Summer, a time for tanning, burning, pub gardens, BBQs, overpriced ice creams, swimming, laziness, live music, bad map reading, dodgy shorts, silly hats, more pub gardens, and gadgets. Loads of lovely gadgets that you in no way need but find yourself increasingly tempted by as you dust off the suitcases.
Whether you’re heading abroad, to a festival or simply want some new tech in your life, we’re bringing you this guide to the gadgetry we think will upgrade the best season of the year (don’t @ us Santa).
1. UE Wonderboom
The UE Wonderboom looks like what would happen if you whacked the enormously popular UE Boom with a mallet and real-life mirrored that of a cartoon. It’s a shorter, more rotund version of its sibling, and for our money it’s the bluetooth speaker you should be picking up this summer.
The Wonderboom earns its name for a number of reasons. The headline feature is that it’s totally waterproof. Seriously, you can dunk this thing in the swimming pool as if it was a helpless little rubber duck without interrupting your Carly Rae Jepsen playlist, but its design means it’ll handily bob on the water’s surface without any inflatable assistance. Add shockproof to that arsenal and you’ve got one seriously durable speaker.
If you were expecting sound quality to take a hit, give yourself a gentle slap and stop being so cynical. The Wonderboom offers 360-degree audio and packs a bigger, bassier punch than a speaker of its modest size has any right to.
Oh, and you can grab one for less than 90 quid. Do that.
2. Nintendo Switch
Not saying that in-flight magazines aren’t riveting. Not saying that going all wide-eyed at the reduced price of duty free Paco Rabanne aftershave isn’t a good way to spend your time in the sky. But here’s something else you could do if you’re taking a plane somewhere this summer: buy yourself a Nintendo Switch and spend spend the entire journey playing one of the best video games of all time in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Handheld nirvana, reader.
Want to (ahem) switch things up? Slide those Joy-Con controllers off, boot up Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and you’ve got a superlative multiplayer experience anywhere you damn well want. Portable detractors have always argued that the best they can hope to produce is technically hampered or watered-down versions of the games you play on your home console of choice. With the Switch, the small-screen experience is so smooth and enjoyable that a lot of owners (this one included) barely use the TV dock at all.
The software lineup is still relatively small, but if you’re someone who likes to bring your gaming on holiday this is the machine to own right now.
3. GoPro Hero 5 Session
If a dude rides a wave in at the end of his first surfing lesson but didn't get POV footage of it, did it really happen?
The GoPro seems to become a less noticeable intrusion in your suitcase with each new iteration, and the idea behind the Hero 5 Session’s diminutive cubic form factor is that it almost becomes invisible. It’s there, capturing your every move, but the company wants you to forget that.
Using one of these cameras couldn't be more idiot proof. Attach it to one of the many available mounts (helmets, dogs, handlebars, skis, etc.), press shoot either on the device itself or through the partner app, and away you go. Alternatively – and providing you’re embracing the modern craze of talking to your tech – you can use the new voice control feature.
These things are built to endure pretty much whatever you throw at them, so all you need to worry about is all the brilliant holiday movies that you're never going to find the time to edit.
John Lewis, £299.00
4. iPad Pro 9.7
It's an iPad. You know what they're all about. And a year since its release, the 9.7” iPad Pro is still the king of the tablet class.
Most of the good stuff you get with the comically monstrous iPad Pro 12.9” – super slick keyboard attachment, better speakers, pencil support – is present here too, but it's just a lot more comfortable to use when out and about.
The 9.7” Pro is still the only iPad that employs Apples swanky True Tone technology, which alters the colour temperature of the screen in different kinds of ambient lighting. It’s a subtle effect, but it really does make everything look more natural, and feels less intense on your eyes when staring at the device for long periods of time. When you pair the low-reflectance display with the dynamically-adjusting brightness, the mini Pro is probably the best Apple tablet so far for outdoor use. It wants to be your sunbed companion.
If you're after a do-it-all device to load up with books, magazines, games and movies, whether it's for a holiday or a lazy day in the park, this is the one to go for. It’s not cheap, but it’s the best in the business.
5. Moov Now
If the main objective of your summer holiday involves a sunbed, extravagant cocktails containing spirits you can’t pronounce, and ploughing through your embarrassingly large backlog of books, then I’d probably recommend leaving the fitness tracker at home.
For everyone else, though, the warmer months are as good a time as any to big the running shows out and begin an only slightly half-hearted quest towards physical greatness. The Moov Now offers everything most people want from a tracker at a very low price, even more impressive when you consider its frankly ridiculous six-month battery life.
As well as keeping you informed about your day-to-day activity and sleep, its training modes can help maximise workouts, runs, cycling, boxing and even swimming. That’s a lot of functionality.
Fitness Nuts, £54.99
6. CSL – USB Desk Fan
Self-explanatory really. Stick one on your desk at work and smirk knowingly at your sweltering colleagues as sweat beads fall from their chin and into their keyboards. The losers.
Also good: direct it at your feet when you're lying in bed.
There are, on the internet, unsurprisingly rather a lot of fans to choose from, but this one reviews well and won't cross the budget borderline. It’s USB-powered, so you won’t have any problems finding somewhere to set it up, and the glossy black finish should also please those who need their compact desktop fans to be stylish. You know they’re out there.
