New tech for March 2017

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Smartwatch user

The new Apple Watch leads our round-up of this month's mouthwatering new tech

1. Apple Watch Series 2 (£369; available now)

Smartwatches have become more conspicuous of late. They’re as commonplace as fitness trackers, it seems. The neighbour, the guy serving coffee, the cab driver – their lozenge-like countenance adorns many a wrist. It is a sign of a turning tide, and Apple is responsible for the sector’s gathering success.

The Watch Series 2 is the Californian giant’s second crack, and is proving to be a hit. But what makes it different? On the outside, it looks very like its forebear; a style that seems to have become more appealing as it has become more familiar. The new version is a millimetre thicker.

This is to house an upgraded dual core processor, a new GPS radio, and some much-needed waterproofing. These are this device’s distinguishing marks. That processor, combined with a new operating systems, makes the whole experience sharper; apps load and transition more quickly.

In terms of functionality, the new GPS radio means the watch itself tracks pace and distance, whether running or biking – or, indeed, swimming. It’s another big plus – it’s a pain to have to carry a phone while working out.

Should you buy it? There are better sports watches out there, although none will integrate so well with your iPhone. If you have the Series 1 already, you would do better to wait for the next iteration, in 12 months, which will incorporate 4G LTE connectivity.

2. Dyson Supersonic (£300; available now)

Dyson wants to do for the humble hairdryer what it has already done for vacuum cleaners (and, to a lesser extent, hand dryers), and has sunk £50 million into the enterprise. But £300 for a hair dryer? That’s twice price of its nearest rivals. It has got to have serious ‘smarts’ if that is to make sense for anyone but the Made in Chelsea brigade.

So, how does it fare? On looks alone, this is a different beast – like a premium sci-fi prop, all metallic grey and fuchsia, with digital buttons and magnetic attachments.

The fan is hidden in the handle, which means weight is better distributed. More importantly, its digital motor spins faster, and more quietly – although Dyson hasn’t managed to eliminate noise pollution in the drying game. The innovation is in the head of the device, vacated by the motor.

Dyson is using ‘air multiplier’ tech, which produces a more controlled and intensive jet of air. The results? Well, dry hair – achieved with a little more haste, and a less noise, and the trendiest-looking device on the market.

Is it worth it? That depends how precious your time is, and how much you lust for the latest tech.

3. Google Home ($130; availability TBC)

For those familiar with the Amazon Echo, this does similar work. It has a touch-sensitive panel on top, with audio controls, and Google-coloured lights that indicate the device is listening. The speaker stands up against similarly priced systems that have been designed specifically for music playback.

Here, instead of calling for Alexa or Siri, we are requesting Google’s help every time – even if we’re conversing with another female American voice.

The device wakes up to ‘Hey Google’, and ‘Okay Google’, enunciated clearly, and deliberately – somewhat tiresome, after weeks’ living together. Like the Echo, this will play music, and look up information from the web – whether that’s news, flights or cinema times.

Google’s algorithmic combo of voice tech and search engine is excellent. It is better with its contextual responses than the Echo, which makes conversation marginally less stilted, and answers more easy-flowing.

But this is Google’s first tilt, and the Amazon Echo is a more polished product – its sound system is better, and there are more apps for automating your home. Which is the big idea, ultimately.

4. Misfit Phase (£165; available now)

A classical looking watch with serious tech ‘smarts’ is still a rare thing. The Apple Watch (see above) looks like a timepiece that was designed by a tech firm; its bubbly sci-fi appearance will appeal to some, and leave others cold, and yearning for a more familiar aesthetic.

Misfit, a company that has made its name in minimalistic fitness trackers, has come up with a smartwatch with an analogue watch-face, and a pleasing contemporary design, which may appeal to this group. It allows you to track your fitness, receive phone notifications, and control your home hi-fi, just as the Apple Watch does, but doesn’t mark you out as a slave to tech.

It connects to your phone via Bluetooth, and packs in a three-axis accelerometer to monitor movement, calories, and sleep.

But it’s the way it shows these results that’s impressive. It transmits its information, whether phone notifications or athletic performance, through the hands and a small window at six-o’clock on the face.

The hands wind around to show your fitness scores, and the little window changes colour to show the type of notification. It’s a little abstract, and requires some memory, but it’s also original, and it works well enough as an accessory to the main smart phone app, where the real action is, of course, for both phone alerts and fitness tracking.

5. Nokia 3310 (49; availability TBC)

Nokia is re-introducing its old warhorse, the Nokia 3310, from an era when it was king of the mobile phone market, before the concept of smartphones or tablets – or non-linear TV, or virtual reality, or driverless cars – were a reality.

How technology races! This is a nostalgia ticket, but one with month’s battery life, which is unheard of in 2017. At the same time, it is a feature phone, meaning it doesn’t allow for much in the way of internet connectivity.

Calls, texts, and football scores, and that’s about your lot. Oh, and Snake, the original time-killing phone game, which is present and correct. 

The revised version of the 3310 features a slightly bigger screen and a slimmer profile, along with a new colour range. 

But it is like an old familiar, which fills your with assurances about its reliability and indestructibility, and appeals as retro cool – although not half as cool as an original, which can be picked up on eBay for half the price.


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