It's difficult to think of 2018 as a year with anything worth celebrating. But despite all the bad news the year dealt us, there were successes -- if you know where to look. In all corners of tech, we saw wins big and small. There were advances in obvious categories like laptops, smartphones and the connected home, but we also looked outside the mainstream for some of the more surprising gems. Think mini synthesizers for music nerds, retro emulators for nostalgic gamers and e-readers for modern book snobs. Humanity also collectively triumphed, as our space exploration programs broke new frontiers this year and we began to confront the increasingly real question: Should we all just move to Mars?
2018 may have been a stinker of a year, but many of its developments laid the foundation for improvements next year. We're just two weeks away from what is hopefully a much better 12 months, and the Engadget team took some time to commemorate our favorite gadgets and trends in tech.
Apple Watch Series 4
For the Apple Watch, it seems that four times is a charm. After years of marketing the device in different, sometimes contradictory ways -- it's a running watch! It can replace your smartphone sometimes! -- Apple has come up with a more compelling reason for people to buy this thing: It might actually promote better health. The new Apple Watch Series 4 stands out for being the first consumer-grade device that can perform an electrocardiogram (ECG), a test used to diagnose a potentially dangerous heart condition called atrial fibrillation. Though the FDA is careful to note that this feature shouldn't be used to replace a doctor's visit, that the device received FDA clearance at all marks an important milestone for smartwatches. In addition to that, the watch detects low heart rates and ushers in a new fall-detection mode -- a handy feature for the elderly (and family members who can't always be nearby). All of this adds up to a more serious, more broadly useful health tracking device.
And those are just the wellness features. The Series 4 is otherwise a well-rounded, all-purpose device, with a sleek, waterproof design, bright screen, improved performance and battery life and a fun Walkie Talkie feature. Like previous generations, the Series 4 also offers accurate step tracking, built-in LTE and an ever-growing selection of watchfaces, some of them useful, and some just very pretty. In a year where Google redesigned Wear OS and Qualcomm launched a new made-for-wearables CPU, it's saying something that Apple still delivered the best smartwatch.
Amazon Kindle Paperwhite
You like to read... heck, you're doing it right now. I like to read, too, and as an anti book-snob, that makes me a fan of Amazon's Kindle line. The internet's bookstore makes various models, but the owner of the Kindle crown isn't the premium Oasis -- it's the Paperwhite. And this year, it has even more jewels in it thanks to new features and that Goldilocks price point.
The Paperwhite already had most of the features you'd want: Weeks-long battery life, a touchscreen (sorry, button-lovers) and an illuminated, crisp display. The 2018 model just ramped up the goodness with waterproofing and Bluetooth (for Audible support) among other minor improvements. Given that the 2017 Paperwhite was already one of our highest scoring gadgets, it's obvious why the latest model maintains its position at the top.
Of course, there are other e-readers: Nook and Kobo for example. But as Amazon started with (real) books, it's no surprise that the retail behemoth has dominated the e-book market too. I just wish the company had chosen another name... every time I read the word Paperwhite, I groan a little inside. Other than that, the Paperwhite (ugh) was without doubt one of the easiest products to review all year.