Products to look out for in 2018
Apple IPhone XI
Apple called this year’s iPhone X the phone that would lay the foundation for the next decade of iPhones. And, no surprises, the 2018 update — no matter whether it’s called the XI or not — will likely retain the tall 19.5:9 display and the fancy Face ID system. It’s much rumoured that we’ll see the new iPhones in a couple of sizes, a normal-sized iPhone and a mega-sized variant for that all-screen-goodness in a bigger ‘Plus’ avatar. The flagship from Cupertino will still remain premium priced, but there’s talk of a change in material for the frame to allow Apple to bring the price down.
The OnePlus 5T was among the top phones this year, but there are a few good reasons to start looking forward to its successor, which is slated to launch mid-next year. For one, it’s expected to have a camera setup similar to the iPhone X, complete with a 3D camera module that will use infrared light to perform similar ‘depth sensing’ facial recognition, making the approach more secure than the 5T’s fast but less secure ‘Face Unlock’ system. At launch, it should be powered by the performance monster that is the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 chip. Plus, it might just have a feature even the iPhone X couldn’t pull off — the OnePlus 6 is expected to come equipped with a fingerprint sensor embedded in the display itself!
They were easily the sexiest looking flagships this year, and the S9 & S9+ will, in all likelihood, inherit their predecessors’ good looks, adding in the dual camera skills we’ve seen on the Note 8 to the bigger Galaxy S9 Plus. It would be similar to the way Apple differentiates between the smaller iPhone and the Plus variant. The camera is likely to see a big bump in performance, maybe even a much rumoured super slow-mo 1,000-frames-per-second shooting mode that will best anything on the market right now. More storage, up to 512GB, and a modular design — to add snap-on modules that would add functionality to the device — are likely as well.
Smart speakers are all the rage right now, and things are only going to get hotter in 2018, with Apple’s HomePod finally making its much-delayed entry. Unlike the Google Home and Amazon Echo series, the first Siri-powered speaker will take a different approach, delivering high-quality, multi-room audio — how ‘smart’ it will be is yet to be seen, but it will certainly take the fight for the home audio space to companies like Sonos and Bose.
VR headsets have, so far, been either like the Oculus Rift or the Gear VR, both of which depend on a PC or a phone to power the experience. The Go, announced late this year, sits in the sweet spot in between both such devices — it requires no phone or cables running to the PC. It’s a stand-alone device that will be able to play movies and games, and help you meet up with friends in VR.
DJI Spark 2
As drone regulations ease, our skies will be swarming with consumer drones, giving us a new perspective to our photos and videos. Based on my impressions from the first-generation Spark (review out soon!) — a drone that reached out to a much wider audience by offering a capable feature set at a sub-$500 price point — I’m personally looking forward to the next iteration that’s likely to add 4K camera resolution, longer flight range and flying time and 360-degree obstacle avoidance! DJI, launch the Spark 2 and take my money!
Bezel-less budget phones
2017 has seen bezels go out of fashion on flagship devices, and I expect this trend to trickle down to budget devices to give consumers more screen real estate without increasing the overall size of the device.
They’ve spent the bulk of 2017 in prototype phase, but 2018 will likely see folding phones hit the prime time. Take the ZTE Axon M, a phone that launched in late 2017 which featured two 5.2-inch full-HD LCD displays. When folded, the phone is mildly bulky, but fits in your pocket just like any smartphone would. When you open it out the screens combine to give you a 6.75-inch tablet-like display. There’s the much rumoured Samsung Galaxy X, which employs bendable screen technology in a classic flip-phone form, where the entire inside of the device transforms into an expansive smartphone when opened up.
With the big advances in data and computing power, AI in our devices has taken big leaps forward in the past couple of years. But our digital assistants in our watches, earbuds and speakers are, well, still a little bit stupid and trip over their own feet when things get a wee bit complex. In 2018, I expect Alexa, Google Assistant and Siri to step up their game and transition from being fun distractions to services that are genuinely useful.
Apple uses a 30,000-dot projector to build an infrared 3D map of your face on the iPhone X, and OnePlus a bunch of fancy software tricks to uniquely identify your face from a lookalike. Whichever approach you prefer, one thing is certain — facial recognition has finally gone mainstream, and many Android brands are expected to follow Apple’s lead and opt for beefier facial recognition in their 2018 flagships.
In-screen fingerprint scanning
If the OnePlus 6 ships with an under-screen fingerprint scanner, it will be courtesy Qualcomm’s ultrasonic Snapdragon Sense ID 3D Fingerprint Technology, which has finally reached a point where it can be included in mainstream phones. Vivo has demoed a prototype device earlier this year, and I expect many other brands to utilise this tech in their all-screen phones in 2018.
Think of photography, and you normally think of a subject, a shutter and the latter opening for the briefest of moments to capture the former. Computational photography, the likes of which we’ve seen in Google’s Pixels, uses data from several images, possibly at multiple exposures or via multiple sensors, and combines it algorithmically to create a photo that would be impossible via conventional forms. A photo that is crisper, richer and more detailed than any photo you could have imagined your smartphone was capable of producing. This is the big differentiator — not image sensors — that I expect for mobile photography in 2018.
It seems everyone and their aunt is asking about Bitcoin. And the technology that powers the checks and balances behind this cryptocurrency — Blockchain — is set to make waves as more industries like real estate, enterprise security, contracts and payments start to understand its benefits.