Six years ago, our own Andrew Lim predicted how mobile phones would shape the future of tech and kill off beloved gadgetry such as the humble MP3 Player. Some of his predictions were pretty safe bets, but some were rather bold. So, how did our predictions fare and what fresh predictions do we have for 2015?
The history of mobile phone technology reads a lot like the plot from Highlander: An army of standalone devices have been killed off one by one and their powers absorbed into a single, increasingly complex gadget; the smartphone that sits proudly in your pocket or bag.
In 2009, we predicted that the following devices would meet a grisly end thanks to the smartphone.
Back in the day, when mobile phones were the size of a tank and just as expensive, we had to call each other from smelly, claustrophobic street coffins that doubled as tramp toilets. The modern phone box offered a variety of new services including web access, but despite trying its best to adapt to the times, smartphones have made that bright red monument to yesteryear completely obsolete, just shy of its 100th birthday.
Well, not completely. Phone boxes still work well as prostitute advertisement boards and tourist selfie magnets.
Well, a strange one, this. Mobile phones may have helped to decrease the popularity of old fashioned wrist watches, thanks to their ability to tell the time as well as make phone calls, but now smartphones are helping to update and repopularise watches as all-new connected devices.
The likes of the Apple Watch, Samsung Gear S2 and modular smartwatch Blocks can deliver notifications to your wrist, so you don’t have to constantly yank your phone from your pocket. It’s a beautiful example of a symbiotic relationship. Guess we got that one wrong, then.
Bedside alarm clocks
It’s unlikely that mobile phone manufacturers realised back in the day how successful the alarm clock feature would be. Now everyone we know uses their smartphone as a wake-up device, with thousands of apps dedicated to stirring you from sleep in the least horrific way possible. And of course physical radios are pretty much a thing of the past, as you can simply stream your favourite station on any mobile device to any Bluetooth speaker. I believe that’s a victory.
Remember when we had to lug around an MP3 Player to listen to tunes? I do, mostly because my first MP3 Player was the size and weight of a house brick and could carry a mighty 100 songs. Oh, the fun of trying to work out which five or six albums out of your entire collection to burn onto it.
Apple is still pimping its iPods of course, but they’re no longer mere MP3 players. Now they stream video and play games and do everything a phone does except make calls, pretty much. So we’re counting this as another win.
Landline home phones
Everyone still has a landline connection in their homes, but it’s basically just used for web access. Do you know anyone under 30 who actually has a landline phone? If you do, stop being friends with them. They probably wear corduroys and have enormous beards and listen to Mumford & Sons.
Compact digital cameras
Camera smartphones have now reached the point where you can shoot beautiful vistas and blow them up to A2 size and frame them on your wall. With the likes of the Xperia Z5 packing a 23-megapixel beast and Samsung’s glorious 16-megapixel snapper on the Galaxy S6, both of which are capable of shooting up to 4K video with image stabilisation, there’s little need to cart around a separate camera too.
Of course, shooting video with an iPad is still the work of Satan.
When was the last time you saw (or God forbid, used) one of these miniature, crappy laptops? The RSI-encouraging plastic slabs were all the rage six or seven years ago, but now you can comfortably browse the web and edit documents on your phone or tablet, which is about a hundred times better. Get in the sea, wretched netbook tech.
Handheld games consoles
Mobile gaming is super popular across iOS and Android devices, and finally catching up on Windows devices too. However, the Nintendo 3DS is still alive and kicking, revamped in 2015 with an updated model, so the handheld games console hasn’t been completely wiped out by your trusty mobile just yet. In fact, the likes of the Xperia Play proved that mobile devices that try to emulate handheld consoles are generally about as much fun as gonorrhoea.
Still, we can’t see Nintendo putting out a new handheld device after the 3DS has run its course, with the Japanese giant finally (and reluctantly) turning its head to mobile platforms instead. After all, why pay £30 for a game when you can grab one off the App Store for a couple of quid, with superb graphics and gameplay?
Perhaps this prediction was a little bold. Phones and mobile devices are a great way to ingest information and we’re still pretty sure that paper newspapers and newspapers will be a rare and dying breed in a decade. But physical books will stick around much longer and it’s a sad world that completely replaces paper with digital screens.
Whether it’s using GPS to figure out where you are or instantly looking something up on your mobile’s web browser, life is definitely a lot less effort than it used to be. And judging by the volume of muppets we have to dodge on the street everyday, staring slack-jawed at their phone screens instead of where they’re walking, we’d say that mobile phones have successfully lowered the average IQ by a solid 20-30 points already.
So, do we have any fresh predictions for the next six years? Sure we do! Here’s what we think smartphones will make obsolete by 2021 and things that it should make obsolete but probably won’t.
Debit cards and cash
No, debit cards and cold, hard cash won’t be a thing of the past any time soon, but we expect a large portion of the population (mostly younger people) to ditch the debit and rely on their phones to pay for goods and services. With fingerprint verification, it’s a secure and convenient means of payment that allows you to leave your wallet at home.
Sadly few smartphones come with a built-in IR blaster, which is a massive shame because mobiles are the perfect remote control. After all, you have them on you pretty much all the time and they can be quickly found when lost just by ringing them. Still, as household devices become connected with built-in WiFi, we won’t even need an IR blaster to control everything in our house, so in th next decade or so we should see a lot less tech come bundled with their own individual remotes.
Got your own predictions of stuff that mobile phones will make obsolete? Let us know in the comments below.