To kick off 2012 the staff at TechBargains.com is looking ahead to technology trends, products and services they believe will be big this year. With the help of their users, they have come up with top seven predictions on what they expect to take shape in the tech world in 2012.
Below, the staff at Tech Bargains will share with us what their Top Tech Predictions are for 2012! Take it away guys!
1. Postpaid Cell Phone Plans Start To Lose Market Share
Many people will stop buying postpaid cell phones plans or two year contracts because they rarely use the plan minutes. Most of us buy the plan simply for the data which typically means a minimum $70 monthly phone bill. Ouch! WiFi is ubiquitous. Alternatively, these users will swap to prepaid plans like Virgin Mobile with unlimited data and fewer cell phone minutes which cost roughly $35 a month or cell phone users will opt for a combination data plan on their tablet and much cheaper prepaid cell phone like GoPhone or Tracfone. Skype for VOIP is also likely to be heavily utilized by this set of users. Republic Wireless is even pushing a new cell phone network that leverages their proprietary technology that supposedly allows seamless jumping from WiFi network to WiFi network with cell towers to cover any gaps at a low price of $19 a month. It is currently in Beta, but if it actually works and the business model can handle it this could be a total game changer.
2. Solid State Drives (SSD) Go Mainstream
Most tech enthusiasts agree that substituting an SSD for your regular internal hard drive is the single best speed upgrade you can make on your laptop computer. It’s more effective than replacing your processor or increasing RAM which are the first things people tend to try. For this reason, SSDs have already gained traction with our tech enthusiast audience, with searches for “SSD” increasing 65% from last year and moving up from #10 search term to #3 on the site. There’s no question that we all care about the speed of a computer so why haven’t SSDs yet gone mainstream for businesses and consumers?
The first objection we always hear is that SSDs don’t have enough storage space. It’s true that most hard drives are at least 320GB or 500GB and the largest mainstream SSDs max out at 256GB. But is this really an important difference? To gain more insight we conducted a survey in the office (and got 50 responses after bribing people with chocolate) asking how much space do they actually use on your laptop? Keep in mind all of our laptops have least 250GB of storage, but surprisingly the median usage was only 70GB and the average was 112GB, well within the sweet spot of SSDs at 128GB. Of course everyone wants more space, but if it goes unused in practice then it doesn’t provide meaningful benefits. It’s like buying a car that can go 300 mph when getting a car that accelerates faster to 60 mph would be more practical. Finally, given the emergence of cloud storage services from Apple and Amazon, the need for hard drive space should decrease over time. So let’s consider the storage space myth busted.
The second objection we hear is SSDs are too pricey. Yes, if you buy a 500GB SSD it would cost you your first born, but a 128GB SSD on our site can cost you less than $150 if you use TechBargains.com (sorry for the shameless plug). There is nothing you can do to your for $150 or less that would speed up your laptop more than buying an SSD. We think that businesses will be the first to adopt this SSD standard and consumers will soon follow once they realize that their personal laptops are sadly inadequate.
3. Google Finally Forces Android to Be Fully Upgradable Across All Devices
One of the biggest hassles with Android is that many devices cannot be upgraded and are frequently shipped with out of date versions of the operating software. Some of these can be up to 18 months out of date. Without relying on hacking your phone or tablet (which not everyone wants to do or is comfortable doing) you’ll never get access to the newest features from an Android Phone without springing for a new device. Even if you do, you will still be subjected to legacy issues like lag or security exploits that hinders the device, making it seem outdated, and guess what you’re frequently still stuck with a two year contract for these items. This cash scheme can easily rub some consumers the wrong way, forcing them to consider iOS devices even if they don’t want to, and weakens the Android brand. Why spend a lot of cash on something you’re not guaranteed will last?
To further combat Apple’s iOS progress, and potentially steal thunder from the upcoming iPad 3 and iPhone 5 announcements, Google recompiles the entire Kernel of Android 4.5, codenamed Chocolate Chip Cookie. Future upgrades are scalable based on a general set of Android features that revolve around a core Google suite of apps and features including email, maps, calendar, search, Android market and more. This ensures that all users get a baseline set of functionality while still taking advantage of new hardware advances like dual core processors and higher resolution screens. Device manufacturers can customize and manipulate the look and feel of the system and even offer alternatives to apps (a la Samsung’s Touchwiz and Swype functionality). Older devices would be upgraded via Chocolate Chip Cookie Lite, the core package of Google apps that breathes new life into these devices.
