TechDigest’s 2015 Predictions: Samsung get a grip, Call of Duty gets a big overhaul, and more!

Gadgets, Gaming, Mobile phones
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The end of the year is always a great time to reflect – and a great time to look forward. As we sit down this Christmas to watch Only Fools & Horses on the TV, or perhaps more likely, watch Netflix on the tablet, it is perhaps a good time to wonder what we have to look forward to over the next year. So here’s TechDigest’s big 2015 predictions.
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Samsung will announce less stuff

Samsung didn’t have a great 2014 – sales of the Galaxy S5 were down compared to the S4, and the company received a lot of criticism for its always-fairly-dull designs that relied on too much plastic. But despite this, the company seemed to have press release tourettes – with new products seemingly announced every day.

Most were pretty similar – phones with slightly different sized screens and the like – but many were also unique, or downright weird. Samsung’s research department seemed to consist of someone shouting “eureka!” and before they could test it properly, the technology gets bundled into a new product and press released. Needless to say, Samsung was very hit and miss. For every Galaxy Alpha, there was a Gear S phone-on-a-watch. According to GSM Arena, Samsung released 59 different phones in 2014 – compared this to Apple, which released 2.

Even management has admitted that there is a problem now – which is why we expect that in 2015 Samsung will be releasing less phones, and putting more effort into the ones that it does. So whilst we’ll probably get a Galaxy S6, I’m not so sure we’ll get twenty variations. And this will be a good thing.
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Android Wear will kill off any competitors (except for the Apple Watch)

Smartwatches still aren’t a fully mature market, and it is still early days – and this is why a number of companies are still making smartwatches that don’t run Android Wear. I’m looking at you, Samsung Tizen. Being the platform holder is a powerful position to be in (which Android is the major mobile platform, Google has nothing to worry about as a company) – but surely Tizen and the handful of others should just give up? Android Wear offers much deeper integration into its operating system and a common set of standards to make watch-to-phone communication flawless.

And because Google has this all sewn up, this will be the year that Google wipes out all but the (Apple-shaped) competition.
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E-Ink will see a renaissance

I wrote about this the other day. Following the Yotaphone 2 as a proof-of-concept, could we see e-ink take off as an essential component in a smartphone?

The utility seems pretty obvious: It’d be a brilliant means of displaying notifications and the like, without draining battery life, and small e-ink displays on the rear of phones could be used for displaying other useful information too. Plus, it’d be perfect for lining up selfies with your high-quality camera.
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Xbox One still won’t catch up to PS4 – but the gap will narrow in the west

As we leave 2014, the PS4 is still said to be outselling the Xbox One by approximately 2:1 – but Microsoft is marketing aggressively. The Xbox One has outsold the PS4 in the month of November, and Microsoft has just acquired the juggernaut that is Minecraft. Even if catching up is a distant dream now, it can still perform very admirably, in the west. In Japan the story is different – as the Xbox One was basically dead on arrival, but we already knew that, right?
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Nintendo will come out with an utterly bizarre medical device that will perform poorly – setting it on a course to go software only in 2016

So what of Nintendo? A gaze into the 2015 crystal ball reveals Star Fox and Zelda releases on the horizon… but that’s about it. That will surely mark the premature end of the WiiU?

In any case, I predict that perhaps 2015 could see Nintendo’s much-rumoured medical device making its debut. Like any new product in a new category, it will probably be relatively disappointing – which given the rest of Nintendo’s prospects could cause investors to worry. Could 2015 finally be the year when Nintendo is forced to phone up Sony and Microsoft to ask for a development kit?
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Facebook will consolidate its many messaging services

So Facebook has Facebook Messenger – but over the last few years it has also spent big and bought Instagram and WhatsApp too. The three services are pretty damn similar. Sure, Instagram has photos and WhatsApp works with phone numbers… but the messaging sides are nearly identical. So isn’t it a bit odd that Facebook hasn’t done something to consolidate these into one product?

We wouldn’t expect anything too radical but don’t be surprised if we start to see deeper integration between the three.
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Call of Duty will be radically overhauled

So Advanced Warfare is Christmas number one, and is selling big – but not as big as last year… so what can Activision do? Perhaps 2015 will be when the series finally breaks free of its increasingly familiar pattern and does something new?

