This last week, Chris, Tony and I made the trip to CES to take a look at some of the best new gadgets and accessories for the iPhone. After walking 743.9 miles, shaking 16,984 hands, and trading business cards with 3.5 gajillion people, here's are some of the highlights of what we saw.
FloTV Mophie Battery Case - Mophie announced an interesting new version of their great juice pack. This new version will include a FloTV receiver allowing you to watch broadcast TV right on your iPhone. They include the FloTV receiver yet the unit is only 2mm thicker than the usual Juice Pack. So far the only downside we've heard is the price of the FloTV service which is expected to be about the same as it is for other devices. Full details are still short, but we'll let you know more as soon as we find it out.
Tunebug - Tunebug is a tiny little interesting speaker for your iPhone. Not much larger than a couple matchbooks stacked on top of each other, this isn't a normal speaker. Tunebug uses a patented technology called SurfaceSound that turns anything you set it on into a speaker. The coolest implementation is a Tunebug that straps to you bike helmet and connects to your iPhone using Bluetooth allowing you to listen to music while riding your bike without plugging up your ears and tuning out all of the sounds around you. Obviously a huge breakthrough for biker safety. The other implementation connects to your iPhone (or any device) with a normal speaker wire and sets on your desk, turning your desk into the speaker. The Tunebug will be available soon at $119 for the Bluetooth version, $69 for the wired version.
Zoll PocketCPR - As amazing as the iDevices are, they really don't do much in the ways of saving lives. Sure, there are some apps that are probably helpful in the medical community, but life saving isn't quite the iDevice's forte. The Zoll PocketCPR changes this with an app that shows how to perform CPR with accuracy by using the accelerometer to judge compression depth. At the booth, we heard a story or a doctor who used the app and was complimented by a nurse who hadn't seen proper CPR done by a doctor in a long time. The app hasn't been officially approved by the FDA yet, but Zoll expects the approval to come shortly. [More Info]
Blio Reader - we got a chance to get a demo of the iPhone version of the much talked about Blio Reader. A multi-platform ebook reader announced at CES. Blio does a few things that other ebook readers don't do. For one, there's text to speech technology. Also included are some pretty good options for different ways to read text on the device including both as printed and text versions. Obviously this will be a much more interesting app if the rumored tablet/slate is released. Blio is still a few weeks off, but it looks to be a great platform. We'll bring you more as soon as we can.
L5 Universal Remote - The L5 Universal Remote, while not quite as universal as the Logitech Harmony due to its lack of bluetooth connectivity (PS3), but is quite an amazing remote replacement unit. With the included IR attachment, the L5 Universal Remote instantly learns your remotes features without needing to plug in those pesky product codes. To me, there's really nothing that excites me quite as much as the prospect of controlling my entire house with my iDevice. The L5 will be available soon.
Sonos S5 - The Sonos S5 can be thought of as a much more convenient iPhone speaker dock. You see, there's no place to dock your iPhone or iPod at all. Rather than having to dock your phone to the speakers and leave it there to play music, the Sonos S5 has a brain of it's own. You just control what it plays from the iPhone. It can play any of the music on your home network. In addition, it can play Pandora, Sirius XM, Napster, Rhapsody, streaming radio stations, and more services can be added in the future. In addition, you can have multiple S5s all synced and playing the same thing or playing different things. And this can all be controlled from your iPhone. The Sonos S5 is available now for $399.
Novothink Surge -- Battery backs were pretty popular at CES this year. We saw many makes of the same thing, possibly the same OEM even. But this one was a little different. While only packing 1320 mAh, or just barely doubling the iPhone's battery, this device allows you to charge it up from the sun. There's a small solar panel on the back that allows it to grab rays and charge the battery whenever there is enough sun. A good twist to give you just a little more juice in a battery back.
iHome iA5 - this alarm clock / speaker dock for your iPhone is one of the first app-enhanced speaker docks we've seen. It does a really nice job of it too. All functions of the alarm are controlled from the app called iHome+Sleep. Filled with nice touches too. For instance the dock has a LED clock on the left hand side. This clock fades out nicely when the iPhone is docked and the app launches automatically. One of the issues of using speaker docks as alarm clocks has been that you had to launch the clock application when you docked your device. This dock fixes that issue by automatically launching the app when you dock. You can, of course, set up multiple alarms and set conditions on when they are active. The iHome iA5 should be available in February for $99. The app is available now and is free -- and useful even without the iA5.
SnapTax from Intuit - SnapTax from Intuit is simply genius. It's an app for the iPhone that allows you to file your taxes electronically, right from the device. Think of it as TurboTax for the iPhone. But it goes beyond a simple form filling app. There's the usual TurboTax checks as well. But the genius part is the way you enter the information from your W2. You take a picture and the app uses OCR to grab all of the needed data. How's that for genius? Since this is the first year for SnapTax, Intuit want to take it a little slow. This year it will only be available for California filers. SnapTax will be available from the App Store for $9.99 soon and that price includes electronic tax filing for federal and California.
Scosche - keychain sync / charge cable. This tiny little cable folds up and slips in your key ring. Unfold it and you can use it to sync and charge your iPhone. This is so tiny, it's amazing. This is still in pre-production and hopefully will be available later this year.
Griffin Hands-free Microphone - A simple little device that just makes sense. You plug the mic into your device and the other end into the Aux-in on your car stereo. From there you can listen to your music over the car speakers. When a call comes in, click the switch on the cable to take the call. From there, the audio from the call plays over your car stereo and the mic on the cable picks up your voice. A much better solution for a speakerphone than the built in mic and speaker. The Griffin Hands-free Mic will be available in March.
Free 5 Hour Energy! The best giveaway in the place. Free 5 Hour Energy drinks. I think Chris had 9 on Thursday alone. He still hasn't slept.
And the Worst
Plain, Boring Cases - While I have no problem with cases being shown off at CES, it seemed like everyone was spending a little too much money on booth space for cases that did absolutely nothing fantastic. Of course you can't tell them that, they all think that they throw some silicone in a mold and they have created something revolutionary.
Sony Clock Radio and iPhone Dock with Video Screen - CL75iP - that doesn't work with the iPhone. It says it does, but it didn't. The idea is great. The front of your clock radio has a nice large 7" screen that you can use to view movies from your iPhone. Problem is, it didn't work. It's a shipping model that says it's compatible with the iPhone, but nothing works if you plug in an iPhone. Sigh. The booth person said they got a bad model, but that the device was shipping. So, I headed down to the friendly neighborhood Best Buy to check it out. Turns out that the one Best Buy had doesn't work either. Hmm... But, it looks good in the picture -- and it has a memory stick slot -- handy. It's available now, doesn't work with the iPhone, and costs $150.
Bad 3D TV's - I'm not panning 3D as a technology (the Nvidia booth's 3D demo was amazing), but some of the 3D TV's out there were just depressing. If I'll have to spend an extra $2k for 3D to get a picture that looked the same as that 3D ad during the last Super Bowl, I'll just have to pass.
Convention Food - It's all horrible and amazingly expensive. $2.75 for a candy bar. $8.75 for a hamburger that tastes like regurgetated cardboard on a dried out rice cake. Yikes.
Will we be back next year? I hope not. But, we'll go just about anywhere and do just about anything to get the latest iPhone news. So, probably so, yes.