16 tech predictions for 2016

Blue speed blur

Whew, 2015 was a busy year for technology, broadband, and TV. The iPhone 6s and Samsung Galaxy S6 were released; the UK telecoms industry got shaken up a bit; BT Sport took the football world by storm; and Jeremy Clarkson refused to exit the tabloids.

Will 2016 be just as big? We reckon so. Here are 16 things we predict will happen in the world of technology.

The new Amazon Instant Video show, Definitely Not Top Gear, will be a flop

There's been a lot of excitement - and a heck of a lot of media coverage - about the fate of the Top Gear trio, and the last chapter of their story saw them land a mega expensive deal for a new show with Amazon Instant Video.

They're a well-loved bunch for some reason, so we of course predict an initial surge of enthusiasm for Definitely Not Top Gear. But it's difficult to make a truly good programme about cars with the anarchy of Top Gear without the budget, audience, and impartiality of the BBC. We suspect it might be a flop in the end.

Blackberries will make a comeback

No, not the fruit, though they'll be in season at some point in 2016 too. I'm talking about the popular brand of smartphone.

Despite a few bumps along the way (just take a look at the Passport), the latest Blackberry was actually pretty darn good. Named the Priv, it showed that Blackberry's main selling points - a QWERTY keyboard, focus on business use, and top-notch security - do have a place in today's market. Its integration into the Android ecosystem was quite possibly a stroke of genius. If it continues along its current road, we wouldn't be surprised to see the Blackberry come back in a big way.

Even more big tech companies and websites will get hacked

Cyber crime is always going on, but in the last few months there's been an increase in hackers actually doing damage - like the scandals surrounding TalkTalk, Ashley Madison, and VTech. It seems that the general populace is getting more tech savvy and more dismayed at the establishment at a similar rate - so we'd say hacking is likely to go up again in 2016. Plus, it doesn't help that the UK government has some pretty silly ideas for cyber surveillance that could actually make things less secure if they become law. Oh, and speaking of the government…

The government will push back its goals for broadband coverage

Cameron and co's plans to bring speedy broadband to the whole of the country sound admirable, but in reality there seems to be a lot of cutting corners and moving the goalposts. A lot of progress has been made - fibre optic cables are steadily covering the country, and there are grants for satellite broadband - but filling in the final missing connections doesn't look easy.

Right now, they're aiming for 95% coverage of fixed-line broadband by 2017, and 99% superfast coverage by 2018. We reckon those goals will get changed again to something more easily achievable.

The iPhone 7 will be ugly as sin

If the latest iPhone case, with a built-in spare battery, is anything to go by, Apple's design prowess is starting to… drift a bit.

Let's be fair, though: the design of the iPhone 6 was pretty much perfect. If Apple wants to innovate on that, it'll have to go the creative route and take a few risks - something that could lead to a variety of results. We're anticipating a look with, uh, let's just say mixed reviews for now.

Esports will make their way to mainstream TV, but see low ratings

Esports are sports for nerds. That is to say, they're not sports, they're video games. Think huge tournaments of mass multiplayer online games, like Dota 2 or Call of Duty, held at arenas and streamed live online.

These geeky events are already getting on mainstream telly: in October 2015, BBC Three streamed the League of Legends World Championships for the first time on its website, and esports are regularly on the box in Korea and Norway. So, we predict that we'll start seeing the same in the UK… but it will garner low ratings. Not because nobody wants to watch it, of course; but because the kind of people who like to watch gaming competitions are also the kind of people well acquainted with Twitch and other streaming sites. If it takes off, it'll be online on BBC Three - not live TV.

10 more predictions

  • We'll get better batteries in mobile phones. Either your phone's battery will last longer, it'll charge really quickly, or it'll be easy to charge it wirelessly, depending on its manufacturer.
  • Someone you know will get a virtual reality headset. Everyone will go to their house a couple of times to play on it, but then you'll just kind of forget all about it.
  • 4K Ultra HD TV will start to take off. Another 4K channel will launch (probably Sky Ultra HD), 4K-enabled Freeview boxes will arrive, and sales of 4K-ready TV sets will go through the roof.
  • There will be a big virus that targets devices not usually affected by malware - like Android phones or Mac computers. For a week or two, the news will be filled with thinkpieces on how we should be approaching internet security in the smartphone age.
  • A bunch more cities and towns will achieve 'gigabit status', with access to 1Gb speed broadband. The list will include Portsmouth and Milton Keynes.
  • You'll buy a gadget that makes up part of the Internet of Things. Only one, though. Your parents will find the device confusing and untrustworthy.
  • A major cloud server will go down (possibly due to hacking, at this rate), along with a lot of data. It'll cause panic in a bunch of major businesses for a few days before it gets fixed.
  • Artificial Intelligence will improve, especially in Siri, Cortana, and their ilk. Each OS update you install will push you to use them a little more, and it'll be really annoying.
  • There will be a surprise newcomer into the world of TV sport, holding its own against BT Sport and Sky Sports. Who will it be? The BBC? Virgin Media? Vodafone? Google?
  • A piece of wearable tech will be released that is at once affordable, useful, and stylish. A handful of tech bloggers will write about how amazing it is, and it'll be a truly remarkable gadget, but it will somehow miss the mainstream and vanish into obscurity.

Have a great 2016, everybody!

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