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.
Following Apple’s official acquisition announcement Wednesday, Beats has introduced its new Solo2 ($200) headphones. The headphones are a redesign of the previous Solo model. Beats claims Solo2 “offers a wider range of sound and enhanced clarity.”
The headphones come in pink, black, blue, white, gray, and as an official (RED) product. Available for preorder now, Solo2 will be widely available June 1.
Apple today confirmed that it has purchased Beats Electronics, maker of the Beats by Dr. Dre line of headphones and speakers, as well as the Beats Music subscription music streaming application. Combined, the purchase will cost Apple $3 billion, which according to the company’s statement consists “of a purchase price of approximately $2.6 billion and approximately $400 million that will vest over time.” Notably, this is less than the $3.2 billion price originally reported in early May, but the price matches a recent New York Post report. Beats co-founders Jimmy Iovine and Dr. Dre will join Apple as part of the acquisition. The transaction is expected to close in the fiscal fourth quarter, subject to regulatory approvals.
“Music is such an important part of all of our lives and holds a special place within our hearts at Apple,” Apple CEO Tim Cook announced in the statement. “That’s why we have kept investing in music and are bringing together these extraordinary teams so we can continue to create the most innovative music products and services in the world.”
“I’ve always known in my heart that Beats belonged with Apple,” Iovine said in the statement. “The idea when we started the company was inspired by Apple’s unmatched ability to marry culture and technology. Apple’s deep commitment to music fans, artists, songwriters and the music industry is something special.”
Initially reported by The Financial Times as a deal in progress, the acquisition was seemingly a certainty after Dr. Dre appeared alongside actor Tyrese Gibson in a Facebook video, describing himself as the “first billionaire in hip hop.” Some analysts and commentators have questioned the wisdom of the deal for Apple, while others have cited Beats’ strong following in the African-American community as a potential customer base for Apple, and suggested that Beats Music will increase Apple’s footprint in the subscription streaming music category.
Update: “We could build about anything that you could dream of. But that’s not the question,” Cook told Re/code. “The thing that Beats provides us is a head start, and it provides us with incredible people, kindred spirits.” It’s also noted that Apple will keep both the Beats hardware and Beats Music streaming service brands intact.
In a separate story from the AP, Cook said of Iovine and Dre: “We’ve dated, we’ve gone steady and now we are getting married. This relationship started a decade ago, so we know there is an incredible cultural fit. These two guys have a very rare set of skills. It’s like finding a particular grain of sand on the beach. It’s that rare.”
Comparing $19 Apple iPad 10W USB Power Adapters and clones sold on eBay and elsewhere for $3, Ken Shirriff elucidates the risks unknowingly assumed by buyers of knockoff accessories. Cosmetically all but identical from the outside, the iPad chargers actually differ dramatically inside, with the Apple version providing a more stable flow of 2-Amp power with overheating and electrocution protection. By contrast, the clone produces only around 1-Amp power despite branding to the contrary, and cuts corners on everything from stability of the current to protection against temperature, moisture, and other electrical failures. Beyond supplying an inadequate flow of power to quickly recharge an iPad, Shirriff notes that the counterfeit charger’s board “is unsafe. If you use the charger in a humid bathroom and a drop of water condenses across the 0.6 mm gap, then zap!”
Counterfeit and other low-quality power adapters have been blamed for a number of iPhone-related electrocutions and deaths, most notably but not exclusively in China. In response to concerns, Apple offered to replace knockoff chargers last year for the equivalent of $10 U.S. in local currency. Similar concerns over sparking and exploding iPad chargers have been raised, as well.
Flying under the radar due to a messy legal battle, the consumer electronics arm of Philips—temporarily renamed “Woox Innovations”—was quietly sold late last month to Gibson Brands, the musical instrument and audio equipment company. Gibson will apparently license the Philips name for an initial term of seven years, and sell previously-announced Philips products that were temporarily placed under the Woox Innovations name, including Fidelio speakers, headphones, app-assisted video cameras, and in-car accessories. According to Philips, “Philips-branded audio and home entertainment innovations will continue to be available to consumers worldwide” as a result of the deal.
