Whilst we're all still reeling in the aftermath of the gadget glutton-fest that was CES and MWC, it's worth remembering that if there's more to your world than iPhone cases and Bluetooth toothbrushes; the best is yet to come this year. Here's the stuff that will probably warrant your attention in the next twelve months.
The HTC One, HTC's 2013 flagship phone, is definitely getting an update on 25 March, when HTC's holding a 'mystery' event. The details of the phone in question aren't really much of a mystery either, thanks to HTC having about the same water-tightness as the late Costa Concordia. Specifically, we're expecting dual cameras on the rear, upgraded speakers, a slightly bigger 5-inch screen, and the mandatory Slightly Faster Processor that must be featured in all smartphones.
More significantly, alleged press shots leaked by @evleaks shows that the HTC One's much-vaunted design is virtually unchanged this year. As for the name? Well, obvious contenders are HTC Two or HTC One+; here's hoping that they don't go for HTC One Two.
And, remember to keep your eyes peeled a few months down the line for mini-and-maxi sized versions of whatever it names the One's successor.
The Galaxy S5 broke cover at MWC recently, bringing with it a virtually unchanged screen from the Galaxy S4 (that's a good thing, in case you're wondering); a leatherette back that's a vast improvement from the S4's acres of plastic; a 2.5Ghz processor, and a totally not-copied-from-Apple fingerprint sensor. If all that floats your boat, you'll be waiting until April 11 to get your hands on the Sammy goodness.
All that's left, then, is the inevitable Galaxy Note 4, which will, given Samsung's history, most likely launch around September/August. Specs will probably include the S5's fingerprint sensor, a more powerful processor, better cameras, and a screen big enough to chop a loaf of bread on.
It should be little surprise that rumours of a Galaxy S5 Mini have started circulating, too.
Nokia pulled out a slight surprise at MWC, launching a trio of Android phones. The Nokia X family is aimed firmly at the emerging markets, packing the same sorta specs as an original-gen iPhone (4GB of onboard storage, 512MB of RAM), and priced accordingly.
Although the handsets are packing Android, they eschew Google's services, replacing Gmail and Google Search with the likes of Outlook and Bing — a clear nod to Nokia's new Microsoft overlords. The UI is also rather influenced by Windows Phone, with the same minimalist text-based styling the order of the day.
Additionally, even though it'll be manufactured with even more oversight from Microsoft than previously (given the MS takeover of Nokia's Devices and Services Division last year), there'll almost definitely be a new Lumia smartphone in 2014, although we'll probably have to wait until the latter half of 2014 for a true flagship to crop up. The current Nokia range is a little confused — the 925 is the prettiest and slimmest high-end phone, but the 1020 has the all-seeing all-powerful Pureview camera, so it would stand out at the top of the range, were it not for the 1520, which trades a slightly worse camera for bigger screen.
Hopefully, guided by the Yoda-like powers of its new owners, Nokia will be able to squeeze all these attributes into one super-device for 2014. Given that Windows Phone is starting to gain a veneer of respectability in the UK (more than 10 per cent market share, natch), and the App Store grows ever-mightier, this could be a great year for the runt of the mobile OS litter.
LG certainly isn't your average phone maker — rather than trying to perfect the traditional smartphone recipe, it enjoys throwing genuinely novel features onto its phones with gay abandon — the LG G2's buttons on the back of the device, or the curved screen of the LG Flip or Curve or Banana or whatever that awful thing was called spring to mind.
Regardless, it'll certainly release a new flagship phone, and it'll probably incorporate some or all of the following features: terrible and out-of-date skinned version of Android; curved screen; definitely-not-copied-from-anyone fingerprint sensor.
If smaller or larger fare floats your boat, it might be worth checking out LG's offerings from the recent Mobile World Congress: the LG G2 Mini sports a 4.7 inch 960x540 screen (side note: when in the name of all that's holy did 4.7 inches become 'mini', in the phone world at least?), and equally watered-down specs, presumably with a watered-down price tag to match.
The new G2 Pro, on the other hand, gets a spec bump, with the screen swelling to 5.9-inches (from 5.5), with 3GB of RAM doing the heavy lifting alongside a Snapdragon 800, with a 3200mAh battery powering the show.
