If there's one thing that's constant in the world of technology, it's change. And almost without exception, that change inevitably applies to tech products that at one time seemed crucial to maintaining our current standards of living.
So which are next in line for obsolescence? Read on to see why I think the following tech products stand a good chance of being obsolete by the time 2025 rolls around.
1. LCD TVs
A little over a decade ago, increasingly available liquid crystal display (LCD) televisions took the world by storm with their delightfully thin physical profiles and energy efficiency. And while LCD TVs have certainly improved since then, becoming even thinner, brighter, and cheaper, manufacturers such as LG are already ramping up their production capacities for a superior successor: Organic light emitting diode (OLED) TVs.
Because OLEDs emit their own light and don't require a backlight, they boast even greater energy efficiency and picture quality than LCD TVs. They can also be made paper thin, semi-transparent, flexible, and even rollable. At CES 2017 this month, LG even confirmed its new W-series TV (the "W" stands for "wallpaper") is only one-tenth of an inch thick, mounts to your wall with magnetic brackets, and will hit stores later this year.
2. LED lightbulbs
Relatedly, though traditional LED light bulbs are finally becoming more affordable relative to their older fluorescent counterparts, I think the lighting industry could be further disrupted as OLED lighting becomes more common. After all, while LEDs are a pointed, directional light source, OLEDs are similarly cool to the touch while also distributing beautiful, even light that's highly energy efficient. And similar to OLED TVs, OLED lights can be made in a variety of thin and curved form factors.
In fact, the disruptive potential of OLED lighting caught my eye when it was still in its early stages in late 2014, when I noted it would take years for manufacturers such as Philips and Germany's OSRAM to further improve OLED light pricing and energy efficiency to match that of today's power-sipping LED bulbs. OLED lighting remains in those early stages today, but should gain momentum as it continues to improve and more manufacturers adopt it in the coming years.
3. Physical storage media
Next, it's no mystery that optical storage media such as CDs and DVDs are quickly going away, as many consumers today prefer to transfer larger files with things such as USB flash drives and external hard drives. But even those physical storage mediums are likely to disappear given the increased prevalence and convenience of cloud storage services.
And why not? Whether you're connected to your Wi-Fi at home or using your LTE connection through your smartphone, Internet speeds have only continued to increase along with file sizes. And companies like Box, Amazon, and Google already offer compelling, affordable (or free) cloud-based storage services making it easy to upload and access those files wherever you have a connection.
4. Gaming consoles
It might be hard to envision a world without dedicated gaming consoles such as the Xbox One or PlayStation 4. But if companies such as NVIDIA (NASDAQ:NVDA) have anything to do with it, console-free, cloud-based gaming will take over in the coming years.
Consider, for example, NVIDIA's GeForce Now game-streaming service, which allows gamers to instantly stream more than 100 AAA games instantly at 60 frames per second and 1080 resolution, all with ultra-low latency and without requiring updates or downloads. In short, the games are hosted on NVIDIA's own remote servers, and powered by its Kepler-based GPUs and Tegra processors. This allows NVIDIA to introduce the latest gaming technology as soon as it's available rather than requiring consumers to go out and purchase new hardware.
5. Automotive mirrors
Of course, car mirrors aren't exactly what most people would consider a "tech product," with the notable exception of automatically dimming mirrors from companies such as Gentex (NASDAQ:GNTX). But Gentex has also touted increasing adoption of its full-display mirror product in recent quarters, with five OEMs so far sourcing the company as a supplier of the new product for their respective vehicles.
Add to that a U.S. Department of Transportation rule put in place last year that will require back-up cameras in all new cars by May 2018, as well as the increasing prevalence of self-driving vehicles, and there soon won't be a need for today's low-tech mirrors.
6. Wired chargers
Samsung (OTC:SSNLF) has already incorporated wireless induction charging into its latest and greatest smartphones -- just set the phone down on a pad and let it charge, no plugs or adapters required. And the latest rumors surrounding Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) upcoming flagship smartphone indicate the folks in Cupertino are set to follow suit later this year, adding wireless charging capabilities to the iPhone line for the first time in company history. It seems only fair, then, to assume other manufacturers will follow suit as consumers grow accustomed to the relative convenience of wireless charging in the next few years.
Looking even further ahead, research teams have also identified opportunities to capture the small amount of power transmitted through Wi-Fi signals and use it to charge an array of different devices without any physical contact at all.
7. Remote controls
Long a staple of living room entertainment, the days of dedicated remote controls are nearly over thanks to the advent of voice-operated devices that can accomplish the same tasks.
For instance, I can already quite literally ask the Kinect sensor plugged into my Xbox One to adjust my TV's volume, change the channel, open any game, or power down the system. And it's hardly surprising Amazon Echo was Amazon.com's best-selling device in all of 2016. The hands-free, voice-controlled product allows users to do everything from ordering a pizza to playing music, calling a ride from Uber, controlling their smart-home devices, and buying items from Amazon.com itself, to name only a few.
8. Physical credit cards
According to Bloomberg, over 80% of consumer spending in the U.S. is already cashless. And thanks to services like PayPal and Apple Pay, completing those cashless transactions increasingly doesn't even require a physical credit card to be present. What's more, with countries like India rapidly shifting away from cash, and given the rapid proliferation of smartphones with access to the aforementioned digital payment services on a global scale, I won't be the least bit surprised if plastic credit cards represent little more than unnecessary wallet-thickeners in another eight years.
To be fair, a password isn't exactly a tech product. But try telling that to the suppliers of biometric sensors that have already started to replace the alphanumeric character passwords on many of today's smartphones and laptops. The right fingerprint placed on your iPhone, for example, does everything from unlocking the device to signing into your credit card provider's app, or making monetary purchases through the app store. Over the longer term, facial recognition technology -- similar to, say, the surprisingly accurate suggestions within Facebook's "tag friends" feature in your photos -- will be able to more effectively distinguish between individuals on a live basis and grant permissions accordingly.
10. Media streaming devices
As useful and popular as media streaming devices like Chromecast, Roku, Fire TV, and Apple TV have become, their utility will only fade as their core functionality -- that is, to turn any TV into a "smart" TV -- is increasingly built into a higher number of new television sets. According to IHS, more than half of all TV sets shipped globally last year were smart TVs, and that number should continue to grow going forward. As it does, the number of dedicated media streaming devices shipped will fall.
11. Upright vacuums
Finally, traditional vacuums will likely continue to lose share to their smaller robotic cousins. To be sure, in 2014 iRobot (NASDAQ:IRBT) CEO Colin Angle noted the robotic vacuum cleaner market accounted for around 15% of total global vacuum sales. That might not sound impressive, but Angle elaborated that this share was roughly similar to "other disruptive household appliances such as the microwave oven and dishwasher at the same stage in their life cycles, 10 to 15 years following introduction."
Angle added, "We believe that as awareness of the category continues to expand, we could see an adoption rate similar to those other appliances."
And iRobot hasn't slowed down since. Consumer robot revenue in its most recent quarter climbed 23% year over year, to $168 million. That included 13.3% growth in domestic home robot sales, to $65.5 million, thanks to strong demand for its high-end Roombas, as well as greater than 30% growth internationally, as iRobot delivered early Roomba and Braava floor sweeping robot shipments to a new Chinese distributor.
Over the long term, as more consumers realize robotic vacuums are a viable replacement for their manual upright models, I suspect traditional vacuums will collect dust in a very different way.