Thanks in part to Apple’s switch to more expensive Lightning connectors, as well as the ascendance of Bluetooth wireless connectivity, Apple’s grip on accessory makers is starting to slip, according to a New York Times report. While many retail stores and hotel rooms previously featured Dock Connector accessories, the market has expanded and broadened, reducing Apple’s presence. A number of accessory makers expressed frustration with the Lightning connector transition, as companies were not notified of the change in advance, and fees for both licensing and manufacturing have gone up. Consequently, accessory makers opted to leave Apple docks out of their products; Logitech, Voxx, and Geneva Lab told the Times that they’ve dropped physical Apple connectors from most or all of their products.
For its part, Apple says it doesn’t mind accessories continuing in a more wireless direction. Apple spokesman Tom Neumayr said, “Apple provides users with the best wired and wireless connectivity options to work with the broadest range of accessories.” Still, sales of speakers with docks dropped 16% in 2012, while sales of wireless streaming speakers jumped 175%, according to an NPD Group report.
Gear4, the U.K.-based brand behind Apple accessories such as AlarmDock Halo 2 and Renew SleepClock, has gone bankrupt and cut most of its U.K. workforce, but has effectively been re-formed as a new entity in Hong Kong. Disruptive Hong Kong bought the rights of all designs, brands, and intellectual property from Disruptive Ltd — the company behind the Gear4 branding — and the company is relocating its headquarters. Disruptive founder and CEO Tom Dudderidge said the economic climate forced the company to review its operations, including “product development, business model and location.” According to the company, all U.K. customer warranties will be honored, and the company will retain a small number of sales and marketing workers in the U.K. [via The Channel]
Soundfreaq has announced Boom Freaq ($350), a special edition of its Sound Stack speaker. Boom Freaq is a Bluetooth wireless speaker that can dock either Dock Connector or Lightning devices — a 30-pin dock is built-in, and a Lightning adapter is now also included. Like other iterations of Sound Stack, the speaker features two full-range drivers and two active subwoofers. A USB port is included for universal charging.
Boom Freaq’s look is inspired by classic boomboxes, and is the newest addition to the company’s Novogratz Collection. Boom Freaq is available now for pre-order and will ship in 4 to 5 weeks.
Bowers & Wilkins has announced the Z2 ($400) Airplay Lightning speaker dock and an updated Lightning version of its Zeppelin Air ($600) AirPlay speaker dock. Z2 is a redesigned version of the company’s Zeppelin Mini, capable of docking an iPhone 5, fifth-generation iPod touch, or seventh-generation iPod nano within a newly recessed top hole. The speaker features two 3.5” full range drivers with 40 watts of total amplifier output, and comes in black or white.
Zeppelin Air, an AirPlay dock reviewed by iLounge two years ago, has also been updated with a Lightning connector for the iPhone 5, fifth-generation iPod touch, and seventh-generation iPod nano. Z2 will be available in April; the updated Zeppelin Air hits the market in May.
iLounge today announced the creation of iLounge NYC, a curated special event and exhibition area at CE Week 2013. Working with CE Week and the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), iLounge will bring the Apple accessory world to Manhattan, beginning with a special event for trade and media members on June 25, and a curated exhibition space on June 26 and 27. iLounge NYC will be the back-to-school/holiday-focused version of the incredibly successful winter iLounge Pavilion at CES in Las Vegas, which now occupies over 120,000 square feet of floor space — the largest unified exhibition area at the show.
“Apple accessory makers know that the iLounge Pavilion is the best place to debut their winter and spring lineups,” said Jeremy Horwitz, iLounge’s Editor-in-Chief. “We’re thrilled to curate a new iLounge NYC event to preview the year’s biggest back-to-school and holiday releases—at a great venue, within a city known for its love of Apple products.”
The full press release follows. Companies interested in additional details on iLounge NYC and the iLounge Pavilion should contact Jeremy Horwitz today.
Twelve South has announced an updated version of its BookArc for iPad, which now touts compatibility with the iPad mini ($30). An arc-shaped, steel stand first released three years ago, BookArc for iPad now also comes with silicone inserts to hold an iPad mini, as well as prior-generation iPads.
For those who already own a BookArc for iPad and only want the rubber inserts to hold the iPad mini, Twelve South announced plans to offer the inserts separately “within the next few weeks.” BookArc for iPad — with the mini rubber inserts included — is available now.
Incipio has announced its Dual Auto Charger ($35), a 3.4-Amp charger for Lightning. The charger is capable of simultaneously recharging a Retina iPad at full speed, along with another device.
The Dual Auto Charger features a coiled Lightning cable with a pass-through USB port. Incipio lists the charger as “coming soon.”
