CTIA-The Wireless Association (ctia.org) is an international, nonprofit organization that has represented the wireless communications industry since 1984. Membership in the association includes wireless carriers and their suppliers, as well as providers and manufacturers of wireless data services and products. The association operates the industry's leading trade shows, as well as equipment testing and certification programs.
This year's International CTIA Wireless 2011 show took place in Orlando in late March. The 300,000 square foot show floor was packed with product manufacturers displaying cool accessories and new gadgets. I saw a great array of new and innovative cases for the iPhone and the iPad 1 and 2. In addition, there were some cool green products that caught my eye, including a charger made of bamboo that generates power when you squeeze it. There were plenty of interesting audio devices and other gadgets as well. Read on to see the highlights from this year's show.
Antimicrobial and water-resistant cases
Xentris (www.xentriswireless.com) was showing off their line of Antimicrobial High Gloss Covers for the iPhone 4. These cases incorporate FDA-approved Fosshield antimicrobial technology to prevent the growth of bacteria. This not only helps to reduce the amount of germs transferred between users, it reduces case deterioration and staining. The antimicrobial feature is embedded in the case, so it won't wash away or wear off with use; it lasts the entire lifetime of the product. The case won't cure your cold, but it helps you avoid one. The cases are priced around $20 and should be available from Xentris by the time you read this.
Xentris also displayed its new water-resistant Dry Skinz case. Available in early May, the $50 case features a slim, low profile design and is water-resistant, scratch proof, and shock absorbing. It provides full coverage of the screen, phone, and all access ports. The touchscreen is fully functional within the case and features a unique slide snap to protect the headset jack. The design also includes acoustically engineered audio filters that allow the user to hear all audio without any compromise to the sound quality. Dry Skinz is designed to protect the iPhone from moisture and bumps encountered in every-day use; it is not suitable for scuba diving and other extreme uses.
These biodegradable snap-on covers are from Xentris (www.xentriswireless.com). They will break down within 9 months to 5 years after being discarded. This won't happen while you are using them because they need to come in contact with landfill or compost to start the biodegrading process. They are made of recycled plastic, and they feel very sturdy.
Cases with style
Revo4 ($39.99-44.99, iskin.com) is rugged enough to withstand rough conditions, but sleek enough to carry around for everyday use. The case includes a tinted ViSOR (Visually Intact Solid Optical Resin) that protects the display and can be removed easily to allow you to use the touchscreen. The ViSOR on the higher-end Revo4 SE has a touch-friendly space at the bottom to make it easier to unlock your phone or use the icons in the menu bar. iSkinz always has great products for protecting your iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. The Revo4 is no exception.
It was hard to miss the Luxmo Crystal Cases ($399-$500, Dreamwireless.com) as I walked through the CTIA showroom. Dream Wireless makes these custom cases for each customer. Prices start at $399 and head upward, depending on which crystals the customer chooses and how long it takes to make the case. These are fashion cases, so you probably wouldn't use them every day—unless, of course, that's how you like to roll.
The Xiao Bai Collection (mobilairtech.com) of cases is amazing. Using the artwork of Chinese tattoo artist Xiao Bai, Mobilair Technologies has created stunning iPad cases with a high-quality feel. The gorgeous images are applied to the case with a rubberized paint, giving them a light ruggedness and making them enjoyable to hold. I can see these cases really catching on because of their style, uniqueness, and design quality.
Earth-friendly power accessories!
Revolve (revolveusa.com) specializes in sustainable chargers for electronic devices. All their products are manufactured in an eco-friendly way and are made with recycled plastic blended with bamboo fiber. In addition to being very practical, they look and feel really cool. Here are a couple of products they showed me. Most of these are available on the Revolve website or through Amazon.com
XeMini Plus ($99) is a cool, little power pack that can charge two electronic devices at the same time. Its 2200 mAh battery can be recharged directly from a wall socket via its retractable AC prongs or from your vehicle's cigarette lighter using the included XePico car charger (available separately for $19.99). Best of all, XeMini Plus includes a solar panel that will fully charge its battery if left in direct sunlight for 12 hours. When fully charged, it will give you an extra 6.5 hours of talk time. XeMini Plus includes 3 USB cables for compatibility with over 3000 mobile devices.
XeMax ($130) is also capable of charging two devices at the same time. It can plug into domestic or international outlets and has an additional 5V USB port. Its 10,400 mAh internal battery is enough to keep you charged on the go. Weighing 12 ounces, it's over twice as heavy as the iPhone, but half the weight of the first generation iPad. XeMax comes with a 6-foot retractable AC cable, and an 8-inch DC cable that lets you charge the XeMax battery from your vehicle. It also includes six adapter plugs.
XeMicro ($39) was one of the coolest products I saw at CTIA. Like other Revolve chargers, it can power two devices at the same time. To charge this device, plug it into the wall using its retractable AC prongs. Its 1400 mAh internal battery will give your iPhone an extra 4 hours of talk time. What made this really cool was its "Squeeze Dynamo" trigger. If you're away from an AC outlet, you can squeeze the trigger to recharge its battery. The trigger was easy to squeeze, but you'll have to do it for a while to charge up the battery. You can latch the trigger closed when you're not using it.
XeGeo ($40) is a travel charger with an 800 mAh battery built into it. Retractable prongs spring out of different compartments along the top and sides of the unit, allowing you to plug it into AC outlets in the US, UK, EU, and Australia. The backup battery can give you an extra 3 hours of talk time. As with other Revolve products, you can charge two devices at the same time.
Keyboards, stands, and docking stations
ZAGGmate with Keyboard ($99, Zagg.com) protects your iPad, adds a well-hidden Bluetooth keyboard, and doubles as a stand. Two versions are available: one for the original iPad and another for the thinner iPad 2. The keyboard is powered by a rechargeable battery that, when fully charged, provides weeks of normal use. It was easy enough to type on, although it felt a little small for my fingers at times. Finally, I really liked the aircraft aluminum shell that protects the display and edges of the iPad. Unfortunately, it doesn't offer protection for the back of your iPad. In spite of this, it's still a cool and useful little product.
The ARS35i-Portable Audio Docking Station for iPad ($129.99, store.acoustic-research.com) caught my eye at CTIA. It works with a free app from Acoustic Research; you're prompted to download it as soon as you plug your iPad into the docking station. (This app was developed for all iOS devices and is not optimized for the iPad's larger display.) It only takes a few seconds to set up the dock, and it's fairly easy to use once you get familiar with the buttons. The docking station comes with adapters for your iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch, and it works well with both versions of the iPad. The coolest feature of the docking station is the motorized rotation feature, which allows you to rotate the iPad 90 degrees. You can control it from the dock itself or through the included remote control.
The app lets you listen to the radio (when connected to the docking station), set alarms with different sounds, and make the dock go to sleep after a specified number of minutes. There's also a sound control on the remote that enhances or de-enhances sound when you press it. The sound quality of the unit was pretty good, and I think it would be optimal for two or three people watching a movie on their iPad or playing some ambient background music at a house gathering. For the price, it is a great companion to your device.