If we had to quickly summarize the experience of checking out next-generation iPod, iPhone, iPad, and Mac accessories at CE Week’s CEA Line Shows, the phrase we’d use is “quality over quantity,” and we’re not just saying that—there were quite a few really impressive new products to see at this two-day event, some brand new, and others rewarmed from recent press releases and single-company events elsewhere.
Here’s what’s new and worthwhile in the world of Apple gear.
The most noteworthy items at this Japanese headphone and microphone maker’s booth are the new Solid Bass headphones, which come in four different versions—two in-ear and two over-ear. Unlike rivals who use “more bass” as an excuse to produce muddy headphones, Audio-Technica is trying to create clean-sounding listening accessories with high-quality bass. The show floor demos we heard in a very noisy environment were promising—thanks to some diamond-cut metal cups, the ATH-WS70 high-end over-ear version was particularly impressive aesthetically, as well.
Audio-Technica also flexed its low-priced design skills with Key earbuds, previously shown inconspicuously at CES, which use a beautiful-looking metallic key as a cable manager for faux gemstone and metallic earbuds.
Bongiovi has debuted a new Bongiovi DPS application, very soon to be available from the App Store as a free download for iPods, iPhones, and iPads. Featuring the same “Bongiovi Button” we’ve seen in past iHome speaker units, the Bongiovi DPS application has a unique idea: the company applies its audio expertise to fine tuning the performance of Apple’s devices and individual songs to specific third-party accessories, so you can maximize the audio quality of tracks relative to the speakers, headphones, or even car audio systems you own.
The free, ad-supported app allows you to improve the sound of music through Apple’s free earphones and devices’ built-in speakers—songs instantly sound louder and better through, say, the iPads’ integrated bottom drivers. For $1, you can unlock all of the app’s audio profiles, improving the way popular headphones and speakers sound with your music. It’s actually a really cool idea, provided that you have the right accessories; even if you don’t, Bongiovi says that its algorithm will significantly improve the perceived sound quality of music.
The speaker and headphone company showed off the previously-announced expansions to its ZiiSound line: the D5x networkable Bluetooth speaker system, based upon the highly-rated D5, as well as its lower-end D3x version ($150), and the DSx subwoofer ($150). What’s big here is that D5x can be paired with both the DSx and another speaker, enabling you to create 2.1-channel sound through two or three different units, depending on your budget and need for volume.
Creative also showed the crazy inexpensive budget Bluetooth speaker D80 ($30 street, $50 price), which was billed as a “no excuse not to go wireless now” option, as well as a series of new wireless headphones including the lightweight WP-250, on-ear WP-350, and larger WP-450, each with microphone and calling support built in.
The small wireless speaker company again showed its upcoming wireless speaker system, a set of two magnetically attached, book-shaped speaker boxes which will sell for $200 and feature customized art on the sides. Based upon a proprietary wireless interface that has certain advantages and disadvantages relative to Bluetooth and AirPlay, the battery-powered speakers work with included USB/computer and iPod/iPhone/iPad audio dongles that operate from 90 feet or 30 feet away, respectively.
Fuse showed off a variety of accessories, including charging, protective, and listening options. Its disk-shaped silver and black charging station PowerSlice is capable of refueling up to three devices at once. The base is sold for $50, and different charging “slices” are sold for $10-$13 each; none is included for the base retail price, and iPod/iPhone chargers are available at the higher price. It pumps out 2.8A, so PowerSlice is plenty capable of charging devices at full speed, although it does not support iPad.
The company also showed off Antibacterial Screen Guards for both generations of iPad as well as iPhone 3G/3GS and iPhone 4. Each Korean-made anti-glare film contains silver, which has properties that kill bacteria. A single sheet for the iPad or two sheets for either iPhone sell for $30.
As the exclusive electronic case licensee for Harley Davidson, Fuse also had cases for the iPhone 4 and iPad with the motorcycle company’s branding, available in a variety of materials including, of course, leather. Also on display were the InTune headphones ($25). Jazz/Classical, Rap/Hip Hop, Rock/Blue/Country, and Pop/Easy Listening models are available. Each one is optimized for the specific genre of music, so that a user doesn’t have to adjust the EQ on their devices.
