Ascape Audio Debuts iPhone Battery Case with Built-In Wireless Earbuds

When we last checked in with Paul Schrems and the team behind Turtle Cell, the Ann Arbor, MI-based consumer electronics startup, it was the summer of 2014. After coming off a year of iteration and business-competition wins, as well as a stint in the University of Michigan’s Desai Accelerator, the company was preparing for a nationwide launch of its iPhone cases embedded with retractable earbuds.

After inking a licensing deal for the iPhone cases, the company rebranded as a new venture called Ascape Audio, a Royal Oak, MI, startup taking some of Turtle Cell’s previous ideas and transforming them for wireless applications. Ascape is in the midst of a Kickstarter campaign for the AmpPack, a battery case that fits a range of iPhones with built-in Bluetooth earbuds that charge while they’re docked. (The earbuds can also be used with any Bluetooth-enabled smartphone independent of the battery case, Ascape CEO Paul Schrems says.)

“The original idea for the AmpPack came about with Turtle Cell,” he explains. “We got a lot of feedback asking for wireless. We thought about launching under the Turtle Cell brand, but the technology hadn’t caught up to our expectations. Bluetooth chips had to get better, so we decided to wait for the technology to mature.”

That day has now come, and Schrems says the AmpPack is like nothing else on the market. Ascape’s competitors, he says, are “status quo” wireless earbuds, such as Airpods.

“Airpods are great headphones, but you have to carry a separate dock to charge them,” Schrems points out. “We’re taking that technology and putting it right on the phone. It’s the same technology, but the packaging is different.”

Schrems says as users pull their earbuds out of the AmpPack, they automatically connect with the phone to stream audio, and they automatically resume charging once re-docked. There’s no app interface required, though the company may build one in the future. Ascape is still figuring out what the retail price will be, but he expects it to be between $199 and $249.

Schrems says Ascape hasn’t needed to seek investment capital, and he doesn’t think it will be necessary to deliver to its Kickstarter backers. Scaling into global retail, he says, is “another ballgame.” For that, Ascape will look to raise a $1 million Series A round late this year, he adds.

Sarah Schmid Stevenson is the editor of Xconomy Detroit/Ann Arbor. You can reach her at 313-570-9823 or sschmid@xconomy.com. Follow @XconomyDET_AA

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