Dec. 29, 2013 at 10:27 AM ET
Some parts of the tech world remain mysterious and unpredictable, but there are a few things one can still count on and look forward to in 2014. Barring the appearance of flying cars or robotic butlers, here are our most anticipated items or trends in technology for 2014.
Apple goes big on iPads, iPhones — and yes, iTV
Anyone who had a problem with Apple expanding the screen of the iPhone from 3.5 to 4 inches has probably gotten over it, but we don't think the company is done — not by a long shot. Rumors have been swirling for a long time about upcoming changes to iOS devices, and none of them are about smaller versions.
How does a 4.5-inch iPhone sound to you? Too big? That's what everyone said about the 4.5-inch Android phones now considered undersized. With an edge-to-edge display and lightweight materials, a new iPhone could pack another half an inch onto its screen without making the phone much bigger at all.
Same with a 12- or 13-inch iPad — but if that seems a bit much for the occasional game of Plants vs. Zombies, rest assured that Apple will likely aim this device at its "pro" users. The iPad has often been criticized for not being a great platform for productivity, so the iPad Pro (if it follows the MacBook nomenclature) will aim at being a work/play hybrid, like Microsoft's Surface series. Expect accessories, too.
Lastly, the biggest screen of all: Apple's long-whispered iTV. 2014 is looking like the year when this mythical gadget finally appears, although its features (iPhone remote? 4K display?) are still a matter for speculation.
OLED TVs put picture quality front and center
If that iTV doesn't use OLED for its display technology, it's going to have a tough fight. After a decade of TVs using backlit LCDs, we're finally getting a brand new technology — and believe us, it's worth the wait.
TVs that use OLED have brighter highlights, darker shadows, better color, use less power and are a fraction of the size and weight of LCDs. The cost of production has made OLED TVs scarce (and expensive) for years, but supply lines are finally shaping up and manufacturers are eager to get this highly anticipated technology on shelves.
Kindle e-reader gets a big redesign
Amazon's Kindle Paperwhite is certainly the most popular e-reader out there, but some of the competing devices have real advantages. That may no longer be the case when the most major revision of the Kindle in years takes place this coming spring (that is, if the rumors are true).
A new high-resolution screen, improved fonts, a redesigned body — chances are the new Kindle will be the paperback replacement to beat in 2014.
Xbox One and PS4 make their real debuts
Wait, didn't the new game consoles already go on sale? Sure, but experience has taught us that with Sony and Microsoft, good things come to those who wait. Namely, games that truly take advantage of the new high-powered hardware.
It's happened with every other console out there, and it'll happen here — expect titles in 2014 that will make the launch lineup look like a bunch of Atari games. Trust us, if you're feeling underwhelmed by the selection now, you won't be by this time next year.
Oculus Rift (and Google Glass) take over your face
2014 is the year that eyeball-level tech moves from something you read about to something you can actually buy — or at least you're going to see a lot more of it. Google Glass should be offering its consumer version soon, meaning now anyone can look silly on the street while creeping out everyone around them. Just don't wear them on a date — or into a bar in Seattle.
Oculus Rift, however, might prove more fun. The virtual reality goggles have gone from Kickstarter sensation to one of the most high-profile companies in gaming. With a $75 million infusion and a legendary game designer taking over, 2014 will see not just way more developers making their games work with the headset, but you may even have a chance to buy one (just beware of motion sickness). We'll be checking out the latest version of the device at CES in Las Vegas in January.
Smartwatches make smartphones obsolete
Just kidding! These over-hyped devices have been a major disappointment. We don't expect much from the smartwatch world in 2014, though we do expect wearable tech to continue to blow up. Hopefully the disastrous Galaxy Gear and others convinced any prospective smartwatch makers to up their game.
Devin Coldewey is a contributing writer for NBC News Digital. His personal website is coldewey.cc.