House of Marley
Based on and supported by the family of Bob Marley, House of Marley is using sustainable materials in creating headphones and speakers. The headphones start at $60 and go up to $300, with very near-term availability planned; portable and desktop speaker docks made partially from wood will be coming in time for the holidays.
Many familiar products from CES appeared at iHome’s booth, alongside a few new items. Co-developed with New Balance, the NB639 sport earbuds ($100) have a built-in heart rate monitor and 3D pedometer, plus earhooks for greater stabilization.
The company’s new iDM15 ($100) is a new Bluetooth speaker and speakerphone solution for iPads, iPhones, and iPod touches, including two box-shaped speakers and a plastic docking tray that can hold an iPad upright. iHome’s speakerphone design places the microphone away from the second speaker so as to avoid echo and other issues.
iDM69/iDM71 ($80) are NXT flat panel speaker and case combinations for the iPad or iPad 2—two separate versions have been developed—with an integrated stand, and the ability to mount in your car with a head rest.
iA17 ($100) is a partially globe-shaped FM alarm clock radio with color-shifting capabilities, a color-shifting clock on the face, and app integration. It looks great; we’ll be reviewing this very shortly and are anxious to try it out in depth.
iP91 ($100) is the latest sequel to the original iH5 and its many “flagship $100 iHome clock radio” successors. It features design elements from both the iP90 and iA100.
iW1: The long-awaited $300 AirPlay unit was shown with an updated iHome Connect setup application—very simple and nicely designed—and a “late Summer” release date. It continues to tantalize with its combination of rechargeable battery operation and beautiful design—the base is now black chrome, and the speakers sound much-improved from what we heard at CES.
iLuv showed off a large collection of speakers and cases. Units such as the iMM747 provide inexpensive iPad-sized docking stations with fabric-covered speakers alongside a stationary base that can also handle Apple’s smaller devices.
The next step up is the iMM727, which adds a flexing and rotating iPad-holding arm at a $100 asking price.
And the top of the range is the iMM514, the $170 ArtStation model featured in our iPad 2 Buyers’ Guide, complete with a large speaker box, more powerful sound, and a fancy-looking arm to hold the iPad.
Additional iLuv units included the iCK826 Keyboard Case ($130), one of relatively few models to include a completely detachable Bluetooth keyboard, and the iSP210 ($60), a zip-closed speaker case with dual drivers and a volume knob built into one of its two metallic canvas exterior sides.
The company also has a standalone Bluetooth keyboard called iBTKB20 ($70) that matches the look and size of the iPads, complete with scissor-style hard plastic keys—the same ones used in the iCK826, and a step up from the rubber keys we’ve seen in most iPad Bluetooth keyboards.
Case maker Incipio showed off a new M&Ms customized version of its Dotties cases—swap in whichever M&Ms colors you like—as well as Triad, a three-piece case with individually colored pieces that come together to form a complete shell. Triad’s colors can be selected independently using Incipio’s Bespoke Case Maker application for iOS devices, and ordered as a set.
Monster debuted iSport ($180), its first waterproof earphone, and one with a number of innovations over the award-winning H2O Audio Surge Contact. First is the three-button remote control, which includes a microphone; second are the earhooks, designed for added stability, and third is the included (though simple) iPhone/iPod-agnostic sealable case.
The company also showed Miles Davis Trumpet ($300), a classed-up version of its in-ear Beats headphones, now with a metallic trumpet-styled three-button remote control, metallic single-driver earpieces, and a collection of pack-ins: a matching iPod/iPhone case, a Sketches of Spain music CD, and different styles of ear tips.