In 2013, Philips announced the sale of its audio, video, multimedia and accessories business to Japanese electronics company Funai, citing a decision to focus its attention on medical equipment. Late last year, Philips accused Funai of breaching the purchase agreement, and subsequently sought another buyer for the business. With this deal, Gibson will considerably expand its footprint in the Apple accessory industry, assuming that the Woox team continues to design Lightning, Bluetooth-compatible products, and headphones.
Following up on the original AR.Drone quadricopter and its modestly-tweaked sequel, Parrot has announced Bebop Drone ($TBD), a smaller and more expensive model planned to ship in the fourth quarter of 2014. Like the prior versions, Bebop Drone is significantly limited in flight time—approximately 12 minutes—but makes improvements to the stability and camera hardware to appeal to videographers.
Most notably, Bebop Drone replaces the prior AR.Drone front-facing camera with a 180-degree fisheye lens and 14-Megapixel image-stabilized sensor, using a software solution to grab only a 1080p portion of the ultra-wide lens’s data. While this camera solution reduces the need to rotate Bebop Drone itself for panning shots, fisheye lenses are known for significant distortion, so it’s unclear whether the image quality will be great or mediocre. Parrot claims that the 0.88-pound unit benefits from new inertia measurement hardware and camera shake compensation software, “to guarantee optimal stability of the quadricopter” during flight. Videos recorded using the Drone are saved by the copter itself, and can be transferred off after each flight is complete.
Bebop Drone can be controlled over Wi-Fi using a new FreeFlight 3.0 app for iOS, with four antennas supporting up to 802.11ac with 2.4GHz, 5GHz, and MIMO options. An optional Skycontroller accessory adds two physical joysticks, plus Wi-Fi-boosted 802.11a/b/g/n for a two-kilometer range. Parrot also promises support for the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset, enabling users to view nearly-realtime footage from the camera while Bebop Drone is in flight. Prices have not been announced for the new products, but are expected to be significantly higher than the AR.Drones’ $300 entry cost.
Philips has announced new additions to its Hue lightbulb line — Hue Lux and Hue Tap. Lux is a white-only Hue bulb. The Hue app can control the brightness and set schedules for the Lux bulb, which comes in a starter kit with two bulbs and a Hue bridge for $100. Hue Lux will be released “after summer 2014.”
Hue Tap is a light switch for Hue which requires no batteries or wires; the switch works using kinetic energy from finger taps. The switch lets users control bulbs and activate lighting scenes. Tap will be available “after summer” in North America and Europe for $60.
GN ReSound has launched ReSound Linx, an MFi hearing aid. First announced last October, the hearing aid connects directly to an iOS device.
The ReSound Smart app will let users adjust volume, treble, bass, and geo-tag locations for preferred settings. A price was not released for the ReSound Linx, but a past report claimed the hearing aid would likely cost more than $3,000.
Mad Catz has introduced its C.T.R.L.i ($80) iOS controller. The Bluetooth-enabled controller comes with a removable clip with a mount that can hold current iPhones, and can also adjust for larger devices.
The controller will reportedly come in black, white, blue, red, and orange. C.T.R.L.i is set to launch in April. [via Engadget]
Fitbit has issued a voluntary recall of its Fitbit Force Wireless Activity & Sleep Wristband. The company has also pulled the fitness tracker from the market — Fitbit’s Force webpage notes the product is “currently not available for purchase.” Fitbit is citing skin irritation as the reason for the Force’s recall and removal from the market.
A letter from Fitbit CEO and co-founder James Park claims “only 1.7 percent of Force users have reported any type of skin irritation.” Park points out that Force contains commonly used materials, but “some users may be reacting to the nickel present in the surgical grade stainless steel used in the device. Other users are likely experiencing an allergic reaction to the materials used in the strap or the adhesives used to assemble the product.” FitBit is offering a refund of the device’s full retail price, and the company has set up a page dedicated to the recall. [via TechCrunch]