Top 10 toys for Christmas 2014: Hamleys' best tech toys tips
Christmas comes around so fast, at least it does when you're Pocket-lint. Not only do we celebrate the holiday season like everybody else, but we get a Christmas in the summer too.
That's because manufacturers and stores traditionally hold "Christmas in July" events to showcase the products they think consumers will be most interested in come the holiday rush, mainly for magazines and buyers with particularly long lead in times so they can ready their features or buying decisions.
Our first such event actually occurred at the end of June rather than in July itself, but we're not complaining, we got to play with toys. And no less than the top 10 toys that the most famous toy store in the world believes will fly off the shelves this year.
So, without further ado, these are the top 10 toys that Hamleys thinks parents will be willing to push each other over in the aisles to get hold of. And a vast majority of them are tech-based...
Kiddizoom Smart Watch
Move over Android Wear, the Kiddizoom Smart Watch from V-Tech offers kids aged five and up their own wrist device with games, alarm and even camera functionality.
Available from August in blue or pink, it comes with a 1.4-inch colour touch screen and also has a built-in motion sensor - a child's version of a fitness tracker. The built-in camera is capable of taking pics or recording video, and there amongst the many apps available is a voice changing effect mode. Now, why couldn't the Samsung Gear 2 have that?
The Kiddizoom Smart Watch will cost £50.
Pocket-lint went hands-on with the Teksta T-Rex in January at the London Toy Fair and instantly saw its appeal.
Hamleys also told us during its Christmas event that it completely sold out of the puppy last year and has very high hopes for the follow up, which could be seen as more geared to boys, although we have a three-year-old little girl in the extended Pocket-lint family who would beg to differ.
The new T-Rex has numerous robotic movements and features, including munching its included bone in half, and will retail for £74 when it hits the store in July.
My Friend Cayla
Part adorable and clever, part creepy, My Friend Cayla is an interactive doll that can answer just about any question put to her.
She syncs with an Android or iOS device through Bluetooth and understands speech through voice-recognition technology. Questions put to her will be searched for online - through the paired device's internet connection - and she'll respond by talking the answer.
Parents worried about what Cayla might say are rest assured that many pre-defined bad words or subjects are blocked. And through the dedicated app, a parent can also unlock different terms as a child ages - such as age-specific sexual educational topics.
My Friend Cayla also plays games, tell stories and discusses photos. She should be available now for £75.
This is something we'd not heard of before the Hamleys showcase, but it seems LeapFrog is about to launch its own videogames console for kids.
The brand is well versed with taking devices and technology usually aimed at adults and adapting the concept to appeal to young children and although the LeapTV at the event was only a prototype and non-operational, it gave a good indication as to what to expect when it launches in October.
Aimed at three to eight-year-olds, the LeapTV is sort of a toddler-friendly Wii alternative. It will come with Wi-Fi connectivity, a motion-sensitive controller that can morph for multiple uses - from a steering stick to a sword - and a motion camera, Kinect-style.
The system will be closed, in that games and educational software will be finely tuned for specific age categories and be available from LeapFrog. There's also a cartridge slot which we'd expect to be compatible with those available for the company's LeapPad tablets.
The LeapFrog LeapTV will cost £135.
Xeno is an alternative to the ever-popular interactive Furbys that seem to dominate Christmas toy charts year-in year-out.
It is an interactive cheeky baby monster, the type of which that live under kids' beds. And like Furby, it has digital eyes that offer over 40 different expressions based on the toy's emotional state.
Unlike Furby though, Xeno has a rubbery-feel exterior and comes with eight touch sensors and audio inputs. He also has a number of animatronics that bring him to life, and while not essential, a dedicated application can extend playtime with extra functionality.
Other Xeno friends will be introduced that the monster can interact with.
He costs £100 and is available now.
Barbie Colour Change Bag
Not a hugely complicated toy but interesting in a tech sense regardless, the life-sized Barbie Colour Change Bag can be altered in hue to suit a child's outfit by simply holding it over any item of clothing and it will match the colour underneath.
With LEDs in the bag exterior, it can be changed to match 100s of different colours, and also comes with a range of accessories that can be clipped into the side to personalise it further. A mini, matching version for Barbie herself is also supplied.
The Barbie Colour Change Bag costs £40 and is available now.
Doh Vinci Style & Store Vanity
Not technology centred exactly, but possibly inspired by the rapid rise of 3D printing, the Doh Vinci system by Play-Doh offers the opportunity to build 3D objects from a special form of the building clay, which then sets hard.
It comes with a Styler that can house Deco Pop tubes in different colours (four are included) and a child can therefore design their own jewellery around templates or of their own making. A storage station is included too.
The Doh Vinci Style & Store Vanity set costs £25 and will be available from July.
Transformers Chomp and Stomp Grimlock
To coincide with Transformers: Age of Extinction, the Chomp and Stomp Grimlock is a mighty 20-inch robot dinosaur that, when transformed to its full height, comes with a massive sword that pops out for battle.
It also comes with an included Optimus Prime mini-figure, that can fit inside the head. But when matched with other Power Battlers and One-Step Changes figures, the dinosaur's eyes light a different colour and it will emit alternative sounds.
The Transformers Chomp and Stomp Grimlock will be available from July for £115.
Boom Co Rapid Madness
All kids love shooting blaster darts at each other, but the Boom Co Rapid Madness goes one better by including darts that, when shot at a compatible target, stick in place.
It can shoot up to 20 darts in seconds and up to 50 feet and the smart stick technology in the darts ensures that they won't stick to anything but the included target or the blaster shields either side of the barrel.
The shields allow a user to collect darts shot at them, load and fire them right back, making for great skirmish fun. We had a go with the blaster at the Hamleys event (shooting at a target rather than young children) and it really does go like the clappers. It's incredibly fast and accurate, so there's plenty of fun to be had even if you're playing solo - er, even if a child is playing solo, we mean of course.
The blaster costs £65 and is in the store now.
Frozen Ice Skating Dolls
The last in Hamleys top 10 has no connection whatsoever to technology, but the store told us that it can't stock Frozen toys fast enough. As soon as they hit the shelves, it says, they are snapped up.
The latest in the line-up features ice-skating figures depicting the lead sisters from the Disney film, Anna and Elsa. As they come with a little bases that one foot rests in, they can glide across a floor, re-enacting the famous scene from the movie.
The Frozen Ice Skating Dolls might not be your cup of tea, but our three-year-old test subject knew all the words to the Disney film before even seeing it, so ignore at your peril.