Innovate

What to expect from the cutting edge of consumer electronics this season

PhonesAffordable smartphones
Cut price smartphones continue to get better – each new generation setting a new bar for impressive performance at a low price. Microsoft’s newly announced Lumia 540 might just be the best yet. It runs Windows Phone rather than Google’s Android operating system, but under its colourful shell are some impressive specs: its dual-SIM and sports a large 5-inch HD touchscreen, eight megapixel camera and quad-core processor. All for US$149 without subsidies, and it is on sale in Africa, the Middle East and Asia now.

Big Smartwatch update – Android Wear
Google has given its smartwatch software platform Android Wear a huge update that makes all the timepieces running it from the likes of Asus, Samsung and Motorola more enticing. Not only do apps now stay on your screen without turning off – so you can stay up to date on the football scores or have a map guide you home – you can also send emoji messages to other Android Wear users. Android Wear watches can now connect via Wi-Fi, so as long as your phone is online too, you can leave it at home and still get all your notifications and reply to calls – as well as find it on a map if you lose it.

Fitness band that acts as your wallet
With health trackers from big names like Fitbit, Garmin and even Nike on sale, it can be tough to choose the gadget to guide you on your exercise plan. Accessory maker Jawbone however has come up with a novel way to stand out from the crowd: its new UP4 tracker, which logs your daily activity and syncs it with your phone, is the first of its type to also let you pay for items just by holding it near a till. The tap-to-pay tech – which works with American Express currently – is already in several phones and the Apple Watch, but this is the first device that really acts as a fashion item to let you pay your way. Is this the end of the wallet as we know it? Will shirt sleeves with mobile payments built in be next?

Great design – a new Surface slate appears
After a new tablet? Microsoft’s just announced its latest tablet, the Surface 3. Like its predecessors, it runs Windows, but this time it’s the full version that you’ll find on any laptop or desktop, so it runs all the same apps. Confusingly, it’s going on sale alongside the Surface Pro 3 – and both have handy kickstands to let you prop up on a table and unwind – but the Surface 3 is smaller (around 10 inches rather than 12), and cheaper too, with prices starting at US$499. There’s also a 4G version for super fast downloads on the go too.