It seems to be a universal truth among tech pundits that 2016 was a bad year. 2017 is now upon us. And it is time to turn the page. What tech do you anticipate purchasing this year? What old things do you need to replace? And what new things excite you?
There are not many things on my tech wishlist for 2017. But here is a small list I am thinking through. Feel free to think through it with me:
A new wifi router
I am moving to a bigger apartment in the same complex where I currently live. I had been using the Apple AirPort Extreme. That is the tall one shaped like a tower. It has not been updated in a while. And before going back to apartment living, I lived in a couple of houses that did not get very good coverage no matter what I tried.
These days, I am using the router that I got from my Internet provider. I am in a one bedroom apartment. And it is more than sufficient. By the time you read this, I will have signed a new lease on a two bedroom apartment. (I need my office back.) Coverage might again become a problem.
I used my AirPort Extreme for automated Time Machine backups. I have not backed up anything in well over a year. The strange thing is I can’t even tell if that is a problem as I haven’t lost any important documents in a very long time. But since Apple seems to be no longer interested in making new routers that meet current needs, I find myself maybe in the market for something new.
Mesh network routers are all the rage these days. That is the type of solution that requires multiple routers for a single environment. There is one main router, and two or three satellite routers that extend the range of the network. Technically, Apple did this a long time ago with the AirPort Express. Unfortunately, it never fully lived up to its promise.
I think I will never purchase the Google router, which is a knockoff of other modern solutions, only cheaper. It is not only because I have such a distaste for knockoffs. Mostly, I don’t trust Google. In exchange for those lower prices, they expect to scrape every bit of your data. I will not put a Google data collection device into my home, at least, not on purpose.
Apple exiting the market makes my choices difficult. One of the best things about the Apple router was that you never had to worry about wether or not it would work with Apple services. All the right ports would be open. And all the services would work. With every other router, long phone calls with tech support were required to get things like Continuity working properly. I don’t look forward to going through that again.
I suspect that I will continue to use the router from the cable company, and find another solution for backups. While a new router might be in my near tech future, I am going to put it off as long as I can. I am not looking forward to it.
A new iPad
When I bought the MacBook Pro with Touch Bar, I passed my iPad Pro along to my wife. Now it is her iPad Pro. Though I can’t stop thinking of it is my old iPad Pro. For the first time in quite a while, I am completely iPad free. That is a big jump from using the iPad as my mobile computing platform.
I’m not saying that I am going to get a new iPad Pro this year. But I do miss having a touchscreen computing platform bigger than my iPhone. For several months, I toyed with the idea of picking up an iPad mini for my bedside reading in the morning.
The first thing I reach for in the morning is my iPhone. I wake up some time in the 3:00 hour, reach for my iPhone, and read all of the collected headlines from about 4:00p.m. the previous day. I pick out the stories that I actually want to read. Then spend some time reading those stories. I get up from the bed at about 4:00. From there, the writing begins.
I would rather do that with an iPad than a smartphone. The mini would be a good size for me. I also like playing casual games. And I hate doing that on my iPhone. The bigger screen would be better. There is something to be said for an ultraportable lounge computer. I think the mini will fit the bill for me. I miss having one.
Apple is expected to unleash a whole new lineup of iPads this year. All the rumors are centered around the bigger models. I am hoping for a compelling upgrade to the mini. I am definitely in the market. It is the ultimate Candy Crush machine.
A new desktop
My wife has been using my old 11” MacBook Air as a desktop. That has been her only desktop machine. I am due for an upgrade to my Mac mini. So what will likely happen is that I will pass down my mini to my wife, and pick up a new mini if they are refreshed this year. If not, it will be an entry-level iMac.
Here’s the thing: my current machine is quite sufficient for everything I do and want to do. Something with updated bluetooth and wifi standards might be nice. At some point, my current machine will not take new OS updates. So one new desktop Mac is a likely addition this year.
I passed on the new Apple Watch of 2016. That is not entirely true. I bought a Series 2, but returned it. There were just not enough compelling new features to make it worth the money. Most important with regard to a fashion accessory, it was identical to the previous version.
If Apple revises the look of the watch significantly enough to make it visually distinct from the last one, I will be inclined to get it. I like the functionality of the watch. My original Apple Watch is just fine. What I want is a new look. We will see if Apple provides that this year. If they do, I will be in line.
A new TV
I have had my current 60” Samsung for several years. It is not only old, but there are prominent red and blue lines permanently on the screen. There are also other artifacts that interfere with the picture. This TV should have been put down some time ago. It is the worst TV I ever had.
My TV is so bad, I might just put off buying a new desktop for another year so that I can squeeze a TV into the budget. I have no idea where to begin the search.
All I want is a large screen that is only that, a large screen. I don’t need it to have any smarts. I will hook up my own set top box to it. Brand doesn’t matter. Anything but Samsung. I am done with them. I want a 70” for less than 1,000. I don’t really care what other compromises I have to make. I’ll happily take suggestions. This is going to happen in the first half of the year.
A few things I don’t want: AR/VR
I have zero interest in either VR or AR. I like my real reality just fine. I don’t need yet another way to kill fake aliens. And virtual reality Bejeweled holds no appeal for me. Right now, the people building these things can’t think past high-end gaming.
Sure, some companies like Microsoft are making noises about other applications. But at the end of the day, the only applications anyone is shipping for this nascent tech are games and entertainment. I think I am sufficiently entertained. Thanks.
I took a look at the Apple AirPods and the Bose QC 30s. I returned the AirPods and kept the Bose. Apple is not going to make any updates to the AirPods that will make me ditch the Bose for them. Also, Bose is not going to make any revisions that will make me want to spend another $300 this year on headphones. I’m curious to see how headphones evolve. But I will not be back in the market for at least another year and a half.
A new iPhone
Surprise! I’m not really interested in getting a new iPhone this year. Yes, I know. This is supposed to be the big upgrade. Don’t get me wrong. I will get the new iPhone. I’m on a yearly upgrade cycle. I get the new one every year on T-Mobile. I’m just not particularly excited about it.
A new phone will not make my conversations more enlightening. The articles I read will not be more insightful. The podcasts I listen to will not be any more engaging.
Grant it, photos could always be better. But that is kind of the point. They can always be better. That will be true next year, and the year after that, and the year after that. We are not going to squeeze a $5,000 DSLR into a $650 smartphone.
We might get a little better zoom and a little better macro. But at the end of the day, those photos will be compressed to within an inch of their lives only to be put on social media. Photo journalists use real cameras. And that is the way it is going to be for a very long time.
The only thing Apple can announce that would excite me about a new iPhone is a significantly better Siri. I use the assistant a lot. Which means that I frequently run up against its limitations. It gets small improvements over time. But to excite me about the product, there needs to be a giant leap. Since the product was introduced, there hasn’t been one of those yet.
Conclusion: Beyond the horizon
I don’t know what’s next. And it is not my job to figure it out. The companies whose job it is are not doing a very good job of articulating a coherent or compelling vision of what’s next.
It’s not drones, or face computers, or even wrist computers. It is not a smartphone with a flexible screen, or a tablet with a stylus, or a computer without a keyboard, or any such nonsense. These are all just remixes of things that already exist.
In 2007, the iPhone changed our lives. Even if you have never had an iPhone, it still changed your life whether or not you know it. That revolution has happened. The products in that category are now mature. We are all anxiously waiting for the next revolution.
No one seems to know what that is. But all eyes are on Tim Cook’s Apple to figure it out, and fast. I don’t think that revolution is coming this year.