLive and EZ Voice vocal recording and effects apps. iRig Mic Studio will be available this quarter.
Apple is now enforcing more stringent requirements for case manufacturers in its Made for iPhone (MFi) program, 9to5Mac reports. The new requirements are intended to ensure that cases provide better protection for Apple devices from impact, as well as providing proper glass coverage. Case makers will now be required to ensure that devices are protected from drops of up to 1 meter onto a hard surface, from any possible device orientation. Cases will also be required to protect an iPhone, iPad, or iPod’s glass when resting flat on a surface such as a table, providing a buffer of at least 1mm between the cover glass and a flat surface — this can be accomplished either by including full screen protection or having the front lip of the case protrude slightly to keep the glass from touching a flat surface.
The report also notes that Apple is now listing a number of restricted substances and materials in order to lessen the environmental impact of MFi cases. The list of newly restricted substances includes “Formaldehyde, Endangered species of flora and fauna, PFOS, PFOA, PBDE, PBB, and Phthalates.” While companies are not required to be part of Apple’s MFi program simply to produce cases for Apple devices, Apple’s licensing program provides certification for third-party accessories, allowing manufacturers to include a “Made-for-iPhone/iPad/iPod” logo on their packaging.
Bose products might be making a return to Apple Stores, according to a new report from French blog iGen.fr. A report earlier this fall speculated that Apple’s acquisition of Beats may have caused the company to end its retail relationship with Bose, possibly due to the exclusive deal between Bose and the NFL that prohibited players form wearing other branded headphones during televised interviews. This latest report suggests that Apple and Bose may have now come to some kind of new agreement and that Bose products may begin reappearing on Apple Store shelves as early as next week.
Update: A number of Bose products have indeed turned up again on Apple’s online store.
Beats by Dr. Dre has announced the first new product in its lineup since the company was acquired by Apple last spring. The Solo2 Wireless ($300) on-ear headphones add wireless Bluetooth capabilities to the popular Solo2 headphones. It’s noted that the new Wireless headphones offer the same sound and design as the original Solo2. Users can take phone calls, skip songs, and change the volume using the “b” button and volume buttons on the side. The built-in rechargeable battery allows up to 12 hours of wireless playback, with a fallback to a wired connection if the batteries aren’t charged. Solo2 Wireless will be available later this month at Apple and other select retailers, with a Red version also being sold exclusively by Verizon Wireless.
Logitech has announced a new series of home automation products, the Harmony Living Home line. The products include the Logitech Harmony Ultimate Home remote ($350), which features a 2.4” color touchscreen and can control up to 15 compatible home entertainment devices. A button-only remote, the Logitech Harmony Home Control ($150) controls up to 8 home entertainment devices. The hardware looks to be very similar to last year’s Harmony Ultimate Universal Remote Control and Harmony Smart Control, but with new functionality.
Both of those remotes come with the Harmony Home Hub ($99), which can also be purchased separately. The hub uses RF, IR, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi to relay commands from the remotes or the Harmony Mobile iOS app to selected home devices. Also included in the line is the Harmony Hub Extender ($130), which can control other devices such as locks, lights, garage doors, and sensors through ZigBee or Z-Wave. The Extender should hit the market in December, but the rest of the lineup should arrive sometime this month.
Microsoft has announced the Universal Mobile Keyboard, a new Bluetooth keyboard designed to work specifically with iOS devices, as well as Windows and Android devices. The new keyboard incorporates a switch to choose the appropriate device mode and dedicated iOS keys such as CMD in their proper locations. The Universal Mobile Keyboard is also notably a Made-for-iPhone/iPad/iPod touch product, and is designed to be very portable and quick and easy to set up on the go. It is expected to sell for $80 and become available for purchase in October. [via 9to5Mac]
Our newest video review takes a look at Logitech’s new Bluetooth Multi-Device Keyboard K480 (reviewed here). The keyboard can switch between multiple iOS devices using Bluetooth, and a built-in stand holds the devices, as well. Be sure to check out our past video reviews, including last week’s Grace Digital Ecostone and iHome iBN6 waterproof Bluetooth speakers.
Philips has debuted the first Lightning connector headphones, Fidelio M2L. According to Pocket-lint, Philips claims the headphones can deliver high-quality 24-bit audio using built-in DAC and amplification. The Fidelio M2L headphones use two 40mm speaker drivers and are said to offer noise isolated audio with dynamic bass. Philips’ Fidelio M2L will be available in December for €250 (about $323).
Our latest video review takes a look at two new waterproof Bluetooth speakers — Grace Digital’s Ecostone Bluetooth Speaker (reviewed here) and iHome’s iBN6 Waterproof Speaker (reviewed here). We’ll highlight some of the differences between these two similar speakers, which both earned the same iLounge rating. Check out our previous video reviews for Parrot’s Minidrones and Otterbox’s Agility Tablet System, as well.
Withings has announced Home ($220), an HD camera with environmental sensors, designed for video and audio monitoring. The camera offers HD video up to 1080p with zoom, and two digital microphones allow for two-way talk. Users can receive notifications based on events such as movement or crying. Each time an event is detected, Home takes a photo and a video, and stores it for two days. The clips can be downloaded and kept free of charge, and additional cloud recording plans will also be available.
Home also monitors indoor air quality, temperature, and humidity in a house. A Bluetooth Smart ready device, Home is compatible with 2.4GHz b/g/n Wi-Fi networks. Withings offers a free Home Monitor app to use with the Home camera, which is compatible with Apple’s HomeKit and IFTTT. No release date has been announced yet.