Gear4 has announced its new line of Lightning products, including an alarm dock, speaker, and assorted chargers. AlarmDock Halo 3 ($130) is a Lightning-compatible alarm clock dock for iPhone 5 and the fifth-generation iPod touch — it’s an updated version of the company’s AlarmDock Halo 2. The dock works in conjunction with a free app — an alarm set in the app automatically syncs to the Halo 3. Also, an in-app media player can use iTunes, Spotify, or other networked tracks as wake-up music.
StreetParty 5 ($80) is a speaker dock for iPhone 5 and fifth-gen iPod touch that can be powered by AA batteries, based on the earlier StreetParty 4. Gear4 also introduced its Lightning Dock for iPhone 5 and fifth-gen iPod touch ($40), MicroCharger for Lightning ($35) and InCar Charger for Lightning ($30), all said to be currently available.
Apple’s Lightning Digital AV Adapter contains previously undiscovered video processing hardware, according to developer Panic, which performed a teardown of the accessory after noting video quality issues. In testing output from an application, Panic found that the video resolution was below 1080p, and noted that compression artifacts were showing up on screen. The company discovered an ARM processor inside the adapter, and suggested that Lightning iOS devices are using a protocol similar to AirPlay to encode video before sending it to the accessory for decoding. While the presence of the processor hints at the reason the Digital AV Adapter arrived at a surprisingly high $49 price, the video degradation was a disappointment, particularly considering the prior Dock Connector version’s output capabilities.
Notably, a comment posted by an anonymous Apple employee on Panic’s blog confirmed the findings above, and attempted to explain them. “We didn’t do this to screw the customer,” the commenter said. “We did this to specifically shift the complexity of the ‘adapter’ bit into the adapter itself, leaving the host hardware free of any concerns in regards to what was hanging off the other end of the Lightning cable.” The commenter also noted that the video quality limitations may only be temporary. “Certain people are aware that the quality could be better and others are working on it. For the time being, the quality was deemed to be suitably acceptable… updates **will** be made available as a part of future iOS updates. When this will happen I can’t say for anonymous reasons, but these concerns haven’t gone unnoticed.” [via Panic Blog]
Griffin has announced its MouthStick Stylus ($30), a stylus affixed to a mouthpiece that allows people with fine motor impairments to use digital devices. The MouthStick Stylus was designed in collaboration with physicians and people with physical disabilities. It works with touch screens, laptop keyboards, and Apple’s Magic Trackpad.
The mouthpiece holding the rubber-tipped aluminum stylus is made from food-grade stainless steel and comes with three sets of BPA- and latex-free silicone rubber mouthpiece sleeves. A gooseneck shaft allows the stylus to be used at any angle. Griffin’s MouthStick Stylus will be released in the second quarter of this year.
Brother has announced its new HL-3000 series of digital color printers, including the AirPrint-compatible HL-3140CW ($250) and HL-3170CDW ($280). Thanks to the AirPrint functionality, users will be able to print wirelessly from an iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch without installing a printer driver. The HL-3140CW offers color and black printing up to 19 ppm, up to 600x2400 dpi resolution, and support of wireless 802.11 b/g/n and USB 2.0 interfaces, while the HL-3170CDW offers all the features of the 3140CW, as well as faster printing up to 23 ppm, dual-sided printing, an additional Ethernet interface, and other features. Both printers will be available in March.
Known for its bargain-priced cables, Monoprice has started to offer Apple-certified Lightning wall chargers for $13 a piece—substantially below the prices of versions from other vendors. The charger features a “captured” or non-detachable Lightning cable and a generic design, promising 1-Amp charging speeds. This is sufficient for iPhones and iPods, but below the peak recharging capabilities of iPads.
Monoprice is also offering a similar deal in $12 Lightning car chargers. Like the Lightning wall charger, the car charger offers only 1-Amp power, appropriate for full-speed iPhone and iPod charging. The car chargers are available now, while the wall chargers are listed as “coming soon.”
Olloclip has announced a new iPod touch adapter ($10 for two), which will allow fifth-generation iPod touch owners to use Olloclip’s 3-in-1 Photo Lens for iPhone 5, as well as a fourth-generation iPod touch adapter compatible with its earlier add-on lens system for the iPhone 4/4S. Each version of the the 3-in-1 Photo Lens comes with three lenses: the fisheye lens, the wide-angle lens, and the macro lens, which applies roughly a 10x multiplier. In addition to selling the adapters separately, Olloclip will include the iPod touch adapters with the purchase of new iPhone 5 and 4/4S Olloclip 3-in-1 Photo Lenses, each sold for $70.
Apple has quietly released a 0.5m version of its Lightning to USB Cable ($19). Although half the size of the “standard” cables it has been selling, it retains the same price; its release suggests that Apple may shift to packing shorter Lightning cables in with future products.
