The 2016 Tech Gadgets That Probably Won’t Survive
Technology moves quickly. There are many gadgets in your home that are either already obsolete (hello, DVD or Blu-Ray player!) or are on their way to the grave (digital point-and-shoot cameras or remote controls, anyone?). Nobody is surprised that a VCR or a landline phone is on its way out. But did you know that some gadgets that are still popular and widely sold in 2016 probably won’t survive?
We aren’t just talking about the USB flash drives at every electronics store, or the GPS units that are still available, even though they’re largely unnecessary for the average consumer. Read on to check out the current gadgets — ones that you may have considered buying in 2016 — that aren’t going to survive the next few years.
1. Smartphones running old versions of Android
When you start shopping for an Android phone, it becomes evident fairly quickly that most of the phones on the market aren’t running the latest version of Android. There are plenty of Android devices that you shouldn’t buy, but at the top of that list is a phone that’s running an old version of Android. Most Android fans are well aware of the terrible state of its update system and know that the only Android devices that get the latest version of the operating system right after Google releases it are Google’s own devices (first the Nexus line, and then this year’s Pixel phones). All the other smartphones and tablets on the market have to wait months for updates, or may not even get the newest version of the operating system at all.
When you’re shopping for an Android phone, it’s important to pay attention to the OS version that the device is currently running, and to do your research on whether the device is likely to be updated with the next version of Android. (Some smartphone manufacturers offer faster Android updates than others.) Maybe it’s excessively optimistic, but we think that phones that lag versions behind the latest Android update could become less common in the future as manufacturers and carriers get better at offering timely updates. Or consumers, at least, will recognize that smartphones running old versions of Android are obsolete before you even purchase them.
2. Expensive smartphones without adequate specifications
There are plenty of features that you really don’t need on a smartphone. But there are a few basic specifications that are important if you want a phone that can handle modern apps, run its operating system efficiently, and have enough battery life to last you through a typical day. A good camera and a long-lasting battery are important features (and ones that you can evaluate on a new smartphone by reading reviews). But you’ll also want to look for a few basics, like a minimum of 2GB of RAM, a display resolution of at least 1080p, and a processor with at least two cores.
There will always be low-end smartphones designed for consumers who don’t need a lot of power in their devices. But if you’re looking for a high-performing phone (with or without a high price tag), you don’t want to pay a lot of money for a device that isn’t going to handle your favorite apps well, or won’t have the battery power to last through a long day. As affordable smartphones become more and more impressive, it’s hardly necessary to spend $600, $700 $800, or more to get a great phone. So expensive phones with inadequate specs are likely to go the way of the cassette player and become ancient history — sooner rather than later.
3. Android tablets running Marshmallow or earlier
Android 7.0 Nougat brought a lot of exciting features for smartphones and tablets running the operating system. But the update also guarantees that tablets running Android 6.0 or even earlier versions are 100% obsolete. As we discussed late in 2015, the introduction of Google’s Pixel C should have been an exciting moment, but it was a disappointment thanks to the large gap between what the tablet should have been capable of and what Android Marshmallow actually enabled it to do. Google had its work cut out for it with Android N, which needs to support tablet-centric features and give developers the opportunity to create tablet-optimized apps.
Google delivered with Android Nougat, which introduced a useful split-screen mode. The feature isn’t without its quirks, and it can be a little bit more confusing to use than would be ideal. But its inclusion makes Android 7.0 a whole lot better for tablets than the operating system versions that came before it. And the functionality will likely be refined and expanded in the near future. Cheap tablets running older versions of Android will likely still be available for a few years, but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t already obsolete.
4. DVD and Blu-ray players
Streaming services like Netflix have become ubiquitous. And combined with smart TVs and set-top boxes, they’re a pretty big part of the reason why DVD and Blu-ray players are increasingly collecting dust in people’s living rooms. Your DVD player or Blu-ray player is already obsolete, since there are better options for people who want the highest video quality, and great streaming services for people who value convenience. Plenty of manufacturers and retailers are still selling pricy Blu-ray players and DVD players, but that doesn’t mean that it’s a good idea to spend lots of money on one.
If you want the best video quality, watching a Blu-ray is still better than streaming a movie on Netflix. Even though you can stream a movie at the same resolution that you’d get when watching it on a Blu-ray, the streaming service needs to use more compression to deliver the movie than the Blu-ray disc. It has to compress the file enough to send it at a bit rate that’s equal to or lower than your broadband speed. But if you have a fast internet connection and value convenience over the opportunity to get the best video quality, you’ll probably be one of the many people who won’t be using a Blu-ray or DVD player for much longer.
5. Low-end digital cameras
It’s no coincidence that on the topic of smartphone cameras, many people cite the aphorism that the best camera is the one you have with you. It’s true that you’re most likely to take a photo with the device you always have in your pocket or in your bag, which is why so many people are enthusiastic mobile photographers and would prefer to populate their Instagram with shots from their iPhone instead of photos taken on a separate digital camera. But that hasn’t stopped camera manufacturers from continuing to make low-end digital cameras, a category of gadgets that even the most devoted photographer would admit is pretty unnecessary.
Let’s put it this way: How likely is it that you’re going to carry both your smartphone and a separate digital camera? If you’re the kind of person who’s willing to carry a camera, either digital or film, you probably won’t be satisfied by the sort of photos that a cheap point-and-shoot digital camera will capture. Many smartphones feature cameras that yield better images than an inexpensive digital point-and-shoot. Even though you can still walk into Best Buy and purchase a cheap point-and-shoot, even the models introduced in 2016 likely won’t stick around for long.
6. Standard-definition TVs and plasma TVs
Shopping for a new TV can get pretty confusing. (We have some must-know tips if you’re in the market for a new television.) It can get difficult to figure out which features and specifications you really need, but there are some features that are definitely already obsolete. Plasma TVs are heavy and don’t do well with bright ambient light. Standard-definition TVs are still available but not a good purchase, since there are several higher resolutions available.
Even smart TVs, which seem like a great purchase if you want to get rid of that DVD or Blu-ray player, may not stick around as long as you think. Many people think that smart TVs have been outmoded by set-top boxes, since set-top boxes improve on the clunky interfaces that are annoying features of many so-called smart TVs. (For the record, other people think it’s the set-top boxes that are becoming obsolete.) The fact that some older technologies are obsolete doesn’t mean that you should spring for that expensive new 4K TV, since there are plenty of reasons you shouldn’t buy a 4K television just yet. There’s something to be said for being willing to adopt new technologies, but there’s also a happy medium between obsolete standards and expensive new tech that isn’t necessary yet.
7. Wired phone chargers
Over the years, we’ve slowly cut down on the number of wires that we need in our lives thanks to technologies like Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. But one cable that most of us still use on a daily basis is our wired phone charger — a gadget that’s necessary, but also pretty annoying to carry around and to replace when it gets lost or stops working. Fortunately, wireless chargers have entered the scene and are becoming more popular.
Keeping your smartphone charged will probably necessitate carrying a cord around for the next couple of years. But even though we all have wired phone chargers in 2016, you’ll likely be able to charge your phone by placing it on a charging surface at your office or your local coffee shop. Wireless charging will bring big changes to the smartphone lineups at your local electronics store and will probably make keeping your phone charged a little less stressful than it currently is.