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2014 iPad iPhone iPod Buyers' Guide from iLounge.com

News

Third-party Lightning Adapters appear online

Hitherto unknown third-party developers have begun to offer purported Lightning to 30-Pin adapters through Amazon.com, notes AppleInsider. Nanotch and iTronz currently have pre-order pages on Amazon promising $10 to $18 prices for the Adapters, which feature male Lightning connectors on one end and female 30-pin ports on the other, with promised availability near the end of this month.

On the surface, these accessories appear to be better values than Apple’s own Lightning Adapters, which will sell for $29 each when released in October. However, established developers have told iLounge that early third-party adapters will likely experience either delays or functional problems with old accessories and new Apple devices, citing Apple’s decision to keep both parts and specifications to itself until the last moment. These developers have suggested that both the quality and electronic compatibility of unlicensed adapters may be poor, given that new Apple authentication chips will be required to make them work properly. The adapters should be considered risky investments until they’ve been properly tested with the new iPhone 5 and iPods.

Scosche introduces Rhythm workout monitor and app

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Scosche has announced Rhythm ($100), a new pulse monitor and app for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. Rhythm’s neoprene arm strap fits over the forearm, allowing a user to manage, track, and analyze workouts. Two alternating LEDs with a photo sensor measure pulse, while a built-in accelerometer helps to provide estimates of calories burned, speed, pace, route, and distance. Wireless remote control over iOS music playback is also included on the armband, which boasts up to six hours of continuous battery life.

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Interestingly, data from Rhythm’s personalized workouts can be stored in the cloud at Scosche’s Rhythm Dashboard website. The Rhythm monitor and app are available now.

Lightning Connector sparks confusion, uncertainty for Apple users

Officially announced and briefly discussed at this week’s iPhone 5-focused event in San Francisco, Apple’s next-generation Lightning Connector has quickly become a flashpoint of confusion for iPhone and iPod users. Revealed piecemeal in several leaks ahead of the event, the Lightning Connector replaces Apple’s 30-Pin Dock Connector, a ubiquitous rectangular port found on every iPhone, every iPad, and every iPod released since 2003, except the iPod shuffle. The first device to feature the new port will be the iPhone 5, with the iPod nano and iPod touch following soon thereafter; iPads will reportedly begin to make the transition this year. To enable some prior accessories to work with the new devices, Apple is now selling three types of Lightning Adapters, two for old 30-Pin Dock Connector accessories and one required in Europe for Micro-USB chargers. Through a spokesperson, Apple has also announced plans to release at least two more Lightning Adapters for HDMI and VGA output.

Despite Apple’s connector and adapter announcements, significant uncertainty remains regarding prior accessory compatibility, and the availability of Lightning Adapters. Conflicting reports this week suggested that the “all-digital” Lightning Connector might not be able to support analog audio or video output; however, Apple has confirmed that its Lightning to 30-Pin Adapters will be capable of passing iPhone 5 audio to prior Dock Connector-based docks, speakers, and cables, but will not support video out from the iPhone 5 to older video accessories, or “iPod out” mode transmission of data and album art, used in some car and home video dock accessories. It remains unclear whether the iPhone 5 will display jarring error messages when used with Apple’s Lightning Adapters, or just gracefully pass through what it can share. The first third-party accessories built with Lightning Connectors are not expected to hit stores until late this year or early next year, according to an iLounge source.

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Adapter availability has also become a point of concern. The iPhone 5 will be delivered to users starting next week, however, Lightning Adapters will apparently not be available until some time in October, so the first round of customers will not be able to test their prior accessories with the iPhone 5 until well after the phone arrives. Apart from one brief and apparently erroneous hint during the iPhone 5 ordering process, Apple has not suggested that the iPhone 5 or new iPhones will include Lightning Adapters. According to a dialogue box spotted by TheNextWeb during iPhone 5 pre-ordering this morning, Apple’s web site told some European customers that the iPhone 5 “includes a Lightning to 30-pin Adapter,” and offered the purchase of “this additional adapter to have a second adapter for your home or office.” Some time afterwards, Apple changed the language to omit references to the “included” and “additional” adapters, with sales representatives describing the text as “an error.”

