Hot new gadgets in 2012

16:00, Jan 06 2012

TABLETS

You can almost bet the house that Apple will have its next iPad out in the first half of this year.

According to the rumour mill, the next iPad will have a display with an eye-popping resolution four times that of the iPad 2, support 4G LTE technology for faster mobile broadband, and include the advanced voice-recognition technology Siri that debuted with the iPhone 4S.

It still won't wash the dishes or vacuum the house, though.

The iPad aside, expect 2012's tablets to be lighter and thinner, more affordable and better performers thanks to quad-core chips that are making their way into the devices.

Tablet debutantes this year will include a Nokia tablet running on Microsoft's Windows 8 operating system (also due to be released this year), and the Acer Iconia Tab A200, which is expected to be released worldwide this month and has a 1GHz dual-core processor, a 10.1-inch multitouch screen and runs Android 4 (see below for the Android 4 lowdown).

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SMARTPHONES

The next-generation iPhone failed to materialise last year, to the disappointment of Apple fans around the world. The iPhone 4S has some great new features, including Siri, but looks like its predecessor the iPhone 4. Rumours have it the iPhone 5 will be a curvier model, perhaps with a slight teardrop shape. Other features that could make the cut include support for 4G mobile technology, and near field communication technology, which would allow the phone to be used like a contactless card, for example to make payments.

Android smartphones have already taken a bite out of Apple's dominance in the booming smartphone market, and the release of the next version of the software, Android 4.0, could help them gain more ground. Android 4.0 has better search tools, improved multitasking and snazzy features such as Android Beam, which uses near field communication technology to allow phones to share information simply by tapping them together, and Face Unlock, which uses facial-recognition technology so you can use your face to unlock your phone.

The first phone to run on Android 4.0, the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, has a 4.65-inch display, rear and front-facing cameras and a 1.2GHz dual-core processor. Samsung is yet to confirm a New Zealand release, but the phone has debuted overseas to rave reviews.

GAMING

Due to land in Godzone in February, the PlayStation Vita is a next-generation hand-held gaming console. It has a 5-inch multi-touch display, front and rear cameras, augmented reality technology that can overlay virtual images onto real-life objects captured by the rear camera for games, as well as support for wi-fi and 3G mobile broadband. The wi-fi-only Vita will sell locally for $449.95, while the wi-fi and 3G model will cost $549.95.

The Nintendo Wii was the first mainstream games console to have us jumping around our living rooms doing our best Roger Federer or Serena Williams impressions, and its successor, the Wii U, will bring you all the action in 1080p high-definition resolution. It will also have a wireless controller with a touchscreen, built-in accelerometer and gyroscope, and front-facing camera  and you'll be able to keep playing on the controller when the TV is turned off.

WINDOWS KINECT

The Kinect motion-sending technology for the XBox 360 has been a huge hit, and now that technology is coming to a Windows PC near you. For PCs running Windows 7 or Windows 8 operating systems, the technology will let you use gestures to control your machine just like with the XBox.

Software developers are beavering away on Kinect-controlled applications and, while it's unlikely you will soon be using gestures to write all your emails and create PowerPoints, this could make that computer job of yours a lot more fun.

ULTRABOOKS

Ultrabooks are a new breed of laptop-style computers similar to Apple's MacBook Air that meet certain criteria for weight, thickness (less than 21mm), battery life, and performance and have solid state drives (which are faster than hard disk drives and have no moving parts so are more durable).

The Acer Aspire A3, Asus ZenBook (16mm thick, 1.29kg, 128GB solid-state drive) and Toshiba Portege Z830 (1.13kg, 16mm and 128GB solid-state drive) have already landed in New Zealand.

Tech reports indicate that as many as 50 new ultrabooks could be launched internationally by early this year, including by Dell.

TELEVISIONS

The new whiz-bang feature for the modern day, not-so-humble television set is the OLED screen.

Organic-light-emitting diode TVs provide even more vivid images and better viewing angles and bring a whole new meaning to the term flat screen. OLED displays are thinner and lighter than LCDs, and could even be used to make flexible displays. Fancy a roll-up TV anyone? OLED TVs have so far been eye-wateringly expensive, but developments in the technology mean they could come down in price and hit the mainstream market this year.

Internet-connected TVs arrived in force last year, and this year they could get even smarter, able to share content with devices such as tablets and smartphones.

Sources: TechBeast.net, Augmented Planet, Sony, CNET, PCMag, Laptop Reviews, Computerworld, VentureBeat, Toshiba.

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