I’m not angry with you, 2014. I’m just disappointed. You promised so much, but just couldn't deliver when it mattered. Almost across the board, 2014 was one big, fat letdown. Here’s why.
It was another year of wheel spinning in the smartphone industry. Lots of new flagship handsets, with minimal tangible gains. Sure, we got another crop of larger/slightly better screens, better processors and slightly improved cameras, but where was the wow factor? Since when did smartphones become like laptops?
Consumers are cottoning on too. Samsung’s Galaxy S sales are sinking, while Sony’s habit of releasing a new flagship Xperia phone biannually remains poorly thought out. Manufacturers are struggling to find enough new features to shout about new features every 12 months, let alone every six. The iPhone 6 and 6 Plus were Apple’s best handsets ever, but still kinda felt like the phones Apple should have made two years ago.
Wasn’t this supposed to be the year we all slapped on a smartwatch? As my colleague Simon Osborne-Walker pointed out in his column this week, time is running out for smartwatches.
Even with the coming of Android Wear - the so-called saviour - everything still has a decidedly first-gen feel to it. Unless this battery life issue is resolved and manufacturers figure out how to really aid our existence, rather than just place the smartphone experience on our wrists, smartwatches are doomed.
You want a bold prediction for 2015? The Apple Watch will be the biggest, most expensive flop in the history of the company.
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Still laying the groundwork
Back in January, if you’d asked me to predict 2014’s game changers that’d leave the tech world a different place, I’d have said 4K TV, Virtual Reality, mobile payments, the smart home, in-car systems and a pushback against privacy invasions post-Snowden.
However, it doesn’t feel like the game has changed. It doesn’t even feel like the game has even kicked off. All of these still feel like they belong on a “2015 Tech Trends” list.
4K televisions came down in cost, but there are still more challenges to overcome than there is content to enjoy. VR sets like the Oculus Rift and Samsung Gear VR won’t be consumer ready until well into next year, while the smart home and in-car tech is still in its infancy as companies like Apple, Google and Samsung acquire and strategically position their pieces. Progress has been made, but is it coming fast enough?
As for tech companies fighting back against government privacy invasions? Well, they’d need to get their own houses in order first…
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Return of the hack
What a shameful year it was for tech companies when it came to protecting our data. Instead of shoring up their defenses in the post-Snowden world, these companies fell asleep at the wheel. As a result, 2014 will be known as The Year of the Hack.
The iCloud celebrity hack scandal would have been a much bigger deal if the folks who usually get wound up about this stuff weren’t placated by seeing Jennifer Lawrence’s boobs. Apple got off way too easy (as it often tends to), blaming users for weak passwords before adding the extra security measures that could have negated the attack in the first place.
Earlier this year, the Heartbleed bug terrified the internet, before Dropbox let 7 million passwords slip. Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel claimed “he wanted to cry” when his private emails emerged as a result of the Sony hack. Poor fella.
Perhaps that’ll give him some empathy for the millions of Snapchat users who began 2014 with their phone numbers being leaked online? Or what about those 200,000 photos that emerged thanks to Snapchat's sloppy grip on the incompetent companies accessing its API.
And the Sony hack itself? Because of your failure to adhere to some of the most basic modern security principles, we now live in a world where any movie in the world can be pulled and tensions between the US and North Korea are at an all time high.
At some point in 2014, I figured I’d get the urge to ditch the trusty Xbox and go next-gen. It hasn’t happened yet, mainly because I’m yet to see how my gaming experience will be that greatly enhanced by upgrading.
Perhaps that’s another thing we can carry over into next-year’s ‘tech trends’ list alongside VR, smartwatches, smart cars, and the rest?