The past year was a quiet one for gadgets as far as hits were concerned, with no monster successes. Wearables and smart home devices continued to generate hype, but with both categories still in their relatively early days, they failed to elicit as much excitement as smartphones and tablets did only a few years ago.
The best gizmos of 2015, listed below, were mostly iterative efforts – slight improvements on previous products – with a few new takes on old familiars thrown in.
Hailed by the company as the future of television, the fourth-generation Apple TV really isn’t. But that’s OK – it’s a great streaming box for right now, and it offers some intriguing potential.
The Apple TV, which starts at US$149, has a redesigned look and remote control that adds touchscreen-like swipe capabilities and Siri voice search for TV shows and movies. Most importantly, the device is open to app developers, which paves the way for games and potentially new ground-breaking experiences.
Even without them, the Apple TV is slicker than its competitors when it comes to enabling access to Netflix, YouTube and the rest.
Apple doesn’t do everything right, though. The first iteration of the Apple Watch failed to attract the sort of gushing praise the company’s products usually receive, and its sales numbers continue to be a mystery.
Competitors – particularly the Samsung Gear S2 Classic and Huawei Watch, both selling for $349 – did elicit oohs and ahhs, thanks mainly to lessons learnt through previous attempts.
Good-looking round watch faces, circular controls, better battery life and pricing give both devices a leg up over its more hyped rival. Of course, they are all still smartwatches – a fun toy, but a category of gadget that does not yet have any killer apps.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens – parts of which were filmed in the UAE – is well on its way to becoming the biggest movie of all time, and one of its many enjoyable parts is the spherical droid BB-8. Whimsical like R2D2, but smaller and faster, the football-shaped robot is already a classic film character.
Robot toy maker Sphero hit the jackpot this past holiday season by bringing the droid to life as a toy. Slightly smaller than the real thing, the $149 Sphero BB-8 replicates much of the adorable personality of its on-screen counterpart. It’s even able to emit “holograms” on to a smartphone screen via augmented reality.
Epson EcoTank Printer
For years, printer makers have operated as a virtual cartel, selling their hardware at low prices while charging obscene amounts for tiny ink cartridges – that soon expire, for some reason – at up to $70 per ounce.
Epson has finally broken ranks with its EcoTank, a line of printers that sell for higher initial prices – between $380 and $500 – but that come with big ink reservoirs that last up to two years, according to the company. Refills, should they be needed, cost only $13 per bottle.
If Goldilocks were searching for the proverbial Mama Bear smartphone – the one that is “just right” – she would surely settle on the third-generation Moto G.
While it doesn’t pack the high-end specifications of an iPhone or Samsung Galaxy device, Motorola’s mid-range phone is good enough in every regard: a high-definition screen, long-term evolution (LTE) connectivity, a 13-megapixel camera, and it’s also waterproof.
The best part is the price, the Moto G costs only $179, which means you can just about furnish a family of four with them for the price of a single iPhone.