One day I woke up and realized it had been years since I’d thought about my old Dell Axim X30 personal digital assistant (PDA), let alone touched one. The device quickly became extinct, replaced by other technology forging ahead. PDAs are the ancestors of our modern mobile phones, in the same way a lot of the items we’re currently carrying around today will be looked back on in a few years the same way–in laughable disbelief that they lasted for so long.
It’d be hyperbole to say technology is on the brink of replacing some of the most important items ever, but as the new year rolls in, it brings with it a hit list full of items currently crucial in our everyday lives.
Some will protest that we’re still years away from losing such reliable material things; others will bring on the change with a sense of good riddance. Either way, these things are all on the verge of going the way of a New York City payphone.
The Internet of Things (IoT) is in the beginning stages of taking hold of our homes, connecting the simplest, everyday, objects to each other–and among its first orders of business is upgrading our locks.
A number of different manufacturers and startups are looking to take the hassle out of carrying keys, as well as add some additional benefits. For instance, smart locks could allow temporary digital keys that can be sent to people needing access to your home—and just as easily revoked.
August is a new startup providing its own smart lock and has been one of the companies helping to jump-start the space. Its product has been one of most highly regarded in terms of design, ease of use, and functionality. It isn’t the only one, however. Goji provides a similar offering and Sony has just recently overseen a crowdfunding project to do its own smart lock.
It isn’t just new startups or technology companies trying to make physical keys extinct. Long-time lock manufacturer Kwikset has developed something called the Kevo Smart Lock, a hybrid deadbolt lock that adds connectivity to your traditional keyhole, and currently retails for under $200.
Speaking of money and security: Wallets are here for the long haul, but in a race for convenience and consumer protection, they’ll continue to move from our pockets to our mobile phones. They’ve already become less personal with the loss of pictures, which have also largely been ported to our phones; it’s only a matter of time before they completely become 1s and 0s.
There are a lot of factors at play and over the course of this next year, after a number of fits and starts and bits and bitcoins, the digital wallet might actually happen. Google has offered a wallet solution in some form for a while, but since the introduction of Apple Pay, both now have a much better shot at making a meaningful impact. Both use NFC, contactless payments to house credit and debit cards.
Meanwhile, credit card companies in the United States are transitioning to a chip-and-pin payment system, like the kind Europe has, before the end of next year. That means that merchants are updating or replacing their payment terminals, most of which should include the ability to accept NFC payments.
Not only are consumers starting to get onboard with these new payment methods, but banks are as well. The banks like that digital wallets are typically more secure than physical cards–which will save them money. Besides NFC, there’s a retail consortium called CurrentC pushing another form of digital wallet. In this future consumers will use QR codes and barcode scanning to make purchases at stores and the retailers will gain spending information on consumers. This is unlikely to pan out for CurrentC, but stores want digital wallets as well, they just aren’t sure how to quite go about it yet.
On a flip side, Coin and Plastc are pushing the ball in their own way, getting people comfortable with a digital wallet, even if there’s still a physical component to it. Both startups will offer a physical card that has the ability to link up with a user’s smartphone and side load cards on to it. It’s all in the name of putting the pocket cowhide out to pasture.
Yo, wired headphones and earbuds: don’t let the door hit you on the way out. It can’t be too long before something catches the cord and my earbuds are violently ripped from my unsuspecting ears. Finally, the end is nigh.
Bluetooth headphones are steadily becoming more common, but the real advancement coming in 2015 is true, independently wireless earbuds that should get a lot of people to kick the wired habit.
Right now, we’re stuck with a cable connecting the speaker in our right ear with the one in our left ear. With advancements in software, however, we’ll soon have two separate and tiny earbuds that connect wirelessly to each ear and wirelessly to our mobile device. The Bluetooth spec allowing this advancement has been around for a while, but it’s only been in 2014 that companies are exploiting it.
Earin will most likely be one of the first with wireless stereo earbuds, but others like Ownphones aren’t far behind. It also wouldn’t be surprising to see Motorola get in the space, its mono Bluetooth headset was one of the smallest around.
The chance you’ll literally ride Uber into the new year–home from a new years party—isn’t small. Along the way, long-standing taxi regulations are showing increasing signs of weakness under the weight of your finger, calling a ride with a few taps. (Millions of dollars in lobbyists and armies of public relations experts and mobilized riders can’t hurt either.)
If it’s not Uber, then it’ll be Lyft or Sidecar or Hailo or one of the dozens of different options waiting to capitalize on how people commute and move around a city in an era when private car ownership is on the decline.
