We knew it was coming, but the final third of the holy trinity of personal assistants, Alexa, Google Assistant and Siri (sorry Cortana) has all finally arrived in a speaker – the Apple HomePod. Taking its design cues from the tried and tested “cylindrical bin” look, albeit in a very Appley way, the HomePod packs a subwoofer, seven tweeters and six microphones into the seven-inch tall smart speaker, which by all accounts booms better than all of its rivals (even at the expense of your wooden surfaces).
Like the Amazon Echo and the Google Home, you’re limited to just the one personal assistant, which in this case is Siri, but that should be fine for plundering the 45 million-song treasure trove that is Apple Music, or controlling your smart home using HomeKit. If you’re feeling particularly flush (it does after all come with an Apple price tag), you can use it in a stereo or multiroom setup (a la Sonos One).
As their name would suggest, smartphones are pretty, well, smart these days. But that’s not to say they couldn’t be a bit smarter. One of a crop of excellent phones coming from China, the Honor View10 calls itself the first AI-integrated phone thanks to the Huawei Kirin 970 providing the brains. What does this mean? Well deep, offline learning for a start, meaning you can to push the phone to the limits with realtime translation, enhanced camera processing and optimised power management based on your phone usage.
Even though there is little in this phone that hasn’t been improved or tweaked in some way by the integrated AI, the base specs still put it up at with the elite, boasting 6GB RAM, 20MP+16MP dual cameras, 5.99-inch display, expandable storage and Android 8.0. It even sports a headphone jack if that’s of any use to you.
Ring Video Doorbell 2
When the doorbell rings there is always risk – yes, it could be that new gadget that you ordered finally arriving, or it could well be some busy body with a clipboard trying to get you to sign up for their weekly organic potato delivery service. That’s where video doorbells come in handy.
The Ring Video Doorbell 2 lets you see a 1080 wide angle mugshot on your smartphone or tablet of whoever turns up, and you can even give them a polite “sorry, i’m not in today” over the two-way speaker while you smirk from the comfort of the sofa. Of course you don’t have to be at home, you can genuinely be at the shops and tell the friendly delivery person to leave that gadget in the recycling bin for you to pick up later, which is probably more useful.
Other features include both hardwiring and battery power, night vision, motion detection (so you can use it as a security camera too) and weather resistance for all but the most biblical conditions.
PowerVision PowerDolphin 4K action camera
Like cats, some of us have a particular aversion to getting unnecessarily wet, meaning we’d much rather be sunning ourselves on the beach supping a refreshing drink rather than bobbing around in the water waiting to film our more radical friends ride a wave. Fortunately we have drones for this sort of thing.
The PowerDolphin is a bit like a remote controlled fish that can record 4K footage both above and below the water using an app or remote control, all from the safety of your sun lounger up to 1,000m away. It also comes with a healthy catch of fishing features, like sonar to find shoals, and a bait dropper and hook – no more faffing about with rods and nets. And with a top speed of 5m/s, it’s quicker than Michael Phelps, making it a pretty effective lifeguard when you tow a ring from the back of it.
Available Summer 2018, £749, powervision.me
Wi-Fi is fine, we’ve come to live with it and the need for secure passwords, iffy signal and the ever-present thought of “is all this Wi-Fi bad for me?”, but the next generation of wireless internet could use light rather than radio waves. The technology itself is still in its infancy, but we could one day have our ceiling lights delivering us a juicy 224Mbps. Until then, we’ll have to settle for this beautiful desk lamp, which won two innovation awards at CES 2018 and can pump a secure, 23Mbps internet signal to your devices, even when the light itself is switched off.
You don’t need to have expensive smartphone, but the trade off is that a budget phone usually looks anything but premium. Coming in at under £150, the Alcatel A7 is definitely cheap, but with a gold trim around the blackest of bodies, it looks classier than you’d expect at this price point. It’s not going to have anything like the Samsung Galaxy S9 or iPhone X trembling in its wake, but 3GB RAM, 5.5-inch screen, 16MP snapper and whopping 4,000mAh battery should keep you chugging along nicely.
Stellina smart telescope
Telescopes tend to be big, bulky and for the most part, telescopy (something you learn sitting next to our friends at Sky at Night Magazine when it’s time for them to do telescope reviews). That’s why we’re pretty excited to see the Stellina smart telescope, which resembles something that landed from space more than something to look into it.
Rather than peer through a lens, the Stellina uses a smartphone app to help you track and look at the stars, and is smart enough to tell you exactly what you are staring at. If that happens to be a hazy orange sky over the city, worry not, as it uses a special light pollution filter to cut through the atmosphere. That said, weighing a tidy 7kg, it’s portable enough to lug around you if you want to take it on a hike as well.
Zapata are best known for the backpacks you’ve probably seen on some sunny holiday by the beach which fires off jets of water, launching a hapless tourist flying through the air. Well this summer they’ve got a new toy for thrillseekers looking to make a splash.
