Gadgets of the month: mobile, drones, trends and a look ahead at 2015

1 Dec 2014

Image by joingate/Shutterstock

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

Mobile cements its place as a tech essential

While we’ve spent much of this year discussing emerging new consumer technology such as the internet of things, wearables, virtual reality and drones, mobile is not yet ready to step back from the spotlight as the tech that matters most.

The secret to the smartphone’s increasing presence in our everyday lives is that its list of uses has continued to grow, making it far more than just a simple communications device.

Future Human

Last month, a study found that mobile devices are now the primary gadgets 16 to 34-year-olds use to gather information about products and services. Starwood hotel group began rolling out a system whereby smartphones act as room keys, a potential game-changer in the hotel business. A new feature from Spotify turned smartphones into a remote for music playback on a desktop, laptop or TV.

iPhone vs iPad media consumption

Pocket’s analysis of users who owned both an iPhone and iPad and the time spent reading on both devices. Graph via Pocket Blog

Not even tablets can take away from the smartphone’s dominance, as phablets satisfy users who need a smartphone with a large-screen experience. According to a report from reading app Pocket, the release of Apple’s iPhone 6 Plus has resulted in a migration away from the iPad tablet for written media. Meanwhile, simple accessories like a DIY cardboard projector continue to make the smartphone a hub for media consumption.

That said, new smartphone releases aren’t guaranteed successes as evidenced by Amazon’s Fire Phone, which has undergone a second price reduction amid reports of struggling sales and poor user feedback.

Web Summit interviewees talk gadget trends

Speaking of mobile’s dominant influence on tech interactions, TripAdvisor head of consumer product Adam Medros told us how smartphones now define travel experience during a video interview at the 2014 Web Summit in Dublin.

The Web Summit 2014: Interview with Adam Medros of TripAdvisor

During the event, we also spoke to Belkin chief marketing officer Kieran Hannon about the internet of things, while Sol Republic CEO and co-founder Kevin Lee told us why his company thinks cutting the cord with headphones is the way forward, and OnePlus communications manager Bridget Hickey revealed the up-and-coming smartphone manufacturer’s plans to be much more than a hardware company.

Guidelines for drones

In November, Ireland played host to the first Drone and Data Conference in Co Mayo and our headlines were littered with exciting developments in drones. There was a wrist-activated drone, a transforming drone offering unhindered 360-degree views, a biodegradable fungus drone, a home-made helicarrier drone, upcoming GoPro drones, and a military vehicle from China capable of housing a number of drones like in the video game Starcraft.

With all the buzz around drones and their growing popularity, last month also saw the US Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) take its first steps towards legislation around their commercial use. The rules have yet to be released but it looks like the FAA is going to take a restrictive approach including the need for a pilot licence to operate a commercial drone.

Coming in 2015

As we enter the final month of 2014, it’s time to look ahead at new product releases we’re expecting and looking forward to next year.

Top of the list is the Apple Watch coming in March 2015, which is expected to shake up the lacklustre wearables market.

Next year will also see Nokia revived as a hardware market with the release of the N1 tablet some time in the first quarter. It’s hard to keep a Finnish tech crowd down, it seems, as next summer will then see the release of a crowdfunded Sailfish OS tablet from Jolla, a company made up of former Nokia employees.

Sony FES e-paper watch

The FES Watch, revealed to be from Sony. Image via FES

And it’s not just newcomers and start-ups turning to crowdfunding to drum up support for new products, either. In the past week, it emerged that Sony was behind an e-paper smartwatch that surpassed its crowdfunding goal on a Japanese platform. The watch is expected to be released in May next year.

Until 2015, we still have some new products arriving on the scene before the end of the year, including Samsung’s Gear VR virtual-reality headset and the Galaxy Note Edge phablet with a curved screen, which suffered a delay in production pushing the release date into December.

Main gadgets image by joingate via Shutterstock

Elaine Burke is the editor of Silicon Republic