“Appcessories” (accessories with an iPhone app component) commanded a lot of attention at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show.
The release of OS 3.0 made this type of solution possible, and developers are starting to take advantage of it. Below are some of the appcessories that were on display at CES (along with a few other noteworthy products). Note that some of them aren’t available yet, but don’t get frustrated—we should be seeing them rolled out in the next few months.
Members of the iPhone LIfe blogging team that represented us at CES were Nate Adcock, Tracy Sebasitan, Todd Bernhard, and Tari Akpodiete. You can read the full posts on our blogs (iPhoneLife,com/blogs).
Vue Personal Video Network by Tracy Sebastian
The Vue Personal Video Network ($299.99; vuezone.com) is an easy and simple way to remotely view your home, business, or virtually anything else, directly from your iPhone or iPod touch. Vue lets you create your own personal video network and delivers live video wirelessly for you to see and share from most web browsers or directly on an iPhone with the free VueZone app installed.
Vue utilizes “FrameMesh” technology to enable wireless live video transmission from battery operated miniature cameras. FrameMesh is an ultra low-power technology that allows a camera to operate for up to a year on a single battery with normal use. With no wires to restrict you, cameras can be positioned and repositioned easily in seconds using “peel & stick” magnetic mounts. Vue is designed for a zero-configuration setup: There is no software to load, no hard drive storage requirement, and no long string of characters to type.
Vue ships with two wireless cameras, mounts, and a wireless gateway that plugs into your router or cable/DSL modem. In addition, you’ll need a high-speed Internet connection and an available LAN port on your router. You can also view the video transmissions on your desktop’s browser (IE7, Firefox, or Safari).
Mophie Marketplace by Tracy Sebastian
The Mophie Marketplace (not yet available; mophie.com) is an excellent point-of-sale appcessory for small business owners. This lightweight, form-fitting, “intelligent case” slips over an iPhone 3G or 3Gs, adding a magnetic strip reader and turns the phone into a mobile payment solution that is fast and secure. It’s designed to work with the Mophie Marketplace app, which will be available from the App Store as soon as the case is released. Pricing information was not available in mid-January.
Mikey by Nate Adcock
The iPhone/iPod touch version of Mikey ($80 approx; bluemic.com) and its companion app turns your device into a mini recording studio. The amazing thing about Mikey is its quality. The vendor, Blue Microphones, has spent the last 15 years developing recording technology and high-quality microphones, and their expertise really shows with this new product. The iPhone app was not available as of mid-January, but it should be available soon. No word yet on the app’s price.
Sonos ZonePlayer S5
by Nate Adcock
The Sonos ZonePlayer S5 ($399; sonos.com) is a streaming player that gives you access to both your local music collection and your favorite music on-line. The secret is not only in the hardware itself, but the software as well.
The system can be controlled with their free iPhone/iPod touch app, Sonos Controller. The technology is pretty amazing. It not only brings your music collection together (say from that old PC in the basement), but also gives you access to Pandora, Last.FM, and other Internet radio resources as well. The iPhone/ iPod touch app allows you to search for an artist or song title and then directs the player to the source, saving you the trouble of logging separately into a bunch of different services. You don’t have to manage playlists from multiple sources at different computers. You simply set up your player zones— perhaps different rooms in your house, and Sonos does the rest.
AR Drone by Todd Bernhard
The AR Drone (ardrone.parrot.com/parrot-ar-drone) is a departure from the Bluetooth accessories Parrot is usually known for, but it was definitely one of the more exciting appcessories this year at CES. The Drone looks like one of those helicopters you see in shopping mall kiosks but on steroids—more like an unmanned predator drone. The unit can be controlled by an iPhone or iPod touch app using the accelerometer. Two on-board cameras transmit forward and down images through a Wi-Fi network, giving you both pilot and birds-eye views. Sorry! There are no weapons on this bad boy. But you will be able to play virtual games incorporating Augmented Reality alone or versus other AR Drones. This one is not yet available, but Parrot is encouraging open source development. You can find more at the AR Drone Developer Zone (ARDrone.org).
Universal remote apps and infrared transmitters
by Todd Bernhard
The iPhone has many advanced features, but it is missing one item that was prevalent on PDAs in the past— an Infrared interface. Several firms are developing solutions to fill in this gap that involve a combination of an IR transmitter that plugs into the iPhone or iPod touch dock connector and a corresponding app to control the transmitter. A number of them were at CES. All of these solutions occupy the dock connector on the bottom of your device, which means that you cannot charge your iPhone or iPod touch without removing it. The manufacturers might consider incorporating a mini-USB adapter into future versions of their products.
Think Optics (thinkoptics.com) demoed the iWavit, a remote control solution with a customizable app interface and sleek hardware. With this solution, you will even be able to use the iPhone’s microphone for voice control of a PC (to make VoIP/Skype calls for example). The solution will also let you use the iPhone as a 3D mouse, recognizing vertical and horizontal gestures. iWavit incorporates a USB dongle and a tracker similar to the Nintendo Wii, allowing you to control your Mac or PC over a radio frequency (no need to point it at the computer to use it).
The Re (NewKinetix.com) is another promising solution, but the transmitter attachment is bulkier and the remote control app needs some work on its interface. It does have the advantage of a built-in database of IR devices, which makes it easier to set up Re than some of the other solutions.
