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Best of 2011 Gadgets & What to Expect in 2012

Recently I have read too many articles on best of 2011 and predictions for 2012 on technology / gadgets. Most of them were very similar and not much different from what I was thinking of 2011 or that matter what to expect in 2012. So this emboldened me to write one of my own. Any resemblances to any article you have read is merely accidental and I'm in no way responsible for that! With the whole media reporting everything live, history cannot be written differently, unlike in olden days where the winners rewrite the history to suit them.

I will touch up some of important gadgets expected to be launched in 2012 in each category listed here. Let us be optimistic – our World will survive and thrive in 2012 and prove that Mayans were wrong.


2011 was a year dominated by Tablets and cloud computing. Every company in the computer business worth their salt tried to introduce a tablet and /or a cloud service hoping that they will be able to end the iPad dominance in the Tablet market. In the process two big names HP and RIM got badly hurt and by end of 2011 they had to clear their inventory by selling their tables (HP Touch and RIM playbook) at throw away price inviting trouble for themselves. So the hyenas among us lapped it up instantaneously proving that everybody wanted a tablet if it were given free! After so much hype and frenzy among the crowd Apple introduced a much improved version of iPad , iPad 2 which nailed the competition atleast for tablets of “ normal size”.

Then Steve died on 5th October 2011 leaving behind an unmatched legacy. Jeff Bezos of Amazon took the opportunity to steal the show by announcing Amazon Kindle Fire a 7” tablet based on tweaked Android version 2.2 which is to be sold at $199/- lesser than its actual cost. Fire was sold in millions proving that people were not looking for an iPad imitation but cheaper tablet which does not resemble others and has a strong brand name backing it.

Apple iPad 2

Apple introduced iPad 2 in early March 2011 and is a very good improvement over iPad the best Gadget of Year 2010. Compared to iPad it is faster, thinner, and lighter and has cameras but almost same appearance of its predecessor. Even though many thought it is just an incremental improvement over iPad, it went on to become a big bit trouncing all the competition. iPad 2 is a vast improvement over iPad except the display which to me looks the same or no way better. Definitely it is faster but what I like most is that it is thinner and lighter so that you can use it for long time holding it in one hand.

By October ’11 iPad got major OS update iOS 5 and it vastly improves the user experience. Most of the applications have seen multiple updates over the year and Flipboard seems to be still enjoying the title as the best application for iPad.

Amazon Kindle Fire

By November ’11 Amazon introduced Kindle Fire for $199 and went on to become the 2nd most popular tablet in the planet.

Kindle Fire is a 7” Android based tablet from Amazon with a 1GHz dual core TI OMAP processor and a 512MB RAM. It has a foot print of 190 mm x 120 mm x 11.4 mm and weighs 413 grams. It gets online via the built-in Wi-Fi g/n but no support for radio 3G or Bluetooth. It comes with power button which is awkwardly placed, chances are that you may ON/OFF the device accidently. It has just two external interface, a head phone jack and a MicroUSB connector, no slots and a sealed battery. It comes with a gorgeous 1024X 600 IPS LCD display. It is as bright as iPad with a 169 PPI (pixels per Inch) better than iPad’s 132 PPI which gives a very consistent fine display and the text is very crisp. It comes with just 8GB memory (6.5GB usable memory) and no external card slots for expanding the memory so forget about loading HD movies in to this. There is no volume button or screen locks and it does not come with a GPS, camera, or a microphone. It is solely designed as a content consumption device unlike iPad without any communication capabilities. It costs you just $199/- so you can’t complain.

After a couple of months use there are few complaints about Kindle Fire. The most important thing is that 7” is not an ideal size for browsing net unlike the iPad and Pdf books are formatted much better in iPad for ease of reading etc.

Tablets: What to expect in 2012

Going by 2011 experience (Year of Tablets) we can very well expect Apple dominance will continue throughout 2012 and beyond. Apple is expected to introduce iPad 3 with retina display and improved performance and battery life to kill any competition and should be available by March 2012. Apple will retain iPad 2 and sell it at a very low price ($240/-?) to fight the competition from cheaper tablets like Kindle Fire. Knowing the fact that most people are comfortable with keypads for content creation using iPad, Zagg Mate may come up with more attractive (http://www.zagg.com/accessories/zaggmate-ipad-keyboard-case ) casings which you cannot resist.

I do not expect Windows 8 tablet to make their debut in 2012 but in 2013 which may make some inroads into Enterprise market and will eventually become a serious challenge to IPad.

Mobile Phones

In 2011 we have seen the launch of many smart phones which are way ahead of models which we have seen in previous years. During this year Android emerged as the most popular smart phone OS commanding almost 50% of the market and Windows once again raising expectations with the launch of Mango, Windows Mobile 7.5. With this background in mind I have selected iPhone 4S, Samsung Galaxy Nexus S, and Nokia Lumia 800 are the best smart phones around. Luckily I have firsthand experience with all these platforms.

iPhone 4S was introduced in October 2011 one day before Steve Jobs expired. It is very similar looking to its predecessor 4 but has many enhancements in terms of performance and Siri the personal assistant became the talk of the town. This time Apple engineers did a superb job in addressing all the drawback of iPhone 4 even the Antenna gate is thing of past. With more than 5 lakhs applications to choose from and the unparalleled user experience it provides iPhone 4S is the Phone to beat. If you have handled the same apps in both iOS and Android you will not have any doubt which offers a superior performance. But what really surprises me among these platforms is a simple thing yet not at all trivial, the ease of typing in the soft keypad iPhone offers vis a vis what other two (Android and Windows mobile) offers. Try it out for some time, the findings may surprise you!! The screen size (3.5”) is the right balance between ease of holding with one hand and reaching every corner of the screen with your fingers and ease of viewing. With Nexus S you will struggle to reach the corners of the screen with the same fingers unless you have disproportionate finger.

