‘Tis the season for putting together your list of things that you want Santa (or a loved one) to “surprise” you with during the holidays. We techie types inevitably end up with a few electronic gadgets on ours. Okay, maybe more than a few.
This year I made two wish lists: one that includes products that are already for sale in the stores (and thus there is a chance that someone who loves me a lot might really gift me with one of them) and another “dream list” of tech toys that either don’t exist or haven’t yet been perfected to the point of putting them on the market.
Some of my wish list items are really just new features or improvements that I’d like to see in “v.Next” of some existing products, and others are ideas for things that someone, somewhere, has surely already thought of and patented and I hope will make available in the not-too-distant future (maybe, if I’m lucky, in time for next December’s gift-giving frenzy).
The Surface Pro 4
First, I should confess that I got some of my gifts early. Shortly after Microsoft announced them in its big fall “reveal” event, I order my Surface Pro 4 and my Band 2, and I am loving them. In fact, I’m writing this article on the SP4. If you’re making your list and you didn’t run out and buy these as soon as they were released, I can highly recommend both.
The new Type cover for SP4 and SP3
If you have an SP3 and don’t want to spend the big bucks to upgrade, then buy yourself the new Type cover that was made for the SP4 but is backward compatible. This keyboard has made it possible for me, for the first time ever, to travel without taking along an external ergo keyboard even when I need to get real work done. The spacing between the keys and the greatly enhanced functionality of the trackpad make this a real value for SP3 owners as well as those with the new Pro 4.
The Band 2
The Band 2 is likewise the first smart watch/fitness wearable that does almost everything I want it to do while being compact enough for a relatively small person like me to wear all the time comfortably and without feeling that I look ridiculous or have on a “man’s watch.” It keeps track of my steps and stairs like the Fitbit that it replaced, but it also lets me preview my email, Facebook Messages, texts and see who’s calling when the phone rings and isn’t right at hand. It also has built in GPS and so can map my walks/runs like Runkeeper on the phone, but without carrying the phone along.
Lumia 950 XL
The Band, however, has inspired one of the things on my list that I don’t have: a Windows 10 phone. Although it integrates nicely with my Samsung Note 4, it will do even more with a Lumia, including letting you talk to it via Cortana. Thus one of my “existing products wish list” items is a Lumia 950 XL. I don’t expect to get it, though – because it will work only with AT&T (and maybe T-Mobile) and I’m a slave to Verizon thanks to a couple of grandfathered unlimited plans.
The rumored Surface Phone
Thus item number one on my “doesn’t yet exist, at least officially” list: the much-rumored Surface Phone, in a configuration that is supported by Verizon. Given the apparent lack of love between the two companies, that might not ever happen, but that’s why this one is called a “dream list.” A phone based on an Intel chipset that really runs Windows 10 (“one Windows across devices”) and that functions similarly to a tiny Surface Pro (complete with a pen that stores inside the phone) would be the killer product that would get me – and, I believe, many other long-time Note loyalists – to make the switch and give Windows’ mobile aspirations some legs.
The Surface Book
What about the Surface Book? Microsoft’s full-fledged laptop-slash-big-tablet made quite a splash when it was introduced, and I did agonize over whether to get one instead of the SP4. For those looking for a machine that may be able to replace your desktop, and who don’t mind the heavier weight and larger size, it does seem like a dream machine. Many prefer the Book because it works better sitting on your lap, and because of the extra USB port. For me, the Pro works fine with a small sized powered USB hub that I carry in my bag for such needs, and I like that the Pro’s kickstand holds it up even when the keyboard is detached; when the Book is a tablet, it has no means of support. But just because it’s not on my list doesn’t mean the Book shouldn’t be on yours. Assess your needs and budget and priorities and buy accordingly.
The Surface Pro Mini
Jumping back to my “can’t buy it yet but wish I could” list, there’s a holdover from last year: the Surface Pro Mini. I have longed for a 7 or 8 inch Surface tablet ever since the release of the original RT. The thing does exist; Microsoft exec Panos Panay had one and apparently loved it. But the company decided not to release it so you and I are out of luck when it comes to buying one. I’ll keep hoping, though.
Microsoft aside, there are a few more cool tech toys out there that are much more than mere speculation and for which I won’t have to wait around for a year. One of those is a new Mr. Coffee. Sounds pretty mundane, but this one is wi-fi enabled (we’ve entered the era of the Internet of Things, after all). Now you can control your coffee from anywhere, using your Android or iOS smart phone. Okay, granted, they haven’t figured out how to make it grind the beans and fill the filter for you remotely (that one is on my “hasn’t been invented yet” list), but if you have the foresight to do that beforehand, you’ll be able to start the brewing process from your car en route to home – or change the scheduled morning start time from bed if you decide to sleep an extra hour. Maybe the usefulness isn’t yet fully developed, but the cool factor is way up there.
Speaking of IoT, the term usually conjures up images of connected refrigerators and washing machines, home entertainment and lighting systems, door locks and surveillance cameras, maybe connected cars. Something that you might not have considered as a “smart” device is … luggage. Bluesmart is a carry-on bag that you can lock and unlock with your phone. In fact, the bag will recharge your phone if you run out of juice, as it has a built-in portable battery. Best of all, it has GPS so your bag will never be lost again; even if it goes to Singapore without you, you’ll at least know where it is. I’ve never invested in a Kickstarter project but I admit this one has me intrigued.
There are plenty more amazing gadgets that are either on the market now, or exist only in the mind of some innovative engineer who, if we’re lucky, will eventually turn them into reality. For now, those are my lists. What cool existing or imagined products are on yours?