The year 2015 has been an interesting year in terms of consumer electronics. This year we saw a new Apple Watch, hover boards, and multiple different 3D interface devices, including a few that can be built at home. I know that tech gadgets aren’t for everybody, but with the great advances of this year I am excited for what next year will bring. The great yet somewhat annoying thing about new gadgets is how quickly the prices fall. A large television that was priced at $2000 can have a comparable alternative by the next year for a quarter of the price. Technology is getting bigger, better, faster, and cheaper, and it seems as though 2016 will be the most affordable year in terms of the sheer quantity of interesting gadgets. I have learned over the years that new technology is always around the corner, and while I have been known to be an early adopter of many new products, I often find myself enjoying the novelty of older gadgets. In 2016, I expect technology to make a massive shift into the scifi realm, and I think we will see some products that were once thought of as impossible. I don’t expect to see hologram phones just yet, but based on the technological advances of the past five years, something huge is right around the corner.
Even thought the iPhone 6s was released less than two months ago, there are already rumors about Apple’s next entry into the mobile phone market. The iPhone 7 figures to be the name of the next iPhone, and along with a slightly upgraded look, Apple plans to make this phone the slimmest smartphone of all time. I am all in favor for making phones more compact, but in order to achieve this slender profile, Apple is rumored to be doing away with the 3.5 mm headphone jack. The 3.5 mm headphone jack is the universal standard for smartphones and multimedia devices, and while Apple has plans to replace it with their lightning connector, ridding their phones of the standard headphone jack will almost certainly alienate costumers who are looking to try an iPhone. Apple is used to introducing new iterations of old products in an effort to shake up the phone industry, but this change may be a huge mistake. I don’t think Apple will lose customers with a drastic change in the phones facade, but they will definitely annoy many, by turning their expensive headphones into obsolete peripherals of the past. I hope this rumor isn’t true, and as with all rumors it should be taken with a grain of salt, but Apple has shown in the past that they would be willing to make big changes to fit their style. I guess we will all just have to wait until the release of this phone before we start assuming the worst from its potential design.
With modern advancements in technology, it is no longer a question of if you can do something on your mobile device, but when. In just a mere eight years, mobile phones have gone from being a luxury device to an everyday companion to over a billion people around the world. I once worked with mobile phones and I have to admit there were several things I believed would never make it to a mobile device, and today I can proudly list the top 5 things I thought would never be doable on a smartphone.
1. Order and Pay for Takeout
I am still getting used to no longer having to dial up Pete down the street when I am hungry for some pizza, but apps like Grubhub and Seamless have made ordering delivery or takeout as simple as a few taps on a screen. I have to admit I never thought my clumsy old blackberry would be able to deliver my lunch, but now we are possibly a couple of years away from it being able to control my entire kitchen.
2. Hail a Cab
Catching a cab in New York City can at times be stressful, but apps like Uber and Lyft have cut out the waiting and given customers like myself a personal car service in the palm of our hands. Now we are able to sit inside our warm offices as we wait for our ride home.
3. Pay for Purchases
There is absolutely nothing better than running out to the store with only your keys and your phone in your hand. Apple Pay has made shopping hassle free and has all but eliminated the need for a wallet.
4. Find a date
I am not big on online dating, but for those who are, smartphones have become a reliable wingman. Apps like Plenty of Fish and Tinder have become a one stop shop for singles looking to meet someone special, and they can both be used without stepping a foot out of the door. I bet you never thought your phone could help you find a wedding date.
5. Travel the World
Apps like Periscope and Meerkat have made our world closer than it has ever been. I am now able to travel to the Pyramids of Egypt without buying a plane ticket. Nothing beats the real thing, but it is amazing that our phones are able to take us to such far away locations at a moments notice.
This afternoon while I was shopping, I realized that I a no longer had to take my wallet out of my pocket in order to pay for my items. With apps like Apple Pay and Android Pay, millions of smartphone users can now tap their phones at a pay station, and keep it moving with their items in hand. These mobile phone based payment systems are extremely convenient, and so far they are relatively safe, it is a wonder that we even use paper currency at all anymore. Today’s smartphones have the processing power of an older model computer, and the portability of a pocket watch, I just wonder if we can soon do away with the bulk of wallets and keys all together and just use our smartphones. These days there are basically apps that can do anything imaginable. It is possible to start a car, order food, and even find a new friend over the phone, however we still use paper currency and identification. I understand that many people don’t fully trust the digital advancements that are being introduced, and that apps are not perfect, but if we could slowly start to shift to a more digital norm, the changes would be less daunting to those who are afraid of the future. The biggest fear of those who are against digital payment systems is the fear of hackers, but with the security measures many companies have put in place, using a smartphone to pay is possibly safer than carrying a credit card. I am sure that the introduction of mobile payment options is just a start to what is planned for the future of a paperless planet, I just hope security measures can continue to improve in order to prevent the fears of many from coming true.
In scifi movies robots are created to assist humans in basic everyday tasks, but in reality many believe they are being built to replace humanity. I know the idea automation can seem scary to many, but in reality people are getting too busy, and too advanced to not allow a robot to do some of the jobs we find tedious. I remember back when I used to work retail, customers would always prefer working with a human over an automated machine, they would think they are doing a service to humans by keeping us useful, but in my opinion what they were actually doing was tying us up in mundane tasks that could have easily been done by a computer. I understand that the use of robots in manufacturing assisted in crippling the American auto industry, and probably destroyed the economy of many cities throughout the US, but fearing the future is not going to stop it from coming. Technophobia is the fear of technological advancement, and it seems as though it is no longer a belief that is reserved for the very old. In this day of technological advancement many people fear they will be made obsolete, and while I agree that many current jobs will not be around in ten years, I think now is the time to begin learning about tech of the future. As long as humanity is building these machines of the future I am sure there will always be a job for man, but we have to learn to embrace the changes in order to avoid getting left behind.
