More drones, more stuff being flung into space and less jobs for humans. Fine, fine, I'll go into a little more depth. 2015 has been yet another unbelievable year for technology, and 2016 has a lot to live up to. With a number of different technologies yet to truly come of age, there's almost too much to to look forward to. This time next year, will we be referring to it as The Year of Virtual Reality, The Year of IoT or The Year of 4K? Here's what to expect in 2016.
2015 was another barnstorming year for
Captain Smug Tim Cook and co, despite the iPad’s struggles, tax issues and the fact that everything Apple launched over the last 12 months sort of sucked. If the people in charge decided to stick the famous logo to an old cassette player tomorrow, you can guarantee that it would sell rather well. Whatever the company comes up with in 2016 will be a hit.
So what to expect? Its looking increasingly likely that a trio of new iPhones is in the works, with a 4-inch, slightly less expensive iPhone 6C rumoured to see the light of day in March, followed by the September launch of the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus. The latter two will be cut from the same cloth as their predecessors, but are likely to be even thinner, because everyone’s run out of ideas.
There’s also talk of an impending iPad Air 3 -- you know, lighter and more powerful than before -- launch, which would almost certainly go down towards the end of the year, just in time for the holiday season.
In its quest for more power, Apple’s said to be flirting with the idea of retiring the MacBook Air line and throwing more of its efforts into the MacBook Pro, though we wouldn’t bank on this happening just yet. The Apple Watch is also due an update in March, which means that a certain Mr Ive is probably working on his voiceover for a painfully pretentious, yet beautifully-shot, new video designed to distract us all from how limited the timepiece actually is.
There’s just one goal for Google in 2016: make Google+ the biggest, baddest social network the world has ever witnessed. Kidding, obviously. As one of those rare companies that seems capable of successfully focusing on a billion completely different projects at the same time, Google’s got another frighteningly congested year to look forward to.
First and foremost, there’s Android 7.0, aka Android N. The next version of Google’s mobile operating system is expected to introduce a range of productivity-friendly features, such as multitasking and enhanced support for peripherals. It’ll land around Halloween, alongside a brand new batch of Nexus devices, including a revamped, Huawei-built Nexus 7 tablet.
Remember Project Ara? Google’s had a bit of a mare trying to put its modular smartphone together, but the company’s confirmed that it will be revealed this year. Whether it hits the shelves or not in 2016 is another matter, but it would be great to see how much progress Google has made in the field. Goodness knows we’ve waited long enough.
You may have heard that the company’s going big on autonomous vehicles and, while we’re unlikely to see Google’s koala cars hit the UK’s streets in the coming months, keep your ears open for developments in the US. Last we heard, Google ain’t too pleased with California’s draft self-driving car regulations. It’ll be interesting to see if our government gives Google an easier ride.
Oh, and Google doesn’t seem to have learnt anything from the failure of Glass. The second version of its creepy, widely-hated, yet admittedly-potential-packed headset is in the works, and we can’t wait to see how round two plays out.
The powerhouse that seems to be in a constant state of flux needs to have a massive 2016. Fortunately, Satya Nadella’s got a beauty up his sleeve. If we had to pick just one upcoming gadget to pin all of our hopes on, it’d be HoloLens. The augmented reality headset got us all breathless, hot under the collar and sweaty-palmed when it was outed back in October, and we can’t wait to see more of it. Companies will be able to snap up rather pricey HoloLens development kits shortly, and we hope they do the gear justice.
Such is the hype surrounding HoloLens that Windows 10 Mobile -- which should have actually landed in 2015 -- is very much playing a supporting role. The software’s supposed to be the saviour of Windows Phone, and will take plenty of inspiration from the smash hit Windows 10. The Surface 4 and Surface Pro 5 are also on their way, though precise details are still scarce.
An old Xbox rumour has also reared its head once more, with suggestions that Microsoft is working on a pared-down version of its games console, which would run downloadable games only. If it actually exists, it could be called the Xbox Lite.
That covers much of what the traditional big dogs have in store for us, but what about the wider trends? We braved the world outside our lair to find out.