Sony's 2014 flagship will be the follow-up to the rather popular Z1, a phone cunningly named the Z2. The waterproofing is kept, as is the design language and most of the internals: the improvements here come with the visuals. 4K video recording is the headline feature here, along with a bunch of software camera stuff that might prove genuinely useful. A TriLuminous 5.2-inch screen gives you real estate to view the photos, and from the sounds of things, it's an impressive piece of kit.
Prices are still TBA, but we've been promised a March release date.
The rank outsider in this list, and certainly something you can file under 'speculative'. However, following Amazon's partially-successful foray into the budget tablet world with the Kindle Fire (and new Kindle Fire HDXs), rumours are flying that Amazon is gearing up to release a low-cost (possibly even free with a Prime subscription) smartphone.
Shock/horror, there will be an iPhone 6 this year. It'll be revealed in September, when Apple pretty much without fail releases a new (or sorta-new) smartphone every year.
The big question that's already being asked (sadly) is what screen size the 6 will be sporting. Some reckon (with uber-dubious 'leaked' photos to back them up) that the iPhone 6 will lean more towards a 5-inch screen size, leaving the newly-minted iPhone 5C (which will presumably become the 5S C or something) to carry on the 4-inch form factor for
Although that position sorta makes sense insofar as big screens have proved popular in the Android world, it doesn't follow so much for Apple: forcing developers to make apps for two different iPhone sizes would run the risk of Apple losing some of its most powerful asset, the App Store. More likely, then, the iPhone 6 will be slimmer, lighter, possibly incorporating the more curved design philosophy of the new iPads, and doubtlessly with some hardware gimmick tacked on for added effect.
The most hotly-anticipated tablet of 2014 will once again be whatever Apple churns out in October — a thinner, lighter version of both the grown-up's Air and the Mini Retina. Although rumours of a budget iPad Mini have been circulating for months, making a cheapo knockoff of one of its products would go against normal Apple policy, and have Jobs spinning in his (doubtlessly perfectly designed) grave.
The next-most-prolific maker of tablets after Apple, Samsung has ambitions to conquer both the Android and Windows tablet markets this year. To that end, Samsung has already shown off the Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro, its 12.2-inch super-tablet competitor, but we're still waiting for the leaked Galaxy Tab 4 range and a potential flexi-tablet. Because the world needs one of those.
Of course, if you're in the market for a budget tablet, you've probably had the phrase "BUY A NEXUS 7" screamed at you in the real-life version of all-caps. There will doubtless be a new Nexus 7 outed sometime this year — it's been the standout success from the Nexus line — but given that it only got refreshed a handful of months ago, we'll be waiting until the second half of 2014, no doubt.
Wearables/Gadgets/Other Cool Stuff
Although this jaw-dropping virtual reality kit's been around in one incarnation or another for a good year, full consumer release has only ever been pegged for '2014'. Although that sounded forlornly long away last year, that means there's now a maximum of 355 days until you should — should — be able to get your grubby mitts on one. (For more details on why that should have you drooling, read our latest hands-on here.)
In the same vague category as Oculus Rift (but pretending to be far more grown-up), this could and should be the year in which we see Google Glass being launched on an unwitting but slightly suspicious public. Of course, we already know the vague tech specs and looks of Google's favourite wearable project, but there's still one detail we're waiting on: price. The Explorer Edition prototype that you've probably seen skulking on the internet costs around £1000; needless to say, we're hoping the version in stores will cost about a fifth of that.
2014 is going to be a bumper year for smartwatches — that much is clear. Which ones are worth buying, and which burning, is another question altogether.
On the 'buy' pile is firmly the Pebble Steel. The second iteration of Pebble's original smartwatch, this takes the practical goodness of the original Pebble, and whacks it inside a housing that you might consider wearing around other members of the human race.
The Gear 2 is the Galaxy Gear's straight upgrade, with a spec bump, slicker design, changeable straps, and support for multiple wristbands. If you want a sleeker watch, the Gear 2 Neo, which ditches the camera, but is identical in almost all other regards.
Finally, for the fitness addicts, there's also the Gear Fit. In many ways, it's the most gorgeous of the bunch — most of the functionality of the other Gears, but with more fitness-tracking capabilities, and in a form factor that's downright sexy.
What are you looking forward to forking over your hard-earned cash for this year? Tell us in the comments!
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