The cutting-edge kit we'll be buying in 2013
1st Jan 2013 | 11:00
From tablets, phablets and smartphones to smart glass, Ultra HD and camera 2.0
Happy New Year! Though 2012 is likely to be remembered as the tipping point for tablets in the UK (we even know of a six-year old with one), it's 2013 that looks set to birth big new ideas beyond the simple touchscreen.
New gaming hardware and ecosystems are expected from both Sony and Microsoft that will likely be designed to last into the 2020s, while Google's Project Glass will give a new definition to mobile web browsing. Apple, Samsung, Amazon and the rest will continue blurring the distinction between smartphone, tablet and ebook readers, while 'camera 2.0' developments will reach proper photography.
Let's get that rumour mill in overdrive …
Tablets & smartphones
If 2012 was the year that Apple's iPad finally got some meaningful competition – and from all corners – 2013 will see the market splinter further. Microsoft's just-released Surface will attract attention in the first few months, but it's PC and Ultrabook sellers that have most to lose from its rise.
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That's not to say that the 10-inch tablet sector – which will receive a lighter, thinner iPad 5 along with refreshed versions of Samsung's Tab 2 10.1 and Note 10.1 – will carry on as it is. Already chipped away at by seven-inch tablets like the Google Nexus 7, Kindle Fire HD and iPad mini (expect a Retina version of the latter in Summer), tablets will shrink further as we see the rise of 'phablets'.
Hybrid five-inch+ devices already exist, but second-gen versions including the Samsung Galaxy S4, a new HTC One X+ and LG Optimus 4X HD are likely to boast not only bigger screens, but 1080p detail, too, while rumours about Samsung's bendable phones just won't go away. Nor will the rumoured Sony Yuga C6603, a five-inch Android device with 12-megapixel camera that could challenge the current king of the phablets, Samsung's Galaxy Note 2.
There'll be an iPhone 5S, of course, but whether it will continue its trajectory and size-up slightly is anyone's guess. More likely it will catch-up with the others by adding a better camera and support for NFC, something that could help start a contactless payment revolution across the UK.
Hardware aside, expect tweaks to tablet and smartphone operating systems in 2013 that build on Samsung's S Voice and Smart Stay tech to enable all kinds of gesture-based functionality that lessen the importance of touchscreens.
Get ready for layers; Google's X Labs will issue the first fruits of its Project Glass research and make browsing the web literally as easy as walking down the street.
The logical solution to the current problem in our cities of dawdling smartphone addicts unable to walk in a straight line, these specs will play video in one eye while overlaying maps, web pages and local information while also enabling instant email, texts or voice calls.
"Project Glass is a wearable solution that uses pieces of smart glass with a heads-up display (HUD) to seamlessly blend the virtual world of smartphones and computers with the real world of people and places," says Kevin Curran, senior member of the IEEE and head of the School of Computing and Intelligence Systems at the University of Ulster.
"Google Glasses leverages communication technology like social networking, calling and texting, and it interacts in real-time with people, places and things. When it all comes together, Project Glass creates a type of meta-reality, or smart reality."
2012 has seen rudimentary gaming on smartphones and tablets bite into the territory of games consoles, and cable companies could bring cloud gaming in 2013. Sony and Microsoft need to act. While Sony's 4k-capablePlayStation 4 is unlikely to make it before 2014, the next Xbox 720 surely will. Due in Summer, we're expecting tablet-style touchscreen controllers and a built-in Blu-ray drive, while a souped-up Kinect could increase the scope of gesture controls and possibly introduce some kind of projection tech to expand the realm of games beyond the TV. Either way, both the PS4 and Xbox 720 will continue the trend to cloud-based gaming.
This will be a big year for cameras, with the D-SLR set for an overhaul in 2013. The past 12 months have witnessed the first 'smart' Android-based compact cameras, such as the Samsung Galaxy Camera and Nikon Coolpix S800c, but as the optics in smartphones advance beyond 14-megapixels in 2013, it's the semi-pro market that will get connected. Expect the next D-SLR cameras to have WiFi, touchscreens, automatic cloud-powered photo backup, voice control and in-camera editing. Camera 2.0 is a computer – and it will probably deal in 4k resolution video and 3D, too.
TV is set to reach new heights in 2013 – literally. The average screen size has been creeping up for years, but advances in slimness mean that a 46-inch LED TV is now the same size as a 42-inch version from two years ago.
While the bigger sizes will dominate, developments in glass-cutting will see new screen sizes become common, such as 35-inch and 39-inch, while many bargain-priced 60-inch and 65-inch TVs will become affordable. Sharp is putting its eggs in this basket; the Japanese brand will make an attempt to become a big name in TV by selling relatively affordable, standard-spec giant-sized TVs.
What certainly won't be affordable to the majority will be 2013's biggest TV technological advance – the 4k or Ultra HD screen. Equipped with resolutions of 3840x2160 pixels (four times that of Full HD), on sale this month are two 84-inch examples, the LG 84LM960V (£22,500) and Sony KD-84X9005. Sharp will sell its slightly more sensibly-sized Ultra HD LC-60HQ10 dubbed 'ICC Purios' from February, with Ultra HD tellies to follow from Samsung (in January), Panasonic and Toshiba, too.
If prices for the first Ultra TVs are expected to be insane, the same goes for a TV using an 'organic' LED panel. These OLED TVs – due in the first half of 2013 (over a year 'late') as the 55-inch Samsung 55ES9500 and LG 55EM960V – will cost around £9,000. They've graced trade fairs for over a year, but OLED's blur-free, life-like picture could be one to watch. Lastly in TV, the goggle-free 3DTV will get a step closer in 2013, with many brands prepping a more watchable version of the Toshiba 55ZL2, though by next Christmas we'll have seen more convincing prototypes, at best.
After offering remote recording at best, smartphone and tablet apps that put 'TV anywhere' have arrived in 2012, but 2013 should see both Virgin and Sky place the final piece in the jigsaw by issuing apps for TiVo and Sky+HD (Sky Go) that let users stream all live channels and previously made recordings to tablets and smartphones.
Expect something from Apple in 2013 for the living room, too. Despite the rumours a so-called Apple iTV HDTV looks unlikely, but how about a new version of Apple TV with PVR-style recording, Siri and FaceTime?