T3 Awards: Tech companies hold their own Oscars, featuring the best products of the year

The awards like to think of themselves as the tech's Academy Awards, giving out prizes to the best products and the people who made them

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The Independent Tech

What makes a great gadget? A must-have innovation? A slick interface? Killer design? Last night in London, technology magazine T3 revealed its gadgets of the year and, since this was the magazine’s tenth year of awards, its gadget of the decade.

That, it turned out, was the iPhone, which can fairly be said to have ticked all the boxes above. Its innovative streak began with the first iPhone, first sold in 2007, when it brought us the pinch-to-zoom effect we now take for granted. The iPhone won through votes from T3 Magazine’s readers.

T3 is one of several awards nights coming up in the next few weeks, all of which put the year’s releases into sharp relief. Next is the What Hi-Fi Awards, a mammoth event with over 100 winners including, I kid you not Best AV Cable. Best of all, there’s the Pocket-lint Awards which are unique in polling opinions from, and inspiring lively discussion between, a wider range of technology journalists, including the Independent.

Pocket-lint.com is a long-established tech website and the awards are a keen example of founder Stuart Miles’ determination to welcome opinion from every angle: his staff, rival publications and the site’s readers.

The T3 Awards night is always a glitzy, highly-polished event and last night’s was especially glam thanks to a new black-tie dress code and appearances from stars including will.i.am who won as Tech Personality of the Year – as reported before, the Black-Eyed Peas frontman says that he now devotes 90 per cent of his time to his i.am+ technology company against 10 per cent to music. And as the star told the Independent last night, he’s hard at work improving the skillset for Aneeda, the voice-activated interface that powers gadgets like the dial, his smart cuff and developing the handsome Bluetooth headphones that come with it.

There were also personality awards to Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales and Eben Upton, founder of Raspberry Pi and award presenters included BBC stalwarts Rory Cellan-Jones and (best of all), Johnny Ball, who had more energy, wit and charm than anyone else on stage.

Among products garlanded were the Naim Mu-so Qb, a small but extremely powerful wireless speaker that sounds tremendous for a one-box system. Replaceable grilles mean you can choose from blue, red, orange or black as the colour for your hi-fi – the Qb offers killer design thanks to a distinctive aluminium heat sink at its back and a deeply attractive, tactile touchscreen dial. Naim has built amazing sound into the Qb, and while it’s not cheap (£595) compared to Naim’s high-end models which can run to £100,000, it’s something of a bargain.

Apple didn’t win Phone of the Year, one of T3’s most-anticipated gongs, which went to Samsung for its Galaxy S7 edge smartphone. I think the latest handset, the Galaxy Note 7 is even better, but as it’s only now becoming available after the battery-related product recall, this is a deserved win. Samsung had a good night overall, thanks to winning Brand of the Year and the award for Wearable Technology of the Year for its Gear S2 watch. And if you like that, the soon-to-be-released S3 is a real leap forward, so it may figure in next year’s awards.

Sony was a big winner, too, grabbing camera of the year for the Sony A7R II, a spectacularly good mirrorless camera with 42.2MP sensor and great performance. And it took home the award for the best TV, the XD93. That’s a great TV but more recent models from Panasonic and indeed Sony, raise the bar much higher so, again, expect more awards to follow for these brands.

There were awards for less obvious candidates, too, so the Connected Home Tech of the Year went to Dyson for the Pure Cool Link fan which cools the air as it purifies it, all controllable from a smartphone. And the Ring Video Doorbell which lets you see who’s at the door from your smartphone screen whether your six feet or 6,000 miles away, won the Editor’s Choice Award.

The very top accolade, Gadget of the Year, presented in association with EE went to HTC for its amazing Vive Virtual Reality system. The same product also won Gaming Product of the Year.

T3’s judges included the magazine’s staff, plus tech industry cognoscenti such as the Sun’s Daniel Jones and Hannah Bouckley from Press Association. I may not have agreed with every choice but the awards provide a key insight into the trends and highlights of the tech world.

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