Developers push the technology frontiers
What gadgets will you be gunning for in 2013? We round up the rumours on some of the hottest tech products expected to appear next year.
THE NEXT XBOX
The successor to the hugely popular Xbox 360 is expected to land before next Christmas - although not too much before. Pundits are picking a cheaper and smaller games console from Microsoft this time, with a strong tie-in with Kinect - the company's motion-sensor gaming peripheral. Other expected features include a Blu-ray drive for playing high-definition movies, and potentially the ability to record digital video - which could make it a one-stop set-top box. Although many are already referring to it as the XBox 720, other names doing the rounds include XBox Infinity and XBox Loop.
Not to be outdone, Sony is also planning the big unveil of its next gaming console, the PlayStation "4". Sony has been coy on details, but tech commentators speculate that the specs will include: a lot more RAM for better multi-tasking and a smoother performance, a camera for use with Sony's motion-sensing PS Move technology and a PS Move compatible controller, and upgraded graphics and processing engines. Sony is expected to ditch the "4" from its title and come up with a fresher moniker. Contenders are said to include PlayStation Orbis and PlayStation Omni.
You can bet your bottom dollar (and later spend it) on a new iPad arriving next year. Latest rumours are claiming the "iPad 5" will be unveiled in March, despite the fourth-generation iPad launching only two months ago. The latest version of the Apple tablet computer could adopt some of the iPad Mini's slimmer touchscreen technology - making for an overall lighter and sleeker device.
MICROSOFT SURFACE PRO
Microsoft's Surface RT tablet is already available in some countries (not New Zealand, unfortunately, and Microsoft cannot say when it will be here), but its Surface Pro will be a step up in performance (and price). While the RT was designed to foot it with other tablets on the market, the Pro will perform more like a higher-end laptop or ultrabook. It has a more powerful processor, a full high-definition display that supports 10-point multi-touch - that is, it can recognise 10 different touches at once, and unlike the RT, will run a full version of Windows 8 and be capable of supporting any Windows 7 apps.
Other manufacturers are reportedly busy at work producing tablet computers in various sizes. Asus is understood to be cooking up a 7-inch slate with expandable memory at a price point that will rival its Google Nexus 7 - a 7-inch Android tablet made by Asus usually sold for $439 but currently retailing for $349 at Dick Smith in New Zealand*.
Samsung is thought to be working on a 13.3-inch tablet, with a QWERTY keyboard dock that would vie with the Asus Transformer series in the large tablet market.
BlackBerry has lost some serious ground in the smartphone market thanks to the arrival of the iPhone and its Android rivals, but still retains a following - particularly in the corporate smartphone market. The BlackBerry 10 will make its debut late next month. It will have a full-touchscreen although there will also be a version with a physical QWERTY keyboard, a very fast browser - according to early reports, and includes software designed to help users manage and separate their business and personal information.
Apple could pull the wrapping off its next iPhone as early as June, if latest reports are on the button. New features for the iPhone could include near-field communication technology - which allows phones to be linked to credit cards and used for contactless payments, a larger screen with even sharper resolution, and a stronger processor.
SAMSUNG GALAXY S4
Samsung's Galaxy S3 smartphone is its most serious challenge to the iPhone yet and the Galaxy S4 is expected to put even more heat on Apple. There are reports it will sport a 5-inch full high-definition display. A Samsung source is reported as saying the screen will have 1920 x 1080 pixels (compared to 1280 x 720 for the S3 and the same as high-definition TVs) and a pixel density of 441 pixels per inch (compared to the iPhone 5's 326 pixels per inch. Commentators are also picking an upgrade on the S3's processing power in the S4.
Cracked and broken screens are a common smartphone curse, but Samsung has developed bendable screens to make phones more flexible - and much less prone to breaking. The company is expected to unveil a 5.5-inch bendable display with a high-definition resolution of 1280 x 720 and 267 pixels per inch at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas next month.
Bigger is apparently better when it comes to TV displays, with manufacturers working on models that will make today's "super-size" 65-inch tellies look positively small. Samsung and Westinghouse are expected to show off new TVs at the Consumer Electronics Show. Samsung has confirmed it will present an 85-inch ultra high-definition LED TV. Ultra-high definition TVs deliver an eight million pixel image (compared to the two million pixel image on today's full HD TVs) and Samsung claims its model will be the largest commercialised TV of its type in the world. If that still seems a tad on the tiny side, Samsung and Westinghouse are both rumoured to have 110-inch, ultra-high definition TVs ready to debut. Watch this (very large) space.
Sources: Los Angeles Times, Computerandvideogames.com, InfoWorld, Digital Crave, TechRadar, Examiner, Dick Smith, Noel Leeming, Digital Trends, The Droid Guy, T3, Cnet
* Price accurate at time of writing.
The Dominion Post