In the early years of the 21st century, a flurry of new gadgets emerged - smartphones, tablets, digital cameras, laptops that weren't made of coal - and in the last few years we've seen these devices outgrow their early, experimental versions to become fast, formidable fulfiments of their early promises. And at the same time, a new crop of emerging technologies has emerged: 3D printing, virtual reality and wearable tech are all at that nascent stage that smartphones were 10 years ago.
(Image credit: fdecomite)
Samsung Galaxy S3 (2012)
When the S3 arrived it did something no other phone had managed: it knocked the latest iPhone (the 4S) off the top spot in our smartphones Top 10. With bags of power enabling it to play videos even while gaming, and a dazzling Super AMOLED screen it was unprecedentedly slick for an Android phone and marked the start of a fierce battle for the top spot.
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Nest thermostat (2012)
There was a time when we would have said that making a thermostat a desirable object was impossible. Then ex-Apple iPod division senior VP Tony Fadell proved everyone wrong with the Nest thermostat and its designer looks. But it’s not just all show – it has made itself indispensable thanks to its habit-learning skills and anywhere app-control which help to lower energy use and earn it a place in the high-tech eco chic elite.
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Oculus Rift (2012)
Bringing another dimension to gaming, and making good on a tech promise first made by the likes of Virtuality arcade machines in the ’90s, the Oculus Rift is one of Kickstarter’s biggest successes, pulling in over US$2 million in extra funding over its initial US$250,000 target. Though still not on full consumer release, it has gained huge momentum thanks to its compatibility across console and PC platforms and the enthusiastic reception by developers themselves. At a time when 3D TV uptake has been poor, sticking your whole head into the Rift’s lag-free immersive 3D gameworld has got everyone excited.
Read More: 100 Best Gadgets Ever - The Silicon Age
Google Nexus 7 (2012)
Google’s first foray into tablets with this Asus-built 7-incher was the first to rival the iPad, changing the tabletscape from a land full of imitators to an exciting place of real competition. Launched months ahead of the similarly-sized iPad Mini, the Nexus showcased Google’s slick new Jelly Bean OS and it was astoundingly good value, too.
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Raspberry Pi (2012)
It may look like an old PC sound card, but this tiny, cheap computer opens up programming and physical computing projects to the masses and was developed with the aim of getting kids into programming. From simple media streamers to Brew Pi – which controls a fridge to keep your latest batch of ale brewing at the perfect temperature – it’s a versatile little board indeed. And the fact that it’s UK designed and built is something to shout about too.
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Samsung Galaxy Note 2 (2012)
With its massive 5.5in screen the Note 2 went bigger than its already huge 5.3in predecessor, forcing us to rethink what size a smartphone should be and boldly declaring that phablets were here to stay. With much the same spec as the Galaxy S3, and a lovely full HD Super AMOLED screen for movie watching it persuaded many to skip buying a separate tablet, though it took a while to get over the embarrassment of holding it to our ear.
Read More: 100 Best Gadgets Ever - The Connected Age
Up! Plus 3D printer (2013)
It certainly wasn’t the most polished of products, but what the Up! lacked in aesthetics was more than compensated for by the fact that it was the first 3D printer we found that delivered consistently good results. When all around was failed prints and heartache, the Up! gave us a taste of the home fabrication future that we always dreamed of.
Read More: 100 Best Gadgets Ever - The Web, Everywhere
Nokia Lumia 1020 (2013)
Nokia’s brightly-coloured Windows Phones is deserving of a position on this list for the achievement of cramming a 41 megapixel camera into a smartphone alone. The 1020 not only blew our minds with its camera-smashing pixel count, but also showed what a cameraphone is really capable of. The battery grip add-on was a bit much, though.
Pebble watch (2013)
Finally, a smartwatch that made smartwatches cool, and saw the hunger for wearable tech really take off. A runaway Kickstarter success, it uses e-ink tech to give it week-long battery life and a host of useful apps to make it more than just a novelty, and it gave us a reason to wear a watch again; because who doesn’t just look at their phone these days?
Fitbit Flex (2013)
Because we lack the willpower to get fit on our own and can’t face forking out for a personal trainer to shout at us in the park, the Fitbit Flex was the answer to our prayers. One of the leaders of the fitness tracking revolution, the Flex packs leading step-tracking tech and adds an app that turns tracking daily activity levels, getting fit and even keeping a watchful eye on your sleeping habits into a big game with achievements, pretty graphs and everything. So while it may be easier to ignore than an intimidatingly ripped personal trainer in your ear, it’s turned us couch potatoes into borderline fitness freaks. While the likes of Nike Fuelband beat it to the shelves, the Flex was far cheaper and features handy extras such as its vibrate alarm that make an active life just a little easier to achieve.