Apple Expo is underway in Paris, France, and iLounge Editors Jeremy Horwitz and Dennis Lloyd are on the scene with cameras and notepads in hand. Here are the first updates from the show floor. A huge photo gallery is also available from this link. We have created a second story and second photo gallery for additional updates.
Without a significant Apple hardware announcement at the show, all of the buzz remains focused on the earlier release of iPod nano – and the disruptive effect it’s had on both iPod competitors and the iPod economy. While all of the vendors we’ve spoken with are thrilled by the slim new iPod, we’ve heard that many iPod mini projects planned for holiday release have been delayed, scrapped, or retooled, and little is on the show floor for public viewing. However, there are some exceptions – including some good ones.
Booth Highlights So Far
Altec has introduced inMotion iM5, the $150 price point replacement for the original inMotion and its follow-up bundle inMotion Plus. The docking iM5 system has a new compact design, four drivers, a light-up power button on its top, and rubber-covered volume buttons on its top right side.
In partnership with Etymotic Research, Altec has also unveiled iM616 ($149) and iM716 ($199) headphones, with plans to debut a sub-$100 version in the near future. Both come with carrying cases; the more deluxe version features an in-line volume control.
iM616 is based on Etymotic’s ER-6i Isolators, but with a different physical design, while iM716 is a tweaked version of the ER-4S series with around 90% of the original’s clarity, and a revised sound balance that defaults at enhanced bass levels – then offers a second bass boost via a switch on the in-line control box. They sound good, and especially for the price are going to be very popular. Both come with ear foams and triple flanges.
The company has also shown two carrying cases for the inMotion iM7 speakers, one of which is open for carrying while listening, and the other of which is entirely sealed for protection.
Belkin has shown its long-awaited revised TuneDok for the iPod, which turns out to be a windshield-mounted iPod holder with a gooseneck.
The company also has a number of new iPod nano cases on display, and will be making them available to consumers in the next few weeks.
Digital Lifestyle Outfitters came prepared with a big surprise, the HomeDock for iPod ($99.99), a complete photo display and music solution with a sophisticated remote control and video output capabilities. A multicolored light on the front indicates the unit’s status. The company says HomeDock will be in stores (notably Best Buy) in October.
The company also showed its Distressed Leather Cases for iPod, as well as Mini Flings for iPod mini, both of which were announced prior to the show.
Griffin’s lineup appeared familiar – the SmartDeck cassette adapter, for instance, made another show appearance, only now in its final design. The big surprise is that a second version of SmartDeck is under production, featuring a Dock Connector rather than a headphone jack connector, and thereby will be compatible with the iPod nano. SmartDeck version 1 is beginning to ship right now.
We’ve finally had the chance to see Chameleon cases in person, and they’re nice: slick medium-strength rubber with cool patterns and more resilience than we’d expected.
The company also showed us version 2 of iFM – with a Dock Connector rather than headphone connector – working perfectly with an iPod nano.
While not showing any completely new speaker designs, Harman had an impressive display of its new colors for existing ones. Metallic red and silver aluminum versions of Creature II looked excellent, and a new black and silver version of On Tour was quite good, as well.
The company also showed off new AKG headphones – models K27i (approx. $80) and K701 (approx. $350), each in iPod-matching white and silver colors. The K27i are smaller, while the K701 are full ear cups. We liked the K701s’ sound.
Logitech brought the previously announced mm28 portable speaker system, which follows in the inexpensive traditions of its mm22 speakers (iLounge rating: B) with a flat panel, NXT-developed speaker design.
Macally surprised us with a few new designs, especially ones for the iPod shuffle. Most predictably, IceWave Pro (aka PodWave Pro, first shown in an advertisement in The Free iPod Book) was on display, combining a microphone with pocketable stereo speakers.
But a new IceWave for iPod shuffle was also shown.
So was a set of IcePro headphones for iPod shuffle – no battery is required, just drop your shuffle into the side of the headphones and go.
Monitor Audio had i-Deck (329 Euros) on display – its combination of remote-controlled amplifier, dock, and detachable speaker system. Approximately six feet of distance can be achieved between speaker and central dock, and audio quality is quite good, from what we could hear.
Numark brought a fully working version of its iDJ mixing console (359 Euros), which lets you (or a pro DJ) combine the music from two iPods into one audio stream. While nichey, the industrial design – particularly the glowing lights – is highly eye-catching.
In addition to the previously announced and previewed iBall (below), Oregon Scientific brought a large collection of non-iPod and -Mac items, such as clocks, weather instruments, and music playback devices of its own.
PodGear unveiled via press release – but not with a usable unit – PocketParty for iPod nano, a speaker system that plugs into the bottom of iPod nano.
Continuing to break new ground in iPod case design, Japan’s Power Support unveiled a huge variety of new fashion iPod cases in various unique shapes, patterns, and sizes. The company has delivered the first front protective film for iPod nano (shown on the nano here), is working on nano cases (not shown), and already has this Mobile Stand ready for nano.
More interestingly, the company also has these designs ready for the iPod family – fabric pouches, slings, bags and much more, designed by a Japanese fashion designer who has come up with new digital music player-friendly designs.
The company has separately shown Tsuzumi, a non-iPod sound table that stands several feet tall, puts on an internal light show with colored LEDs, and makes pleasant, natural sounds.
Japan’s Tunewear has shown a number of new iPod nano cases, previously announced. We’ll have more on all of them tomorrow.
XtremeMac has shown FS1 ($149.95), its affordable, collaborative earphone product co-developed with FutureSonics. Besides boasting slicker looks than older Future Sonics, FS1 includes three types of ear pieces – foams, quadruple flanges and rubber caps – and produces very warm, pleasant bass.
In addition to publishing details from the various exhibitors in our News section, we will continue to update this Sneak Peeks article with additional details throughout the course of the show, so please bookmark it and refresh throughout the course of the day for additional updates.