Reviews Editor Alan Lu thinks 2015 will be another year of sliding prices and technological refinement rather than dramatic breakthroughs, but he’s hopeful of a few major advances too
Better smartphone battery life
Smartphones are great, but their big weakness is short battery life. While manufacturers have mitigated this with more energy-efficient processors and a host of power-saving software tricks, these techniques can only do so much. What’s needed are new types of batteries that last for days, not hours.
Budding new technologies that promise to triple battery life are in the works at universities and labs around the world, while other projects set out to create batteries that recharge in minutes rather than hours. Major advances like these can take years to arrive in the marketplace though, so if they don’t materialise this year then 1 hope that at least substantial progress is made -especially as smartphone giants like Samsung and Apple spend billions every year in research and development.
Faster Android updates
Android is the most widely used mobile operating system in the world, and its latest version, 5.0 (also called Lollipop), featured some big changes. But because most Android devices have to wait weeks or even months to get the latest OS version (if they get them at all), it’s likely many users will never get the chance to enjoy it.
Google has tried to fix this with initiatives such as the Android One series of phones and by distributing major software changes in updates to the Google Play Services background app. but more still needs to be done. Most devices will be lucky to get more than one significant update. Even Google’s Nexus devices, which get Android updates as soon as they’re available, can face inexplicable delays and are only guaranteed to get updates for 18 months after the model’s release date.
Better two-in-ones or none at all
Microsoft has been promoting laptop-tablet hybrids ever since the launch of Windows 8, but I haven’t been convinced by any of them. They’re often good only at being a laptop or only at being a tablet, or they’re mediocre at being both. Windows 10’s Continuum features and Intel’s power-efficient, fanless Broadwell processors (both promised for 2015) may finally produce hybrids that tick both boxes, but I suspect it’s time to give up on creating the perfect jack-of-all-trades device.
Fewer security holes and patches
Security updates are a necessary evil, but the torrent of security patches for every program from Adobe Flash to Windows can be overwhelming. Software code is very complex and protecting it against hackers is far from easy, but software needs to be designed more with security in mind – not only so we waste less time installing updates, but also to better protect our data and all the services, infrastructure and institutions that rely on software too.
Laptops are now better than ever. Thanks to Intel’s incredibly power-efficient Haswell processors, many laptops that came out in the past two years can finally last for more than a handful of hours on battery power – and they’re getting cheaper too. In the process though, manufacturers have started sealing their laptops, making them incredibly difficult to upgrade. While most people will never upgrade their laptop, they should. It not only prolongs the life of your laptop, it also prevents perfectly usable technology from a premature and ecologically unsound burial in landfills. More upgradeable laptops please!
Subscriptions and eternal licences
Adobe angered many by offering its latest Creative Suite programs as subscription only. Very few companies followed Adobe’s lead – even Microsoft has had the sense to continue offering Office both as a one-off purchase and on subscription. Software on subscription will suit many, but not all, which is why one-off purchases should always remain an option.
Better software interfaces
Almost all major operating systems have adopted a minimalist ‘flat’ appearance for their user interfaces. The uncluttered layouts and stylish, legible typography are great, but in the process many controls have become hard to find, hidden from sight unless you know where to look or which gesture to use. So please can we have better balanced software interfaces that don’t throw out the baby with the bath water.