After nine years of steady third-party accessory growth for its devices, Apple faces a potentially serious ecosystem disruption this year, multiple reliable sources have confirmed to iLounge. With only two weeks remaining before the expected debut of the next-generation iPhone, Apple has not offered third-party developers the components or engineering details necessary to build docking accessories for the new device—the first iOS product expected to ship without Apple’s now-ubiquitous 30-pin Dock Connector, which will soon be replaced across all future Apple pocket and tablet devices. Noting the time required to manufacture and ship new products, the sources suggest that new iPhone-specific electronic add-ons will likely miss the upcoming holiday season, apart from whatever accessories are released by Apple itself.
Rumors of a smaller Dock Connector replacement have circulated for years, and the new component has recently been spotted in leaked cables, next-generation iPhones, and even parts apparently intended for other iOS devices. References to the new connector have also been found in beta versions of iOS 6. Despite these disclosures, however, Apple has not made the connectors available for developers to test or purchase, or discussed its new authentication chips, both of which might stop existing accessories from working, or limit their functionality with new Apple devices.
While the broadly available Micro-USB standard was suggested as a possible replacement for the 30-pin Dock Connector, sources suggest that Apple’s switch to a proprietary new connector will enable it to control the entire supply of available parts, as well as developers, since third-party versions of the new connector will likely be either unavailable or unreliable for months. One source expects that Apple will introduce a more stringent version of its Made For iPod/iPhone/iPad (“MFi”) licensing program alongside the new connector, complete with more elaborate testing requirements and perhaps higher fees. It remains possible, however, that Apple may merely attempt to dominate the 2012 holiday market by selling its own accessories—perhaps including adapters for older accessories—then supply new connectors and chips to developers in 2013.
Apple’s MFi program was grudgingly accepted by most developers years ago as a necessary cost of doing business with the Cupertino company, adding additional costs to iPod accessories once Apple began to sell electronic components and require per-unit licensing fees, collectively described by some as an “iPod tax.” The subsequent “Works With iPhone” program generated industry-wide grumbles based on new Apple approval and testing procedures, which were blamed for delaying the release of early iPhone electronic accessories for roughly a year, as well as restricting the variety of accessories that could be developed without Apple’s consent. Apple has since been criticized for problems with its AirPlay licensing program, which offers developers a wireless, dock-less alternative for streaming music to Wi-Fi-equipped accessories. AirPlay add-ons have been plagued by audio drop-outs and other issues, leading to complaints and mass returns by disappointed consumers, the costs of which have largely been absorbed by developers.
Withings has introduced the Wireless Scale WS-30, its latest iOS-compatible health product, as a sequel to its 2010 Connected Scale. Now equipped with both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, the new scale offers secure access to weight and BMI data through the company’s free Withings Health Companion app, which features goal setting, coaching, and weight graphs.
Individual users are recognized by the scale, which can keep track of eight different profiles, and the accessory can be set up using Bluetooth and an iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch. The scale will be available in late September in Europe for approximately $190, a higher price than its predecessor; no North American release date or pricing has yet been announced.
IK Multimedia has announced iRig KEYS ($100), a portable universal MIDI controller keyboard for iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. Weighing slightly less than 1 1/2 pounds, and measuring roughly 20 inches long, the controller features 37 velocity-sensitive mini keys, plus five soft-touch buttons and one volume/data knob that can be customized for different purposes. It’s also both Core MIDI and USB compliant, arriving complete with a Dock Connector cable for iOS device attachment. iRig KEYS can be powered by Apple’s devices for brief periods of time, or longer via the USB port, and two free apps are included. It will be available this fall.
Speck has been granted a patent for the company’s groundbreaking CandyShell case, which was originally released in 2009, and followed up with numerous sequels since then. The patent is for a device case with a flexible inner layer, hard exterior layer, and adjoining side surfaces, joined together to form a one-piece housing. This design was at one point considered impossible to manufacture, but has since been widely copied by other case makers, who may be forced to start making modifications in light of Speck’s patent.
JayBird has announced the Freedom Sprint ($129), a new pair of wireless Bluetooth earbuds. Also known as JF4, Freedom Sprint is 40 percent smaller than Jaybird’s prior-generation JF3 Freedom earbuds, reviewed here, and offer a slightly diminished 4.5 hours of playtime for wireless music and calls, sport-ready ear grips, and micro-USB charging. Unlike competitors, JayBird also offers a lifetime warranty against sweat, as well as a free three-month premium membership to MapMyFitness. Freedom Sprint is available now.
