If you are a regular reader of NextPit, you will know that every Wednesday morning, we publish a specially curated article specially for our weekly newsletter. Through the entire month of December, NextPit wanted to bring about a bit of positivity to the end of a year that is filled with lockdowns and quarantines.
This is why my colleagues Ben, Rahul, and I have signed on to write articles that deal with the beneficial aspects of tech usage during quarantine involving e-learning or responsible consumerism, for instance. Or why I tried to change your mind with my Christmas Story last week.
For this final opening post of our newsletter in 2020, I asked my fellow editors from NextPit Germany and the UK/US to share their expectations and predictions for the tech market in 2021. This is a way to invite you to exchange ideas concerning what’s in store for us next year as well as to look forward to a future in which we all hope will be brighter.
Ben wants less headaches with his tech products
“Does everything have to be this complicated?” That is the question I’d like to see tech manufacturers ask themselves more often in 2021. I have an Ultimate Ears Blast Bluetooth speaker that hangs around somewhere in my apartment and it still works very well, but unfortunately I can only charge it with a proprietary micro-USB cable, which happens to be the only one in the market that offers the correct form factor that aligns to the speaker’s charging port.
The same goes for the different fitness trackers that I’ve been able to review this year that can only be recharged using their respective proprietary chargers, or the applications that will only work with selected devices. Why do Mac or Linux users still have to download Netflix movies in order to bring with them on their smartphones?
The answer to all these questions can be found in a drawer in Cupertino, Silicon Valley or elsewhere. Because these are the little problems which we all have discovered by 2020 at the latest, happen to be carefully calculated moves, specially intended to create dependencies and nudge you towards making a new purchase (or more).
Bad decisions knowingly made by manufacturers result in the detriment of consumers who more often than not, have to pay more for them. I want to see simpler and smarter solutions in 2021, such as the tiny light on top of Thinkpad laptops or the small screw compartment in the base of the Sony PS5. The devil is in the details!
Stefan wants us to stop squinting at the smartphone’s zoom lenses
For 2021, I’d like to see clearer camera concepts for smartphones, especially for Android-powered handsets. In the entry-level and mid-range, there is a quad-camera module on almost every smartphone, but these often happen to be sensors that are virtually useless or at best, anecdotal.
3D depth sensors, for example, are superfluous if an ultra-wide-angle camera is also installed. And the widely used 2 megapixel macro lenses offer no more resolution and level of detail than wide-angle main lenses of 48, 64 megapixels or more, despite having a short focusing distance.
Low-resolution telephoto lenses are also often less useful than they appear at first glance. Sensors that are below 1/3-inch, especially when used in combination with high focal lengths, are only suitable for pictures under truly optimal lighting conditions.
Even so, the results are often no better than the digital magnification of high-resolution, large sensor main cameras. And if the manufacturer doesn’t reveal the size of the sensors for each lens in the photo module, then – surprise, surprise – they are usually too small to be of note.
Even if four lenses are better than two just to show off, the unfortunate widespread chaos in the camera phone market ecosystem is not helping anyone take good photos, while adding to the overall confusion among consumers with various superlatives such as super, mega, or even an absurd 100x zoom. Hopefully, manufacturers will do better in 2021.
David dreams of becoming a Sadist 2.0 and hopes for the fall of GAFA
Over the past decade or so, we have seen the world’s largest tech companies accumulate more wealth, more power, and more influence over society, and the health crisis of 2020 caused by the coronavirus pandemic has not helped shift the base of power, but rather, entrenched it further. This year, the accumulated wealth of the world’s billionaires exceeded $10 trillion – and much of it is concentrated in Silicon Valley.
It was an exceptional year for the world’s richest man, Jeff Bezos. Amazon tripled its net income in the third quarter of 2020. All the while adding $6.33 billion more to the bank. Meanwhile, its employees are on strike, demanding better working conditions and asking their employer to reduce its carbon footprint. Eco-friendly practices do seem to be the farthest thing from their minds. And don’t even get me started on Facebook – do we really want another decade of GAFA?
Of course, there have been some rays of hope. The bosses of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google have all had to face the US Congress this year, squirming in their chairs, dodging and arguing their way through in an unconvincing manner that their companies are not involved in anti-competitive practices just to strengthen their already monopolistic positions. When even the U.S. thinks that a company is pushing the capitalism envelope too far, you know that it is really, really bad.
I hope that 2021 will mark the beginning of the collapse of Big Tech. I hope that the pressure from Europe in 2020 will continue well into 2021 and for the rest of the decade. I want the so-called GAFA to pay the proper amount of taxes, be responsible with our private data and pollute the planet a whole lot less. Far, far less. “Don’t be evil, don’t be evil”, as Google used to say. Let’s put that motto back on the agenda in 2021.
Rahul wants to put an end to nasty notches
To be frank, I don’t really expect the technology sector to change quickly in 2021. Of course, we will see gradual (but incremental) improvements in smartphone functionality. There might be some interesting products from Chinese manufacturers – but then again, isn’t that the case every year since what – 2016?
Something that could be more widely adopted in 2021 and that I’m particularly interested in are the front cameras hidden “under the screen”. While the very first smartphone with this “under display” functionality, the ZTE Axon 20 5G, didn’t really impress reviewers, I’m sure there will be more iterations of this idea in 2021.
More than the technology itself, one thing I honestly look forward to once this technology is widespread is to see the notches and other infamous punches fall into oblivion. And I hope that will happen as early as 2021.
For those who are interested in computing, the arrival of Apple’s ARM-based M1 chip in 2020 may be the most significant change the industry has seen in decades. In 2021, I expect Apple to consolidate its position further in this space. Since the x86 camp is literally not competing with it, I’m afraid it will be a bloodbath and other notebook manufacturers will watch helplessly as Apple gobbles up their market share.
Antoine: Gaming is the new camera module!
I’m dreaming of a tech which in 2021, would finally understand the degree of interest in smartphone gaming. As you know, I play a lot of mobile games. But, even in 2020 and when Asus or Lenovo are producing real powerful monsters, I haven’t yet had a video game experience that is as deep and profound as with a “real” video game on a PC or console.
What I would like to see is that gaming is no longer a niche piece of software, but for manufacturers to take full advantage of a device’s hardware potential. I am convinced that gaming can become a key vector in the evolution of our smartphones, just like how photography spearheaded a revolution before. Gaming is the new camera module!
From the fluidity and responsiveness of the screens, to the performance of SoCs, to ever-increasing battery life and cooling system, gaming has everything it needs to spearhead the next arms race for innovation and profoundly change the way we use our smartphones.
What I’m saying is, I would like to see manufacturers like OnePlus, Asus, Lenovo, and others collaborate closer with game publishers even further in 2021. Instead of negotiating for 90 FPS mode exclusivities on Fortnite on a temporary basis, I’d like to have triple-A games which are blockbusters released on the mobile platform!
I’d like every smartphone to provide me with as much control over the CPU/GPU and cooling system as the Armoury Crate on the Asus ROG Phone 3. And I hope that the possibilities of cloud gaming will expand to a wider audience.
If I were a boomer and lacked originality, I would say that smartphones have incorporated the functionality of so many devices that were once used separately and individually in order to consume media. The Walkman, Discman, camera, TV, the list goes on. Why not begin this era of gaming by producing more and more universal smartphones, gradually replacing our consoles and PCs that are too expensive to begin with and cannibalise each other’s market anyway?
What do you think about NextPit’s expectations for the tech in 2021? What are the innovations, products or major trends that you hope to see in the industry next year?
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