Tempting new technology that makes a bold visual statement
Design-led technology and gadgets on our wish list include these visual triumphs, from a distinctive portable speaker to a compelling camera
From cutting-edge coffee machines to bold televisual statements, from audio eyewear to camera phones, here’s a seasonal round-up of the state of design in contemporary consumer technology and gadgets.
Design-led technology: gadgets for your wish list
Bang & Olufsen x Clot collaboration
This limited-edition version of Bang & Olufsen’s compact Beosound A1 portable speaker (above) has been developed in collaboration with Clot, the streetwear label founded by Edison Chen in Hong Kong in 2003. B&O describes the partnership as a celebration of ‘the vitality of life, music and Chinese culture’. The circular speaker is finished in bright metallic red, a deliberate attempt to evoke a blood cell. The aluminium grill bears the clot logo, and the black leather strap features a Clot-branded aluminium tag, transforming this compact speaker into a bright spot of portable audio design.
Bruvi Coffee Maker
American start-up Bruvi is another entrant into the single-serve coffee maker market, a world dominated by Nespresso. The company, co-founded by Mel Elias and Sung Oh, is placing an emphasis on sustainability from the outset, with recyclable pods that are also designed to break down in landfill if the right facilities aren’t available. The company calls this ‘Guilt Free Toss’, so full marks for confessing that the majority of single-serve capsules will inevitably end up in the trash. The device itself has a low-key functionality, with a crisply designed control panel and the promise of many, many different brews and blends sourced from well-known roasters. The machine will do filter coffee, espresso, Americanos, even tea and cold brew (a first from a single-serve capsule system). You can also go full ‘internet of things’ and trigger the Bruvi from an app, as well as buy more pods.
Samsung Frame Bezel
Samsung’s Frame Bezel is probably the first television to really fulfil the futurist promise of transforming a screen into a discreet piece of art when it’s not being used. The Bezel system offers up 40 colours for the company’s current series of Frame televisions, ranging from 32in all the way up to 65in. Bezels can be swapped over, with a magnetic clip system, and there’s a bevelled edge design to really emphasise the television’s built-in Art Mode, a 4K QLED display that can serve up whatever images you like, as well as tap into a subscription Art Store for a curated choice.
Aether isn’t the only company in the audio eyewear category. Just as the rest of the world returns to wired headphones as a style statement, several other players are integrating speakers into elegant sunglasses and glasses frames. Fauna offers four designs – ‘Levia’ in black is shown here – with Carl Zeiss Vision lenses that can cater to any prescription, or just plain tinted lenses. The carry case doubles as a charger, and the glasses will pump out podcasts or music for up to four hours between charges, as well as let you take and make calls.
Soundcore Frames by Anker
Accessories specialist Anker introduces the Soundcore Frames, its take on the audio eyewear genre. Unlike their rivals, these sunglasses are available in slender aviator-style frames, although the arms remain relatively bulky to house the battery, four speakers and microphones for calling. In addition, the front frame can be swapped out for another style, giving these glasses an edge over their rivals. The five-and-a-half-hour play time helps as well, but the downside is they require a dedicated charge cable and also can’t be fitted with prescription lenses.
Google’s Nest range of home tech has always been easy on the eye. The latest iteration of the Nest Camera is no different. This neat little device might look unassuming – it has Pixar levels of cute baked in – but appearances conceal a powerful security system that can tell the difference between a familiar pet and a persona non grata, with customisable face detection letting you control who gets seen. Video is stored securely through your Google account, and the plastic housing is made from 45 per cent post-consumer recycled material. A battery-powered model is also available for mounting outdoors.
We by Loewe
We by Loewe is a new sub-brand launched by the German manufacturer Loewe, a company that can trace its origins back to 1923. While the parent company specialises in increasingly upmarket products, the We range is pitched at a younger, more fashion-conscious consumer. It includes the We.See TVs, available in four different sizes, and the We.Hear Bluetooth speaker system, available in two different sizes. The latter are powerful, weatherproof and offer 14 and 17 hours of playback, depending on the size. The speakers are joined by the We.See TVs, which combine compatibility with existing streaming services with Bluetooth connectivity for external devices and headphones.
Honor 50 Smartphone
Honor is a Chinese smartphone maker that has benefited from its rival Huawei’s battle with sanctions. With Huawei banned from using Google’s services (although not the open-source Android operating system), Honor is free to make the most of its ‘official’ status. Ironically, Honor, founded in 2013, was once a Huawei sub-brand. Now it has struck out on its own, hoping to combine the low prices associated with the country’s electronics industry with stylish, well-presented hardware and software. Honor 50 is the company’s new flagship. With the option of an emerald green case, the 50 can certainly stand out from the crowd, but the camera and software are no match for the sleek form factor, let alone flagships from other manufacturers. That said, this is still a seriously sophisticated device for the price.
Sony Experia Pro-I
Think of Sony’s Xperia Pro-I as an excellent camera that just happens to make phone calls, rather than the other way around. Sony’s digital cameras rank highly with professionals, but cramming these capabilities into a smartphone-sized package has been a major challenge. The Pro-I has a large image sensor, a glass lens by Zeiss, as well as a dedicated shutter button, with progressive movement to operate the auto focus. The Pro-I can shoot in 12-bit RAW format, and the processor allows you to record in 4K at a high frame rate of 120fps. There’s even a fixing for a camera strap, as well as a fully functional, high-powered Android device. They say the best camera for the job is the one you’re holding; now professional quality is always to hand.