New Year, Old Tech: 5 ‘Tech Things’ that Deserve a Comeback in 2019


New technology is just around the corner. It’s always coming, every single day. There’s simply no stopping the forward-moving progress of tech, regardless of what still-working current method, solution, or option gets bulldozed along the way.

But not everything that has been discontinued or replaced in the past needs to stay that way. If the stories of Nokia, Motorola, and perhaps one day HTC, have taught us anything, it’s that the tech industry doesn’t get in the way of a good comeback story if it is one that is somehow beneficial to some or everybody.

With that in mind, here are five things that we think deserve to make a comeback this year. While half of the reason why we wrote this is simply wishful thinking, we also hope that some enterprising souls out there come to the same conclusions that we have, and try to bring some or all of these back from the brink.

5. Dedicated MP3/MP4 Players

One of the biggest driving forces behind the never-ending innovation in tech is convergence. That is, what once needed the use of multiple devices to accomplish–i.e. taking photos, going online, and playing games–can now be done with only one.

Your smartphone is likely your go-to device whether you want to take a picture, browse the Web, play a video game, or check the weather. It is also likely the one device you use to listen to your favorite music or watch videos on the go. We get it, it’s convenient as you always have your smartphone on you. Everybody does, right?

But imagine if you had a separate device for just playing music and videos. You’d be able to listen to your favorite tracks in much higher quality, as your dedicated media-playing device wouldn’t be limited by the often disappointing audio output on most smartphones, and you could get it in much higher storage capacities. You would likely be able to use regular earphones and headphones, plus you’ll be able to conserve your smartphone’s battery.

At the very least, the use of a dedicated media playback device will free you from being connected constantly wherever you go, in case you want to be fully immersed in your favorite music. The iPod sold millions upon millions of units for a reason. Trust us when we say that the tastes of people haven’t changed much at all in the few years that it has been made obsolete by the modern smartphone.

The world still needs dedicated media players. And the current selection, if you are blessed enough to find them, are not nearly enough.

4. Netbook-style Laptops

With the latest trend of bezel-less, infinite, and clear-view displays in full effect, screens on mobile devices have become bigger than they have ever been before. Screens on what are otherwise normal smartphones are now about three times bigger than average compared to 10 years ago, and most people opt to use them as dedicated computing devices in lieu of full-size laptops nowadays.

But we think, with the progress in developing large-size screens for dedicated mobile devices, that it’s high time for netbook-style laptops to make a comeback. Notebooks with anywhere between 8- to 12-inch screens can be developed for use as dedicated devices for content consumption and production. That’s the key point here: that there’s more than enough computing power and technological progress these days to come up with a proper revival of netbooks like the original Asus Eee PC 701 and Acer Aspire One netbooks. The Sony Vaio P may have been misguided, but damn if it wasn’t a seriously sexy and compact full-fledged laptop.

Internet speeds have gone up to mind-blowing fiber optic levels, Windows is free, Linux still exists, and between keyboards, mice, trackpads, and touchscreens, there’s no shortage of input options. Intel, AMD, or Via, if you’re still out there, get it together and build the next “big” thing based on this. Hell, we might even give Chrome OS a shot. Just put it on a netbook with days-long battery life and see what happens.

3. Android Tablets

Speaking of Google, Android tablets are a surprising addition to this list–even for us, the ones who are making it. We get that phones now have huge, “tablet-like” displays, but in the last five years at least, we haven’t come across an actual smartphone that we wouldn’t want to supplement with an actual large-screened dedicated tablet.

Tablets are bigger, have longer battery life, support dedicated tablet apps and features, and can be used with a multitude of accessories that are often unwieldy for even the biggest and most powerful smartphones. We miss being able to game, read ebooks, watch movies, and simply browse the internet on a big screen without depleting our smartphone’s battery for non-communications related activities.

The battery consumption is the main reason why we want Android tablets to make a comeback, but really, it would be nice to have some options for non-smartphone mobile devices that aren’t ebook readers or iPads. That’s right, being able to avoid Apple tax in this area wouldn’t hurt one bit.

2. Firefox OS

We saw it make a brief appearance a few years ago, but it never amounted to anything. With the dominance of Android over the past decade, the world truly needs it now more than ever: an alternative mobile OS for users who value their freedom, privacy, and options for constant connectivity.

Firefox OS was supposed to be the Mozilla-powered alternative to the Chrome-centric approach that Android was based on, but it never caught on. Now, Android itself has become somewhat inconspicuous due to its reliability and overall stability, so it might be a good time to bring on a new player to the market.

It doesn’t have to be Firefox. It could be a revival of Palm’s webOS–which was bought by LG–or Nokia’s own take on an Android OS/UI, as they are the ones with the most experience on this due to their history with Symbian. Chinese smartphone makers like OPPO, Huawei, and Xiaomi, as well Korean juggernaut Samsung could also take a stab at it. We get that it has been done before to no avail, but whoever succeeds only needs to get it right once to finally own their small share of the overall smartphone or mobile computing market. That’s what happened with Apple and the iPhone. Then the same thing happened with Google and Android.

In any case, we’re going to hold out hope that by 2020, a true alternative to iOS and Android becomes relevant. Our only wish is that it’s not some form of Facebook, whatever it becomes in the next two years.

1. The Headphone Jack

Dear USB-C, we love you. But we loved the 3.5mm headphone jack first. There’s no reason why the two of you can’t appear on the same device at the same time, especially if that device is one that’s billed as being great for listening to music. Otherwise, we’d have to go back to the first point on this list and wish that we had brought along a dedicated media playback gadget for maximum convenience.

The removal of the headphone jack on mobile devices needs to stop. And no, proprietary headphone solutions are not acceptable. Sure, using Bluetooth for wireless connectivity is an option, and it’s convenient while being almost effortless. But the truth is that using wireless cans is a bit like going underwater and breathing through a tube that’s connected to an oxygen tank, compared to simply staying on land and breathing the air through your nose like a normal person.

It works, but you put yourself in a situation where it has to work or else you’ll die. Let’s just stay on the surface and try to enjoy the Earth’s other innovations, shall we?

David Gonzales
Founder and Editor-in-Chief at SemiCurrent.com