Apple also tweaked its In-Ear Headphones with Remote and Mic — the remote now is a bit more rounded, matching the redesigned remote on EarPods. The rest of the design and the $79 price haven’t changed. [via MacRumors]
Urbanears has introduced Slussen ($15), a stylish-looking portable DJ adapter with a free companion app. Slussen plugs into an iOS device, using two 3.5mm jacks to connect headphones and a sound system. Upon launching the app, users can hear one song through headphones while another is playing through the speaker. The app allows music to be controlled in a number of ways, by adjusting BPM, syncing tracks, and EQ effects; a scratch function, crossfaders, and equalizer are also included.
Slussen comes ready for keychain attachment. Available now, it comes in four colors — grape, pumpkin, petrol, and tomato — with the tomato version priced at $20.
Belkin has announced a multi-year licensing partnership with toymaker LEGO to create accessories for mobile devices, initially focusing on iOS devices including the iPhone and iPod touch. While images were not yet available at press time, Belkin plans to start with the release of smartphone cases with LEGO bricks for a “buildable” case experience, starting this spring. The cases will be “based on iconic LEGO toys,” Belkin said.
Swedish audio company NOCS has begun shipping its new AirPlay speakers, the NS2 Air Monitors ($450). First announced last year at a slightly lower price of $400, the Air Monitors are a pair of bookshelf speakers that incorporate AirPlay technology to allow users to stream audio from a computer or iOS device. While the speakers were supposed to be available early in 2012, they actually became available in limited quantities only in mid-December, with additional stock appearing online more recently.
NOCS advertises the NS2 Air Monitors in six colors—black, white, orange, grey, red, and yellow—however only the first three colors are available at this time, with more stock said to be coming in all colors later this month. The speakers are relatively small and coated in soft touch rubber.
Satechi has announced the Smart LED Desk Lamp ($100), a lamp with an iPod/iPhone-charging USB port on the back. Interestingly, the lamp has four different lighting modes with different color temperatures: Reading mode uses mid-range temperatures to reduce eye strain, study mode uses high-range temperatures, relaxation mode uses low-range temperatures, and bedtime mode uses low-range temperatures to produce a soft light. The Smart LED Desk Lamp has a lifespan of 40,000+ hours and consumes 1/8 the power of an incandescent lamp.
It features a timer function to turn off the lamp automatically after an hour of inactivity, and its three joints allow the LED panel and frame to adjust to multiple angles. While it’s a more expensive alternative to a typical wall charger, it helps to eliminate wall outlet and desk clutter, with the nice design and novel temperature adjustments as nice assets. Satechi’s Smart LED Desk Lamp comes in black and white, and is available now.
After over 80 years in the consumer electronics business, Philips announced Tuesday that it has sold the remainder of its consumer-focused electronics business to Japan’s Funai. Although Philips steadily reduced its involvement in consumer electronics, leaving its television and mobile phone divisions behind in recent years, the company suffered a fourth-quarter net loss of €358 Million (about $481 million).
Philips has had an interesting history with Apple. It originally sold products that challenged the iPod, including its GoGear series of media players. It then started to make iPod-friendly speaker systems, and later bought iPod/iPhone accessory maker DLO to become a major player in Apple accessories. The company developed quite a few distinctive speakers, eventually including some AirPlay models at widely varying price points, and continued to sell earphones and headphones. Funai will apparently continue to sell these products under its own brand.
Philips will now turn most of its attention to medical equipment, as healthcare sales made up 40 percent of the group’s revenue in the fourth quarter. Consumer lifestyle products accounted for 26 percent of the company’s fourth quarter revenue. [via Wall Street Journal]
Apogee has announced a redesigned version of One ($349), a USB audio interface and microphone that makes a direct digital connection to an iPad, iPhone, iPod touch or Mac. One offers three input options — a built-in omni-directional condenser mic, XLR input for microphones and 1/4” instrument input. Also, One can now record two inputs simultaneously — the instrument input and one of the mic inputs. A metal chassis now encases One, which uses Apogee’s Maestro software for iOS to control inputs, mic preamp, outputs, and low latency monitoring. It will be available in March, shipping with Dock Connector support and the need for a user-supplied Lightning to 30-Pin Adapter.
Apogee also introduced the updated Duet ($595) for iPad, iPhone, iPod touch, and Mac, a two-input, four-output USB audio interface for stereo music recording and mixing, another Dock Connector-based accessory that requires the Lightning adapter for new devices. Last but not least, the company also announced iPad compatibility for Quartet ($1295), a four-input, eight-output USB audio interface. Quartet will now ship with a Dock Connector cable, again with the need for a Lightning adapter. The updated versions of Duet and Quartet will be released in February.