It used to be that January’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) set the tone for the entire year in tech – but it doesn’t tell the whole picture anymore. We won’t see the hottest smartphones, tablets, and wearables until Mobile World Congress, now the largest mobile show in the world, in February. That’s when the entire picture of the future crystalizes.
Fortunately, we’re on our way back from Barcelona as we speak, and we just wiped the fog off our crystal ball. Here are 16 Digital Trends you will want to know about in 2016.
The year of VR | Age of accessories | Where’s the wearables? | Twinning phones
The year of VR
Last year, wearables were the hot new category making waves. This year, it’s virtual reality. At the end of 2015, Samsung put VR on the map with Gear VR – a product that is leaps and bounds ahead of any other phone-based VR headset. It gave Galaxy phone owners high-quality virtual reality for 100 bucks. At CES, Facebook showed its final Oculus Rift headset, and at MWC we got final launch details for our favorite VR system, the HTC Vive, which actually lets you walk around and interact with virtual worlds.
But HTC wasn’t alone. It feels like almost every major tech company, from LG to SK Telecom, has its own VR product, service, or technology. What we don’t know is how many people actually want to use VR on a daily basis. The success or failure of Oculus and Vive will give a strong indication how much virtual reality the world can stomach.
Age of accessories
In the last couple years, a lot of smart eyewear and smartwatches hit the market – emphasis on “a lot.” Oddly, wearables were rare this year at MWC. In 2016, we’re seeing a few struggling wearables, but a lot more power players turning to new accessories, like the 360-degree action cams by LG and Samsung, or little robotic toys, like the Sony Agent. These devices are all Bluetooth enabled and designed to easily sync up with smartphones. And many are tangentially related to VR.
Where are the wearables?
Seriously, where are they? If it weren’t for the very fun Avegant Glyph, we would have struggled to find any solid wearables at MWC this year. CES and other shows haven’t been much better, either. Some watch makers are finally adding basic smart features to their watches, and fitness bands are still creeping along, but it looks like we’ll have to wait until the second half of 2016 before we get to see the next generation of smartwatches, or any other wearable products that try something fresh.
It’s hard to tell phones apart
Outside of the swappable modules on LG’s G5, we haven’t seen a lot of outward innovation in the design of phones. Most major phones we’re seeing have a 5- to 5.7-inch screen, are made of metal, have fingerprint readers, and don’t have a lot of new, unique apps on them. They all look fairly similar. Yet, we’re seeing more of them than ever. The major smartphone makers appear to agree on what a smartphone should look like and how it should operate.