This year didnīt bring much in the way of groundbreaking technology. Yet judging by the way folks are lining up to grab the latest updates and models of items they may already have, the biggest winner so far in this holiday shopping season may be planned obsolescence. Let the electronics buying begin.
How ya like ’dem Apples?
Last year, a popular item for technology buffs was the biography of Apple leader Steve Jobs. This year, the company seems to have incorporated every idea the late visionary once had. With creative remodeling and next generation upgrades, Apple has a slew of new and improved products that should be all the rage this holiday season.
The iPhone 5 (starting at $199 with a carrier contract) was released this year, with a larger screen somehow incorporated into a sleeker design. Despite some bugs in the iOS6 upgrade, including the Apple Maps fiasco that brought some rare bad publicity onto the company, the newest iPhone is a clear upgrade from previous models. Also, the iPhone 5 is now 4G LTE capable, a boon for AT&T and Verizon subscribers.
The new iPad with Retina display (from $499) came out this fall, updating the venerable standard. While still a bit large and bulky in comparison to the sleeker designs put out by other corners of the technology sector, the new iPad comes with the fullest resolution of any tablet, with 264 pixels per inch. That means the picture seems really clear and resolute.
Perhaps the biggest bite that Apple has taken this year is its foray into the handheld tablet sector. Once ignored by top brass, consumers seem to think the 7-inch handheld market is a good compromise between tiny phones and bulkier 10-inch tablets. Hence the introduction of the iPad Mini (from $329), sure to be a hot seller this holiday season for collectors of all things Apple. While not equipped with the Retina Display, the Mini functions every bit like its larger predecessor. Despite a higher price point in comparison to other options, the iPad still retains the advantage of a much larger set of applications to utilize.
As if Apple hasn’t tinkered enough with larger iPhone screens and smaller iPad screens, the company also added a Retina Display option for their popular MacBook Pro 13-inch laptop. Marketed to those who work with visuals, the high quality screen will impress everyday users with its ability to bring media to life. Just don’t burn your retinas while looking at your store receipt (starting at $1,699).
If your limp arms can’t afford the bulk of the MacBook Pro’s 3.57 pounds, the MacBook Air will take a load off your muscles. Weighing less than three pounds, the 13-inch MacBook Air ($1,199 and up) won’t have a Retina Display option, but you get the same Apple quality for a little bit lighter hit on the pocketbook.
You probably don’t drink Starbucks, either. (non-Apple stuff)
2012 finally brings a rival to the dominant iPhone with the Samsung Galaxy S3. Competitive on features to the iPhone, the Galaxy S3 (as low as $149 with carrier contract) comes with an 8-megapixel camera, Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich OS and 4G LTE compatibility. The S3 also comes with S-Voice, the answer to Apple’s Siri, plus the eye-pleasing feature of being able to swap files with another user by tapping phones. With a large HD screen and lengthy battery life, the Galaxy is Tabeo great for watching those genius Samsung commercials spoofing trendy iPhone users.
One of the reasons Apple went against its own corporate strategy and released a smaller iPad was the inroads Google and Amazon have made into the handheld market. The Google Nexus 7 comes as low as $199, for which you receive a 7-inch Android-powered tablet with 16 GB storage and HD display in a 12-ounce package. Good for playing games, watching video and other handheld tasks, the only drawback is that the Nexus 7 is Wi-Fi only.
Amazon’s Kindle Fire HD is generating buzz this holiday season as a reasonable alternative to the iPad. Like the Nexus 7, the Kindle Fire starts at $199. This version is equipped with HD display, Dolby audio, a dual-band Wi-Fi antenna that claims 41 percent faster download speeds than the new iPad and 11 hours of battery life. Again, you’re not getting the library of apps available on the iPad, but for media, social networking and e-mail capability, the Kindle Fire might be a reasonable alternative to the more expensive Apple product line.
Shut up, kid
For parents hungry to kickstart a child’s love of technology and accelerate the rate at which that child will totally ignore them, Tabeo is available this year. Developed by Toys R Us, the 7-inch handheld device for kids includes a touchscreen, camera, 4 GB storage and comes loaded with more than 50 apps. From learning programs to endless sessions of Angry Birds, Tabeo ($149) might just buy you some quiet time on the drive home from granny’s house.
It’s all about whee
If you’re the type of person who thinks sharing your own experiences with the rest of the world is a gift in itself, the GoPro Hero series of cameras might be for you. The Hero3 Black edition ($399) is smaller and lighter than previous versions, and comes equipped with professional grade HD recording and built-in Wi-Fi, not to mention its own Wi-Fi remote.
Your friends and neighbors will be anxiously refreshing YouTube to catch your most recent moguls run or Jackass-style escapade.
TV on the Wi-Fi
If you’re tired of paying an exorbitant cable TV bill, utilize your Wi-Fi connection to stream thousands of hours of programming through your television by using a media box. Apple TV, a hockey puck-looking device available for less than $100, allows you to stream movies, television and music from iTunes, plus watch content from Netflix, YouTube, Vimeo and MLB. tv. Apple TV also allows AirPlay from any Apple device, meaning you can watch that 1080p version of Avengers saved on your phone through your TV. A cheaper option for media boxes is the Roku 2 XS, a $50 device that tops out at 720p resolution but includes access to Netflix, Hulu Plus, Pandora, Amazon Instant Video and HBO GO among others.