Tech in 2022: what does the future hold for smartphones, crypto, and EVs?
Understatement of the year: a lot happened in 2021. As the COVID pandemic pushed staff meetings and birthday parties to FaceTime and Zoom, we saw a huge shift in the way people work, play, and create. From retail to healthcare, companies were forced to adapt to survive–and they had to do it quickly.
Restaurants suddenly became takeout and delivery hotspots, and “gig economy” delivery apps exploded in popularity across the globe. School, from kindergarten to college, went online. So did non-emergency doctor’s visits. Fueled by circumstance and necessity, tech in 2021 could perhaps best be described by a focus on online connectivity, finding creative ways to be together when we can’t, well, be together.
Will these tech trends continue, post-pandemic? Did the uncertainty of 2020 and 2021 change the trajectory of technology forever? It’s impossible to say for sure, but we do have some hints as to where tech is heading going into the new year.
Smartphones played a big role in 2021, but some argue that the industry has stagnated to some extent. Each year, specs get a little faster, and bezels get a little smaller. The four-camera array becomes the five-camera array, while 5G and WiFi 6 boost data speeds for faster downloading and streaming. While tech fans rejoice at a beefed up spec sheet, some others might characterize these as “incremental upgrades.” It’s simply been a long while since we’ve seen a truly ground shaking shift in the way we use smartphones.
So what’s next for smartphones? New form factors.
When Apple unveiled the first iPhone in 2007, everyone collectively decided that slab design + touchscreen = phone. Every smartphone since is based on this core concept, and for good reason–it works. But this form factor is almost 15 years old, and you better believe that companies are scrambling to design the “next big thing.”
Flexible displays have already worked their way into mainstream smartphone tech. Samsung has gone all-in on foldable smartphones with the Galaxy Fold, Motorola merged nostalgia and bleeding-edge tech with the Razr 5G, and OPPO even made a phone that rolls up to reduce size. As prices come down and durability issues continue to be improved, we’re likely to see a lot more flexible smartphones in 2022 and beyond.
It wasn’t so long ago that EVs were considered a niche category of cars, with only one major player (Tesla). But the EV industry has absolutely boomed in recent years. Traditional brands like Volkswagen and Kia are now pushing electric-only vehicles, and Ford vowed to go 100% electric by 2030. New startups like NIO (China) and Lucid (USA) are popping up seemingly every day, attempting to take on Tesla, and the traditional auto powerhouses. It’s pretty clear: we’re about to say goodbye to gas for good.
While the writing seems to be on the wall in regards to the future of fuel, many consumers are still hesitant. In the USA, some surveys find that under 25% of drivers are considering going electric for their next vehicle. The most commonly-cited concerns? Range and charging. There’s something comforting about being able to fill up your gas tank in 30 seconds to get back to 100%, and it’s the biggest concern that EV companies need to address.
So what’s next for EVs? Better batteries and longer range.
Currently, EVs use the same type of battery that is in your phone, laptop, or tablet: lithium ion. The best versions of these batteries, today, have an energy density of about 254 Wh/kg. Tesla has proposed a new electrode design that could theoretically raise that number to 400 Wh/kg, but no one has achieved this benchmark just yet.
The proposed “next generation” of EV batteries are solid-state in design, and companies like QuantumScape already have working prototypes that pack a whopping 600 Wh/kg of juice, more than twice the best of today’s EV batteries. When a commercial version becomes available, electric vehicles with upwards of 1,000 mile capacity are theoretically possible, and this tech is just right around the corner.
The blockchain has dominated the news in 2021, perhaps because the price of a single bitcoin skyrocketed to almost $70,000 in November, over twice the price at the beginning of the year. Or, perhaps, it’s because artist “Beeple” sold an NFT (or nonfungible tokens) of one of his illustrations for $69 million back in March. While some scoffed at the absurdity of paying millions for a digital image, others lauded NFTs as the future of digital ownership and artistic freedom.
So, are NFTs just another internet gimmick and e-investment bubble? Or are they the future of copyright law and digital creation?
Here is what’s next for crypto and NFTs: more tokens for more things
Right now, most people associate NFTs with digital art and digital artists. In reality, though, NFTs can theoretically be used to transfer ownership of almost anything, online or off. For example, musicians could release albums via NFTs, with each token representing a unique “copy” of the album. This could theoretically spell trouble for streaming giants like iTunes and Spotify, as artists could very easily distribute their own music directly to fans.
Offline, some startups are already working on real estate NFTs, where ownership of houses, apartments, and land are assigned unique NFT tokens, and sellers can simply transfer the token to buyers to complete a sale.
Will NFTs actually replace more traditional contracts and copyright filings? Only time will tell, but expect a wave of startups attempting to make NFTs mainstream in the coming year.