Judie and I had a chance to visit with Gear4 in their suite at the Wynn. We’ve seen some of the company’s products in the past, but I don’t think that either of us realized how extensive their portfolio is. And it is going to get even larger in 2012. Needless to say, we came away impressed. Here’s a rundown on the company and their current lineup …
Gear4 wants to “make things that are simple, enhance your life and are a pleasure to use.” While all of that is highly subjective from what we saw they are doing everything possible to be true to their mission. Their docks look good, appear easy to use and, best of all, they sound excellent.
The company started with a number of speaker/docks that looked and sounded good but have since taken things a step further and are now doing app-enhanced speaker docks. (Keep reading because the last one we’ll share is an entirely new and exciting take on the iOS speaker/dock.)
The company now has added app functionality to their new docks through their Smartlink, and it makes a huge difference. As we were told, when thinking about developing an app they asked, “What can we do to enhance functionality now that we have access to this amazing touchscreen computer?” They went from there, and what they developed is pretty neat. The app offers easier control of the dock and it automatically grabs the time and alarms from the iOS device and sets it on the dock. That kind of convenience isn’t necessary but it sure is nice!
The app also adapts to the specific type of speaker depending upon that speaker and its features. This is great because it means one app can work differently with a variety of speaker-docks.
We got a sense of how strategic and forward-thinking the company is when they explained their strategy with regard to wireless speakerdocks. Wireless is currently less than 7% of speaker-docks but they know that will rapidly change in the next few years.
To prepare for the boom in wireless docks the company is prepping a range of Smartlink devices that are also wireless. They look great and we expect to see many more on shelves soon.
This is particularly important since, until now, Gear4 docks have been iOS-centric. With the popularity of Android and what we expect to see with regard to the adoption of Windows Phone in the next few years, having a dock that can also connect wirelessly expands the range of devices with which Gear4 docks can work. (Our HTC Titans really appreciate this new direction.)
And while they are back to being iOS-centric, the company has released an AirPlay speaker with an MSRP of $299 and we expect to see more in the near future.
It is also worth nothing that most Gear 4 docks have USB ports on the back that allow you to charge a device without it being physically docked to the 30-pin connector. Again, it is this kind of “big picture usability” thinking that is impressive.
Here’s a neat dock from them- the House Party Portable.
It has a retractable dock,offers 20 hours of play time and an MSRP of $179. The House Party Rise 2 comes in at an MSRP of $159.
Angry Birds Yes, Gear4 has a line of speakers and accessories that ride the tail feathers (ouch) of Angry Birds. The speakers look like the characters but go a good bit further.
As we were told, when they approached Rovio (the company behind Angry Birds) about creating this line Rovio insisted that if they were going to create Angry Bird speakers they needed to sound good. They do!
The speakers have a left and right speaker as well as subwoofer and a price of $79. – $99
Other products include the company’s popular Unity Remote as well as the PocketLoops looping keyboard for iOS. Both are available in Best Buy.
The final Gear4 product we saw was the upcoming Sleep Clock for $199. It looks like a speaker dock, but it is much more.
The clock monitors you while you sleep thanks to a sensor in the front and can help track your sleep pattern.
That means you don’t need to wear anything (we’re looking at you FitBit) and the functionality it offers is rather complete. (We’ll have more to say in the near future once the review unit arrives.)
One question we asked was, since the clock makes calculations based on sensing your movements what happens when you share a bed with someone?
The answer? The sensor isolates movement so it knows who is closest. That’s kind of neat, and it pretty much says what needs to be said about how this company is looking to move forward.