International CES is not much of a show for Mac users. (Actually, given the preponderance of 4K TVs crowding the showfloor at the Las Vegas Convention Center and the lack of stellar smartphone news, it’s becoming less of a show for PC and mobile users, too.) But look long enough and you can find a few items of interest on the acres of exhibit space that may appeal to Mac users. Broaden the criteria to include items for the iPhone or iPad, and your search becomes a lot easier.
On this week’s Macworld Podcast, I’m joined by executive editor Jonathan Seff and assistant editor Leah Yamshon. The three of us just spent a week in Las Vegas and return from CES with the balance of our wits intact and a few Mac- and iOS-friendly gadgets and apps to talk about. For the next half-hour or so, it’ll be just like you were at CES, only without the overwhelming crowds, unending walks up and down the showfloor, and exposure to several strains of norovirus.
We mention a few products in the podcast that deserve some virtual ink here. LensPen was on hand in Vegas to show off the new SmartKlear product for keeping your iPhone’s screen free of smudges and smears. Like LensPen’s Sidekick for iPads, this new offering features a carbon cleaning pad attached to a handle that wipes fingerprints off your iOS screen—only the SmartKlear comes in an iPhone-friendly size. Look for the $10 cleaning product at Macworld | iWorld later this month.
One thing that wasn’t too difficult to find at CES—iPhone cases. And among that multitude, we saw lots of high-end “luxury” cases designed with fashion in mind. Case-Mate showed off its new Crafted Collection, which features cases crafted from genuine mother of pearl that run for $150. iWave’s luxury Platinum line of iPhone 5 cases ranged in price from $250 to $1000, depending on how many Swarovski crystals the case has. An iWave HR rep did admit that these cases are made custom to order, so don’t expect to see too many out in the wild.
Boostcase has an interesting approach to the fashion case—one of its models had a collection of detachable pieces that lets the user create a custom case to fit different needs. The basic case is a thin hardshell with a few holes in the back plate; those holes are for adding additional pieces with various functionality. Need something to protect the phone from bumps and drops? Attach the rugged exterior piece. Prefer something to stash your credit cards? Take off the rugged shell and attach the card holder. Need power? Fit the battery pack over the basic case. Boostcase also has a number of fashion-forward options as well, if that’s more your style, like a clutch-purse add-on and trendy designs. Boostcase system offers an easy and relatively inexpensive way to switch up your iPhone case in a snap.
Of course, if you were looking for a true trend among smartphone cases at CES this year, it’s the fact that both third-party case makers and even the phone manufacturers themselves are looking to make mobile devices more durable. (That includes suppliers like Corning, which showed off a more scratch resistant version of its Gorilla Glass at CES.)
Griffin Technology made some cool products specific to the iOS users, like the PowerDock 5, which lets you mount up to 5 iOS devices for charging at once. The PowerJolt car charger also stood out—it has two ports for charging two devices at once, but it recognizes what type of device it is (iOS vs. Android, iPhone vs. iPad, and so forth) and will optimize the charge flow specific to that device.
On the accessory front, we spotted several cool toys meant to be paired with an app on your smartphone or tablet. The latest Apptivity toys from Fisher Price are impressive—they include a built-in case that you hook an iPad into, and then you use the playset to interact with the app. Griffin Technology teamed up with Crayola to make the Light Marker, a drawing tool and app for the iPad that captures virtual drawings. Kids can draw in the air, and the iPad’s front-facing camera will capture the motion and display the artwork on the iPad’s screen. And, of course, we were impressed enough by Sphero’s foray into augmented reality games to include it in our Best of CES List.
Speaking of our Best of CES list, it also includes the Nessie, an adaptive USB microphone that Blue Microphones plans to release later this year. During the podcast, Jonathan Seff talks about iHome’s Lightning docks and assorted audio accessories from House of Marley. Another accessory that gets some time in the podcast spotlight is the wireless microphone and Bluetooth speaker from Phillips. Combine this $179 setup with an app on your iPad, and you can have your own mobile karaoke machine. We also spotted some new headphones from Jabra: The Jabra Revo Wireless is a set of Bluetooth headphones (there’s also a corded version) while the Jabra Vox is an in-ear model. Both the Revo and the Vox rely on a separate app that imports your music library on your iOS device for a much richer and fuller sound than what you get from the built-in music app on your phone or iPod touch. Look for the new Jabra headphones to arrive sometime this spring.
CES focuses more on hardware than software, but we spotted a pair of in-development iOS apps of note. MindMeld from Expect Labs should hit the App Store in a few weeks. (It was originally announced last fall.) It’s a video and voice calling app that listens in on your conversation and can pull out relevant information based on the subjects you’re speaking about; you can then share the data MindMeld conjures up with other people on the call. The other app that caught our eye—Atlas—isn’t as far along in the development stage. It’s a scheduling and task management app that simplifies meeting scheduling by including a list of alternative times and reducing the inbox-clogging back-and-forth that can occur as everyone tries to settle on a time and place. A public beta for Atlas should begin by the end of March.
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Leah Yamshon contributed to this report.