Logitech UE has announced seven new products for the iPhone, iPad and iPod, including its first pair of universal fit quadruple-driver in-ear headphones. The Logitech UE 900 noise-isolating earphones ($400) come equipped with four armature speakers per ear, as well as two detachable cables — one with an Apple mic and three-button remote control — that can be swapped out for a standard cable. Logitech UE notes that the four drivers are used for accurate high-end, low-end, and midrange reproduction, with extra bass power. Five sets of silicone ear tips and three Comply foam tips are included with the new earphones, which will be available in September.
The company also unveiled three large headphones: the base model Logitech UE 4000 ($100) is the first ever on-ear Ultimate Ears model, while the larger Logitech UE 6000 ($200) is its first over-ear model; both are wired, with integrated Apple three-button remotes and microphones. A deluxe $400 model called Logitech UE 9000is similar in design to the 6000, but includes Bluetooth wireless support, on-ear controls, and a detachable cable. All three models use 40mm drivers, and are shipping now.
Three new Logitech UE speakers debuted as well, though two are somewhat familiar. Most unique is the Logitech UE Boombox ($250), a die-cast aluminum and stainless steel speaker with ruggedized rubber padding. Similar to the company’s award-winning Logitech Wireless Boombox, eight drivers are inside this model, including two 0.5” tweeters, two 3” woofers, and four 2 5/8” passive bass radiators. Bluetooth promises wireless broadcasting from up to 50 feet away. Up to eight Bluetooth-enabled devices can connect to the speaker, and three devices can connect at the same time. Logitech UE Boombox features a six- to ten-hour rechargeable battery, depending on volume.
Orbotix has announced the release of six new apps for the previously-reviewed Sphero, the motorized ball remote-controlled by an iPad, iPhone or iPod touch. Four of the apps are new games, including the shooter Exile, quick-reflex game ColorGrab, snake game Doodle Grub, and multiplayer collision title Tag. Updated apps include a redesigned version of the original Sphero app, incorporating multiple prior Sphero apps into one download, and an updated golf game, featuring new course creation and practice features. Four of the new apps are currently available for iOS, while Doodle Grub and Sphero v2 will be released on Sept. 14.
Kicker has announced its new Amphitheatre High-Performance Audio System for the iPhone and iPad. Featuring a square reflex subwoofer and DSP amp along with 5” mid-bass speakers and 3/4” silk-dome tweeters, the Amphitheatre allows users to dock an iPhone, iPod or iPad and control their music playback using an included ergonomic remote control. The Amphitheatre also includes a USB port for charging external devices along with an auxiliary input for connecting other media players. In addition, users can download a free KickStart iOS app from the App Store that provides an 8-band EQ, spatialization option, sound presets, integrated alarm and night mode, and social media integration for sharing music with Facebook friends. The Amphitheatre is expected to be available beginning in September in a Dock Connector version for $300, with a Bluetooth model following later this year.
Case-Mate has announced a new partnership with upscale Argentinian leather goods maker Vaja. According to the companies, the partnership will see the two collaborate on strategy and product design; Case-mate will market, distribute, and sell Vaja’s products, which will still be made by the latter company’s artisans. “The Vaja brand uniquely fulfills the desires of the rapidly growing premium segment of the market in which consumers are seeking mobile device cases made from the highest quality materials found only in handcrafted, personalized products,” said Shashi Reddy, Case-Mate’s founder and CEO. “Vaja’s team of artisans has created fine leather products desired by luxe-minded consumers for their amazing quality and appreciation for detail. The Vaja brand will make a wonderful addition to Case-Mate’s portfolio.” Vaja’s complete line of cases and other leather accessories remains available at vajacases.com.
JBL has unveiled its new Jembe Wireless speakers for the iPhone, iPad, iPod, and other Bluetooth-enabled devices. Relatively compact in size, the Jembe Wireless are based on the company’s prior Jembe desktop speakers, and offer a built-in amplifier, Slipstream port technology for improved bass response, a 3.5mm input for connecting non-Bluetooth devices, and an exterior treatment based on JBL’s well-received Weave design. JBL’s new Jembe Wireless speakers for the iPhone, iPad, and iPod are available now and sell for $99.
New Potato has debuted its new TuneLink Home music streamer and remote for the iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Android devices. The TuneLink Home is a small, black accessory that connects to iOS devices via Bluetooth, and offers wireless audio streaming—with standard 3.5mm and optical digital outputs—as well as the ability to serve as a universal remote control thanks to a dedicated app. The company promises an pre-programmed database of over 80,000 pre-programmed remote control codes, and the TuneLink Home can also learn new codes, as well as accept macro commands from the app; a wide-angle infrared LED array is built in to the device, which also offers an IR extender port. New Potato’s TuneLink Home music streamer and remote for the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch is available now and sells for $100.
