Time to get stuff wrong! Because we don’t have the money to develop a near-sentient AI that can sift through data to generate the most likely outcomes of 2018, we’ll have to do things the old-fashioned way — guessing! Might not go well! Like most things in life, tech seems like it should be predictable until you look back on the past year and realize how many things didn’t go to plan. Not many could have predicted the kind of year Uber had (well, besides the people working for Uber), and we were far from sure that the Switch was going to bring Nintendo back from the brink in such a dramatic way.
We’ll take a shot anyway. Here are our four not necessarily bold predictions for the tech industry in 2018!
We don’t really know how well the iPhone X is doing yet. Some investors seem to think it’s a disappointment in terms of sales, although we won’t really know for sure until Apple reveals their quarterly results next month. What we do know is that the $1,000 phone created a lot of complaints among users — Face ID makes it harder to unlock the phone when your face is partially obscured, and don’t even get the internet started on the notch.
At its core, the iPhone X is an awesome phone. It’s powerful, the OLED display is gorgeous, and the camera quality beats just about anything other than the Google Pixel 2. Still, there were just enough little annoyances to make spending so much money on the phone a little questionable. We think the iPhone X is going to end up being more like a first generation device — we’re guessing next year, Apple will take the best parts of the iPhone X and iPhone 8 and combine them into one truly great, probably notch-less device. That phone is going to be the one to have.
It’s been a long time since Netflix was a repository of movies new and old to choose from. Now, they’re more like a new age HBO hopeful, relying heavily on original series and movies. At best, that gives us terrific shows like Orange is the New Black and Stranger Things, but at worst, it populates Netflix with a bunch of stuff we have no interest in watching.
Expect Netflix and the like to keep looking for those original hits. Streaming services like Netflix don’t want to pay licensing fees for those older movies, while entertainment companies are increasingly wondering why they need to share money with these streaming services at all. We now know Disney plans to start their own streaming service in 2019, one that would include Disney, Pixar, Star Wars, Marvel, and now Fox-owned content.
Disney and Netflix will be the battle to watch, but the effects will be felt everywhere. Expect Apple, Facebook, Amazon, and Hulu to all ramp up their original content efforts, as well. It’ll be interesting to see what happens from there — we’ve only got time to watch so much.
We’ve all known it for a while, but we think 2018 will be the first time we really start to reckon with a future without ownership. Music and movies are now streamed using subscriptions, smartphones are increasingly leased to facilitate upgrades — even shaving kits come in a subscription box now! Services like Xbox Game Pass are moving video games in that direction, and we wouldn’t be surprised to see a few major game franchises that see yearly releases experiment with subscription models at some point.
It’ll go far past entertainment. Next up will be cars — we’ve already seen hints with all the deals that Uber and Lyft have made with automakers and tech companies involved in autonomous driving, but we think in 2018 it will become increasingly obvious that autonomous cars for the most part won’t be sold directly to consumers. We know truly autonomous cars won’t be hitting the road in large numbers for another few years at least, but when they do, they’ll probably come in fleets managed by ride hailing companies like Lyft, with rental car companies like Avis managing the day-to-day maintenance necessary for cars that are used that frequently.
None of that stuff will happen in 2018, but we do think 2018 will be the year we start to reflect more heavily on what it means to move toward a future where we own very little of what we use.
For the last couple years, we’ve had a lot of fun complaining about all the smartphone makers that have been removing the headphone jack. Next up? The fingerprint scanner. It already started with the iPhone X getting rid of Touch ID in favor of Face ID, and we think it’s a trend that will continue in the Android world.
We know Qualcomm is working on the same kind of facial recognition technology that Apple is, and what Qualcomm does is what Android does. We expect most smartphones to favor this system. The good news is that it’s more secure — these systems create 3D maps of your face and improve over time, so it’s impossible to fool them with a picture and very difficult to fool them with a mask or a mold of your face (and if you have to worry about the latter, we don’t want to know how you got enemies like that). The bad news is that it’s not as convenient as a simple finger tap.
Ultimately, we think facial recognition will end up being less of a design constraint than the fingerprint scanner. The desire for edge-to-edge display phones puts smartphone makers off putting fingerprint scanners on the front, but scanners on the back can be inconvenient when your phone is laying on a desk. Because it’s more secure, we’re not sure that embedding fingerprint recognition in a display will ever take off, either. We’re pretty sure that Apple and others will figure out how to make facial recognition work without resorting to the dreaded iPhone X notch, and once they do, the fingerprint scanner’s fate will be sealed.