From tablets to e-readers to game consoles, touch screens are everywhere this holiday season.
A technology that, until a few years ago, existed only on sci-fi TV shows is now opening up a myriad of possibilities for new devices.
And it’s safe to say that gadget manufacturers will find even more ways to introduce touch technology in the coming months, with developments on the horizon such as flexible displays and screens that feel like there are physical buttons beneath the glass.
You’ll see the items listed below in stores and online this holiday, and they represent some of the most popular tech gadgets of the moment.
Amazon Kindle Paperwhite
It’s no wonder that some booksellers have been developing and marketing e-readers so heavily in recent years.
Like an iPod for the printed word, e-readers can store thousands of books. Titles can be downloaded from the Web in seconds. Text appearance and size can be adjusted to suit the reader.
Perhaps no company has invested more of its reputation in e-readers than Amazon.com. The online shopping giant unveiled its first Kindle e-reader in 2007, and this holiday season Amazon’s Kindle lineup is as diverse as it has ever been.
Reviewers love Kindle Paperwhite for frequent reading. With a touch-sensitive “e-ink” display measuring 6 inches and rivaling the clarity of printed text, Kindle Paperwhite also features a backlight for reading in low-light situations.
The $119 e-reader’s battery will power the device for some eight weeks between charges, Amazon says.
Google Nexus 7
As many as one in four Americans own or use a tablet, according to research published last month, and there’s no shortage of quality choices among the portable computers this fall.
Sales of tablets were dominated by Apple’s $499 iPad until earlier this year, when smaller and cheaper tablets hit the market.
Showing strong sales figures and positive reviews is the $199 Nexus 7 from Google.
Built by computer manufacturer Asus and loaded with Google’s own Android operating system, Nexus 7 packs a new voice-responsive personal assistant app called Google Now, which answers questions, displays information and can even translate words into different languages.
The tablet’s 7-inch screen has become a highly desirable size among buyers, to the point that Apple — whose late founder, Steve Jobs, once said would never produce a tablet that small — unveiled its own “iPad Mini” a few weeks ago.
Nintendo Wii U
Nintendo hasn’t led the way in video gaming in recent years amid heavy competition from Microsoft’s Xbox and Sony’s PlayStation 3. But this holiday season the company hopes to bounce back with a new system that’s generating lots of interest.
Wii U, the successor to the Wii console released in 2006, hit store shelves last week.
Nintendo’s new offering introduces gamers to a controller called GamePad with touch display, webcam and microphone built in.
The 6-inch screen can be used for a variety of functions, allowing players to make in-game changes or use the display in lieu of a television.
The Wii U also connects to the Web for multiplayer games and to give users access to streaming video from the likes of Netflix and YouTube.
Early reviews say while the battery in the GamePad leaves a lot to be desired, the $300 Wii U is a nice upgrade for Nintendo fans.