2016: Year of Tech

So, 2016. I’m writing this on the seventh of Febuary, or 38 days into the year. It’s inarguable that we’re well into 2016 now, and equally inarguable that 2016 will be a huge year for technology. 2015 was about developmental tech: the Oculus Rifts, curved displays and the slow trickle of 4K. But 2016 is about implementation, about seeing those technologies come onto the common market place and into your home. We’re already had CES (the leviathan Consumer Electronics Show) but we’re now building up to MWC in Barcelona (the Mobile World Conference) as well as various individual product releases.

But for real though: 2015 was dope, thanks to you guys! Can’t wait for 2016 to take it to the next level.

— Marques Brownlee (@MKBHD) December 31, 2015

Taking those one at a time, let’s look at what’s likely to happen at Mobile World Conference (which is happening in about three week’s time). My inbox is already filled with press releases, and there seems to be a clear trend. Phones are heading upmarket. Samsung’s seismic shift towards making phones out of metal and glass, designed to square firmly off against Apple’s iPhones, will drive the rest of the marketplace. My expectation at MWC is to see a lot of phones you’d want to hold in your hand, with a far greater emphasis on design. If anything though, Apple has something of a monopoly on smartphone aesthetics. This was blindingly obvious with the Samsung Galaxy S6, which bore more than a passing resemblance to Apple’s iPhone 6. All this means that it wouldn’t be unreasonably to predict a number of copycat or at least similar-looking devices. I think this could be the year LG finally decides to build phones out of metal, which would be brilliant (and of course, something worth reviewing over at Kettle).

Though this is perhaps less realistic, I also harbour hopes for major battery life improvements. This could come in three ways. The first of these is more efficient processing. The next generation of Qualcomm’s Snapdragons, Intel’s mobile units and nVidia’s Tegras all claim to make advances in terms of how power is used – and these advancements are needed. It’s every bit as ridiculous as it sounds that your smartphone only lasts a day on a charge in 2016. The second part to the battery life equation is the batteries themselves. I think the chances of seeing an improvement in terms of capacity density (i.e. how much power can be held in reserve in a certain volume) are slim. Instead, I’m hoping to just see bigger batteries. If the iPhone 7 was 2mm thicker than the iPhone 6S it’d still be slim enough to cut fruit. But it might also be thick enough to double the battery capacity. Above all else, software needs to up its battery consumption game. And by software, I’m looking straight at you, Android. The present top-tier of Android smartphones have batteries dramatically larger than their Apple equivalents. Yet they last roughly the same amount of time. Android has to consumer power in a smarter and more frugal way.

So what else will 2016 bring? I think we’ll see an even greater falloff in Tablet sales. The reason for this is simple: smartphones are getting larger and more capable and laptops are getting lighter and more flexible. Take for example the Lenovo Yoga Pro 3 I tested a little while back. It weighed fairly little, had a brilliant touch screen and can now be purchased for £750. That’s less than £300 more than a 64GB iPad, and for that price differential, you get hugely more capability. It’s less than £100 more than the most basic of the iPad Pro lineup. At the other end of the scale, smartphones are releasing with more and more screen real estate and ever increased functionality. Unless tablets, both Android and iOS, find a way to improve their software so as to rival laptops or at least outperform them (and smartphones) in some areas, they’re destined to end up on the scrapheap of history for all but the most niche consumers.  

Now let’s take a look at the iPhone 7 and Galaxy S7. The Galaxy is expected to release significantly earlier in the year than the iPhone, which typically breaks cover around September. This could be a hugely entertaining contest. Consumer dependency on third party services, like Uber, Spotify and Netflix, means that switching between Android and iOS has never been quite so painless. The practical implication of this is that some iPhone users will become Android users, as well as the inverse. The devices are also increasingly interchangeable in terms of pricing, as Android has caught pace with Apple’s vast demands. I expect to see a screen resolution jump for iPhones, since the 6S isn’t even full HD yet. I also anticipate camera improvements atop the already splendid photographic setup. For the Samsung, everything’s a little hazy. My overriding desire is for a much more cleanly skimmed overlay. Samsung’s gotten better at customising Android in recent years, but there’s still some way to go before I recommend TouchWiz (or whatever else the overlay is called) over regular Android.

So there you have it, 2016. It’s going to be an absolute cracker.

What tech are you most looking forward to in 2016? Let us know in the comments below!