8 Gadgets to Watch in 2011

January has become virtually synonymous with gadgets and new technology. What gadgets will be coming in 2011 that will change the way we work and play?

1. Qi Wireless Power

Who wouldn’t want to simply place a smartphone onto a magic mat and charge it up, no wires required? Sure, wireless chargers have been around for a while, but as of October 2010, there’s now a standard, backed by 69 companies and set to find its way into many (if not most) new mobile devices in the coming year. Soon your smartphone, camera or MP3 player won’t need a special sleeve to charge wirelessly — it’ll all be built in.

2. Nintendo 3DS

Nintendo’s the biggest name in gaming for a reason, and it’ll prove its might once again with the launch of the Nintendo 3DS, the next generation of handheld gaming device. Able to create 3D graphics without the glasses, gamers will find many reasons to get this device when it ships in 2011.

3. Motorola-Built, Android-Powered Tablets

With the blockbuster success of the Droid, it’s clear that Motorola’s got a good grasp of what the Android-buying community is looking for in hardware. It’ll be one of the first consumer-ready devices running Honeycomb, Google’s tablet-optimized Android fork; and we’re betting it’ll be competitively priced, too.

4. Smart Shopping Carts

In the down economy, the focus of many marketers has shifted from customer acquisition to customer retention, so loyalty programs have come to the fore. While smartphones are one vehicle for perpetrating such programs, 70% of consumers still don’t have one, and even by the end of 2011, market penetration is not projected to top 50%. Smart shopping carts can flash discounts and suggest purchases based on a customer’s history. While some shoppers might find it creepy, many will find it’s like GPS — you won’t be able to remember what life was like before them.

5. PalmPad

If any OS was built for tablet use, it’s webOS, and if any company can build a legitimate and affordable competitor to the Apple iPad, it’s HP and Palm. No Android or Windows 7 tablet has demonstrated the capability to match the iPad feature-for-feature. That tall order will fall on the PalmPad.

6. Notion Ink Adam

India’s iPad challenger, Notion Ink’s Adam, is said to be the first device in the world to integrate two breakthrough power saving components — nVidia’s Tegra 2 chip and a Pixel Qi screen. Together, they are expected to help it achieve twice the battery life and performance of the iPad.

7. NFC-Enabled Phones

Samsung’s Nexus S, the first NFC-enabled Android phone, is already on sale; Nokia has announced that all of its smartphones, starting in 2011, will support NFC; and Apple recently hired a NFC expert. Jeff Miles, the director of mobile transactions worldwide at NXP Semiconductors, which co-invented NFC with Sony in 2002, says he expects more than 70 million NFC-capable handsets to be manufactured in 2011.

8. PlayStation Phone

While still unannounced, enough pictures and videos have leaked to confirm this thing is real. The Android-based phone will test the limits of gaming on mobile devices. We haven’t seen this much excitement for a phone since the iPhone 4. The PlayStation Phone could very well be the most popular Android phone of 2011.

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