It’s not that taxis or these new ride sharing services shouldn’t have regular maintenance or driver background checks—or that the people driving them shouldn’t have dependable and good salaries and protections and insurance. But the divide between the old style of regulating taxis and the new peer-to-peer visions of Silicon Valley are reaching a breaking point. What those new regulations will look like in hundreds of cities around the world remains to be seen, but in 2015, tech companies will continue to play an outsized role in nudging the old rules aside.
Music isn’t becoming extinct, but downloads are.
It’s crazy to think that just a few years ago the word “download,” in reference to music, meant that you were on the cutting edge. But digital music has moved on and now it’s streaming music that garners all the interest.
This chart below, via the RIAA, shows where the music industry’s revenues come from now–the red represents CDs, dark purple is a downloaded single, light purple is a downloaded album, and the rest represent ad-supported streaming, paid subscriptions and internet and satellite radio. (Earlier in the 2000s, that little bit of turquoise represents music videos).
Not only are physical music sales slipping, but iTunes downloads are as well–pretty quickly too. People are finding ways to listen to music that usually include the words Spotify or YouTube.
In a shot across the bow of Spotify, Apple, the current king of paid downloads, is rumored to be preparing to tip the scales and put an end to most people downloading their music in 2015 with a rebranding or integration with Beats’ streaming music service the company bought in 2014. Whether subscriptions and advertisements can bolster the music industry in general against it’s record-setting losses isn’t yet clear.
For those that still want CD quality music, both Deezer and Tidal have made high fidelity streaming (with 1141 kbps Flac streams) a reality. And wireless carrier T-Mobile has a program in place that doesn’t count streaming music against people’s data plans. Downloads are quickly becoming toast.
Tom Warren, The Verge‘s Microsoft reporter, recently did the previously-unthinkable: he gave up his Windows Phone in favor of an iPhone. Among his top complaints were the lack of top-tier apps or apps that fail to get updated and rapidly start to decay.
It’s not for a lack of trying, the latest 8.1 phone software is practically on part with other mobile operating systems. But Microsoft’s timing has never been ahead of the curve enough to snatch potential users and get high-profile developers excited.
Nokia’s handsets are great, but they’ve yet to be enough to stop the exodus. At just 2.5-percent of the mobile phone market, there’s a real chance that Windows on phones goes away.
While some people are clinging hard and fast to their analog watches, the vast majority have given up on a wrist-worn object in favor of their mobile phone. Much like the payment space, Apple, Google, and many others are all vying for that personal piece of real estate—which just happens to be on your arm instead of in your back pocket.
Apple announced its Apple Watch is coming in early 2015, starting at $349, while Google already has many manufactures pumping out cheaper Android Wear smart watches. Some of these new watches are made to embrace the classic analog aesthetic, though many take advantage of new shapes and technologies.
Not only are Apple and Google looking to the wrist, but fitness companies like Jawbone, Garmin, Fitbit, and more are all actively trying to convince people to track their activity with wristbands full of advanced sensors. Many of these wearable makers are including screens to display the time and taking the concept of a watch in a new, healthier, direction.
Yup, reality itself might be steamrolled next year by something bigger–virtual reality.
The company most likely to change the future of virtual reality, Oculus was bought up by Facebook this year. That may have come for a bit of a shock for the hardcore Oculus fans, but for the rest of us, that means that the company will get the funds it needs to continue its work—finally making virtual reality that doesn’t suck.
Samsung is in on the virtual reality bandwagon as well, but instead of directly competing with Oculus, it has partnered with the company to power its Gear VR. Already available for purchase, owners of a Note 4 can slip it into the $199 headset to view games, videos, and movies in a whole new way.
Even if Apple isn’t yet publicly touching virtual reality yet, other companies have already begun to tap into the iPhone market. Pinc is one of those that offer a cheap ($99) headset for iPhone 6 owners and promises an immersive experience of games, shopping, and videos.
Coming from the less expensive side, Google is fully embracing Cardboard, the project it debuted at its I/O developers conference this year. With over 500,000 Cardboard units shipped, it’s now transitioning from being a “20-percent project” to a full time one which will be further developed in 2015. There are a few Cardboard kits that range from $15-20, but as long as you have the materials, free plans are available for anyone to construct a DIY headset that a phone can slide into.
And once Oculus finally publicly launches its offering you can bet Facebook will try to push virtual reality to a significant portion of the planet, in its continuing and much larger effort to kill “reality” as we have known it.