Smartphones are not the only gadgets in town, but they tend to be the ones that represent most individuals’ relationships with technology. As such, they make up the bulk of the choice for gadgets of the year. However, consumers who turn their attention towards both larger and smaller gadgets will find incredible advances on all fronts.
We kick off with handsets, though, and look both at the flagship devices and the lower end of the market.
Smartphones of the Year
High-end smartphone of the year
The high-end is the most difficult category in which to choose a winner, as Apple, Samsung, Huawei, LG and Sony continually push the boundaries. It was a tough decision, but the accolades finally go, jointly, to the Huawei Mate 20 Pro and the Samsung Note 9. The iPhone. The Mate packs in the entire legacy of Huawei’s efforts to become the technology leader in smartphones, while the Note 9 comes into its own as a productivity gadget.
The Apple iPhone XR, with the best single camera on the market, and the LG G7 ThinQ, with advanced artificial intelligence, came close as joint runners up.
Mid-range smartphone of the year
There are numerous high-quality, high-spec mid-range smartphones, but our stand-out was the HiSense H11, with full high-definition display and an excellent camera for its price of around R4 500. It is currently (at time of writing) available on Takealot for a deeply discounted R3000.
Entry-level smartphone of the year
At the entry-level, again, two phones share the honours.
The Huawei Y3 2018, one of the best phones to run the new Android Go data-light operating system, is absurdly good value. For a phone with a 5-inch display and 8MP rear camera, the price tag of R999 from Vodacom and Takealot looks like a mistake, but is in reality the best phone deal of the year.
One could say the same of the Vodafone Smart Kicka 4, also running Android Go. It is the device that takes minimum phone size up to 4-inch screens, but bringing the price down to an astonishing R399.
Both would make great gifts as first-time phones for kids, for students, or for those upgrading from basic feature phones.
Continue reading about the top TV and music gadgets of the year
CES: Most useless gadgets
The worst gadgets of CES also deserve their moment of infamy, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.
It’s fairly easy to choose the best new gadgets launched at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas last week. Most lists – and there are many – highlight the LG roll-up TV, the Samsung modular TV, the Royole foldable phone, the impossible burger, and the walking car.
But what about the voice assisted bed, the smart baby dining table, the self-driving suitcase and the robot that does nothing? In their current renditions, they sum up what is not only bad about technology, but how technology for its own sake quickly leads us down the rabbit hole of waste and futility.
The following pick of the worst of CES may well be a thinly veneered attempt at mockery, but it is also intended as a caution against getting caught up in hype and justification of pointless technology.
1. DUX voice-assisted bed
The single most useless product launched at CES this year must surely be a bed with Alexa voice control built in. No, not to control the bed itself, but to manage the smart home features with which Alexa and other smart speakers are associated. Or that any smartphone with Siri or Google Assistant could handle. Swedish luxury bedmaker DUX thinks it’s a good idea to manage smart lights, TV, security and air conditioning through the bed itself. Just don’t say Alexa’s “wake word” in your sleep.
2. Smart Baby Dining Table
Ironically, the runner-up comes from a brand that also makes smart beds: China’s 37 Degree Smart Home. Self-described as “the world’s first smart furniture brand that is transforming technology into furniture”, it outdid itself with a Smart Baby Dining Table. This isa baby feeding table with a removable dining chair that contains a weight detector and adjustable camera, to make children’s weight and temperature visible to parents via the brand’s app. Score one for hands-off parenting.
Click here to read about smart diapers, self-driving suitcases, laundry folders, and bad robot companions.
CES: Language tech means no more “lost in translation”
Talking to strangers in foreign countries just got a lot easier with recent advancements in translation technology. Last week, major companies and small startups alike showed the CES technology expo in Las Vegas how well their translation worked at live translation.
Most existing translation apps, like Bixby and Siri Translate, are still in their infancy with live speech translation, which brings about the need for dedicated solutions like these technologies:
Babel’s AIcorrect pocket translator
The AIcorrect Translator, developed by Beijing-based Babel Technology, attracted attention as the linguistic king of the show. As an advanced application of AI technology in consumer technology, the pocket translator deals with problems in cross-linguistic communication.
It supports real-time mutual translation in multiple situations between Chinese/English and 30 other languages, including Japanese, Korean, Thai, French, Russian and Spanish. A significant differentiator is that major languages like English being further divided into accents. The translation quality reaches as high as 96%.
It has a touch screen, where transcription and audio translation are shown at the same time. Lei Guan, CEO of Babel Technology, said: “As a Chinese pathfinder in the field of AI, we designed the device in hoping that hundreds of millions of people can have access to it and carry out cross-linguistic communication all barrier-free.”
Click here to read about the Pilot, Travis, Pocketalk, Google and Zoi translators.