Welcome to our Gear of the Year awards for 2015! This year, we’ve done things a bit differently; we asked you, our readers, to vote in our online Gear of the Year – Readers’ Choice poll that we ran over the past few months, and we’ve featured your category picks, as determined by the overall number of reader votes, prominently on each page.
We’ve also added in our own two cents’ worth, highlighting the Gear of the Year choices from the perspectives of our writers. We were very happy to see that there was some overlap between your choices as the buying public, and ours as Professional Kit Reviewers.
There were a few surprises, particularly when it came to 2015’s games. We were sure you’d all pick one of the newer games or even an Indie as your favourite of the year, but apparently established franchises carry a lot of weight with South African gamers.
Overall, we were very pleased with the poll’s results, and are only too happy to present this year’s Gear of the Year awards, which consists of some of the best tech we’ve yet seen. We will be posting our GOTY selection over the Christmas break, so keep checking back for more.
The htxt.africa Team
Smartphone of the Year
2015 was a big year for smartphones; LG brought out its leather-backed G4, Sony hit its stride with the gorgeous and fast Xperia Z5 and cheap phones stopped being rubbish and started delivering some great value for money.
But as you’ll see, Samsung has maintained its status as the brand South Africans aspire to, even more so than that other big-name tech giant. On the other hand we, the tech writers at htxt.africa, had our own opinions on which phones deserved to win. See the results below.
Samsung Galaxy S6 edge
The arrival of Samsung’s sexy Galaxy edge clearly made an impression on South African phone enthusiasts with its curved screen that extended down the edges of the phone, and its competition-slaying performance.
It garnered its share of critical praise, too, as that edge proved surprisingly functional with the quick and easy access to information it provided at a glance.
The S6 edge’s metal unibody and glass-backed design added to an already-impressive phone that clearly won over South Africans in their droves; the S6 edge easily garnered the most votes in our poll, making it the fan favourite.
Deon – InnJoo One 3G
While this year saw many gorgeous high-end phones arrive in the country, typically they also came with crazy-high prices that put them out of reach of a lot of South Africans. When you have to make the choice between a decent laptop or a phone because they cost the same, there’s a problem.
So for me, the phone that gets my vote is InnJoo’s gorgeous One 3G, a budget smartphone with some seriously impressive attention to detail.
It costs less than R3 000, performs like a phone that costs twice as much, and it’s wrapped in a beautifully-machined metal exterior that can, in my book, give even the iPhone a run for its money in the looks department.
It’s cheap, it’s fast and it looks amazing. Definitely the phone of the year for me.
Brendyn – Huawei P8
The P8 is easily my favourite phone of 2015, because it shows that Huawei’s engineers and design people have really upped their game across the board. This is a feature-complete, easy on the eye phone that does what it does extremely well.
Metal unibodies seem to be a thing for 2015, and the P8’s ticks all the right boxes – it’s pretty, nice to touch and feels just heavy enough to convey a sense of high quality.
Throw in excellent all-round performance, and all of this comes together to make the P8 one of Huawei’s finest efforts so far, catapulting the company up my personal list of companies that make really great phones. I can’t wait to see what 2016 will bring.
Tablet of the Year
Tablets haven’t had a great year, what with worldwide sales declining and the seeming absence of excitement around the release of the few that made it onto store shelves this year.
Looking at the numbers generated by our GOTY competition, Apple and Samsung were neck-and-neck this year, thanks to the release of the iPad mini 4 and Samsung’s well-received Galaxy Tab S2. As you’ll see, Cupertino just edged out South Korea’s biggest electronics company in the final tally, but it was literally by less than a handful of votes.
Looks like it’s consumers who win this year, then, and that’s what we like to see.
Apple iPad mini 4
South Africans continue their love affair with the iPad, having voted the fourth iPad mini as their favourite tablet of 2015.
That shows you’re a rather discerning bunch, because technically, the iPad mini 4 is a superlative example of everything Apple has become known for: incredibly sleek looks, super-fast performance in everything from zipping around the interface to animating game graphics.
Throw in Apple’s fingerprint reader tech that secures the iPad against unauthorised use, great cameras and LTE connectivity of up to 150mbps, and you see why the iPad mini 4 was voted to be the best tablet around.
Samsung Galaxy Tab S2
While nearly the rest of the office agreed with our readers, I was far more impressed by Samsung’s Galaxy Tab S2. The Tab S2 is even lighter than the iPad Air so it’s really comfortable to hold and use, plus it has a stunningly beautiful screen and runs Android. It’s much more up my alley, and going on the closeness of the votes, many of our readers’ alleys, too.
Microsoft Surface 3
Apple and Android tablets are fine and all, but the ability to run a full version of any Windows program available online and being able to play proper PC games that aren’t terrible mobile offerings is something they just can’t provide. For that reason, I’m throwing my lot in with the Surface Pro 3.