Gadgets of the month: the smartphone battleground and what to expect from E3, WWDC and Build

31 May 2013

Image via joingate/Shutterstock

We take a look back at some of the biggest gadget news this month and look ahead at what’s to come as both Microsoft and Apple will host their developer conferences in June and E3 brings together the best that the gaming world has to offer.

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This month…

Smartphone rumours and reveals

Not only did we give you handy tips on how to save your phone from a watery grave this month, we also brought you all the latest smartphone news. First we had rumours of a 3D smartphone in development by Amazon, followed by news that plans to release the HTC First ‘Facebook Phone’ in the UK were scrapped owing to the handset’s poor performance Stateside.

Alleged leaked images of a Galaxy S4 Mini from Samsung came ahead of confirmation that the device does indeed exist and will be winging its way to the UK and Ireland in the coming weeks. We’ll have more announcements from Samsung next month following a London event on 20 June, where we expect to see a new ATIV Windows Phone device and maybe even a new member of the Galaxy family.

Samsung Galaxy S4 with stock Android

The Galaxy S4, minus Samsung’s TouchWiz interface (via Hugo Barra)

We also had the announcement at Google I/O of a new version of the Galaxy S4 with stock Android – like that found on Google’s Nexus 4 handset – instead of Samsung’s TouchWiz UI. The Samsung collaboration sparked rumours that Google could be switching manufacturers for its next Nexus device, and a LG vice-president’s comments that the company isn’t involved with any Nexus 5 only adds fuel to the fire. And with a HTC One featuring stock Android also announced, the plot thickens.

HTC One with stock Android

The HTC One with stock Android (via Hugo Barra)

But Android – and Windows Phone and iOS – will soon face increased competition in the smartphone market as Jolla enters the fray with Sailfish, based on Nokia’s abandoned MeeGo platform, and Mozilla gets closer to launching its first Firefox OS devices.

Samsung and Nokia get scrappy

Before these new contenders enter the smartphone market, the war rages on between the current rival manufacturers. This month, Nokia took the battle to Samsung with its take-down of the Galaxy S III in a promotional video for the Lumia 928, but a harsh blow was returned when reports emerged that Samsung is outselling the Finnish brand in its home country for the first time ever.

Unafraid to step beyond enemy lines, the South Korean manufacturer is even rumoured to be setting up an R&D base in Espoo, Finland – exactly where Nokia’s headquarters are located.

But Nokia is not to be counted out of the fight just yet, as we wait to see how the new Lumia 925 and its Galaxy S4-rivalling camera features perform on its release next month.

Coming soon…

PlayStation and Xbox go head to head at E3

Unless you haven’t been online this past month, you’ll know that we witnessed the unveiling of the much-anticipated next-generation Xbox – the Xbox One. As expected, the new system strays further away from its roots in gaming and, far from being just a console, is more of an all-in-one entertainment system.

We expect to learn more about the Xbox One at the upcoming E3 expo next month, where Microsoft will have to work hard to win over gamers following a launch that focused too heavily on TV for their liking. (Something tells me that technology and incentives which will use the Kinect sensor to make sure users are watching ads along with their TV shows and movies won’t cut it.)

Xbox One

Xbox One entertainment system

At the very same event, gamers are excited to witness the grand unveiling of the PlayStation 4 which, despite being announced in January, has yet to be seen.

We also expect to see plenty of gaming previews from the likes of Beyond: Two Souls, Call of Duty: Ghosts, Gran Turismo 6, Forza Motorsport 5, Grand Theft Auto V, and many, many more.

WWDC to bring us new software from Apple

The same week as E3, we also have Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) taking place in San Francisco. Tickets to the key event in Apple’s calendar, which cost US$1,599 apiece, sold out in just two minutes as no one wants to be left out of the loop when it comes to the Cupertino, California, trendsetter.

We’re definitely going to see an iOS 7 reveal at the event, which will be the first Apple operating system to be designed with SVP Jony Ive at the helm. Ive has previously been lauded for the industrial design of Apple’s hardware and is expected to take his signature simplicity to the software. The result could be a radically different iOS, shedding the textures intended to mimic real-life objects, such as notebooks and speakers, for a cleaner, flatter look.

A new Mac OS X 10.9 will also be revealed at the event, and this is expected to borrow heavily from the new iOS design, with new features for power users.

For hardware fans, a new MacBook Air could be in the works with reports of dwindling stock of the current least-expensive model – generally a sign that a new line is on the way. But what else? As pointed out by Jim Dalrymple over on The Loop, an iPhone or iPad reveal is unlikely, as these flagship products tend to get their own events with nothing else to distract attention, so let’s not get our hopes up too high on the hardware front.

Another software possibility, however, is iRadio, Apple’s rumoured subscription-based music service, which – if real – would want to make an appearance soon now that Google has already thrown its hat into the music-streaming ring.

Microsoft set to Build on Windows 8

Finally, wrapping up next month, we’ll have Build, Microsoft’s developer conference. Here we will we see Windows 8.1 in all its glory, which we know from a sneak preview will mark the return of the ‘Start’ button.

Windows 8.1 preview -- Start screen

There’s every chance we might even see some new Surface devices unveiled at this event, in 7-inch and 9-inch variants. Expanding this range will solidify Microsoft’s position in the computer market, which is declining in the face of increasing tablet sales. With the likes of the Surface Pro perfectly straddling both the tablet and laptop format, Microsoft executive Tami Reller’s vision for an increasingly mobile PC market is realised, and it may yet stand a chance.

Main gadgets image via Shutterstock

Vodafone Ireland Gadgets of the Month is made possible by Vodafone Ireland

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.