The mobile and VR gear we can't wait to get our hands on in early 2016
We're currently in a down period for consumer tech announcements – a Bermuda triangle, if you will, between January's CES and the Mobile World Congress that kicks off in a couple of weeks. Sounds like a good time to catch up on some of the mobile and VR products (both confirmed and rumored) that we may be seeing in the next few months.
A product launch nearly four years in the making, the consumer Oculus Rift will finally start shipping next month. Our numerous demos with the Rift reveal a premium VR magic set – with both polished hardware and a delightful game ecosystem – designed to show the world what high-end virtual reality can be.
Samsung Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 edge
Samsung has a new flagship smartphone up its sleeve for its event in Barcelona this month. That means the Galaxy S7, along with a (likely) companion device, the Galaxy S7 edge.
A report from noted leaker Evan Blass points to the S7 edge, unlike last year's Galaxy S6 edge, not being the same size as the standard model. We could therefore be looking at a 5.1-inch flat-screened flagship next to a bigger 5.5-inch curved model – the latter being closer to an update to last year's Galaxy S6 edge+ than anything else.
Apart from that, expect to see familiar designs to last year's Galaxy flagships, with longer battery life standing as the killer feature.
Not far behind the Oculus Rift will be HTC's and Valve's PC-based VR headset, the HTC Vive. Unlike the Rift, the Vive will be focused on room-scale VR right out of the gates, and will also include its two motion controllers in the box when it ships this April.
We don't, however, know how much the Vive will cost. We also haven't seen nearly as much stationary content (seated or standing, without the need for a larger playing space) for the Vive as we have for the Rift.
HTC One M10
Speaking of HTC, the company should also have a new flagship smartphone to show off soon – if not at Mobile World Congress, then likely sometime in the following several months.
After last year's One M9 failed to make a compelling case next to the Galaxy S6, we'd be surprised if HTC didn't add long overdue features like a Quad HD display and lighter/thinner design. Our only concern is that, like the One A9 (above), it may end up looking a little too much like an iPhone.
iPad Air 3
According to a report from 9to5Mac, Apple will hold a small event next month – and one of the centerpieces is expected to be a follow-up to the iPad Air 2 (above). In many ways, the iPad Air 3 sounds like a 9.7-inch version of the iPad Pro, with potential additions like a Smart Connector for easy keyboard support, Apple Pencil compatibility and an extra pair of stereo speakers.
Another rumored highlight of Apple's March event (also via 9to5Mac) is an updated 4-inch iPhone.
While Apple's 2014 and 2015 iPhone flagships finally brought the company into the modern phablet era, with 4.7-inch and 5.5-inch screens, some iPhone owners miss the good ol' days when you could drop a phone into a skinny jeans pocket or easily use it with one hand. The alleged (and strangely named) iPhone 5se could address that demographic, with internals pinched from the iPhones 6 and 6s.
Similar to HTC, we found LG's 2015 flagship (above) to be something of a hard sell, so we expect the Korean company to come out swinging with its upcoming LG G5 flagship. LG has teased an always-on display, while rumors point to an all-metal unibody design (finally) with dual rear cameras, possibly a second "ticker" display (like on the LG V10) and a back-facing fingerprint reader, similar to the Nexus 6P.
It may not pack quite the same punch as the Rift and Vive, but Sony's VR headset will be more affordable and accessible. If you're one of the millions who already own a PS4, then all you'll need to buy is the PS VR itself and a US$60 pair of PS Move controllers (if they aren't bundled with the headset). We still don't know how much the PS VR itself will cost, but the total package should be much cheaper than the $1,500 minimum it takes to pre-order an Oculus Rift and up-to-snuff gaming PC.
PlayStation VR is scheduled to launch sometime in Q2.
Samsung Galaxy TabPro S
Sometime this month, Samsung will start shipping its first Surface rival, the Windows 10-running Galaxy TabPro S. It's lighter and thinner than the Surface Pro 4, though it does lack a kickstand, meaning it's much more limited in the number of positions you can prop it up in. It's also confined to lower-powered Core M series processors and only has one USB-C port.
12-inch MacBook (2016)
We haven't heard much on this front, but perhaps Apple will sneak in an update to its "new MacBook" during the first half of the year. If it does, the most logical change would be updated 6th-gen Core m3 and m5 processors, to narrow the performance gap between it and the MacBook Air.
Our most wanted upgrades, in addition to Skylake chips, would be a price drop (while sexy, the current model is somewhat hard to recommend at $1,299) and a second USB-C port (unlikely, as Apple seems hellbent on using this razor-thin notebook as its argument for an almost entirely wireless future).
Google Cardboard (above) was never just the comically low-end developer kit that it appears to be on the surface. It was Google's Trojan Horse entry into virtual reality, an affordable and accessible way to get people creating and using VR content in the Play Store.
Expect big news on the VR front from this year's Google I/O in May – perhaps even a Google-made headset that would work with a much wider variety of Android phones than Samsung's Oculus-powered Gear VR (which only supports Samsung's most recent flagships). Until the Play Store's decidedly "meh" selection of VR content takes a big step forward to match that, though, Android VR will continue to play catch-up with the Gear.
Be sure to check back at Gizmag, as we cover the announcements and launches for these devices (and, likely, many more we don't yet know about).