Finally, L5 Remote (L5tech nology.com) is another app/IR transmitter combo worth looking at. The app portion of the solution allows drag-and-drop customization of the user interface.
myDitto by Nate Adcock
L5RemoteIf you need secure access to your files (from anywhere in the world), check out myDitto (my-ditto.com). It received a 2010 CES Innovations award, and the developer is currently marketing a myDitto Key for laptop and desktop computers. We’re interested in the yet-to-be-released myDitto app for the iPhone.
myDitto is platform independent (Linux, PC, Mac, iPhone, etc.) so regardless of the OS your computer is running you can still get to your files. With the desktop version of the program, you plug the key into your computer, launch the app, enter a password, and you’re there browsing your files. We accessed the myDitto server in Irvine, CA remotely from CES in Las Vegas. We then opened (practically instantaneously) a 3MB Powerpoint file. We did this entire operation in a matter of a minute or so.
myDitto uses peer-to-peer network technology common to file sharing networks, like Limewire, to connect your devices virtually across physical networks. Your sessions are completely secure however, and evidently you do not need to do firewall gymnastics to get it to work on your home network. The server syncs and backs up files from your computers to a common location on the storage unit. The home system ships with a single 2TB SATA hard drive (and a second empty bay), and the business model includes 2 drives. If you lose your key, which contains the encryption algorithm to access your files, you can make more, but admittedly you won’t be able to access your files. The system ships with 2 USB devices, and you can obtain more from Dane-Elec. The drives can be configured in RAID mirror to protect your data as well.
The myDitto App for iPhone will do the same thing, though I had questions about what you can do with the files after you access them. It doesn’t sound like there is any additional plug-ins (for instance, Files Lite provides a document reader), and streaming music is not yet supported but planned for a later release. You can check out myDitto in action on the iPhone Life blogs (iphonelife/blog).
Pioneer Stage 3 AVIC
by Nate Adcock
Pioneer had a multitude of fabulous car stereo systems at CES this year. We were given demos of two of the more impressive models that have iPod/iPhone integration. Our favorite was the new Pioneer Stage 3 AVIC product (Prod. ID: AVIC-X920BT, $1,349; pioneerelectronics.com). Destined for release in early spring this year, this system has everything but the kitchen sink. It includes DVD/CD playback, voice control, navigation, and a hoard of smart music features. A companion app for the iPhone will also be released.
The Stage 3 AVIC features a USB charging port for your device and includes a Pandora link that allows you to receive song info and station lists if Pandora is installed on your iPhone. You can even vote on songs just like you do with the desktop or iPhone version of Pandora. The new AVIC system will also allow you to transfer map and geo-tagged information from your iPhone via Bluetooth to help in the routing to a destination. Using the Pioneer Music Sphere plug-in for iTunes, you can create and sync custom tailored playlists (up to 40 total), and the plug-in will generate these based on beats per minute, tonality, and mood. You can easily navigate the Music Sphere interface on the large 6.1” in-dash receiver display to select your tunes.
The next accessory and most of the cases listed after it do not have companion apps, but they are well worth mentioning in this article.
OWLE by Tari Akpodiete
There is any number of clever holders and mini-tripods to help people take better photos and videos with their iPhone, but there hasn’t been anything like the OWLE Bubo. Created specifically for the iPhone, the Bubo is an aluminum and silicone case that is designed to improve the iPhone’s audio and video capabilities. The stabilizing rig, which can be mounted onto a tripod, includes a high-quality Vericorder microphone and 37 mm wide-angle/macro lens.
Since the mount for the lens is a standard 37mm, you can mount any number of lenses there. Don’t worry about the no-flash-synching thing—there’s a shoe to mount a light. The microphone can also be replaced with one of your choosing.
There were plenty of iPhone cases to choose from at CES this year. Here are some of our bloggers’ favorites.
Pong $59.95; pongresearch.com by Tracy Sebastian
Ever get headaches from talking on your iPhone? Worried about radiation from your phones? The Pong case limits your exposure. The company’s research claims that the case reduces cell phone radiation to the head by 60%. In addition, it’s a nice looking case and very comfortable to hold in the hand.
by Tracy Sebastian
GelaSkins are a great way to personalize your iPhone (or most every electronic device). The skins are easy to apply and remove without any damage to your iPhone. It adds grip without bulk. You can download matching wallpaper through their free app. Don’t like one of their 100’s of artist’s designs? You can make your own on their Web site.
Textra $varies; textra.com
by Nate Adcock
Textra offers hand-crafted, high-quality cases and covers that are exceptional in terms of both materials (real leather and wood), and price. They have a large selection of styles to suit a wide variety of tastes. The snap-on covers hug the back of your iPhone like a glove and include a thin screen protector for the front. They have covers that are focused on sports, racing, and other themes and patterns. Our only complaint is the limited selection of cases for the iPod touch. They also have a variety of attractive leather belt cases with a flip-out design to hold your ID and credit cards.
Pelican i1015 Micro Case
by Nate Adcock
Pelican’s i1015 Micro Case is crushproof, weatherproof, and still allows you to connect your headphones through the case. We’d love to see a version with a dock connector as well. Pelican is a name we have trusted for a long time to protect sensitive computer equipment, and we were pleased to learn that they are now offering cases for the iPhone and iPod touch.
Read about CES on the iPhone Life blogs
There were many more products that our bloggers covered at CES this year, including winter gloves that transmitted your touch to the iPhone’s screen, heart rate monitors for joggers, and great games; the list goes on and on. You can check out the rest of them on our blogs (iPhoneLife.com/blogs). Just do a search on “CES” and you’ll find the whole list.