Ecoxgear has rolled out its new Ecoxpower pedal-powered headlight and mobile device charger for the iPhone, iPod, and other portable devices. The Ecoxpower attaches to the hub of a bicycle’s front wheel, using energy created from pedaling to operate the LED headlight, LED taillights, and a connected USB-charging accessory. It also features an internal rechargeable battery that can power the light for 1.5 hours without riding, a wired on/off remote switch, and an included, water-resistant case that mounts on the bike’s handlebars and accomodates a smartphone or other device. Ecoxgear’s Ecoxpower headlight and charger is available now and sells for $99.
Bracketron has introduced its new Universal USB Travel Power Kit for the iPhone, iPad, iPod, and other USB-charging devices. The Kit includes low-profile USB car and wall chargers, both of which provide 2.1 Amp charging for fast charging of the iPad, as well as a 3’ Universal Charge/Sync Cable that features a standard USB connector on one end and both Apple 30-pin and Micro USB connectors on the other. Bracketron’s Universal USB Travel Power Kit for the iPhone, iPad, and iPod is available now and sells for $40; the Universal Charge/Sync Cable is available separately for $20.
Scosche has rolled out its new boomStream Bluetooth speaker for the iPhone, iPad, iPod, and other compatible devices. The boomStream is a portable speaker system featuring dual 40mm drivers and a down-firing passive subwoofer for enhanced sound, a built-in mic for speakerphone use, a built-in rechargeable battery good for up to 8 hours of playback, an integrated 500 mA USB charging port for supplying power to smartphones or other devices, and a 3.5mm aux input for connecting other audio sources. Scosche’s boomStream Bluetooth speaker for the iPhone, iPad, and iPod is available now and sells for $100.
iHome has announced that its iD55 portable stereo system for the iPhone, iPad, and iPod is now available. Recipient of an iLounge Best of Show Finalist award at the 2012 CES, the iD55 features a curved design that slides open to allow for access to the integrated, iPad-friendly dock, as well as a line-in jack for other audio sources, two speakers set in Reson8 chambers, SRS TruBass sound enhancement, compatibility with the company’s various apps, and the ability to operate on AC power or off of 4 AA batteries. iHome’s new iD55 portable stereo system for the iPhone, iPad, and iPod is available now and sells for $80.
Desk Pets has unveiled its new CarBot remote control car for the iPhone, iPad, iPod, and Android devices. The CarBot is controlled with a free app that communicates with the car via an include IR dongle that plugs into the device’s headphone jack. Four interactive modes are available: Drift ‘n’ Race for full-speed racing, Maze mode, Battle mode for multi-player, and Personality mode, in which the car speeds and spins while flashing lights and emitting sounds. In addition, the USB-rechargeable battery is good for 25 minutes of play time for every 40 minutes of charging. Desk Pets’ CarBot remote control car for iOS and Android is available now for $30.
iDevices has announced that it is now shipping its iShower speaker for the iPhone, iPad, iPod, and other devices. First shown at the 2012 CES, the iShower is a Bluetooth-enabled, water-resistant speaker that’s designed to be used in the shower. Features include built-in play, pause, forward, rewind and volume buttons, a claimed 200 foot range, up to 15 hours of battery life from three AA batteries, a time display, tool-free installation, and the ability to pair with up to five devices at once. iDevices’ iShower is available now and sells for $100.
Invoxia has announced that it is now shipping its AudiOffice accessory for iOS devices. The AudiOffice is designed to serve as a handset accessory, speakerphone, and traditional speaker system, offering a built-in dock for the iPhone and iPod touch, a USB cable connection for the iPad, Bluetooth for wireless pairing with any compatible device, a wired handset for personal conversations, two MEMS digital microphones for speakerphone use, and an array of four speakers with dual bass ports for use in both speakerphone and traditional music playback modes. Invoxia’s AudiOffice for iOS devices is available now and sells for $299.
Id America has rolled out its new Metropolitan in-ear headphones. The Metropolitan features a lightweight aluminum housing in one of six colors, an in-line remote and mic module, a tangle-free fabric cord, three included sizes of earbuds for a precise fit, and an included microfiber carrying pouch. Id America’s Metropolitan in-ear headphones are available now and sell for $30.
Apple will indeed offer a 19-pin to 30-pin dock adapter alongside the next-generation iPhone, a new report claims. Citing sources who previously confirmed Apple’s plans to shift to a smaller dock connector, iMore suggests that the adapter will allow for the use of most 30-pin based accessories with future iOS devices. It notes that some accessories may, due to size or shape, be awkward or impossible to use with the new adapter, but that most should do fine. The report does not state whether Apple will include an adapter in the box with the next-gen iPhone, or sell it separately, but does claim that the adapter will be available for the iPhone’s launch. Notably, iMore has had a mixed track record in recent reporting on the new iPhone, initially casting doubt on reported screen and body changes before acknowledging them as accurate.