Gadgets of the month: Apple, wearables, new smartphones and TV dongles

2 Nov 2014

Image by joingate/Shutterstock

We take a look back at some of the biggest gadget news from October and look ahead at what’s to come.

Apple gets itself into a hairy situation, but comes out well in the end

So, Apple’s new iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus arrived in September to critical acclaim, but after ‘bendgate’ came ‘hairgate’ as mustachioed and bearded users claimed the new iPhones were plucking the hair from their faces.

Coupled with these fresh allegations, rival smartphone-maker Samsung was not about to let the iPhone 6 Plus’ alleged bendability go and capitalised on the known flaw in the Apple product with a video demonstrating its own Galaxy Note 4’s durability, and even deployed a fake bum for further testing.

Apple iPad Air 2

Apple’s iPad Air 2

But none of this petty rivalry could put a dampener on what was to be a landmark month for Apple. Close on the heels of September’s iPhone announcements, Tim Cook was back on-stage to unveil the iPad Air 2, the iPad mini 3 and a 27-inch iMac with 5K Retina display. The icing on the cake was then closing out the month with Q4 revenues of US$42.1bn.

Everyone is jumping on the wearables bandwagon

While one in five Americans currently own a wearable device, PwC predicts that this figure is going to rise, which is no surprise considering the big-hitters warming up to enter the space.

The Apple Watch was announced in September and made its first public appearance at Paris Fashion Week. The merging of fashion and technology is, perhaps, the key to cracking the wearables market, and music artist seems to think his fashion-tech brand plus could be the gatekeeper.

Apple Watch

Apple Watch

Announcing its wearable device, the Puls cuff, boldly stated, “i.amPULS represents digital freedom, individuality, intelligence and the intersection where fashion and technical innovation meet.”  

Other lesser-known names throwing their wearable technology into the ring include Thync, a US start-up who announced investment of US$13m for its mind-altering wearable this month, and .klatz, a Ukrainian start-up that hopes to raise money for its wrist-worn smartphone through crowdfunding.

Microsoft Band

Microsoft Band

Then we had Microsoft pulling out the big guns, announcing the Microsoft Band fitness wearable alongside Microsoft Health. Meanwhile, Google’s new fitness-tracking platform Google Fit – compatible with Android Wear devices as well as other standalone wearables and apps – is sure to add even more interest for consumers looking to take portable tech beyond the smartphone. Just watch out that you don’t get addicted, now.

Amazon sticks it to Google in the streaming dongle space

Another dinky device category getting more heavyweight competition is the TV streaming stick. In October, Google revealed that more than 650m have cast content to their TV screens via Chromecast and it looks like the second generation will be announced soon.

Google’s Chromecast is not alone in this space, as Roku and Microsoft have already weighed in with devices of their own, and now Amazon has entered the fray with its Fire TV stick. Let’s just hope Amazon got the price right on this one.

Amazon Fire TV streaming stick

Amazon’s Fire TV stick

New phones come with building blocks

Among the new products announced in October were a number of smartphones ready to compete for a spot on your Christmas wishlist.

Expected to arrive in November 2014, the HTC Desire Eye comes fitted with not one but two 13MP cameras, recognising that the front-facing ‘selfie cam’ has become the main shooter for many.

We also expect to welcome the arrival of the Google Nexus 6 around this time, a whale of a phone with its 6-inch display. Meanwhile, fans of Google’s Project Ara were treated to their first glimpse of a working prototype of the build-it-yourself smartphone inspired by the Phonebloks movement.

Google Nexus 6 smartphone

The Nexus 6 range from Google and Motorola

Already available in the Netherlands, Samsung’s Galaxy S5 Plus smartphone is due a full release in November while rookie flagship smartphone-seller OnePlus struggles to keep pre-orders in check for the coveted OnePlus One device.

One smartphone name that certainly won’t be on anyone’s wishlist this year is Nokia as Microsoft begins to retire the brand that, for many, was their first introduction to mobile telephony. So it’s goodbye Nokia Lumia, hello Microsoft Lumia.

That said, if a study by researchers at the University of Sydney is anything to go by, it looks like most of us will be saying goodbye to our precious smartphones on a regular basis as they are simply not built to last – an intentional move to encourage frequent purchases.

Main gadgets image via Shutterstock

Elaine Burke is the host of For Tech’s Sake, a co-production from Silicon Republic and The HeadStuff Podcast Network. She was previously the editor of Silicon Republic.