We’ve already touched on augmented reality, but there’s no doubt that we’re about to see significant steps in the VR space too. All eyes not completely fixed on HoloLens will be on (and in) the Oculus Rift, PlayStation VR, HTC Vive and countless other ‘Welcome To The Future’ headsets, which could genuinely change gaming forever.
“This is going to be the year that virtual reality becomes important,” said TechRadar’s global editor-in-chief Patrick Goss. “Don't expect it to become genuinely mainstream for a while yet, but gaming will be the Trojan horse that gets the headsets, and more importantly the idea, into our houses.”
His old mucker Marc Chacksfield is also completely convinced, and clearly has no issues with motion sickness, eyesight or stage fright. “The idea you can put on a headset and transport to another world still blows my mind but the clincher was seeing Palmer Luckey recently hit the stage to announce Rock Band VR,” he said. “I for one can't wait to don my plastic headset, plug into a computer generated world, while brandishing a fake guitar, and rock out to an audience made of pixels. It's what real life was made for.”
Nobody’s managed to cook up a decent -- or even a not terrible -- name for it yet, despite it being the major selling point for the Apple Watch, iPhone 6S, iPhone 6S Plus and Huawei Mate S, but pressure-sensitive smartphone screens will rightly be all the rage in 2016.
“I think that pressure sensitive screens will be massive in 2016,” said TechRadar’s phones and tablets editor Gareth Beavis. “With Apple leading the way, expect other Android manufacturers to catch up and developers to start making much more awesome apps as a result.”
The Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Edge are almost guaranteed to feature Samsung’s own take on the technology, and you can bet your bottom bitcoin that the likes of LG, Motorola and HTC will not want to be left playing catch-up. Please, please, please make it sound less shit though.
“IoT, huh, yeah. What is it good for? Something.” Edwin Starr knew what he was talking about. Unfortunately, half of the world still doesn’t understand what the Internet of Things means, and the vast majority of the other half doesn’t think it’s particularly useful. Regardless, home automation is going to be a big deal in the foreseeable future.
T3.com editor Dan Grabham says 2016 will be the year that companies take home automation more seriously. “Better home automation is on the cards,” he said. “We’ve got constantly improving systems like Hive and Nest of course, but Google’s Brillo and Apple’s HomeKit are set to bring whole new ecosystems of connected devices into our homes.”
Canonical also got in touch, and reckons we’ll see IoT products align on a single system this year, as it makes no sense to sense for them to continue using different protocols. Only then will we be able to reap the benefits of the system, with devices successfully communicating and working alongside each other.
After that, there’s the small matter of pricing to think about. Regardless of how intelligent it is, I’m never going to fork out £50+ for a fucking light bulb. If we don’t see sensible price cuts in the next few months, very little progress will be made.
Keen to offer an alternative view of the future, Lifehacker UK editor James Laird says it’s high time big businesses addressed the issue of work-life balance, as talented individuals are more aware than ever of the flexible working attitudes first popularised by startups. Those who have tasted it never want to give it up, while those that haven’t are growing more and more curious about life on the other side.
“There’s been a major shift in recent years, with more and more employers now open to flexible working models, and employees increasingly expectant of being given the freedom to pursue a healthier work-life balance,” he said. “2016 is the tipping point for me: while startups and lean organisations are typically now open to remote working, many big businesses still live in the cubicle and meeting room age. With talent retention key in today’s global economy, these organisations will have to wake up, or accept that their best creative minds won’t be milling around the water cooler for much longer.”
Whisper it for now, but the 4K future we were promised all those years ago is finally arriving. While we’ve been talking about it for yonks, most of our flirtations with 4K content have either come through online services, such as Netflix and YouTube, or at tech conferences. Sky Q will change everything.
“Sky will be launching the UK’s most comprehensive UHD service later in 2016 -- offering sport, movies and entertainment in stunning picture quality, up to four times the detail of current HD,” said Andrew Olson, Sky’s director of new products. Again though, expensive pricing could be the biggest obstacle. While Sky still hasn't revealed any figures, don't expect it to come cheap.