Apple posts media event, iPhone 5, EarPods videos

Apple has posted full videos of Wednesday’s media event, as well as separate videos focusing on the iPhone 5, and EarPods. The iPhone 5 video is nearly seven minutes long and shows a brief demonstration of its LTE network in action, in addition to detailing new features of the phone. The EarPods video concentrates mainly on the design and development of the earphones, which will be packed in with some iPods and the iPhone 5, as well as sold separately.

Apple shows EarPods earphones, Lightning cable, adapters

Confirming previous leaks, Apple today officially unveiled the names of its new earphones and miniature Dock Connector replacements. EarPods is the name chosen by Apple for its earphones, which will be bundled with the seventh-generation iPod nano and fifth-generation iPod touch starting in October, as well as sold separately. Like earlier Apple earphones, the EarPods will include a three-button remote control and microphone unit; new to the design are waveguides to channel the speakers’ output into users’ ears. They’ll sell for $29.

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Apple also announced the Lightning moniker for its new Dock Connector, which will appear on the bottoms of new iPods, iPhones, and iPads going forward. A $19 Lightning to USB Cable will be included with each compatible device, while two Lightning to 30-pin Adapters will be sold. The first is a hard plastic adapter, sold for $29, while the second is 0.2m long and sells for $39, starting in October.

For European users, a Lightning to Micro USB Adapter is now showing up in Apple’s online store with a lead time of three days. Selling for £15—about $24—it allows Apple to comply with EU regulations. 

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Of brief note: Apple has also renamed the prior USB Power Adapter to 5W USB Power Adapter, further differentiating it from the Apple iPad 10W USB Power Adapter, and listing it as compatible with all recent iPods and all iPhones, including today’s newly-introduced models. Notably, however, the 5W USB Power Adapter does not include Apple’s new Lightning to USB Cable or any cable, and now sells for $19 on its own.

Brookstone unveils Rover 2.0 App-Controlled Spy Tank

Brookstone has announced the Rover 2.0 App-Controlled Spy Tank ($150), the second version of its Rover tank, a toy designed to be compatible with the iPad, iPhone and iPod touch. The night vision-equipped tank is 25 percent faster than the previous model, which we reviewed and liked last year. Rover 2.0 can stream and record live video and stills, as well as uploading them directly to Facebook, Twitter and YouTube using the free app.

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Built with Wi-Fi rather than Bluetooth, Rover 2.0’s wireless range is up to 200 feet unobstructed, and 100 feet around walls and into other rooms. The angle of the tank’s camera and its headlights can now be controlled remotely, and it can both transmit and receive audio, playing through a built-in speaker. It uses 6 AA batteries, included with the purchase. Rover 2.0 is now available for pre-order, and will be released in October.

Brother introduces MFC-J4510DW AirPrint printer

Brother has debuted the MFC-J4510DW ($199), a new and interesting color all-in-one printer compatible with AirPrint. Featuring a new, fashion-forward industrial design that takes cues from Apple’s devices and accessories, the compact inkjet features 802.11b/g/n wireless and Ethernet options, as well as a free app that can be used for managing printing. It features a touchscreen display and can print documents as large as 11” by 17”, with output at a brisk pace of up to 35 pages per minute. Automatic two-sided printing is also available for documents up to 8.5” by 11”; new engineering of the printing engine enables improved yields from ink cartridges and a more compact footprint—roughly the size of 11” by 17” paper—that’s less than 1/3 the size of competing devices.

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The MFC-J4510DW will be available in October, and additional models in the Brother Business Smart series will be announced later this year.

IK Multimedia releases iRig Stomp stompbox interface

Originally announced in January for a release in April, iRig Stomp ($60) has just been shipped as a guitar and bass stompbox interface for the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch—with a more affordable price.

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Roughly the size of a standard compact pedal and compatible with IK Multimedia’s AmpliTube apps, the device fits in with an existing pedalboard, allowing users to connect instruments or amplifiers using standard 1/4-inch guitar cables. A headphone port is also included.