Orbotix has officially launched Ollie ($100), the new app-controlled toy by Sphero. First seen at CES 2014 as Sphero 2B — the two-wheeled robot earned an iLounge Best of Show award — Ollie can travel up to 14 mph and get up to one hour of play on a full three-hour USB charge. Ollie is controlled using an app and connects to an iPhone or iPad via Bluetooth Smart, boasting a range of 30 meters (98 feet). The toy’s polycarbonate body features a built-in LED glow.
Ollie is customizable, with a variety of tires and hubs to be available for purchase — the toy comes with one set of tires and hubs. Shipments of Ollie will begin arriving on September 15, according to the company website. A limited black edition, Darkside Ollie ($150), comes with extra tires and hubs and will hit the market on November 1.
Harman Kardon introduced its fall lineup today, including its new premium portable Bluetooth speaker, Infinity One ($300). Infinity One has passive radiators which claim to make the small speaker sound like a much larger system. The water-resistant speaker also includes a 5V 2.1A output for charging. Now available for preorder, Harman Kardon expects Infinity One to ship on November 9.
Additionally, Harman Kardon’s Bluetooth-equipped Esquire Mini ($150) is a smaller, more rectangular version of its Esquire (reviewed here). The new Soho Wireless headphones are a Bluetooth update of its Soho headphones (reviewed here), and JBL Charge 2 is an update of JBL Charge (reviewed here). While JBL Charge 2 is in stock and ready to ship, Esquire Mini is expected to ship on September 18, and Soho Wireless is listed as coming soon.
Bowers & Wilkins has debuted its new P5 Series 2 ($300) on-ear headphones and C5 Series 2 ($180) earphones. The new P5 headphones are said to combine the former P5’s portable form factor with the power and sonic approach of the company’s P7 headphones (reviewed here). Featuring new drivers, and new internal components, the P5 Series 2 still sport high-end materials such as leather ear cup covers and a metal headband frame.
Elgato has debuted its new Eve line of home sensor products at the IFA Trade Show in Berlin. The line of sensors — six are shown on Elgato’s website — will gather data on air quality, temperature, humidity, air pressure, and energy and water consumption in a home. Users will be able to access all the data in Elgato’s free upcoming Eve app. The company says it will “announce and make available solutions” based on Apple’s HomeKit once iOS 8 becomes available. Pricing and availability for the Eve line is expected to be announced soon.
Elgato also introduced its Avea ($50) smart LED bulb, which can create dynamic mood lighting and scenes through an iOS app. The bulb, which uses Bluetooth Smart, is designed to be bought individually rather than in packs, and doesn’t require a hub like Philips’ Hue system. Additionally, Elgato’s new Smart Power ($100) is a 6000 mAh, 2.4A battery that can send a notification to an iPhone or iPad when it’s time to recharge.
Apple has added a new Beats by Dr. Dre section to its online store. The new section, which links to Beats headphones, speakers, and accessories, can be found in the accessories section of Apple’s online store. It’s interesting that Apple has gone with the “Beats by Dr. Dre” name, as opposed to “Beats by Dre” or just “Beats.”
The online store includes some lesser-known products, including the all-white Beats by Dr. Dre Studio x Snarkitecture Headphones ($600), which were used in Apple promo images after the acquisition was announced. These special edition Studio headphones come with a “signature pillow” that is “cast from cultured marble.” [via 9to5Mac]
Magellan has introduced Echo Fit, an iOS-compatible sports smart watch. It comes in two models — the base Echo Fit ($150) and Echo Fit with Heart Rate Monitor ($200), which includes a Bluetooth Smart heart rate monitor. The ruggedized, water-resistant watch is an upgraded version of its Echo smart watch, adding activity and sleep tracking. Echo Fit tracks steps, distance, calories, and hours slept, wirelessly uploading data to the Magellan Active app. A number of popular sports apps are also compatible with Echo Fit.
Echo Fit also uses Bluetooth Smart to stream app data from an iPhone to the watch; the watch can also act as a remote control for app functions and music controls. Tapping the screen “turns the page” to reveal more data screens. Magellan’s Echo Fit uses a 1” high-resolution display with a backlight. It has a coin-cell battery that is said to last 4-8 months “with typical usage.” Echo Fit comes in four colors — black, pink, gray, and blue — and is expected to launch in September.
Apple has officially welcomed Beats to the Apple family, commemorating the finalization of its $3 billion acquisition initiated earlier this year. Noting that “[m]usic has always held a special place in our hearts,” the announcement includes a link back to beatsbydre.com, where a similar announcement can be found from Beats perspective, describing Beats as a new “instrument” joining Apple’s legacy of music-enabling products. Notes on Beats’ customer service page indicate that all inquiries related to sales and order info should now be directed to Apple, and that all online purchasing for Beats products will now go through the Apple Store.
The Nest Protect Smoke + Carbon Monoxide Detector is returning to stores with a new retail price of $99, down from $130, The New York Times reports. Nest recently halted sales of the alarm after finding a safety feature — Nest Wave — could cause the alarm to have a delayed reaction to fire in some circumstances. Users with installed Nest alarms connected to the Internet had the feature deactivated by Nest, and it will be reactivated remotely once the company solves the issue. The announcement is not unexpected, as Nest said weeks ago the alarm would soon be back on the market.
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.