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All Contents © 2017The Kiplinger Washington Editors
By Brad Moon
| October 2017
2017 has been an interesting year for consumer electronics, and some of the hottest gadgets have been a surprise.
For example, after GoPro Inc’s (GPRO) Karma drone was recalled almost immediately after release — helping to torpedo the company’s holiday sales and GPRO stock — did anyone expect the Karma to be a hit in 2017? It has been in the number two spot in U.S. drone sales for much of the year.
After a flurry of product announcements this fall, some very cool high-tech gear will be launching by the end of the year and into early 2018. There will still be surprises, but at this point, we have a pretty good idea which ones should be on your radar.
Here’s our list of the 10 hottest gadgets to watch for in 2018.
Prices and data are from the original InvestorPlace story published on October 18, 2017. Click on ticker-symbol links in each slide for current prices and more.
This slide show is from InvestorPlace, not the Kiplinger editorial staff.
Just announced on Oct. 11, the Oculus Go is Facebook Inc.’s (FB) attempt to take virtual reality mainstream.
The Oculus Rift has failed to meet sales expectations and turned VR into a drag on FB stock. The new Oculus Go is aimed at eliminating the Rift’s pain points and converting one billion people into VR fans.
Priced at an affordable $199, the Oculus Go arrives in early 2018 as a standalone, lightweight VR headset with no wires and no PC or smartphone required.
GoPro is staging a comeback after a disastrous 2016, and leading the charge is the latest generation of the company’s flagship action camera.
The HERO6 Black is the first camera to feature GoPro’s own in-house GP1 image processing chip, giving it double the performance of last year’s model.
That means advanced new capabilities, including the ability to shoot image stabilized 4K UltraHD video at 60 fps. Expect the HERO6 to drive a wave of upgrades and prove that action cameras are still cool.
Apple Inc.’s (AAPL) first entry on the list is a virtual lock to be one of the hottest and most in-demand gadgets of this year, and next.
The $999-plus iPhone X isn’t available until November and it’s expected to be in limited supply well into 2018. With an OLED display covering virtually the entire front of the smartphone and an advanced TrueDepth camera that makes Face ID — and Animoji — possible, the iPhone X is a leap forward for Apple.
Look for the iPhone X to be a huge deal in 2018, for tech-hungry consumers and for AAPL stock.
Alphabet Inc.’s (GOOG, GOOGL) entry into the smartphone market with its own Google-branded Pixel caught a lot of people off guard last year.
The Pixel may not have made a dent in the smartphone sales charts, but it did impress with a camera that beat even Apple’s iPhone 7Plus. At the start of October, Google introduced the Pixel 2.
With an emphasis on AI and an even better camera than last year, the Pixel 2 is expected to be an even tougher challenger. Google had a hard time keeping the original Pixel in stock, and the Pixel 2 is shaping up to be one of 2018’s hot gadgets.
Naturally, Samsung Electronics is not going to sit still and watch the Pixel 2 and iPhone X get all the attention.
The smartphone market leader released the Galaxy S8 early this year, featuring a curved OLED Infinity display and its own Bixby virtual assistant button. With the challenge of the Pixel 2 and iPhone X, the company is expected to bring its “A” game when the Galaxy S9 is announced — likely in late February or March 2018.
Whatever Samsung comes up with, you can expect the Galaxy S9 will be in high demand and one of the hottest gadgets of 2018.
Fitbit Inc. (FIT) is in a battle. Fitness wearable sales are softening, and cheap versions from China’s Xiaomi are stealing marketshare. Meanwhile, Apple is adding to the pressure by focusing the Apple Watch on health and fitness fans.
The $299 Fitbit Ionic is the company’s first true smartwatch. It has advanced health and fitness capabilities, it will be able to run third-party apps (there were few at the October launch but that will expand in 2018 as developers come on board) and it boasts a best-in-class five-day battery life.
Expect the Apple Watch Series 3 versus Fitbit Ionic to be one of the big tech battles of 2018. If it can ramp up the app support, Fitbit’s smartwatch has potential to become one of 2018’s hottest gadgets.
Speaking of the Apple Watch Series 3, expect it to make waves through the holidays and into 2018 as well.
Apple is already dominating the smartwatch market, and with a focus on health and fitness, sales have been steadily climbing. With the Apple Watch Series 3, the company cuts the cord and gives wearers the ability to take calls, talk to Siri, receive notifications and stream music without an iPhone, using LTE.
That cellular connectivity has had a few bugs — Apple has already released one fix — but expect the Apple Watch 3 to be a hit, and help Apple to maintain its smartwatch lead.
Last year, Apple had an unexpected hit with its EarPods wireless headphones with Siri integration. Google is releasing its own take — the Pixel Buds — later this year and they take in-ear technology to another level.
The $159 Pixel Buds are Bluetooth earbuds with integrated Google Assistant. You can listen to music, take phone calls or check your schedule — just like the EarPods. But the Pixel Buds have a killer feature. When paired with a Google Pixel phone, they can translate conversations in 40 languages in real time.
Based on the success of Apple’s EarPods, look for the Google Pixel Buds to be one of those must-have accessories for Android users in 2018.
Smart speakers are one of the hottest product categories of 2017, but in 2018 they are going to really heat up.
At the moment, the fight has been between Amazon.com, Inc. (AMZN) and Google, with Amazon’s Echo smart speakers dominating the market. However, the game changed when Apple announced its HomePod smart speaker at WWDC 2017.
The first Siri-powered smart speaker takes a different approach, delivering premium quality, multi-room audio and a $349 price tag — nearly double what Amazon and Google’s most expensive speakers were going for at the time. HomePod aims to not only be a smart speaker, but also to take sales away from premium wireless speaker companies like Sonos.
The HomePod launches in December. It’s expected to be in high demand for the holidays and after six months of hype it has the potential to be one of the hottest gadgets of 2018.
Apple changed the game with the HomePod, but Google responded. The Google Home Max was announced at the company’s Pixel event.
Like the HomePod, it’s a bigger smart speaker, with premium audio and an attractive design. It’s packed with dual woofers, dual tweeters, a quad-core CPU, far-field microphones, Chromecast support and Google Assistant.
And while the HomePod’s $349 price tag caught many off guard, Google is upping the ante by charging $399 for the Google Home Max. Like the HomePod, it will hit shelves in December, kicking off a battle between Apple and Google for the premium smart speaker market that will start during the holiday shopping season and extend into 2018.
This article is from Brad Moon of InvestorPlace.
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