Smartphone accessory maker Anker is getting serious about audio with a new brand name and product line called Zolo. The company plans on selling its first product under the name, the Zolo Liberty+ wireless earbuds, as part of Kickstarter campaign going live this morning. Although Zolo was first announced earlier this year, the Liberty+ earbuds will be the first product under the brand. The device will be $79 for the first 500 Kickstarter backers, but the final retail price will be $149.99. The Zolo Liberty+ is slated to start shipping to backers in November 2017.
Anker CEO Steven Yang says the company is stressing three points with the Liberty+: price, smart features, and battery life. That last one makes sense — a healthy chunk of Anker’s business is in selling portable battery packs for smartphones, tablets, and pretty much any other device with a USB charging port.
To that end, Yang says the team of engineers behind the Liberty+ have created a device with 3.5 hours of standalone battery, but 48 hours of extra battery power stored in the Liberty+ carrying case.. For comparison, Apple’s EarPods last up to 5 hours on a single charge, but the case stores only 24 hours of backup battery life. The Bragi Dash, on the other hand, achieves about 6 hours of battery life on their own, but the carrying case has no battery and the whole unit must be plugged into a port to charge.
As for smart features, Yang says the Liberty+ is the first pair of wireless earbuds designed to work with all four major digital assistants: Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, Google Assistant, and Microsoft’s Cortana. The company has also allegedly simplified the pairing process to the point that it works almost as seamlessly as Apple’s EarPods, which rely on the special W1 chip to better bridge communication between the phone and the headphones.
Yang says the company decided to go the Kickstarter route not because it needs the funding — Anker has hundreds of employees and a healthy business in the accessory market. Rather, the company wanted to gauge interest and ensure that it was developing a product consumers would actively want, and in a way that allowed for feedback to be integrated into the development process. “It’s not for the capital,” Yang says. “We want to really get a batch of loyalists and fans to grow together with the brand.”