If Activision want our ideas… how about breaking the game open into a Far Cry style open world? The core first person mechanics would be maintained, but there’d be plenty more possibilities. Better still, set said open world during WWII and have the player play as an escaped POW in occupied France – having work to free other POWs and the Free French forces to liberate the area from the Nazis.
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Someone (possibly Facebook) will buy Fitbit

Okay, a bit of a shot in the dark but we all know fitness trackers are increasingly big news – and Fitbit is one the biggest. Is it not conceivable that one of the big tech firms – Google, Facebook, Apple or Amazon might decide to pay up and own a piece of it?

If we had to guess. we’d predict either Facebook or Amazon – whilst Google and Apple already have fitness apps (Google Fit and iOS Health), the others could use a Fitbit acquisition to catch up and get some of that lovely, lovely data. The social aspects will also surely make it an attractive acquisition for Facebook?
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Twitter’s management will briefly ruin Twitter, but then perform a big U-turn

The writing has been on the wall all year, but Twitter is getting increasingly worried about making money and how it is not growing fast enough. Twitter CEO Dick Costolo has been quoted in the past talking about ideas for some fairly radical changes to functionality – including switching from timelines that display everything to a Facebook-style algorithmic approach, which picks the things it thinks will be most relevant to you.

The trouble is, for everyone who actually uses Twitter, such a move would completely ruin the service.

I think its fairly inevitable that at some point over the next year Twitter will introduce changes like that – which will fundamentally break how it works… much to the consternation of users.

However, any huge changes could see a U-turn. One of Twitter’s most vocal groups of constituents are journalists, for whom Twitter is probably a more important tool than any other platform – so given their media power, chances are they can shout loud enough to make sure any changes aren’t too devastating.
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Mobile phone sales will slow down in some respect

Another deeply speculative one, but I wonder how long we can keep going with phone sales increasing every year. Have we not yet reached a point where the black rectangles in our pockets are pretty much good enough? I don’t mean that we’re going to stop buying phones, or that we’ll be happy with whatever we have now – but could the impulse to upgrade be dampened down by the lack of big innovation?

Compare the last few hardware generations to the quantum leap between the iPhone and whatever you think most closely came before it. Nothing recently has matched that. The only trend has been screens getting larger – which they’re doing, but surely we’re going to reach a point where they can’t get larger again without becoming prohibitively large? So could we reach a point where we’re happier to hang on to our phones for longer?
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Second-screen remotes will become more important

The idea of “second screens” has been around for several years and isn’t exactly new – but I wonder (okay, this is more of a hope) that using the second screen as a remote control for the first becomes more commonplace. As we’ve seen with the Chromecast, Google has forever destroyed the clunky on-screen menu by having us select videos on our phones and tablets before zapping them to the big screen with the Chromecast. Here’s hoping that 2015 is a year when more apps follow suit.

I’m thinking particularly in terms of video apps on games consoles – surely the likes of the BBC iPlayer and Netflix can think of a way to pair the app on your phone with the app on your TV, so we can forever banish the fiddly navigating-a-keyboard-with-a-Dpad to the dustbin of history?

Similarly, isn’t it about time the likes of Sky got with the programme and enabled more control using an app? The recently released EE TV is entirely app-controlled – wouldn’t it be great if Sky and other TV services were too?
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Windows Phone and Blackberry will continue to limp on

Another year, another continued struggle for the mobile industry’s couple of stragglers. 2015 will inevitably see Windows Phone continue to limp on, because it is backed by Microsoft, and surely the behemoth has too much pride to kill its mobile platform and admit that its users should get an Android? Lack of apps and losing money be damned, having a mobile platform of its own is all about keeping pace with the competition.

Blackberry meanwhile has just had something of a relaunch – with the Blackberry Classic attempting to square the circle of satisfying modern concerns (big screen, apps) with the traditional (hardware keyboard). In 2015, I’d wager Blackberry will probably manage to keep going thanks to enterprise usage – and heck, it might even survive with a tiny slice of the consumer space thanks to the new phone’s ability to run Android apps (albeit on the Blackberry 10 operating system), thanks to the Amazon app store.
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BT’s acquisition of EE will create the worst customer services in the world

Over the last few weeks we’ve learned that BT is now in the process of buying EE, to create a truly gigantic telecoms company. And call us cynical, but we can’t help but worry about the quality of the experience when phoning the joined company’s tech support – and this is in a world where nearly everyone has a “BT story” they have to tell when complaining with friends about the company.

BT has already ominously referred to saving cash in “back office” processes. So it could be an angrier new year. We’ll let you know how it turns out (assuming we can get through).

What are your New Years predictions? Let us know in the comments.

James O’Malley
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