Samsung Galaxy Nexus S and S2

Samsung Galaxy Nexus S is a product made by Samsung in collaboration with Google. It is the first Android Phone running their latest version Ice Scream Sandwich (4.0). This is the best Android phone ever and it just stole the crown from Samsung Galaxy S2 before the end of 2011. The design body has no big differences with its previous version–the Samsung Google Nexus S–; the rounded four corner the black casing etc, but for the display screen, the Galaxy Nexus comes with a larger screen than Nexus S. With its width at 4.65 inches, Samsung Google Galaxy Nexus has wider about 0.65 inches in comparison to Nexus S. I have always felt that the shape of Nexus S makes it much easier to hold this big phone compared to the rectangular shape of Galaxy S series which is not helping us to hold it in anyway (Steve is right). It spots an Super HD Active Matrix OLED screen (1280x720) which is brighter and many may like it over LCD screens. It is a speed demon too with LTE support. So over all the hardware is very impressive but how well Android measure upto its competitors.

The biggest issue with Android phones are the lack of upgrade plans for its OS. You will never be sure that your phone will get an update of next version of OS and when. Android is fragmented and it will continue to get fragmented more and more. Another issue looming large in horizon is that Android is an easy target for the Virus creators and it will do enough damage before you realize.

Nokia Lumia 800

After a couple of years in wilderness Nokia has come back with two Windows Mobile phones Lumia 800 and Lumia 710. Lumia 800 is a gorgeous phone with a 3.7” AMOLED Screen and neatly crafted piece of hardware with a rounded edge. Its design is originated from Nokia N9 but lacks many of the latest features found in Android phones. It may not win any performance test, no quad core processors, 1MB RAM or LTE support. It lacks many features found in Android phones even NFC support. So Nokia is very clear that they are not competing with Samsung phones on features but with a very fresh look and feel running Mango OS from Microsoft. Mango’s Metro GUI is very refreshing unlike what you got used to with almost every other smart phone in the market copying iOS style icons.

The Lumia 800 is powered by a Qualcomm MSM8255 single-core processor running at 1.4GHz with 512MB RAM and 16GB memory which cannot be expanded. One of the drawbacks which is mentioned in a few reviews is its flimsy plastic tray to carry the SIM which can be easily bend.

Mobile Phones for 2012

Apple is expected to introduce iPhone 5 by June 2012 which is radically different from the current iPhone and again shake up the mobile market. Windows 8 mobile is expected to be launched in 2012 and with it we will be seeing many more attractive Windows smart phones gaining more share in the mobile market. Android users will face fragmentation issues and realize soon that it is an easy target for virus.

UltraBook computers and MacBook Air

With the huge success of Apple MacBook Air competition was looking for something so thin and light weight in the Windows World which can satisfy the customer. Netbooks were underpowered and mainly used for browsing and its relevance has comedown with the introduction of Tablets. People were looking for ultrathin ,light weight and powerful laptops like MacBook Air. So Ultrabooks were born and some of the reputed tried their hands on it. Most of them failed to get the attention of customers. Among them Asus Zen Tablet was the best but still wanting of many features. Ultrabook is a trade mark patented by Intel for a laptops using their low power CPUS (to compete with rival ARM CPUs used in netbooks and thin laptops) and meeting certain set of specifications and cost less than $1000/- But manufacturers of Ultrabooks struggles to meet sub 1000 price point and it may cost around &1200/- which almost the same price as MacBook Air.

We will see Laptops will be replaced by Utrabooks running Windows and MaBook Air running Lion in the year 2012. Storage will be mainly in the cloud and you will see less and less optical drives and large local storage (500GB).

Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime

Asus decided to take a different path to compete with iPad. They have introduced a new class of computing device called Transformer which can be used as a Tablet independently and it transforms into a laptop while in docking station. This may attract the attention of many who are comfortable with content creation using Laptop only not with a Tablet. It comes with most of the interfaces which you find in a Ultra Notebook so connecting to other peripherals is easy.

It is powered by quad core Nvidia Tegra processor with a 10.1” IPS LCD display running Android 3.2 Honey Comb (upgradable to Android™ 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich) OS and over 500,000 downloadable applications on the Android ™ Market. It can play 1080P videos without any hassles. It comes with 32GB/64GB flash models and has an 8MP camera and a battery backup of 12 hours. It comes with a full size qwerty keyboard and cost you $299/-

Some of the analysts even went on to say that 2012 will be year for devices like Eee Pad transformer. Asus failed to honor the pre-order bookings and the device availability is predicted by 2nd week of Jan 2012.

Cloud Computing

Cloud computing has come to main stream in 2011 with the introduction of Apple iCloud, Google’s Google Music and Amazon cloud services through their Kindle devices. After the initial hiccups iCloud just works and Apple later introduced iTunes Match services in 18 countries, watch this column for more next week

Mobile OS

2011 witnessed the dominance of 3 mobile OS, iOS, Android and Windows Mobile and fast decline of Blackberry OS. Apple iOS dominates the Tablet World and Android dominates the World of Mobile OS with more than 50% share. iOS retains its share of market whereas Windows gaining ground at the expense of RIM’s Blackberry OS.

 iOS 5

Ice Cream Sandwich

Windows Mobile 7.5 Mango