An investigation has found that nearly half of headphones intended for children don’t reliably keep volume down to safe levels to prevent hearing damage, The New York Times reports. Many headphones marketed as “safe for young ears” and promising to provide “100 percent safe listening” had “design flaws that could allow a child to bypass their volume-reduction features easily,” proving that volume-limiting headphones are not the perfect solution many parents had hoped. The worst among the 30 pairs tested “produced sound so loud that it could be hazardous to ears in minutes,” with some relying on resistors within the cord to limit volume, which sometimes failed to work at all. The full results of The Wirecutter’s investigation are available on its website.
Investigators have found that 99 percent of fake Apple chargers sold online failed a basic safety test, the BBC reports. Safety specialists UL tested 400 counterfeit chargers bought from 8 countries—including the U.S., China and Australia—and found that only three had enough insulation to guard against electric shocks. Trading Standards, the group that commissioned the study, warned buyers to be wary of chargers that don’t seem to fit easily into a socket or don’t bear a manufacturer’s logo and safety certification mark. They also warned that some safety markings are being faked, recommending that buyers check to see if their charger comes with instructions that include conditions for proper use, basic electrical safety advice, and details about how to dispose of the device safely. Apple is currently suing one third-party vendor that the company said put customers “at risk” with its counterfeit power adapters on Amazon.
Apple has released the PowerBeats3 Wireless earphones ($200), the company’s second W1-chip-equipped set of headphones. The earphones include “Fast Fuel” charging, which the company claims provides a full hour of playback from a 5-minute charge. On a full charge the earphones boast 12 hours of playback and can be instantly linked to an iPhone by powering them on and holding them near the device (provided the phone is running iOS 10). The earphones can also be simultaneously synced to an Apple Watch running watchOS 3, an iPad running iOS 10, or a Mac running macOS Sierra, provided the user is also linked to an iCloud account.
Apple has updated its Apple Watch Nike+ web page, adding an Oct. 28 release date for the new special edition of the Series 2 Apple Watch. When Apple debuted the Apple Watch Series 2 last month, the company announced a special running-focused Nike+ model would be coming in “late October.” The Nike+ watch includes exclusive watch faces, a special perforated band, and a custom Nike app which more proactively promotes and tracks running workouts, allowing users to compete with other Apple Watch Nike+ users. It remains unclear whether this app will be exclusive to the Apple Watch Nike+ edition or be made available for other Apple Watch models after the Nike+ edition’s release.
Sonos announced today on Twitter that its wireless speakers will be listed on Apple’s online store today and sold in Apple Stores starting October 5. Customers buying a Sonos system through Apple’s website or in an Apple Store before December 31 will receive a gift card giving them three months of Apple Music for free (ostensibly on top of the three-month free trial Apple already offers to new users). The deal further solidifies Sonos’ ties to Apple Music, following the company’s move earlier this year to make Apple Music available on all of its speakers for users without an Apple device. Apple Music users can add the service by selecting “Add Music Services” from any Sonos controller app, scrolling down to the Apple Music icon, and logging in.
Apple also announced during today’s event that the W1 technology powering its new AirPods wireless earbuds will also be included in three new Beats earphone and headphone models, specifically the Beats Solo3 Wireless On-Ear Headphones ($300), the Powerbeats3 Wireless Earphones ($200), and the BeatsX Earphones ($150). The W1 chip will provide improved power efficiency, allowing Solo3 to get up to 40 hours of battery life, or 12 hours and 8 hours for the Powerbeats3 and BeatsX, respectively, as well as taking advantage of the same seamless iOS 10 detection and pairing features from which AirPods users will be able to benefit.
