It’s time to talk about the holiday season.
In fact, it’s a bit late to be talking about the holiday season, believe it or not. Companies used to show off their best contenders for year-end wallet share around February, and ship them out to stores by late summer. Now, real-world stores matter less. Corporate secrecy cloaks new products, or tries to. And the product cycle is way too fast for the old retail calendar.
So, there could still be some surprises in the approaching holiday season. Here’s what we know is coming, and what we only suspect may arrive in time.
First, some of the known contenders:
The Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhone 5C
The Apple iPhone 5C was seen as an answer to critics who thought that Apple should add a lower-cost phone to its lineup, especially for emerging markets, where shoppers are frugal and carrier subsidies are rare.
Then the 5C came out, and it was not so cheap. A $600 phone is not a low-end alternative when various other models sell for under $100.
But in the US, an iPhone 5C can be had for $50 or so, depending on which competing carrier gets desperate from day to day.
And that has given rise to expectations that the 5C, with its choice of pastel plastic shells, could be a big hit for teenagers in the upcoming holiday season.
The Samsung (OTCMKTS:SSNLF) Galaxy Gear
We may know soon whether “wearable tech” is a great idea or just a gleam in the eyes of a few techno-geeks. The one to beat this season, at least in terms of sheer hype, is the Samsung Galaxy Gear smartwatch.
At $299, it’s not all that expensive as a watch, and look what else it does: You can see missed calls, check messages, take pictures, even talk into it, just like Dick Tracy!
To which many reviewers are saying, “Yeah, so what?” This is, as David Pogue points out in the New York Times
, basically half a computer. It works only in conjunction with another, more functional device, namely, a Samsung phone or tablet, and even then only two of the latest models are compatible.
Still, you never know what’s going to appeal to consumers in search of the next cool thing.
Samsung has plenty of competition. Among the big names are Qualcomm's
(NASDAQ:QCOM) Toq, Google's
(NASDAQ:GOOG) Motorola-branded MotoActiv, and the Sony
(NYSE:SNE) SmartWatch 2.
The Apple iWatch remains the Sasquatch of smartwatches, and may well be a figment of the collective imagination. As of today, a rumored smartwatch
from Google is also getting some buzz. Tech blogs are reporting that the company will announce a Google Nexus smartwatch, dubbed Gem, October 31.
Amazon’s (NASDAQ:AMZN) Kindle Fire HDX
In a very crowded field of tablets, Amazon’s Kindle Fire HDX 7 tablet has gotten a lot of attention.
First, there is its unique “Mayday” button, a commitment to instant customer service on demand and on screen. The device also is getting strong reviews for its souped-up speed in a smaller, thinner, lighter form. And the price is right: $229.
Still, it’s one of a number of smaller, lighter, cheaper tablets that various companies hope will catch on this year. Among them is the Google Nexus 7, which matches Amazon’s price at $229.
We’ve been hearing about 4K television for a few years now, but few of us have seen them off a showroom floor. They’re also known as ultra high definition, and they boast a picture that is four times as sharp as the now-standard high definition.
Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of content out there that’s worthy of the device. But the real problem has been price.
This year, prices on ultra high def TVs are finally coming down to earth, with many manufacturers offering jumbo-size models for about $3,000.
Manufacturers including LG
(OTCMKTS:MIELY), Samsung, Sharp
(OTCMKTS:SHCAY), and Sony are among those with products in the market now.
The Maybe List
And now, a few of the products that may show up in time for the holidays, or may be delayed into next year. Or, just possibly, they exist only in the minds of the tech media.
This part is definitely fact: Intel
(NASDAQ:INTC) pulled a surprise last month, announcing a whole new family of chips called Quark. Tiny in size and frugal in power usage, the chips are designed to power miniature gadgets, like wearable tech, home-based devices, or goofy electronic toys for all ages.
But we haven’t seen any products that actually use those chips yet. Intel executives have hinted that devices built with Quark can be expected this season.
It’s a wild card, but one with prodigious potential for powering cool stocking stuffers.
Amazon is about to introduce a set-top video-streaming device, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal
A device for the jumbo screen in the home would, of course, fill in a crucial gap in Amazon’s plan for total world domination of all media. And, according to the report, it would support video and music streaming from other services as well as its own.
This gadget may do nothing that cannot already be done with other products. But this is Amazon, so it probably will be priced cheaper than the competition in order to gain market share and boost Amazon Prime membership. That means less than $50, if it's going to compete with the lowest-price Roku device.
Meanwhile, reports of an Amazon smartphone have popped up yet again, and this time they include details that, as W.S. Gilbert would say, add verisimilitude to an otherwise bald and unconvincing narrative.
The rumor of an Amazon smartphone has in fact morphed into reports that two smartphones are planned
, a low-cost basic model that may be ready before the end of the year, and a souped-up model for next year.
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