4. Virtual Personal Assistants Become More Advanced and Prevalent
With the launch of the iPhone 4S Apple provided a virtual assistant to customers with Siri, who could send text messages, deliver weather reports and set reminders of your schedule. While much of its responses were driven by internet searches, a portion of information Siri responded to was governed by the user: who their contacts were, what their schedule looked like, etc. Much of this essentially formed a personal cloud that the assistant could pull data from. Since Apple has stressed that Siri is still a Beta product, additional functions to help carry out daily functions are sure to follow.
Google is rumored to launch its answer to Siri, codenamed Majel, very soon. With this heightened emphasis on voice driven assistants, it’s not outside of the realm of possibility to see the expansion of personal cloud driven information accessed by these “assistants” not only become more seamlessly integrated, but start forming rudimentary AI networks for daily tasks. For example, it wouldn’t be surprising to notice the Geolocation feature on your phone recognize when you show up at work, and have your assistant reach out to other assistants of co-workers to automatically update your calendar for meetings. You could also have a dock (or even AppleTV, if it’s launched this year); have an assistant recognize your patterns. Imagine waking up in the morning and your assistant automatically checks weather and traffic on your route to work.
5. Security Concerns Demolish a Wireless Carrier
It’s no surprise that consumers are acquiring a lot more mobile devices, but along with a rise in cell phone use comes the expectation of stronger security for these devices. Customers expect that their texts, browsing history and other information is private, particularly when they sign numerous contracts that details what they can and can’t do with their devices without paying exorbitant fees. If a company violates that trust, then it shouldn’t expect that consumers will stay with them, even if they have the “hottest” device on the market.
Earlier in 2011, Geolocation-gate nailed Apple for its user tracking software that logged GPS coordinate info wherever iPhone users went. At the tail end of 2011, the recently discovered Carrier IQ controversy threatened the reputation of AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, HTC, Motorola, Samsung and Research in Motion because of the unauthorized and unwitting monitoring and tracking of every user’s activity on more than 141 million devices. With more and more devices being activated every day, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that some new security concern arises in 2012 that completely erodes faith and trust in either a mobile phone company or a wireless carrier.
This revelation could come in the form of some new wireless signal tracking software, data transmission recorder or usage meter. It could even come from the aftermath of the Carrier IQ findings, as more investigators discover who gave the green light to have spyware installed across a large number of handsets across a number of carriers and what was explicitly captured by the software. Either way, once these secrets come to light, the mobile landscape might not be the same again.
6. Tablets Change Form and Drop in Price
Tablets will be big in 2012. Big shocker, right? Tablets were the #1 search on Techbargains.com during the busy shopping period between from Black Friday into the first week of December, a 559% increase from last year when tablet searches ranked #40. You can expect to see the look, features and price of tablets changing dramatically.
The 2012 International CES in Las Vegas, Nevada has already promised to showcase a number of devices with the foldable AMOLED display. Techbargains.com user Willie Manning predicted, “In 2012 expect to see a folding tablet computer with twice the capability of current offerings, smaller footprint and greater speeds. Entering the tablet market now, there will need to be change to effectively launch the continued use of the tablet and further keep the interest of users or those looking to get into this market.”
As tablets become more versatile and the price point drops consumer demand for computers will drop. Tablets are clearly taking market share away from laptops and netbooks with searches for both dropping this holiday shopping season compared to last year. Laptop and netbook searches fell 20%.
“Tablets are going to replace notebooks,” predicted Techbargains.com user Rama Reddy. “With on the fly Internet availability and given its capability of taking notes it is a must for all kinds of people. Smaller, portable, carry any where everywhere is what a customer would want today. With tablets you can replace a DVD player as you can see movies. It replaces a regular camera as it has a camera. It replaces a notebook at it does everything that a notebook does. It replaces a phone as with a Bluetooth you can call and receive phone calls. Tablets are already there.”
7. The Cloud Gets Grounded
2011 was a big year for the tech world’s latest buzz term: The Cloud. Every company from Apple to Amazon touted that people would have access to their files anywhere at any time, without any problems. But 2011 also showed that there were stormy skies that kept The Cloud grounded by technical limitations. Apple had to push back the launch of iCloud several times, and Amazon suffered crashes that erased data and knocked some websites offline.
That’s not to mention the other technical speed bumps that plagued large numbers of companies around the world. The significant data breeches of Sony, Stratfor and other companies by hacktivists or even criminals cast doubt on the safety and security of files stored on shapeless servers far away from a computer user’s direct control. As a result, while the concept of the cloud is a great one, adoption of the “access anywhere, store everything” system probably doesn’t come close to fully taking off for at least another year or two, if it ever lifts off.
So, hold onto your HP Laptop Battery… and tell us… What do you think of their tech predictions? Do you agree with any of these?