THE GAME-CHANGING TRENDS OF 2016
Consumer tech moved fast this year -we're not talking about the innumerable upgrades here but things that signalled a significant shift in direction. Hitesh Raj Bhagat & Karan Bajaj share five trends from the year gone by
Goodbye Headphone Jack
From the outside, the 3.5mm headphone jack looks quite tiny -3.5mm refers the diameter of the plug here, but it does take up a lot more room inside the device. Lack of space would seem like the most obvious reason why the 3.5mm is getting the axe (after all, portable devices are getting thinner and lighter all the time) but the truth is that there are several reasons why everyone seems to be ditching it.
It's an open secret -the use of 3.5mm has been rife with incompatibility. Ever noticed that headphones built for one device (especially with remotes) never worked well with other devices?
The plug has been around for over 100 years, originally designed for analog telephone switchboards. Everyone kept making little changes and tweaks to it. Cellphones have had this port since the very beginning.
But now, for smarter devices, the analog 3.5mm is a huge limitation -it's like a one-way street! Audio can flow from the device to the headphones and that's about it. Newer standards can do twoway audio, can transmit more power and even simultaneous data. This means accessories that work better, sound better and work seamlessly across all devices.With digital audio (either over Lightning or USB-C), manufacturers have greater control over the signal, which means better sound. It can also mean active noise cancellation without having batteries in headphones (coming soon, by the way). It is an old, analog standard trying to survive amongst a sea of new-age, digital natives.
Smartphones With Dual Cameras
While we saw companies experimenting with dual camera setups in 2011 (LG Optimus 3D and HTC EVO 3D were amongst the first, we recall -though the use case for only for 3D imagevideo capture), the technology properly evolved for use in smartphones only in 2016. The year saw a push from various brands for dual camera tech with devices including the LG G5, Huawei P9, Honor 8 as well as the iPhone 7 Plus.Implementation differs: sometimes, the cameras work together to create a better image or enhanced depth while at other times, the second camera could capture more light. Others like LG have introduced smartphones with independent dual cameras: one is a super wide angle while one is conventional. We're seeing dual cameras across price bands and from brands like Xiaomi, Gionee, Coolpad, and LeEco. You can expect the trend to continue in 2017, starting with CoolPad Cool 1 Dual and Honor 6x.
Affordable Large Screen 4K TVs
Till a few months ago, a 55-inch or larger 4k smar t TV would have easily cost over `1 lakh.
LeEco changed this by launching the Super 3 range of 4K Smart TVs in India -`60,000 for the 55-inch and `1,00,000 for the 65-inch. This surprised the consumer but also competitors who were charging a hefty premium for these features. As a direct result of the LeEco TVs, the price of 4k smart T V s t o o k a n o s e d ive a c ro s s screen sizes. Not just the smaller brands but even LG, Sony and Samsung had price revisions. In 2017, LeEco is expected to launch their Super 4 rang e of TVs.Xiaomi should also be launching their budget smar t 4k TV in India. It's true that 4K content is still scarce, but at least you can be future-proof at a pocketfriendly price!
Screens With Tiny Bezels
016 saw a lot of work done on the display bezels -not just on smartphones but on TVs and lap tops too. Curved screen phones were no longer Samsung's forte -we saw smartphones with curved display from Xiaomi, Gionee and even Vivo.This boosted the trend and by the end of the year, we're seeing sub `10,000 smartphones with surprisingly slim bezels. TVs also needed a bit of work to go slim-almost every brand big or small launched TVs with slim metal bezels. Meanwhile, in laptops, the first real shocker was Dell's XPS 13 with its Infinity display.Lenovo Yoga devices and Apple's new Macbook Pro with Touch Bar also have impressively thin bezels, allowing for a more compact form factor without sacrificing on the total screen size.
USB Type-C Goes Mainstream
USB Type-C has seve r a l a dv a n t a g e s over the standard USB microUSB port. It is reversible, offers faster data transfer speeds and supports faster charging. These are good enough reasons to make the switch -something that started in 2016. While smartphones with Type-C started to arrive in early 2016, we saw the number of smartphones with the port grew rapidly. By the end of 2016, we even have laptops that exclusively use USB Type-C ports (Asus' Zenbook 3, Apple `s MacBook Pro and HP Folio, for instance) for charging and peripherals. Many Android smartphones brands also moved to the USB Type-C port and it has started to become a norm for premium as well as budget smartphones. Even though this move has resulted in requirement of various adapters on the laptops, the inclusion of USB Type-C port is expected to become a standard in 2017.
Dec 29 2016 : The Economic Times (Mumbai)