Best must-have tech gifts for 2019

Samsung Galaxy Watch Active2.

Looking for a new phone, laptop or gadget to add to your Christmas list? These new releases might tempt you.

Technology companies have been busy as usual this time of year, with the likes of Amazon, Apple, Microsoft and Samsung announcing new releases. If you’re in the market for a new phone, laptop or gadget, there’s a huge variety of new products to choose from. Here’s a taste of what’s on offer.

Apple iPhone 11

Apple iPhone 11.

Apple has released three new handsets: the iPhone 11, 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max. They’re incremental upgrades to last year’s iPhone XR, XS and XS Max, sporting 6.1 inch, 5.8 inch and 6.5 inch screens, respectively.

All offer some significant improvements, however, including Apple’s fast, new A13 Bionic processor, improved battery life and camera upgrades, including a night mode for better low-light shots.

Outright pricing ranges from a reasonable A$1199 for the iPhone 11 to a whopping A$2499 for the 11 Pro Max (with 512 GB storage). Why pay more for the Pro versions? They offer longer battery life, better displays and a higher water-resistance rating than the iPhone 11. The Pros’ cameras also include an additional telephoto lens.

New Surface Pros

Microsoft has two new versions of its two-in-one laptop. The Surface Pro 7 is an incremental upgrade from last year’s model, with a faster new 10th generation Intel Core processor and a versatile USB-C port.

The Surface Pro X uses a custom Qualcomm-made Microsoft SQ1 processor. It’s unlikely to be as fast as the Intel version, but the lower-powered chip has enabled the Pro X to be thinner and offer longer battery life. The Pro X also has a slightly larger 13 inch display.

Pricing for the Surface Pro 7 starts at A$1249 and Pro X at A$1699, plus another A$199.95 for the Type Cover keyboard.

Great-value budget phones

Budget smartphones haven’t always had the best reputation, but that’s changed because the low-end market is now highly competitive. You don’t have to spend big to get a good handset from the likes of Huawei, Motorola, Oppo, Nokia, Samsung and Xiaomi.

Moto G7 Power.You won’t get a high-end processor and you’ll still have to make some compromises, but decide what’s important to you, choose carefully, and you’ll end up with a great-value phone.

For under A$400, you can get a 5.5 inch or larger screen, decent performance and some surprising features. The Moto G7 Power, for example, offers a big 5000mAh battery that Motorola claims will last up to three days. The Huawei Y9 Prime has a rear triple camera, while the Samsung A30 has an impressive 6.4 inch Super AMOLED display.

Spend a bit more, and you’ll have to make fewer compromises. For example, Google offers a mid-range version of its Pixel 3. Priced under A$650, the Pixel 3a lacks the flagship model’s high-end processor and water resistance, but otherwise it’s very similar – including the same great camera.

Apple Watch Series 5 and Samsung Galaxy Watch Active2

Apple Watch Series 5.The Apple Watch Series 5 has one significant upgrade from last year’s model: an always on screen, so you can, well, tell the time (and see notifications) without having to “wake up” the display.

Priced from A$649, it offers a built-in compass, heart sensors, swim proofing and more, maintaining Apple’s leadership in smartwatches.

There’s a cellular version from A$799, which allows you to connect via a supporting mobile carrier, but otherwise you’ll need an iPhone for connectivity.

If you’re an Android user, you’re better off with a compatible smartwatch like the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active2. This smartwatch comes pretty close to matching the Apple Watch’s extensive features list, and is priced from A$549.

New Amazon Echo devices

Amazon launched a raft of new devices with its Alexa voice-activated digital assistant.

These include third-generation versions of the A$149 Echo and A$99 Echo Dot smart speakers. The former has improved audio, while the latter now has an LED display with the time and temperature. If you’d prefer a more prominent clock, there’s the A$49 Echo Wall Clock.

Amazon Echo Dot.Unfortunately, some interesting devices are yet to be released in Australia, including the Echo Buds wireless earbuds, Echo Frames glasses, Echo Loop wearable ring and Amazon Smart Oven – all of which support Alexa voice commands.

However, other devices that are available include the A$199 Echo Sub, which adds better bass to an existing Echo speaker. The new A$329 high-end speaker, Echo Studio, includes five speaker drivers, a built-in smart home hub and the ability to automatically adjust audio to the room’s acoustics.

The A$55 Echo Input adds Alexa to a traditional speaker via a 3.5mm audio cable or Bluetooth. The A$299 Echo Link and A$459 Echo Link Amp bring streaming music and Alexa to a conventional stereo system. The Echo Show 5 is a cheaper (A$129) and more compact version of the Echo Show, with a 5.5 inch screen that can display your calendar, recipes and more.

Samsung Galaxy Note10

Samsung Galaxy Note10.Meanwhile, Samsung launched its 6.3 inch Galaxy Note10 phone, along with an even bigger, 6.8 inch Note10+. The company is also offering a version for those lucky enough to have access to a 5G network already.

The Note’s S Pen stylus is what separates it from other smartphones, and the Note10 ups the ante with handwriting-to-text conversion and wand-like gesture controls. Samsung has slimmed down the designs, although it had to follow the likes of Apple by dropping the headphone jack.

All new models offer a latest-generation processor and camera upgrades, including a telephoto lens. Outright pricing ranges from A$1499 to A$1999.

Bose Frames

Bose frames.

These innovative sunglasses feature cleverly designed speakers that only the wearer can hear. They stream music from your phone via Bluetooth. Sound quality is surprisingly good and they don’t block your ears like headphones.

Bose Frames cost A$299, and come in two styles: the angular Alto and rounded Rondo.

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December 2019
December 2019

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