7. Samsung Galaxy S8
Nothing enhances a holiday album like an underwater photo of your foot, and while it goes against everything you’ve come to believe about technology, the sensational new Samsung Galaxy S8 is water-resistant. Its IP68 certification means that the phone should be able to survive submerged 1.5 metres deep for up to 30 minutes. That’s more than enough time to line up a really hilarious snorkel selfie that you’ll forget about until your next biannual photo library clearout. “Ha!” you’ll say. “I remember that.” Then you’ll delete it.
Despite boasting about this technology in their marketing, companies tend to discourage consumers from actually trying it out. Not the case here, though. T-Mobile released this Galaxy S8 review video, where a scuba diver can be seen unboxing the phone in a precarious-looking underwater cage being circled by actual sharks. No, really.
Samsung, £689.00 up front, or available on contract from a number of networks
8. Globe GSB Blazer Bluetooth Speaker Skateboard
You have to be a certain type of person, I think, to buy a skateboard with an in-built bluetooth speaker. But if you’re sat reading this, flicking your gaze between the picture of Globe’s GSB Blazer 26” Cruiser, and a power pop playlist on your phone, visualising a long stretch of smooth concrete, perhaps on the seafront, thinking, “what if?” then you could well be that person.
They don’t come cheap, so think this one through. How much do you want to be the bluetooth speaker skateboard guy, carving through the streets of East London leaving a trail of Duran Duran in your wake? It’s a decision that lies with you and you alone.
9. Urbanista Seattle Wireless Headphones
Very 2017 thrill: saying goodbye to tedious untangling and a triumphant hello to wireless cans. As a semi-recent convert, let me tell you, once you cut the cord you’re never going back.
People are automatically sceptical about bluetooth headphones that come in at under the £100 mark – rightly so, more often than not – but Urbanista’s Seattle cans are a bargain you shouldn’t overlook. Comfy, sturdy, stylish(ish) and packing a solid 12-hour battery life (a 3.5mm socket on the left cup will keep the music playing if you experience the dreaded mid train-journey conkout), there’s little to find fault with here.
Where the Seattles stand out from their similarly-priced rivals is in the sound. The bass boost is satisfyingly weighty, while vocal performance – a department where cheaper headphones often fall short – is crisp and clean. Serious audiophiles are never going to be happy, but for the mainstream, this is as well-rounded a listening experience as you’re going to get for less than 90 smackers.
10. New Nokia 3310
Remember when mobile phones had bleepy bloopy ringtones, never-ending battery lives and an alarmingly fast-growing snake as the sole source of entertainment? Of course you do, because like everyone on the internet you’re a sucker for nostalgia, and your ears definitely pricked when Nokia announced they were bringing back the iconic 3310.
As it turns out, the 2017 version of everyone's favourite brick looks nothing much like its ancestor, sporting a colour screen, rudimentary web browser, a rubbish camera you’ll never use and a jarringly modern version of Snake (reptiles can move diagonally now, apparently). But at £39 it’s fairly cheap and could be the perfect festival phone.
That is, if you can actually get old of one. Both Carphone Warehouse and Vodafone are flying through their stock, so you might need a bit of luck on your side.
11. Anker PowerCore 20100
When it comes to portable chargers – as essential a summer holiday gadget as you’re going to get – Anker have been leading the pack for a long time. Grab this PowerCore 20100 and never again will that head-in-hands moment of seeing your phone/tablet/console/camera drop out while you’re on the go become a journey-wrecking issue. They also save you handing over precious pint money to charge your gear at one of those awkward booths at a festival.
A full charge of this little monster takes 10 hours, but that’ll give you seven charges of an iPhone (the iPhone 6 was the model tested, so expect it to be a teeny bit less for the iPhone 7) and two of an iPad Mini. Basically, it’ll get you from any A to any B without having to worry about the battery damage caused by hammering your way through an entire podcast series, and the 4.8A output will rocket the bar up before you can say, “man, I sure do love glowing screens.”
12. BioLite CampStove 2
Nothing enhances a camping trip, that age-old tradition of humankind reacquainting itself with the tranquility and back-to-basics thrill of nature, like a supremely hi-tech stove that would infuriate any Scout leader worth his heavily knotted piece of rope.
The BioLite CampStove 2 generates power from a smokeless fire that can be used to cook meals and boil up a kettle in minutes. As fans stoke the flames, extra heat is turned into electricity which can be used to charge anything plugged into one of the USB ports. So essentially you can power up your iPhone while simultaneously powering up your breakfast sausages, and then – signal permitting – Instagram the hell out of them. That’s camping.
Alpine Trek, £193.95
13. Parrot Swing Drone
If you want to see what all this drone stuff is about but, like most of us, are put off by the often astronomical entry price, then consider Parrot’s Swing minidrone. While it’s definitely more of a fun toy than a drone for pros, the Swing is easy to fly and impressively versatile. It also looks a bit like a Star Wars X-Wing, which is never going to hurt its appeal.
Vertical take-off and landing mean getting this thing up and running is always simple, but where the Swing differs from standard quadcopters (which can only face one way) is in its ability to fly with the propellers facing forward as well as up. Tilt the drone forward and it turns into a highly manoeuvrable plane, perfect for outside use.
A pretty useless in-built camera and rubbish battery life are inevitable downsides of a budget drone like this, but there’s some impressive tech in there, not least a boost mode that allows confident pilots to ramp up the speed (or bad ones to almost definitely send their machine hurtling straight into an angry neighbour’s hedge), and the included Flypad controller is designed to make pulling off the tricker stunts more manageable.
The ultimate poolside gadget? If you’re willing to accept the frequent recharges, then quite possibly.