As part of the announcement of the new iPhone 7 models today, Apple also unveiled AirPods, a new set of Apple wireless earbuds. Featuring a new Apple-designed W1 chip for low-power Bluetooth-based communications, the AirPods pair seamlessly with an iPhone, sharing pairing information via iCloud with other devices such as iPads and Macs. AirPods include motion accelerometers for touch-sensitivity and Siri activation, voice accelerometers to recognize vibrations to determine the source of a user’s voice, and beam-forming mics to reduce external noise. Optical sensors detect when one or both AirPods are in your ears, automatically pausing playback when they’re removed, or switching to monaural audio when you’re using only one AirPod. The AirPods will provide 5 hours of battery life on a single charge, and come with a battery storage case that provides an additional 24 hours of battery life; 15 minutes of charging in the case will add an extra 3 hours of listening time, and the case and AirPods can be charged simultaneously via an included Lightning-to-USB cable. AirPods will be compatible with iPhone 5 and later models, iPad mini 2 and later, all iPad Air and iPad Pro models, and the sixth-generation iPod touch. They’re expected to be available in late October for $159.
Incipio Group has announced the acquisition of Griffin Technology, the latest in a series of acquisitions that have recently included Skullcandy, Clamcase, Incase, and Braven. “Griffin has a 25 year history of designing, manufacturing and distributing iconic mobile accessories,” stated Andy Fathollahi, Founder and CEO of Incipio Group. “As part of Incipio Group, Griffin strengthens our product development and manufacturing capabilities, complements our existing product lines in rugged cases, power and connectivity, and allows our brands to reach a broader domestic and international audience through enhanced distribution in the business-to-business, enterprise and education verticals.” Griffin will continue as a stand-alone brand and retain its global headquarters in Nashville. Other terms of the transaction were not disclosed.
Photos that have popped up on Chinese search website Weibo appear to show new Apple EarBuds with a Lightning connector in place of the old 3.5mm headphone plug. Since Apple bundles EarPods with all of its iPhones, this is another indication that rumors about Apple ditching the headphone jack may be true. The Lightning connector on the pictured EarPods is a bit thicker than the one that comes with the current iPhone’s cable—perhaps due to the added bulk of the technology required to transfer digital audio—which could be an issue for some iPhone cases if the images prove to be legit. [via NowhereElse]
With Apple rumored to be doing away with the headphone jack on its new iPhone, Cirrus Logic is offering a development kit to aid headphone makers looking to simplify the switch to Lightning connectors. The company’s MFi Headset Development Kit includes reference designs for creating Lightning port connected headphones and a development board to be used in programming, debugging and testing audio performance. The design is compatible with earbuds or over-the-ear headphones and pre-programmed to support both digital audio playback and voice capture. With very few Lightning-connected headphone options currently available, the area is poised for rapid expansion.
Mobile device accessory maker Incipio Technologies has announced plans to acquire Skullcandy, which specializes in audio solutions, and gaming products through its Astro Gaming brand. This is the fourth in a spate of recent acquisitions by Incipio, with the company having acquired Incase and Clamcase last year, and Braven back in 2013.
Jawbone CEO Hosain Rahman says the company is “still committed” to the wearables business, refuting recent reports that Jawbone is exiting the wearables business or going out of business altogether. In a blog post on the company’s website, Rahman denies recent media reports as “unequivocally false,” noting that the speculation appeared to come from “wrongful insinuations” made by “a particular digital publication,” and although the publication later made a correction, this was not done until after other media picked up on the news and spread it further. Rahman emphasizes that Jawbone “remains wholly committed to innovating in and building great wearables products” and has technology in the pipeline that they “look forward to sharing ... with the world.”
Apple has added a new Accessibility category to its online store, highlighting accessories specifically designed for people with physical and intellectual disabilities. The new section also includes specific sub-categories to allow users to filter by accessories geared to assisting in visual, physical and motor skill, and learning & literacy areas. The Accessibility section is limited in selection compared to other sections in Apple’s online store, with only 15 different accessories available at this point.
Bowers & Wilkins, a U.K. maker of high-end audio equipment, has been acquired by Silicon Valley-based EVA Automation. The companies said the merger will pair Bowers & Wilkins’ acoustic engineering talents with EVA Automation’s A/V technologies to enable both companies to grow in new directions. Former Bowers & Wilkins owner Joe Atkins will stay on as CEO and EVA founder Gordon Yu will act as executive chairman for the combined company. We reviewed Bowers & Wilkins’ Zeppelin Wireless Speaker and P5 Wireless Headphones last year.
