With every passing day, it seems that more and more implausible strides are being made in the world of tech. News stories ping through and pop up on our unnervingly smart phones; what was science fiction mere years ago is now science fact. Folding touchscreens! Virtual reality! We take your self driving cars, and raise you a hovercar!
But many of these elaborate, incredible inventions are still years away from the mainstream. Affordable tech is still lagging a little behind the real cutting edge. But that’s not to say that there aren’t innovations worth your time. So, from the best new phone cameras to the wireless charging revolution, here are the six tech advancements that should be on your radar this autumn.
Your smartphone camera is stepping up its game
We’ve long past the days of needing to take a camera on holiday. Smartphones, and the money funnelled into the development of their cameras, are one of the cornerstones of the modern tech industry — and so it stands that this is where we start. Unsurprisingly, your smartphone is stepping up its game this autumn, and most models have upgraded to pack a pixel punch.
The big player here is obviously the iPhone 11. People may have balked at the tri-camera design — Apple are clearly feeling the departure of Jonny Ive — but the specs speak for themselves. Triple 12 megapixel Ultra Wide, Wide and Telephoto cameras, Panoramas up to 63 megapixels and Portrait Lighting with six effects (Natural, Studio, Contour, Stage, Stage Mono, High-Key Light Mono). It’s impressive stuff.
Elsewhere, the OnePlus 7T Pro also has a triple rear camera, with a 48 megapixel main camera, a 16 megapixel ultra-wide camera and an 8 megapixel telephoto camera. Sony’s latest, the Xperia 5, features another trio of lenses — and the new SteadyShot system with Intelligent Active Mode has given stabilisation a huge boost here. Google’s new Pixel is yet to be revealed but, if it lives up to its high-def namesake, we’ll be in for a treat.
Smart speakers are now smart screens too
Cries of ‘Hey, Google!’ and ‘Oi, Alexa!’ ring around the country. We’ve all got smart speakers in almost every room of our houses, and we tend to talk to our digital assistants more than our own flatmates. But the humble smart speaker is evolving, and the latest cohort of these helpful housewares feature screens.
Just look to Amazon’s Echo Show 5, with a compact 5.5 inch smart display that promises to help you manage your day, entertain and connect to your non-digital friends at the push of a touchscreen. Video call, voice control and visualise your calendar — and even use apps from Spotify, Ring and Philips Hue.
Google, too, are in on the screen game. The Nest Hub Max is similarly useful, and even features a built in camera above its 10 inch touchscreen. Chromecast is built in and, staying true to those smart speaker roots, it boasts some serious volume. Even Bose has incorporated a screen into its home speaker, albeit a smaller one, which will display album covers of the music you play.
There's been a 360 on 360 cameras — and they're good now
When they first launched, 360 degree cameras were something of a gimmick. They always sort of did what they said on their futuristic cases, but often let you down you with jerky panoramas, clear stitch lines and poor results. 2019, however, has seen the world of 360 degree cameras set spinning — and the tech is now stunningly good.
Unsurprisingly, GoPro are pushing the envelope here. Its latest Hero Max packs Max HyperSmooth, Max TimeWarp and Max SuperView capabilities into its sleek black shell, and also boosts better stabilisation credentials. Not only that, six built-in microphones combine to capture immersive 360 audio; the best stereo sound ever from a GoPro.
Other players have to be Garmin’s impressive new VIRB 360, with 4K Spherical Stabilisation and built-in G-Metrix sensors — that is also the most rugged, waterproof and shockproof 360 camera on the market. Kodak’s PIXPRO ORBIT360 — aside from all that nasty capitalisation — isn’t too bad either; its full 4K 360 video showing just how far this tech has come in recent years.
Car hire is now best done through apps
If you’re still heading to Eurocar, Sixt or Hertz when you arrive at an airport, or when you need to escape from the city for a few days, then you’re doing car hire wrong. One of the most prominent tech advancements we’ve seen this year is in car hire — and the tools we’re using to get a set of wheels when we need them.
Look to Virtuo, whose fast, mobile-only experience is making car hire easy for an entire city-bound generation. With premium Mercedes on the fleet, the cars are available 24/7 and you can unlock them with your smartphone. The Out, similarly, are offering those of us stuck in the urban jungle a chance to up sticks and break free for a couple of days in some of the most luxurious SUVS on the market.
To take it to another level again, Wheely offer car hire with a chauffeur thrown in. It’s a world of discreet luxury at your fingertips; just imagine if Uber suddenly announced a merger with a line of luxe five-star hotels.
Wireless chargers will be everywhere
Who has time to find a charger these days? When we’re moving from home to the office to meetings, we never seem to be in one place long enough to make raking through a drawer of wires worth it. That’s why wireless charging, once a faddish fashion amongst the more expensive smartphones, has seen a boom in 2019.
It’s all about practicality. And, although new chargers such as Native Union’s iconic Block Wireless Charger has its merits, brands this year have woken up to the fact that you can install chargers into different pieces of furniture. Big businesses, such as John Lewis and Ikea, have installed chargers into lamps and desks, and Courant have debuted their Catch:3 — a desk tidy with charger built-in.
But ENERQi are leading the charge in the wireless department. With their innovative module, the brand have made wireless charging wireless in and of itself, and afforded us the option to create any surface into a wireless charger for our phones. A time-saving game-changer.
EarPods have finally got things right
Speaking of wireless, EarPods also seem to be having something of a moment in late 2019. Although lampooned when launched for being easy to misplace, Apple’s last good innovation has been embraced over time, and other brands are looking to ape the design and capitalise on the concept’s success.
Sony’s WF-1000XM3 Wireless Headphones are both a mouthful and an earful, offering industry-leading noise-cancellation and an impressive battery life — because no-one wants to be left hanging halfway through their favourite true crime podcast. Cambridge Audio have engineered their 50 year history into the Melomania 1 earphones, boasting the superior Bluetooth 5.0.
Also on the earpod block are Sennheiser, who spent the majority of the wireless warm-up watching from the sidelines. But the brand’s Momentum True Wireless offerings look set to add some style to the sector with their fabric-covered charging box. Or, for some reliable Scandi style, the B&O Beoplay E8 Wireless Earphones have turned up the volume with their Magnetic Induction Technology and an intuitive touch interface.
We made some tech predictions back in January. Let’s see how they measure up…