OnLive’s free application enables iPad users to play games with Windows 7 PC-quality graphics over the Internet, streaming the games live from the company’s servers using roughly 24FPS H.264 video, while taking virtual control inputs on the iPad or iPad 2 screen. Everything from flashy pre-game menus to full versions of the games is rendered by the company’s computers in the cloud, then streamed in near realtime—surprisingly well—to devices, assuming you have a respectible Internet connection. While the on-screen controls are currently pretty clunky and limiting, the company intends to release a universal Bluetooth controller similar in looks to the PlayStation/2/3 units around the time the app launches in the fall for iOS devices. Fees will apply after 30 minutes of playtime has elapsed in a game.
Having fully subsumed longtime iPod and iPhone accessory developer DLO at this point, Philips focused its Line Shows lineup almost entirely on speakers this year—and debuted the largest and most price-varied collection of AirPlay audio systems yet issued by any individual manufacturer. At the bottom of the price scale is a simple wedge-shaped SoundDock-styled speaker called Fidelio AD7000W ($230), which has a silver metallic top and black fabric face. It’s one of the most aggressively-priced AirPlay units we’ve seen, with twin drivers inside.
Similar to Dyson’s AirBlade fan is DS3881W ($330), another Fidelio model that has four drivers and a bass port inside of a uniquely donut-shaped black fabric and silver metal enclosure. This unit charges inductively on top of a silver base, and can be pulled off and moved around a room; a bass port is in the center hole.
At the $400 price point is DS8800W, which is highly similar in design to the company’s pill-shaped docking Fidelio systems, only this time with no dock and a conspicuous double-finished metal hole in the center of its fabric front grille. The back of this unit is brushed silver metal.
The next two systems are very uniquely stylized, looking somewhat like champagne pitchers with tweeters suspended above larger, top-firing full-range drivers. Smaller and more affordable is DS6800, which will ship in an iPod/iPhone docking version without AirPlay ($400), and a fully wireless version without an iPod/iPhone dock ($500).
A larger version called DS9800W with bigger speakers, a standalone iPod/iPhone/iPad charging dock, and a remote control will be available as a flagship product ($800).
Philips also showed stylish metal alarm clocks for the iPod, iPhone, and iPad that we’ve previously covered on the site, and revamped versions of its pill-shaped, non-wireless docking Fidelio systems for iOS devices. One (DS9010, $500) now features a gunmetal metallic body rather than the wooden version it started with, while the other (DS9, $300) is a smaller and more affordable version with a wooden enclosure. All of the speakers are due out in time for the holiday season, with some launching in September.
We’ve been burned on so many high-end in-car audio systems for iPods and iPhones that we’d basically given up on the possibility anyone would do one properly. Pioneer’s AppRadio ($400) seems to have almost completely nailed the right formula. Compatible with the iPhone 4 and iPod touch 4G—not the iPad—AppRadio uses a glass-covered capacitive touchscreen and a breathtakingly customized extension of the iOS interface to enable users to see a completely different 800×480 version of the iPhone UI in their dashboards.
AppRadio is a double-DIN unit that needs to be professionally installed, but once that’s been done, it’s like having something halfway between an iPhone and an iPad in the center of your car, complete with access to apps and traditional car radio functionality.
AppRadio’s core collection of integrated features—a nice clock, incredible Google Maps tie-ins with the iPhone 4, radio tuning, and simple music playback are all impressive enough, looking quite like what Apple would (or at least should have) done with in-car integration for its devices years ago. Then you can download a collection of AppRadio-compatible apps to radically expand the functionality, leveraging MotionX turn-by-turn GPS navigation, Pandora Radio, Rdio, and other features that common car stereos (and even $400 past units) couldn’t have imagined five years ago. AppRadio is a big, big deal.
RCA showed a $100 mounting, speaker, and wireless headphone combination called the Mobile Sound System for iPad. The mount can be used on a desktop or placed behind a car headrest, providing stereo sound from an iPad 2; you can alternately use the included wireless headphones to limit the sound’s audibility to a single listener.
Scosche had a variety of familiar products on display, including premium headphones, charging/syncing options, and its workout companion MyTrek. Originally previewed at CES, the Realm Headphones with tapLINE III Remote & Mic ($230) and Dual Driver In-Ear Monitors with tapLINE III Remote & Mic resemble Monster’s Beats by Dre line, but take design cues from Scosche’s existing Realm car audio series. Both in-ear and on-ear models will be available, with the latter sounding a bit better than comparable Beats.
