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The Apple Watch wants to do to your wrist what the iPhone did to your pocket: stick a computer there. For at least $349, watchwearers will access apps, weather, photos, texts, emails, payments and, through Apple’s HomeKit software, control thermostats, door locks, televisions and lights. The watch’s sleek interface is mounted on a customizable strap, and it actually doesn’t make you look like a geek. First revealed this year but not on store shelves for a few more months, it’s a daring foray into the wearable market: Apple could be the first company to make wearable computers ubiquitous.
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Read next: The 25 Best Inventions of 2014
SmartThings Starter Kit
From alerting you when your kids get home from school to brewing your coffee before you wake up, the connected home promises to be the invisible aide we’ve always wanted. Few smart home companies are doing it as well as SmartThings, which offers a $200 kit that connects inanimate objects in your house to your phone. Use it to attach sensors to your home and program smart objects from locks to crockpots and soon you’ll be living like the Jetsons. This year, the company was bought by Samsung and announced a new phone app interface.
Smartphones, hi-tech cameras, and security videos are making the world eminently recordable, allowing us to monitor and revisit our every move. But nothing is pushing the video boundaries as much as camera-wielding drones, and few camera-wielding drones are doing it like the DJI Phantom 2 Vision+. The roughly $1,200 device is expensive, but it’s known for its exceptional flight capabilities and powerful camera—and it’s cheaper than other high-end drones. It allows joyriders to gain a birds-eye view of nearly any terrain.
In a matter of months—exactly how many months, we don’t know—consumers will be able to buy Oculus Rift. That’s the promise of the company’s 35-year-old CEO, Brendan Iribe, who is riding high after Facebook purchased his company for $2 billion this year. Rift offers a fully immersive, virtual reality headset, the most promising of its kind, and its second development kit (first available this year) greatly improves the technology to help eliminate simulator sickness and increase resolution.
Bigger is better, or so the critics cried, calling for Apple to make a supersized phone. That was before Apple quieted them with the release of the iPhone 6 Plus in September, the company’s largest iPhone ever. With an alluring 5.5-inch display that makes it feel something like a portable iPad, the phone is is a challenge to Samsung’s larger models. Along with a powerful 8-megapixel camera and longer battery life, the phone is more a statement than an answer.
When GoPro went public this year, it proved that a company that perfected the art of recording high-flying exploits could thrive. The HERO4 GoPro builds on the company’s existing technology with improved resolution, upgraded audio systems, and time lapse capabilities for ultra low-light scenes at night. The HERO4 comes in silver and black editions at $399 and $499, respectively, and promises to make videos from the extreme (base jumping, surfing) to the pleasantly mundane (what the world looks like to your dog) even better.
The two biggest problems with your iPhone: it runs out of battery too quickly, and it doesn’t store enough music and photos. The Mophie space pack solves both of those issues, adding up to 64GB of extra data and 8 hours talk time to the iPhone 5 and iPhone 5s. It starts at $149 and is a simple solution to two simple problems.
Depending on your view, Jawbone is on the road to making us all super fit athletes or brutally efficient cyborgs who operate by data alone. How many minutes of REM sleep did I get last night? What’s the difference between my heart rate while resting and during a workout? How hydrated am I? How many calories did I burn on my last run? Jawbone UP3 answers all those questions better than any other Jawbone did before. The $179 wearable fits on your wrist and comes in black and silver.
Apple is continuing its run of putting cutting edge technology into the smallest space possible, like stuffing fresh toppings into a tiny burrito. The iPad Air 2 is the thinnest iPad ever and it’s also the most powerful, containing an A8X chip, an 8 megapixel camera and at least 16GB in a 6.1mm-thin frame. The Air 2 runs 40% faster and starts at $499.
Imagine the perfect front door. Like a human security guard, it would tell you who was outside and allow you to talk with them before you let them in. The $200 Ring Video Doorbell system does just that: it’s a small ringer with a camera that communicates with your phone, allowing you to see who is outside before you let them in. You can then talk to them as you politely deny them entry, or call out a more civilized “coming!��