Sources: Apple to be sole maker of Dock Connector Adapters

Responding to earlier reports that Apple hasn’t offered developers parts or specs for next-generation Dock Connector accessories, additional sources have confirmed to iLounge that Apple will be the exclusive initial vendor of a new Dock Connector Adapter, to be sold individually and/or in three-packs. According to sources, the Dock Connector Adapters will sell for approximately $10 each or three for $29, with Apple-branded new USB cables selling for $19 each. For reference, Apple’s MagSafe to MagSafe 2 Converter sells for $9.99, while international pricing for Apple’s earlier iPhone Micro USB Adapter is €9 ($11) or £8 ($13).

While leaks of the new connector have been numerous, Apple has remained mum on what developers are calling the “9-pin Connector,” even though sources claim that Apple has in recent months stopped approving third-party proposals for connector-equipped accessories. Some developers fear that Apple will corner the market for both the adapters and cables, much as it did with MagSafe connectors for MacBook laptops, using licensing agreements and threats of lawsuits to prevent less expensive third-party solutions from coming to market. One source notes that Apple will reap a windfall by limiting competition in this manner, generating revenues of $100 million for every 10 million Dock Connector Adapters it sells for $10. According to the source, Apple estimates that it will sell the first 10 million Adapters by the end of 2012. It remains unclear whether Apple will allow third-party developers to release competing alternatives before then, or afterwards.

Krusell bows Motörheadphöne, inspired by Motörhead

Following the success of Monster’s Beats by Dre series of headphones and similar musician-inspired alternatives, Krusell has announced the release of Motörheadphöne, a series of headphones inspired by metal band Motörhead. The series includes five products: the over-ear 40mm driver-based Motörizer ($130) with three-button remote, and remote-less Iron Fist ($120) headphones, the on-ear 30mm Bomber ($100) headphones with remote, plus mic-equipped Overkill ($60) and mic-less Trigger ($50) earphones. Motörizer, Iron Fist, and Bomber all use branded leather sides, while Overkill and Trigger have metallic circular edges.

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Krusell also announced three simple, iPhone-sized cases, the hard shell Metropolis ($35), a sealed pouch called Capricorn ($40), and open-topped sleeve Burner ($35). Each uses black leather with Motörhead logo and text branding in either white or red. All of the cases and headphones are expected to be released this fall.

Harman and JBL debut Flip, SoundSticks Wireless, soundbars

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JBL and Harman Kardon have announced seven new speakers for the iPod, iPhone and iPad, ranging from updates of classic models to brand new designs. JBL’s Flip ($100) is a Bluetooth-compatible portable speaker that can be used horizontally or vertically, including a built-in microphone for Bluetooth calls. Built for placement near a television, the Cinema SB 200 ($300) is a Bluetooth-equipped, 120-watt soundbar with two woofers, two tweeters, an amplifier and a built-in subwoofer, designed be compatible with JBL-designed apps.

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Also introduced were the latest version of Harman Kardon’s SoundSticks, the Bluetooth-streaming SoundSticks Wireless ($230); two other portable speakers, the Bluetooth-enabled JBL Micro Wireless ($60) and the hockey puck-sized, non-Bluetooth Micro II ($40); and two other Cinema Soundbars, the non-Bluetooth SB 100 ($200) and the SB 400 ($550), the latter of which is a Bluetooth-enabled soundbar designed for HDTVs 46 inches and larger, packed with a separate 200-watt wireless subwoofer. All products are set for a fall release.

Allegedly new Apple earbuds for iPod, iPhone leak

A video and images of new, allegedly Apple-designed earphones have leaked from Vietnam, where the white glossy earbuds are reportedly being manufactured for the company. The earphones have more of an oval shape than previous incarnations, and considerably smaller speaker holes are located near two sides, instead of a large grille directly in the center. This is likely being done to wave guide or channel the sound in a manner that was attempted by a handful of prior add-on accessories.

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The earphones are described as intended for new iPods, but may well be included with new iPhones as well. Two photos are included: one of the new earphones and another comparing the old earbud to the unconfirmed new earbud. A full video comparing the two is also available. [via Tinhte]

New Apple connectors unavailable, third-party add-ons may miss holidays

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 announces Wireless Scale WS-30

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.

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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 introduces iRig KEYS keyboard

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.

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Speck receives CandyShell case patent

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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 announces Freedom Sprint wireless earbuds

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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 debuts quad-driver UE 900, on-ears, speakers

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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.

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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.

Six new apps released for Sphero

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 releases Amphitheatre for iPad and iPhone

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.

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