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March 11th 2014 10:07 am

What is the next consumer tech gadget to fade into the past?

Similar to a discussion I started last week (www.engadget.com­/discuss­/what­-gadgets­-were­-you­-buy...) discussing gadgets we were all buying ten years ago, I realized in that same time certain consumer product categories have come and gone. There are even certain product groups that "merged" together. Even our product database has sections dedicated to product categories like Digital Photo Frames and Scanners which were very popular consumer product groups not too long ago.

So, which current consumer tech do you think will be next one to fade into the past over the next 10-20 years?

DVRs -- I feel these are inevitably going to fade away. All current US cable company issues aside, there are some services springing up that are slowly making these less than necessary in our TV viewing habits.

Fitness trackers -- If CES 2014 proved anything, it was that fitness trackers are a commodity item at this point. Almost every single one does the same thing with perhaps the Basis being the only one that offered a total package. These will eventually morph into our cellphones or smart watches.

External hard drives and flash drives -- Cloud storage is evolving, storage is cheap and we're getting more and more ways to have access to all of our stuff from anywhere.

E-Book readers -- E-ink is better than LCD, but display tech is advancing and we'll eventually have the proper tech to make reading on a tablet easy on our eyes. Mirasol is close, but needs some work.

Point & Shoot cameras -- I think this is probably the most likely one to go next. Sure, the RX100, LX7 and other similar cameras are making P&S a little more versatile. But HTC, Apple and Nokia are pushing cell phone tech. Will we ever get a full-frame sensor? Probably not, but we'll probably get something close.

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I think each of these has a niche, and they'll all transform/merge, like you've mentioned for some of them.

The DVR will, ideally, be replaced by the Roku/AppleTV and its ilk, but it still holds a simple lead over competing options: Short-term compression and timeshifting. I can watch my shows 8-16 minutes after they air and then skip the commercials. VoD and related services are certainly a threat to that, but it's going to take time for the capabilities to match.

Fitness trackers: This SHOULD disappear into existing technology. The base model will be supported by the Mx coprocessor in the iPhone and the S Health stuff in the Galaxy phones. Wristbands will only exist if/when skin contact is a necessary feature.

External drives: There's an old saying in IT: Never underestimate the bandwidth of a station wagon filled with backup tapes. We'll have a use for actual drives, probably reduced to transferring things like private keys and local backups. Even as bandwidth increases, we're going to store higher-fidelity music, 4K video, and 20MP images, so local bus bandwidth will always outpace network/internet bandwidth.

E-book readers: Yeah, we're going to get mini-tablets with something like Mirasol, that's a given.

Point-and-shoot cameras: To be replaced by mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras on the high end, and cellphones on the low end.

I think the smartwatch is actually going to be a transitional device: We want something more discreet and intimate than a cellphone, and the wrist has only been a default location for that since... World War I or so? Wristwatches had a very short lifespan before we hit a generation that went back to relying on their cell phones, which is almost a glorified pocketwatch.

Maybe the next step is Google Glass? Contact-lens displays? Smarter notifications and an earbud?

The one gadget though, that I think is going to fade away, or at least be relegated to the smallest possible market? The optical drive. Games are going digital, movies are showing up on Netflix and related services faster and faster, and honestly, I haven't missed it.
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It's interesting you mentioned the Roku and AppleTV. I feel like at their core those are starting to fade since we're seeing similar functionality make it into other devices, like TVs. I think it will be one of those devices that did a lot to help areas move forward, but will end up being part of a living room gadget consolidation as consoles take more steps forward.
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I see it working in both directions: The Roku supports games and the like. I think there's plenty of room for a micro-console, like the Wii Mini or the PS Vita TV, especially if they merge into existing digital media marketplaces. (Less so Nintendo than Sony/MS/Apple/Google, of course.)

Basically, TVs don't get replaced as often as accessories, largely due to cost. As long as there's room for a $99 TV "enhancer", I don't see to Roku dying so much as evolving to fill the niche that your signal provider (be it an ISP or cable) will perpetually lag on.
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I am going to agree with all of the above, with maybe 2 exceptions.

DVRs- I don't see DVR's dying anytime soon. Granted, maybe in 10-20 years things will be different. However I think they will be around due to "legacy" folks. Heck, I know some relatives that were going to hold onto their VCR's to the end of the world. It isn't because it was a good technology, it was because they were familiar with the technology and didn't want change.

External hard drives- There will always be a market for people who want physical access to their own data, in an offline format. It doesn't have to necessarily be a tin foil hat wearing person either to want that. There is still quite a number of people who inherently distrust cloud services... and they may be in the right. Also, before cloud storage can dominate, we really do need faster internet that has higher or no caps on data usage. That is dependent on the service providers. At the current time though, it seems like a battle that the consumer is losing. Perhaps entrants like Google fiber may help, but perhaps they may hurt things
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