Apple, games developers and phone networks, it's time for change in 2015
Now that Black Friday and Cyber Monday are out of the way, we can begin the steady wind down to the close of the year. This is about the time where we allow ourselves to indulge in a little sober reflection.
2014 has been a brilliant year for new tech products, but there are a number of trends and tendencies that we’d rather not see repeated in 2015.
We’re optimistic that next year will be the best year in tech since, well, this year. But it will be a lot better if these ten tech matters are fixed.
The iPad mini 2 to be a proper update
Apple tried an unorthodox dual approach with its 2014 tablet range - a swift pat on the back/kick in the balls one-two that left us wondering whether we should be feeling grateful or slighted.
While the iPad Air 2 is quite simply the best tablet around, with considerable improvements throughout - to screen, size, power, camera, and storage - the iPad mini 3 is barely deserving of the numeral bump.
Essentially last year’s iPad mini 2 with an all-but-useless Touch ID home button grafted on, it struck us as somewhat brazen that Apple would quote the same launch price as the previous two models.
We’re hoping that Apple hasn’t abandoned its compact tablet range altogether, and that next year will see a proper follow-on to the excellent iPhone mini 2. The iPad Air 2’s super-slim body, laminated display, and massively upgraded internals should be the bare minimum here.
Developers launching buggy games
Okay game developers, enough is enough. This isn’t the first generation of consoles with a deeply integrated online infrastructure, so you you should be better at this by now. You should be able to launch a functionally complete game on time without leaning on that aforementioned internet connection to fix your half-baked code after the fact.
Whether it’s the dodgy online components of Halo: The Master Chief Collection and DriveClub, or the fun but just-plain-broken Assassin’s Creed Unity, we’ve had a gut-full of patently unfinished games being wrapped up and sold to us as finished products.
2014 has seen some of the most blatant cases yet of developers using their customers as glorified beta testers - and charging us full-whack for the service to boot. Stop it.
Data roaming to be scrapped on all networks
It seems faintly absurd that mobile phone users continue to be penalised for being mobile. You can fly half way across the world for a few hundred pounds, but step across your national border and the odds are you’ll incur a chunky penalty in mobile roaming charges.
It becomes particularly absurd when you consider that most of the world’s major networks are multi-national affairs with brands that operate in various countries. It should be apparent that allowing users the free use of their mobiles wherever they are will benefit everyone.
The European Parliament has voted to scrap such charges in Europe, which is a great start, but we’d love to see all networks taking the initiative and ending them of their own free will across the world.
Battery life on wearables
2014 was going to be the year of the wearable, just like 2013 was before it, and just like 2015 is predicted to be now. Yep, the smartwatch hasn’t quite taken off like many predicted it would.
Some would say that’s because the Apple Watch hasn’t entered the market yet, but we reckon that there’s a more fundamental reason than that. What’s more, Apple itself seems to have missed it.
Wearables just don’t last long enough. Who wants to charge their watch every night? Heck, who wants to charge their watch every OTHER night?
Until smartwatches and other wearables have nice lengthy multi-day lifespans, we suspect that they won’t be fully adopted by the general public.
Voice recognition – more reliable, less reliant on an internet connection
Talking to your phone is most definitely a thing now. The iPhone does it with Siri, of course, and now Android and Windows Phone do it with Google Now and Cortana respectively - not to mention all of the related wearables and smartwatches that hook into these mobile ecosystems.
Still, we predict that you won’t see more than a small percentage of people actually using these voice recognition systems regularly until the reliability and robustness of the software is improved.
‘Most of the time’ simply isn’t good enough here, but it’s where we are right now with the best of them. We need to get to the point where we’re surprised when a voice recognition tool doesn’t work, such is its consistency and adaptability to various ambient conditions.
Only then will talking to our devices become an instinctual, automatic process.
A killer app that makes me need a smartwatch
So, the battery life on wearables sucks. We’ve established that. But there’s another basic reason why smartwatches haven’t taken off, and it’s potentially more problematic.
There’s no real point to them.
Do you really need cluttered notifications that ping the space of a couple of feet from your pocket to your wrist? I mean, just how lazy are we?
No, what we need is for someone to take the smartwatch concept and imbue it with a killer app. Something that makes our lives genuinely easier, and which couldn’t exist in any other form factor.
Do we have any idea what that killer app is? If we did, we suspect we’d be much richer right now.
Internet TV – Getting live TV on the internet easily
Netflix CEO Reed Hastings recently predicted that broadcast TV would be dead by 2030. That maybe so, but it’s not going anywhere until you can stream more of its content over the internet quickly, reliably, and comprehensively.
Streaming services have now offer high quality HD content, as well as original programming that you can get through traditional means. Yet it’s still a complete pain getting it to your TV in any way other than over a traditional cable or digital aerial service.
Hopefully that will start changing in 2015.
You’ve probably heard it stated countless times over the past couple of years, but the laptop industry is not in a very healthy place. With people doing an increasing number of computational tasks on their whopping great smartphones and tablets, fewer people feel compelled to splash out £500-plus on an ugly clamshell desk-hogger.
Of course, Apple’s MacBook line still sells well at the top end of the market, as do those cheap and cheerful Google Chromebooks at the opposite end.
Which kind of tells you something important: there’s still a market for laptops - it’s just that most laptops aren’t good enough.
In fairness, it seems as if the Windows 8 2-in–1 market is finally starting to hit its stride. Despite, you know, the whole Windows 8 thing.
Really, in 2015, we just want the general standard of laptops to go up a notch or two. It’s got to the point with smartphones now that you don’t see many outright bad examples, with general standards across the market commendably high. That’s what we want to see from you laptop manufacturers, and less of the creaky bodies, washed-out displays, nasty keyboards, and other unacceptable compromises while you’re at it.
More 4K content
As we enter the closing stretch of 2014, one of the most notable tech trends to note is that 4K TV sets are finally starting to sell in real quantities. Q3 sales have spiked 500 percent year on year.
Of course, the biggest buyers of 4K TV sets are the Chinese. Here in the West, we remain relatively unconvinced, and there’s a pretty simple reason for that.
As seasoned veterans of consecutive TV standard advances - and ones who perhaps aren’t as cash rich as we once were - we require proof that a new standard is the real deal. And that proof takes the form of content.
Why should your average Joe jump aboard the still-expensive 4K bandwagon when there’s no 4K content ecosystem to speak of?
So far, Netflix is the most high profile pusher of mainstream 4K content, and even then it’s only a few signature series that have been given the UHD treatment. Come on content creators - give us some 4K love in 2015.
Faux metal and leather on smartphones
In 2013, Apple launched iOS 7, finally eradicating the skeuomorphism that had plagued its mobile operating system with tasteless fake material effects.
Now, in 2015, it’s the turn of Android manufacturers to finally abandon the fake materials in their own physical designs.
Yes, we’re mainly talking about Samsung here, but it’s a general point that still applies to the majority of smartphone manufacturers. Please, phone makers - no more leather-effect plastic rear covers. No more fake stitching. And for Pete’s sake, no more shiny fake metal rims.
You don’t have to go all boring and uniform with your metal and plastic flourishes - just look at the way Motorola has incorporated real leather and real wood into its Moto X 2014 design, for an example of what can be done.
Just keep it real, yeah?
What in the tech world do you want fixed in 2015? Let us know in the comments below