As if it’s 2014 already! About five minutes ago, it was February and Sony was ushering in ‘Generation Eight’ as they announced production of the PlayStation 4. Granted, Nintendo’s Wii-U had been released late in 2012, but that was struggling long before it had any competition.
Three months after Sony’s announcement, Microsoft duly held their own press conference and disappointed many of us from the word ‘go’. It was interesting to see the ‘big three’ all heading in different directions, rather than attempting to compete spec-for-spec, but for my money it was a mistake on behalf of Microsoft.
Months of backtracking followed policies of mandatory online connection and Kinect involvement, as well as confusing remarks around the sharing of used games. The Xbox One’s focus on being an all-round entertainment system, combined with its higher price tag led many neutrals to look favourably on Sony’s new effort. However, sales don’t lie, and going into Christmas, the PS3 was lagging behind.
So other than console wars, what has got us talking in the world of tech-tat over the last 12 months?
Samsung Galaxy Gear
Remember running around the playground when you were younger, talking into the Casio on your wrist like something from Star Trek? Well, Samsung made that fantasy a reality in 2013, and as it turns out, we didn’t want it as much as we thought we did. Smart phones are so lightweight and powerful now that the Galaxy Gear provided us with no good reason to be looking at our wrist instead of the palm of our hand. Under-powered and overpriced (not to mention; this WATCH cannot even tell the time without being synced to your phone!), this was an avoidable gimmick.
Apple iPhone 5C
Apple used to pride itself on style and substance; when you looked at a beautiful product of theirs you were confident that the content would match. Now it seems that they want you to pay through the nose for a phone that is less intelligent, and less attractive than the version it tried selling you months before. If people wanted a plastic phone with interchangeable covers but no fancy features they would buy a tired old Nokia, wouldn’t they?
Can you imagine a Nintendo 3DS but without the 3D? Without the clam-shell hinged design? With just mono sound? Well, imagine no longer. Nintendo has given us something so useless we hadn’t even imagined it could exist. In fact, the only company potentially more out of touch with what consumers want has to be BlackBerry. The Blackberry 10 just reaffirms the corporations disinterest in what the market requires; creating handsets people don’t want and using an operating system that simply doesn’t come close to Android or iOS. Bah, humbug.
I didn’t hate everything this year though. Heir to her father’s Discworld throne, Rhianna Pratchett re-wrote gaming history with an origin story for the new Tomb Raider. GTA V speaks for itself, also. These two aside, it appears that only Sony and Google really gave us what we wanted for Christmas, even though we had all been really, really good last year. I’ve already mentioned the PS4, but other than that, these are my stand-out tech products of 2013:
Sony QX Camera Lenses / Sony Xperia Tablet Z
Using the screen as a viewfinder, these incredible lenses are designed to attach to your Sony smartphones. The high quality of these lenses combined with the flexibility of having the fit on your phone may inspire many aspiring photographers to avoid taking their DSLRs every place they go.
Prettier than Samsung’s rather tacky Galaxy Tab and thinner than the iPad Air, the Xperia Z has proven that Android devices can hold their own in this competitive market.
Either end of the price bracket, Google has excelled over the last year. The Nexus 7 showcases the Android software to its fullest potential and has looks to match. With the price a little over half of what its direct competition is charging, it is unsurprising that demand is outstripping supply. Also this year, we were given the Motorola Moto-G, which gives you everything you would expect from the Galaxy S3 for a snip under £100.
The shouting was all about Google Glass, though. A fairly dodgy looking pair of glasses that is both a camera and a display, it is a serious risk to personal privacy but we just don`t care. Google Glass is pushing technological boundaries and may just be a marketing ploy to further the brand, but it is still worth getting excited about.
So, what does 2014 have in store for us?
Well if I told you that now, then I wouldn’t have anything to put in the next few issues, but expect movement on backwards compatibility of console games, immersive 3D holographic technology and Richard Branson sending actual people into space on holiday. I am myself, most excited about developments to a commercial release of the Oculus Rift VR device.