We first saw the athletic heart rate/pulse monitor and app combination MyTrek at CES in January, and it’s now finished. It will be shipping in August for $130.
freedomMIC, the company’s Bluetooth wireless microphone for iPod and iPhone that was first mentioned last year in our Buyers’ Guide is finally (almost) ready to ship, and was in final packaging.
The latest version of ClipSync, a carabiner clip-based version of the company’s mini Dock Connector to USB charging accessory, was also on display and looking great thanks to a nice brushed metal casing.
Showed off GoFlex Satellite ($200), a 500GB 802.11n wireless hard drive that pairs with a really nicely-designed iPad application to store tons of videos, music, and photos that you don’t want to keep on your device. The battery-powered hard drive runs for 5 continuous hours of streaming between charges, and has 25-hour standby time, plus included cables for power and transferring content from your computer. A USB cable’s in the box; ThunderBolt cabling is coming soon, as is support for AirPlay streaming. Very cool, and very easy to carry in a bag, too.
iPad 2 cases were the main focus at Speck’s booth. iGuy and HandyShell, both previously announced, appeared on the floor here.
Speck also announced CandyShell Wrap for iPad 2, which will be available at the show tomorrow, and will be showing CandyShell View for iPhone 4 as well.
A collection of new iPhone 4 cases, included a charitable donation American flag series of Fitted cases planned for July 4 availability, also debuted.
Targus showed off its LapLounge ($50). Somewhat similar to a lap stand we’ve already seen, it goes further by combining a cushioned wedge with a dedicated iPad 2 shell and is designed for using the tablet in bed or on the couch. It has openings for all of the ports, as well as a cup extending past the speaker to increase the volume. The pillow-like cushion has a zipper pocket on the back for holding cables and other accessories.
The company’s other new product was LapDesk Storage ($40), made for notebook computers. It is a perforated plastic wedge designed to help cool down laptops, or at least keep that heat off of the user’s lap. There are two latches on the front that hold the accessory shut; it can be opened for storage space.
The camera accessory maker showed Steadicam holders for the iPhone and iPod touch 4G, enabling users to hand-hold and shoot more stable footage through the pocket devices.
The budget television maker showed a prototype iPod/iPhone wireless speaker system called Wireless Dock for iPod/iPhone. With no pricing, no clear release date, and very few details about its wireless capabilities, the plastic and fabric unit seemed like it was mostly there for show.
European mount maker Vogel’s arrived with RingO, one of the better-executed case and mounting solution systems we’ve yet seen. The base is an iPad shell with a well-designed pressure-based mount, which is paired with a circular wall mount ($30) or bundled with a very nice headrest car mount ($100). Desk mount and flexible wall mount alternatives are coming soon. RingO’s mounts will work across multiple device families, too.
Quite possibly the most exciting new product we saw on the show floor so far, VuPoint’s new Photo Cube ($100) is a Works with iPod/iPhone/iPad photo printer that lets you do direct-from-iOS device printing with a free app. Just released into stores, it sells with $20-$25 cartridges that each print 36 laminated, full-color photos, and is designed to be dead simple—we got the app in seconds and were ready to start printing good images instantly thereafter. It’s tiny, easy to place anywhere, and lacking for only one thing: wireless functionality. That’s coming in a follow-up.
German company Zero1 demonstrated its VooMoteOne universal remote control accessory for iPod touches and iPhones ($100). Using a Dock Connector plug, the IR blasting cradle comes with inserts for different generations of devices—iPod touch 4G, iPhone 3G/3GS, and iPhone 4—so that it can easily be shared in a multi-user home. Everything is controlled through a free app, and a wizard walks you right through the setup of Blu-ray players, cable boxes, and the like. The company claims 99% of products are supported by the app already, and any unsupported models can easily be added to the database. An iOS universal (iPad-compatible dongle) is forthcoming for $70.
Additional photos can be found in our Flickr gallery from the event, which concludes today in New York City.