The Flyride is basically a jetski, but one that isn’t limited to boring old forwards, backwards, left and right. Oh no, the Flyride has a long tube coming out the back that pumps enough water through to launch you up into the air, where you can perform barrel rolls! It all looks like jolly good fun, and can support two people, launch and land from the beach and is wirelessly connected so it can be controlled remotely. Now, where are my swimming trunks…?
Back when i was but a wee bairn my tiny hands would struggle to wield the heft of a Game Boy or a Game Gear. Now that my hands are the more traditional adult size, someone has only gone and built a console emulator for my fists of yore.
Packed into the miniscule 55x32x14mm body (small enough to function as a keyring) is an emulator that can play Gameboy, Gameboy Color, Master System, and Game Gear games on a super-bright OLED screen, with a rechargable battery, one-click game installation, and is open source for any of you code tweakers. It will also make you feel like a very big kid again.
ARCHOS Citee Connect
Anyone who has so much as walked onto the street these days will have noticed that kids love scooters, but that doesn’t mean us grown ups can’t have a scootch around too. Of course, us being the gadget-loving folks that we are were immediately drawn to this fancy electric scooter by Archos.
Powered by a 250W motor with a range of 25km, the Citee Connect should provide plenty of grunt for getting to work, and regenerative braking boosts the range by about 15 per cent, but the most exciting part (for us nerds) is the Android 8.0 touchscreen built into the handlebars. The five-inch display shows speed, distance and battery power as well as being able to boot up enough compatible apps to keep you entertained when the kids won’t let you on the skateboard ramp.
Available summer 2018, €499.99, archos.com
Phase digital turntables
Anyone who has let rip on their dad’s turntable knows that cartridges don’t come cheap. So ditch them! That’s the idea of Phase, a new device that lets DJs control the tracks playing from their software without using a turntable cartridge or a control vinyl.
It’s made up of two control remotes and a receiver, with the remotes sitting directly on the turntables. Every rotation movement is measured by the remotes, and the information is sent wirelessly to provide accurate read-time audio control.
Touted as a major technological step forward for turntablism, Phase is no doubt bringing a sigh of relief to anyone with little fingers inching their way towards the decks.
Level Smart Glasses
Level Smart Glasses tick a lot of boxes: you can use them to stay fit, help those in need, they look pretty good, and, let’s not forget, they can help you see properly.
All of the tech in Level Smart Glasses is hidden in the temple, and tracks activity, counts steps and wirelessly uploads that data to your mobile app where you can set activity goals. When you hit your goals, you’re awarded points, and for every 50 points you earn Level will donate an eye exam and a pair of glasses to someone in need through their partnership with VSP Global Eyes of Hope.
Sony A7 III
Sony’s new offering is the “basic full-frame model” in its mirrorless camera range. But this new camera is anything but basic, with top line specs that bring it close to the powerhouse A9 for around half the price.
The highlight of the A7 III is a backside illuminated 24.2-megapixel BSI sensor with 5-axis optical image stabilisation. For stills, it shoots at up to 10 frames per second in RAW or JPEG, while on the video side you’ll get 4K HDR video, as well as a tasty 120 frames per second high-speed footage at 1080p.
While you’re missing the blackout-free viewfinder and full waterproofing of Sony’s more expensive models, the A7 III packs a lot of punch for its price point.
£2,000 (body only), alphauniverse.com
Sony Xperia Ear Duo
We’ve all missed the beautiful call of a bird (or, more likely, a train station announcement) because we’ve got earphones in and music blaring. The Sony Xperia Ear Duo’s new dual listening style allows you to hear all the sounds from the outside world while on calls or listening to music.
Microphones on each wireless earpiece pick up voice commands, and smart assistance means you can take calls or switch between songs just by using your head movements. Probably not something to tell your boss, but Sony suggests you can keep your music on while in meetings with colleagues, and while that seems a bit on the rude side, the integration of music, calls and environmental noise could be a game-changer on your morning commute.
Available Spring 2018, £229, sonymobile.com
Moleskine Pen + Ellipse
The pen may be mightier than the sword, but in this digital age the pen needs to pack a bit more punch than before. Moleskine’s Smart Notebooks aims to combine the ease of writing notes by hand with the advantages of digital – jot down your thoughts on paper with your Pen + and it appears on your phone, tablet or desktop. Like magic.
The Pen + Ellipse is a redesigned Pen + (the pen that comes in the Smart Writing sets, with a Smart Notebook and the Moleskine app). The Smart Writing system has previously only worked if your device is nearby, syncing as you go, but with the new Pen + Ellipse you can save your writing in an offline mode, and sync up later. Handy if you’re penning sonnets on a hill with no internet access.
Plus, now that Moleskine has a wide range of Smart Notebooks and Planners on offer, you can pick up a Pen + Ellipse and combine it with whatever Moleskine+ notebook works best for you – a great solution for writers on the go, as long as you’ve got deep pockets.
We have loads more gadget news in the Innovations section of BBC Focus magazine, where we look for even more novel and unusual tech that could change the world we live in – find out what is in the current issue here.