THIS year was a big one for technology.
Apple produced gadgets you can wear, Samsung redesigned its phones, bicycles got radars, TVs got super sharp, and we came closer than ever to riding hoverboards.
Below is a look at 15 of the best gadgets launched in 2015; the valedictorians who deserve credit for bringing something new to our lives.
Leica Q Typ 116
This 24-megapixel, full-frame, solidly built Leica camera is what very fortunate professional photographers would use on days off. Its fixed f1.7, 28mm lens offers some of the sharpest focus you’ll see from a compact camera, is fast to lock focus, and has a macro mode and lens rings for focus and aperture control. The Leica Q also offers light sensitivity up to 50,000 ISO, wi-fi image transfers to smartphones, and a touchscreen. It’s not light at 640g and it won’t shoot 4K video, but it’s a slick, enviable, sharpshooter.
Apple didn’t create the smartwatch but its entry to the wearable market made people sit up, take notice, and pre-order. The three Apple Watch ranges feature microphones and speakers for taking calls and dictating text messages, independent apps, and sensors to track your every move. New gold, rose gold, and Hermes versions arrived before Christmas.
Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge
Samsung ditched its old phone design and started afresh with this handset and the result is stunning. The Galaxy S6 Edge features a crisp Super AMOLED screen that curves down both sides, tricking the brain into thinking it’s even thinner than 7mm. Its metal and glass delivers a more premium finish, its 16-megapixel quick-launching camera and upgraded fingerprint scanner make the phone better to use day to day, and are enough to forgive its lack of expandable memory.
LG 65EG960T 65-inch 4K OLED TV
Australian consumers finally got to see 4K OLED televisions this year and they were worth the wait. This LG creation combines the highest screen resolution with a display technology that delivers the highest contrast and the deepest blacks. The result is a significantly more lifelike experience and one that is well-priced despite its near-$10,000 price tag.
We didn’t get real hoverboards this year, as Back to the Future II promised, but self-balancing, motorised skateboards make an excellent interim measure. The two-wheeled, battery-powered gadgets let riders glide from place to place, steering by moving their balance ever so slightly. They are addictive, fun and available from the likes of Kaiser Baas and 3VOLV. Riders should ensure they get Australian chargers, however, and look up road rules in their state before riding in public.
Microsoft Surface Book
Microsoft’s first laptop is a thing of beauty. Its metal body and unusual dynamic fulcrum hinge delivers a premium look, its 13.5-inch crisp screen detaches for versatility, and special attention has been paid to the shape and travel of each key for maximum efficiency. Best of all, this Surface creation is particularly powerful, and users can choose an Intel Core i7 chip and 16GB RAM.
Apple iPhone 6S Plus
Apple’s biggest phone improvements arrived inside its biggest phone this year. The iPhone 6S Plus not only got the benefit of an enhanced, 12-megapixel camera, 3D Touch actions that respond to pressure on the screen, and a stronger frame, but it offers optical image stabilisation for photos and videos, plus a longer battery life than its 6S counterpart (an extra six days on standby).
Samsung Gear S2
It’s the spinning top that makes Samsung’s 2015 smartwatch better than so many of its competitors. Features can be opened simply by turning the border around this smartwatch’s 1.2-inch screen, making it one of the simplest to operate. Samsung’s new wearable is also its first to work with Google Android phones other than its own, is comfortable to wear, and delivers plenty of fitness-tracking tips.
GoPro Hero4 Session
Action cameras can produce amazing video but a lot of them are overly complicated to use. GoPro addressed the problem this year with its simpler Session camera that is half as small as its other models but still captures high-definition footage, slo-mo video, and eight-megapixel photos. Its small, cube-shaped body is also waterproof. The Session doesn’t offer a display or capture 4K video but its simplicity makes it easier to use than most.
Garmin Varia Bike Radar
This gadget fills a void in cycling safety. The Varia’s head unit sits on the handlebars and its display alerts riders to cars approaching from behind, showing their progression with a moving dot. What’s better, it also comes with a rear light that flashes to alert drivers of your presence.
Google Nexus 6P
Google’s new big-screen phone ticks the right boxes: premium aluminium body, reliable, rear fingerprint scanner, more pixels than the iPhone (518ppi), powerful 2GHz octa-core chip, pure Android Marshmallow software, and a USB-C port. But its biggest and most impressive addition is that of a 12.3-megapixel rear camera with a large f2.0 aperture and larger pixels for lowlight shots.
Microsoft Universal Foldable Keyboard
Touch typists, email obsessives, and anyone who has sworn at their phone’s recalcitrant touchscreen keyboard is bound to appreciate Microsoft’s portable, widely compatible keyboard. This accessory folds into a form smaller than a sandwich, delivers full-size keys, is spill-resistant, and will connect to Windows, Android or Apple devices. After connecting this keyboard to a device once, it will automatically connect every time you open the keyboard within range. One of the most useful creations of the year.
Even beyond this tech toy’s Star Wars: Episode VII connection, this Sphero creation is enormous fun to use. The drone can be directed from your phone like a remote-control robot, or ordered to roam autonomously. Using your phone, it can also deliver augmented reality messages with a Star Wars theme.
This is the year Fitbit debuted a touch-sensitive screen, phone notifications, and wrist-based heart-rate monitoring. All three arrived in the Surge — now available in new colours — that Fitbit described as a “fitness super watch”. The Surge also features GPS tracking, several sports modes, and water resistance to 50m.
Sonos Play: 5
There’s a lot of technology in the latest black or white rectangle from Sonos. Its Play: 5 speaker uses six drivers and matching amplifiers, three woofers, three tweeters, and a new feature called Trueplay. It lets users customise this connected speaker’s audio to suit the acoustic features of the room in which it sits, delivering a better sound experience. Plus, the company has just added Apple Music compatibility to its streaming repertoire.