Today, Apple had their yearly keynote speech, and unlike years past, they decided to load this one up with new additions. Whenever Apple wants to unveil a new product they often have a special event in which they focus on only one new product or iteration of a former product, but this year Apple decided to announce upgrades to two of their most popular products, the iPhone and the iPad, as well as a long overdue update to the Apple TV. As I watched this keynote and saw the new 12.9 inch iPad pro I wondered, “who would ever want an iPad that big?” I never actually looked at an iPad as a device that needs a larger model, but Apple seems to know how to release an item that meets a niche need, without losing its appeal to the larger public. The major news from this keynote was the introduction of Apple’s “new” iPhone. When I first saw the unveiling, it seemed like Apple was just trying to sell a slightly updated iPhone 6 with a new color variation, a strategy Apple seems to use time and time again, but upon watching the event I saw that they added quite a few interesting features. Apple knows that people think they just keep releasing the same device, with a shiny new coat of paint, so they decided to attack that exact notion. The tag line Apple used for today’s iPhone event was “the only thing that’s changed is everything,” a line that harkens to what is commonly said by critics of Apple products, “the only thing that’s changed is…” While I wouldn’t say that everything about the iPhone has changed, I will say the new 3d touch feature and camera features have made this phone seem like more of an upgrade than some of the past versions of the phone. Apple seems to be on a war path to steal complete market share from all of their competitors, and while these new products are definitely more advanced, I think I will be sticking with last year’s models until the next update. The future is definitely looking bright for technology, hopefully these newly announced products by Apple will bring forth greater improvements from all of their competition, and a golden age for technology.
I think the Internet may have killed the hobby of collecting. Since the dawn of the Internet people have been trying to digitize everything, from currency to medical records everything seems to have a digital copy or equivalent. There was once an era when music CDs, movies, and comic books held value for a considerable amount of time, but today they are vastly devalued by the existence of digital versions. The digital revolution, though convenient to the consumer, does have its casualties, and they are mainly in the form of collectables. The value of collectable items has seen a sharp decrease due to the rise of digital downloads, and it is not because of a lack of demand for these items but an over saturation of their availability. There was once a time when people would have to search thrift stores and garage sales for their childhood favorites, but today they can just download it and enjoy appeasing their nostalgia from home, and at a considerable discount. Most items that were ever dubbed “collector’s items” are now just valuable to collectors, they are now only sought after by hobbyists looking to complete a collection, so they are no longer as valuable as they once were. The Internet makes many things easy for everyday people, but it also teaches a lesson to those looking to make money from their old trinkets. The lesson is that all new technology will inevitably bring change, but not all change is good for business.
The commercialization of flying cars is a scary thought, with development of these vehicles quickly increasing, it is a foregone conclusion that one day Mr. Everyman will be able to get his hands on one of these dangerous flying machines. I know that commercial production of the flying car is most likely at least five years away, and it will take plenty of regulations and licensing to get these cars into the hands of the public, but just knowing these cars may someday be common modes of transportation is a bit chilling. Judging from the way people drive these days, I couldn’t fathom a rollout of flying cars going without a hitch. Road rage is a huge problem and with people shooting and ramming into one another over small disagreements it is hard to imagine what they would do with the ability to take these quarrels to the skies. Aside from road or air rage, flying cars would be hard to secure, I remember seeing a video of a child who stole his mother’s car to go on a joyride, this car ended up smashing into several parked cars, but if it was a flying car the damages would have been catastrophic. I can think of situations in which having a flying car would be quite favorable, but the overall problem with having these machines sold to the masses is the dangers they would cause to the public. I know flying cars are coming, and just based on the physics of the machines, we won’t be seeing any Jetsons like intersections for a while, I just hope every safety measure is put in place to make sure the vehicles are operated properly and intelligently when they finally get to market.
It is amazing to consider the fact that humans have lasted so long on this planet. Often times we look at luxuries of life as items we “could not live without” but considering the many people, even in this era, who live without these things, it is easy to distinguish these luxury items from those of necessity. I recently watched a 60 minutes report by the late Bob Simon, about the Moken people of Burma. These people have survived for centuries without the help of modern technology or even the modern advancements in medicine that many people in first world regions currently need. These people fully learned to live off of their land, they have adapted perfectly to swimming and spear fishing, and can be considered almost superhuman for their underwater endurance. The report centered on how the Moken people were able to survive the devastating Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004 by following signs they recognized and legends they’ve heard. The people noticed the water receding several hundred yards, then began to make their way to higher ground, warning others of the danger as they fled. The Moken people are a perfect example of human resilience, I have said in in a previous blog that humans are some incredible beings, but these people are showing they can thrive in any condition, all without the help of modern technology. If the Moken had our modern technology, and were busy using mobile phones or televisions, perhaps they would never have noticed the signs, they would have all been wiped out essentially due to technology. The longevity of the Moken people shows that technology may not be as necessary as we think, and perhaps if it were not so intertwined with our everyday lives, all humans would be more powerful and perceptive.