Ten of the biggest tech milestones in 2014

December 24, 2014

This past year has seen a lot of action in the personal technology space. We're not talking about small changes or updates but sweeping changes to the technology, exciting new price benchmarks and in some cases, even a whole new way of thinking. ET explore some of the milestones:

Amazing Budget Smartphones

More than anything else, 2014 has to be the year of budget smartphones. Before this, the only way to get a high performance device with a quality camera and HD screen was to burn a hole in your pocket! But this year, the choice became more difficult. It all started when Motorola launched the Moto E with unexpected features in a sub Rs 10,000 price. Suddenly, quad core processors, 1GB RAM and 13MP cameras became the norm for budget Android phones. After that, there was an exponential growth for budget phones with the Android One series, Xiaomi Redmi 1s, Redmi Note, Asus Zenfone, Micromax Unite 2, Lumia 535 and multiple other offerings from other brands like LavaXolo, Gionee, Celkon and Karbonn. This is one area that will see even more growth in 2015.

Much-Awaited Bigger iPhones

This year, we saw something from Apple that we never thought possible -phablet size screens! The late Steve Jobs had once famously quipped "no one's going to buy that" about large screen smartphones -but Apple had to play catch up here and the new iPhones are certainly selling. Larger screens were an obvious upgrade because global preferences are clearly shifting and because of the kind and quantity of content we are consuming on smart devices. In addition, larger screens mean larger devices, which opens up the possibility of larger batteries and better battery life. Battery technology has simply not kept pace with the rest of the hardware -larger batteries in smartphones was an easy way out to the weak battery life issue.

Superb Action Cameras

Smaller, more rugged and unobtrusive cameras that record great wide-angle video have become a lot cheaper. People around the world are using them to document their adventures, holidays, sporting events and other memories. HTC's RE launched this year (Rs 9,999) is a great example of an action and `lifelogging' camera. Unlike conventional cameras, action cameras do not typically have displays or tons of controls. Some of them feature smartphone control via BluetoothWiFi and they usually come with a tripod mount and waterproof features -great for shooting in any condition. GoPro's new 2014 range includes 3 cameras -GoPro Hero (entry-level camera compatible with all existing accessories), Hero 4 Black for US$500 (with 4k video recording at 30fps, 1080p at 120fps) and the Hero 4 silver that adds a touch display.

New Mobile Operating Systems

We've all heard of the four main mobile operating systems -iOS, Android, Windows Phone & BlackBerry. However, if you like to stay away from the beaten track, Firefox OS, Jolla Sailfish & Tizen were some options this year. Of the three, phones with Firefox and Sailfish OS phones have already launched in India (though enthusiasm is low). Samsung's Tizen phone was announced this week and is expected in early January. Finally, the Ubuntu phone was showcased this year, though availability is not confirmed at the moment.

Better Gaming Platforms

Microsoft's Xbox 360 (2005) and Sony's PlayStation 3 (2006) were both lauded for being big leaps in computing power, allowing developers to push the boundaries of what a home gaming system could do. In 2014, the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 pushed these boundaries further. Both consoles have updated hardware specifications, much better graphics and CPU performance compared to their predecessors and improved multimedia performance. While Microsoft did not make any big changes to the controllers, there were numerous additions to Sony's DualShock 4 controller for the PS4: a touchpad, headphone jack and a light bar for improved motion tracking. The consoles already have a growing library of games and we expect this current hardware to be around for at least another 5 years.

Cloud-Based Operating Systems

The promise of cloud-based operating systems is simple: if you predominantly work with office documents, you don't really need the complexities of Windows and MAC environments. Chromebooks (powered by Google) launched in India and lured consumers to their operating system with highquality devices at amazing price points. Other advantages include a simplified interface (great for new users), protection from online threats and tight integration with Google's services. HP and Acer are leading the charge with Chromebooks and these devices are almost indistinguishable from their Windows brethren -until you look at the interface.You still get great battery life, a full size keyboard, high quality screen, webcam plus lots of additional (free) storage from Google. Acer's 11-inch Chromebook is available online for Rs 16,000 (dual core Celeron, 2GB RAM and 16GB storage).

Cheaper Curved & 4K TVs

Before curved screens and 4K, a lot of people wondered what the next step would be in TV technology would be. After all, there was a limit to how large you could go with screen dimensions. Before this year, curved screens and 4K sets were super-luxury items but prices are going down. Case in point is VU's 65-inch curved 4K UHD TV with smart functions. At Rs 2,24,000, it is substantially cheaper than all the other players offering either curved or 4K UHD sets.

Innovative Smartphone Marketing

E-commerce has been an important ally for the double digit growth of smartphones. But increasingly, many manufacturers shared a common problem -how to get noticed by consumers in a sea of new launches. Chinese player Xiaomi hit the jackpit with their flash sale model: step one, hit the sweet spot in pricing (with low prices for great hardware & quality). Step two, tie up with a major e-commerce partner to eliminate extra costs and pass along the benefits to consumers. Step three, watch as phones get sold out in seconds, which itself proved a major draw. OnePlus India went with the innovative invite-only model, which made their debut device, the One, even more exclusive and desireable.Micromax's YU brand of phones is the latest to go with the flash sale model.

Affordable Windows Tablets & Hybrids

Affordable laptops are common but tablets and hybrids with full Windows 8.1 still commanded a substantial premium -until the arrival of Notion Ink's Cain 10. This was a device that shattered a lot of barriers, providing premium quality and performance, a fantastic keyboard case and high quality display at a price that defied logic (Rs 19,999). The Bangalore-based company followed it up with an 8-inch version that can be held in one hand. iBall launched a very similar 10-inch hybrid with keyboard case the WQ149, for a similar price (though it skips the full size USB port that the Notion Ink has). Another very enticing option is the previously launched Acer Iconia W4 -a high-quality 8-inch Windows 8.1 tablet that you can get online for a great price of Rs 14,000.

More Smartwatches & Fitness Trackers

Even though there is a lot of talk, wearables haven't taken off as well as their makers were hoping. Throughout the year we saw various smartwatches and fitness trackers -Samsung Gear 2, Samsung Gear Fit, Moto 360, LG G Watch, Sony Smartwatch 2, Garmin Vivofit, Martian Notifier & Goqii -with prices as low as Rs 5,000. Even Apple announced the Apple Watch, expected early 2015. These watches work in tandem with your smartphone for notifications, fitness, alarms and other functions. Samsung's Gear S combines the features of a smartwatch and a smartphone -it can operate independently of a phone, thanks to its own SIM. The fitness trackers too sync data to an app on your smartphone to show a daily summary of your activity. An entire new set of improved devices are expected next year.

For Reprint Rights: timescontent.com


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