Invoxia has added support for Amazon’s Alexa Voice Service to its acclaimed Triby connect kitchen speaker, making it the first non-Amazon device to add support for the voice assistant. Following the launch of its Echo voice controlled speaker last year, Amazon also debuted the Alexa Skills Kit, a free SDK allowing third-party developers to integrate the service into their devices, and Invoxia has now risen to the challenge and added Alexa support for all existing Triby owners via a software update. As per Invoxia’s support FAQ, Triby users will need to be running software version 10.35 or above and have the latest version (2.9) of the Triby iPhone app, available from the App Store. Once enabled through the iPhone app, an Alexa icon will appear in the top-left corner of Triby’s e-ink display, and users can simply call out “Alexa” to begin asking questions.
Accessory maker Logitech said it has agreed to acquire Jaybird, which is known for its wireless earbuds and fitness trackers geared toward the workout crowd. (Read our review of Jaybird’s X2 here.) Logitech paid $50 million for the company with provisions for up to $45 million in additional payments dependent upon Jaybird hitting growth targets. Like Ultimate Ears, a Bluetooth speaker company Logitech purchased in 2008, Jaybird will continue to sell products under its own name even after the acquisition. Bracken Darrell, Logitech president and chief executive officer, said the move gains Logitech entry into the burgeoning wireless audio wearables market and will allow his company to combine its audio engineering and design capabilities with Jaybird’s sports expertise.
Apple has issued a voluntary recall covering some of its AC wall plug adapters and world travel kits. The recall affects AC wall plug adapters designed for use in Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Continental Europe, New Zealand and South Korea, noting that in very rare cases, the affected two-prong adapters may break and create a risk of electrical shock if touched. The adapters shipped with Mac and some iOS devices between 2003 and 2015 and were also included in the Apple World Travel Adapter Kit. The release notes that Apple is aware of 12 incidents worldwide, and specifies that the issue does not affect any other Apple AC wall plug adapters designed for use in Canada, China, Hong Kong, Japan, United Kingdom, or the United States, nor does it affect any Apple USB power adapters. Customers should stop using affected plug adapters immediately and visit www.apple.com/support/ac-wallplug-adapter for information about how to exchange their affected adapters for new, redesigned adapters.
As the International CES 2016 begins to wind down, we wanted to point out that there won’t be any CES Best of Show Awards given out by iLounge this year. Our on-site staff was limited this year, and we didn’t think it was fair to our readers — or to these companies — for other members of our staff to participate in making such judgments without seeing the products in person. Visit our CES page for the full index of reports from this week, and from past Consumer Electronics Shows. We’ll be back next week with more of our typical content.
CableJive has introduced two new add-ons for its HeroDock for the iPhone — a Landscape Dock that can hold an iPad mini, and the other to dock an Apple Watch. As seen above, the final iPad mini dock will require a Lightning connector in another position for it to work properly. The new attachments are expected to arrive in Q3; pricing has not been announced.
Just Mobile has introduced a new minimalist dock, the HoverDock, in both iPhone and Apple Watch versions. The HoverDock for iPhone ($35) is a low-profile charging stand encased in a unibody aluminum disc that allows you to pass through your Lightning cable and stand your iPhone upright, and supports most cases.
HoverDock for Apple Watch ($35) follows the same unibody aluminum design as the iPhone version, allowing you to pass through the standard Apple Watch Magnetic Charging cable and keep your Apple Watch propped up for Nightstand Mode.
Edifier has introduced several new speakers at this year’s CES. The MA5 ($200) desktop audio system is Wi-Fi enabled and provides support for AirPlay and DLNA. It can stream music from app-based online music sources such as Pandora and Spotify. It also features a cloud-based speech recognition system for online music search and can act as a 2.4GHz Wi-Fi hotspot. MA5 should be released in Q2 2016.
The MP700 ($230) portable speaker comes in two versions, with a Bluetooth 4.0 model that features an NFC tag for quick connection with compatible devices, and an Wi-Fi model which features AirPlay and DLNA connectivity, and the same app-based online music source management and 2.4GHz Wi-Fi hotspot features as the MA5. Additionally, the MA215 ($300) is a desktop Wi-Fi speaker set for release in the third quarter of 2016.