It was a great year for gadgets, but as Steve Jobs promised, 2011 was indeed the year of the iPad 2. Since the high-end tablet debuted in March, other companies scrambled to create their own iPad killers, hoping to capture that same magic Apple had seemed to capture in its thin, pearly-white device. HP tried and failed miserably with the TouchPad, but the end of the year showed promise as Amazon and Barnes & Noble got into the tablet game with the Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet, respectively.
Even though 2011 also marked the tragic death of one of the world's great innovators in Jobs, 2012 looks to be particularly promising. Clean, beautiful and eco-friendly gadgets are on the horizon, with smartphones and tablets again leading the way. Some surprises are abound for 2012 as well, and while this isn't a definitive list, this is what we know so far.
Apple iPad 3 - February 2012
The first iPad was unveiled in March 12, 2010 and launched on April 3 that year. Eleven months later, the iPad 2 was unveiled on March 2 and went on sale on March 11. Various reports from Apple's foreign supply chains say the next-generation iPad is already in production and will be ready for a late February or early March release, assuming Apple sticks to its springtime release pattern for the tablet.
Apple iPad 2+ or iPad Mini - February 2012
The internal code for the iPad 3 was discovered in November, when Apple began seeding a beta version of iOS 5.1 to developers. Hidden within the code were references to two next-gen iPads, internally named iPad 2,4 and iPad 3,3, respectively. While the iPad 3,3 is likely an entirely new device, analysts believe the iPad listed as iPad 2,4 is not a new iPad, but rather an upgraded iPad 2 with WiMAX functionality, possibly powered by Sprint. However, Apple's foreign supply chain believes the company is building a smaller and cheaper 7.85-inch tablet, which would compete with other tablets of those size like the Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet.
Apple iPhone 5 - March 2012
While Apple would be breaking its cycle by releasing an iPhone before June, sources say Hitachi and Sony have already begun shipping LCD phone panels to Apple for new iOS devices, widely believed to be the next iPhone. Apple released the iPhone 4S on Oct. 14, but besides featuring faster processors, a new camera and a new voice technology called Siri, the 4S wasn't a big leap from the iPhone 4. It would be surprising to see Apple pull out a completely new device in only five months since its last iPhone, but if the reports hold true, we'll see an iPhone by the end of March. Yet, if the iPhone 5 comes with NFC or LTE chips as reported, don't be surprised if Apple delays the device until June to test and tweak the system. A delay would also benefit the company by giving the iPad 3 and/or iPad Mini more time in the spotlight.
Nokia Lumia 800, 710 - Early 2012
America has officially been snubbed by Nokia. The first Nokia-built Windows Phones already debuted in November in the UK, Germany, France, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands, and by the end of 2011, the company promised that the new phones would be available in Hong Kong, India, Singapore, Taiwan and Russia. The U.S. must wait until early 2012.
Nest Learning Thermostat - Early 2012
The Nest Learning Thermostat, as the name implies, is a new kind of smart thermostat that learns your temperature preferences within about a week, saving you money by intelligently reducing your energy consumption at all hours. It's so easy and intuitive because the device was built by former Apple executive Tony Fadell, who exercised his design simplicity as a lead developer on the iPod and iPhone. The device was briefly available in 2011, but after selling its entire stock, the company said it won't produce more Nest thermostats until 2012.
Playstation Vita - Feb. 22, 2012
The device debuted in Japan on Dec. 17, but the PS Vita won't be released in the U.S. or Europe until Feb. 22, 2012. Sony's new handheld integrates aspects of mobile and console gaming, features a 5-inch OLED screen, front and rear cameras, dual analog sticks, Six-Axis motion control, front and rear touchscreen controls, a GPS, and runs on AT&T's 3G/Wi-Fi Mobile Broadband Network. The system also accommodates downloadable apps like Facebook,Twitter and Skype, and also includes a nice feature that allows gamers to upload and backup their PS Vita games, photos, videos and music to the hard drive of their Playstation 3 console.
Microsoft Surface 2 - Early 2012
Microsoft is currently accepting pre-orders in 23 countries for its 40-inch 1080p multi-touch tabletop, but the company won't release its new Samsung-powered device until 2012. The device uses PixelSense technology, which lets the coffee table device actually see without using a camera, and allows up to 50 different points of simultaneous interaction. In other words, five people using all of their fingers can use the Microsoft Surface 2 at once,e ven if they're doing different activities like painting, watching a movie or editing images. The device starts at $8,900.
Lytro Camera - Early 2012
Until Lytro came along, no one had addressed the camera's one consistent imperfection: shutter lag. Too many fleeting moments and perfect shots were missed due to finicky auto-focusing or time-consuming manual focusing, but no longer. Lytro is accepting pre-orders for its revolutionary Lytro camera, which lets the user snap photos instantaneously and manually adjust the image's focus and perspective later. The camera comes in three colors and is only compatible with Mac computers running OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard or higher at launch. The company says it will later platform to Windows-run computers.
Nintendo Wii U - 2nd Half 2012
Nintendo said its follow-up to the Wii will launch between the start of the 2012 E3 Expo in June, and the end of 2012. The console will feature 1080p HD graphics for the first time in Nintendo's history, and will also come with a new controller with an embedded touchscreen. The device is fully backwards compatible with the original Nintendo Wii.
Google Tablet - June 2012
In the next six months we plan to market a tablet of the highest quality, said Google chairman Eric Schmidt, speaking to an Italian newspaper on Dec. 20. Nothing else is known about Google's secretive tablet, other than it will likely run the latest version of Android's mobile operating system, Ice Cream Sandwich.