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By Arthur Goldstuck


The best gadgets of 2018

The best TVs on the market are the OLED units from LG and Samsung. But the nod for TV of the year goes to the Skyworth Android range of TVs.

Smartphones are not the only gadgets in town, but they tend to be the ones that represent most individuals’ relationships with technology.

As such, they make up the bulk of the choice for gadgets of the year. However, consumers who turn their attention towards both larger and smaller gadgets will find incredible advances on all fronts.

We kick off with handsets, though, and look both at the flagship devices and the lower end of the market.

Smartphones of the year

High-end smartphone of the year

The high-end is the most difficult category in which to choose a winner, as Apple, Samsung, Huawei, LG and Sony continually push the boundaries. It was a tough decision, but the accolades finally go, jointly, to the Huawei Mate 20 Pro and the Samsung Note 9.

The Mate packs in the entire legacy of Huawei’s efforts to become the technology leader in smartphones, while the Note 9 comes into its own as a productivity gadget.

The Apple iPhone XR, with the best single camera on the market, and the LG G7 ThinQ, with advanced artificial intelligence, came close as joint runners up.


Mid-range smartphone of the year

There are numerous high-quality, high-spec mid-range smartphones, but our stand-out was the HiSense H11, with full high-definition display and an excellent camera for its price of around R4 500. It is currently (at the time of writing) available on Takealot for a deeply discounted R3 000.

Entry-level smartphone of the year

At the entry-level, again, two phones share the honours. The Huawei Y3 2018, one of the best phones to run the new Android Go data-light operating system, is absurdly good value. For a phone with a 5-inch display and 8MP rear camera, the price tag of R999 from Vodacom and Takealot looks like a mistake, but is in reality the best phone deal of the year.

One could say the same of the Vodafone Smart Kicka 4, also running Android Go. It is the device that takes minimum phone size up to 4-inch screens, but bringing the price down to an astonishing R399. Both would make great gifts as first-time phones for kids, for students, or for those upgrading from basic feature phones.


TV of the year

There is no question that the best TVs on the market are the OLED units from LG and Samsung, which are simply dazzling. But the nod for TV of the year goes to the Skyworth Android range of TVs, introduced to South Africa this year.

It extends the ecosystem of smart TVs beyond the apps made for a specific unit, and brings in the entire universe of TV-ready apps from the Google Play Store.

Music gadget of the year

For taking sound to new levels, literally and figuratively, the LG XBOOM Go PK7 gets the accolades. It’s a sturdy, compact, battery-powered portable Bluetooth speaker, meaning it can play the music off any smartphone or other Bluetooth enabled music storage device.

But it comes into its own in an outdoor setting, where party noise, revelry, splashing water and absence of power supply tend to sink many similar devices. The sound is astonishingly big for such a compact device.

The XBOOM lasts almost a full day on one charge, and it has Google Assistant included for voice control. A built-in light show is generated by LED lights that flash and pulse in time with the music. In short, a day-night entertainment hub.


Wearable of the year

The world of fitness bands and smartwatches became dramatically bigger this year, with numerous advances in technology and quality. Here we have a three-way tie.

The Apple Watch Series 4 is first up, thanks to a highly effective ECG monitor, which doesn’t replace a visit to the doctor, but could well alert someone that they may need that visit. It’s high price – upward of R8 000 – prevents it from taking solo honours.

The Xiaomi Amazfit Bip smartwatch has a ridiculous 45-day battery life, aside from low cost (about R1 000 from Makro), along with surprising elements on a lowcost smartwatch, like GPS, heart-rate sensor, and barometer.

A top wearables list is never complete without a Fitbit, and this year the Charge 3 keeps up the company’s wearables charge with advanced sleep tracking features, GPS, and seven-day battery life. But its biggest innovation is female health tracking.

It starts off logging cycles and other health information, but then becomes an analytical and predictive tool for fertility.


Hearable of the year

Earphones and headphones come in an astonishing range of sizes, configurations and prices. The stand-out at the Gadget office was the Jabra Elite 65t, which brings new levels of comfort to wireless earbuds.

Most devices in this category are harsh and heavy on the ears, but Jabra has tackled this problem aggressively, reducing the weight by doing away with built-in storage and heart rate sensors.

Battery life (five hours, plus another five in the charging case), great sound and consistent connectivity round out a great option for sporty users, at about R3 000.

Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za Follow him on Twitter and Instagram on @art2gee

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