Some technical challenges and higher prices are still holding us back from wireless devices. But they are indeed the way forward
by Edoardo Maggio
Nobody wants cables. They’re clunky, cumbersome, counterintuitive and ultimately chafing. And yet we have to deal with them every single day: your phone needs to be charged, your headphones plug into your computer, and even travelling around the world becomes an obnoxious practice of bringing dozens of dongles and adapters for all the indispensable things you carry around with you every day.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. And, looking at the not-too-distant future, all of consumer electronics devices will progressively ditch the multiplicity of different cables and adapters in favour of universal solutions, and then, eventually, complete wirelessness. Or, as I like to call it, freedom.
Bluetooth has been a standard wireless protocol for over two decades now, and while it has gone through multiple revisions it still is the dominant technology used for connecting devices without wires. And for good reason: it’s cheap to implement, its frequencies are rarely interrupted, it’s not harmful, it can be featured in any kind of device, and most of all it just works.
That’s why you see Bluetooth everywhere, and why you are likely to see it even more in the coming years. And while the world we are living in may be not quite ready for a complete wireless revolution just yet, those of us who want — and are willing to spend a little more — can already plunge and let go of the cables. I did, and I couldn’t be happier.
When Apple introduced the iPhone 7 last September, it brought the world into confusion by controversially deciding to remove the familiar 3.5mm headphone jack that has represented the ingress point for audio peripherals for ages now (over 50 years, in fact). While infuriating for some — like owners of multiple high-end wired headsets, who now have to rely on the included adapter — the tech giant’s decision was, at least partially, precisely what its marketing mastermind Phil Schiller described as an act of “courage”: the wired standard has endured so long because of its simplicity, but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t move forward.
When things work, we often tend to preserve them as they are, and therefore keep the status quo; especially in such a fast-paced sector, however, this risks to turn into a downward-spiralling vicious cycle. Being unable to adapt is what has killed behemoths in the past, after all: think of Nokia, or BlackBerry. It is only when we are — willingly or by force — pulled out of our comfort zone that we actually work out smarter, more intelligent solutions.
This is what the technology industry is all about: push the boundaries of what’s possible, think laterally, and eventually offer an easily accessible, simple-to-understand product. Apple itself has been down this disruptive road before: they removed physical keyboards with the iPhone, for example, and the CD-ROM reader on their MacBook laptops. Now everyone has a touchscreen smartphone and downloads things off the internet. Again: this doesn’t necessarily mean that older methods were bad, but simply that newer ones have proved better.
And what best example of getting rid of some much-despised cords than earbuds and headphones? I have used a pair of Jaybird ‘X2’ alongside a more professional Sennheiser headset for quite some time now, and have ultimately come to the conclusion that I never want to see the infamous wire tangle inside of my pocket ever again.
I put on my earphones, turn them on and I’m good to go. The sound on higher-end models is pristine, with very little to envy when compared to their coil-wired peers, and the flexibility that being physically detached to your primary source gives you is simply unparalleled. For instance, if I’m doing stuff around my house — which requires me to move from room to room — I can put on my lightweight X2s and just leave my phone unattended on the table, without having to worry about it.
The ultimate user experience is king, as it allows you to focus entirely on the content and not all the technicalities around it. Thanks to wireless earphones and speakers, I just listen to music. And I love it.
But of course wirelessness goes much beyond Bluetooth, and indeed headphones and music.
Wireless charging, for instance, is becoming more and more commonplace in phones, like Samsung’s best-selling flagship phone, the (luckily non-combustible) Galaxy S7, which can be topped up by simply placing it on virtually any charging pad. It is so popular that places like Starbucks have built them right into their coffee shops’ tables, so that you can enjoy your coffee and let your phone get some of its juice too.
Or it could be the photos you take, which thanks to cloud services like Google’s and Microsoft’s can redirect every shot you take to dedicated servers and make you forget about SD cards or USB pendrives and slow, manual transfers. And what about music and TV’s streaming revolution offered by on-demand services like Spotify or Netflix? Forget the hassle of DVDs, Blu-rays and even CDs; everything can be streamed on the fly, from any device, anywhere in the world, at any given time with no additional tool required.
It’s the beautiful feeling of having everything in the palm of your hand without having anything physical to actually deal with beyond the device you’re using. Going wireless feels somewhat weird at first, and it will be for the foreseeable future, as the transition will take some time and downsides like slow internet connections and additional devices to charge will potentially result even inconvenient at first. But once we wrap our heads around the always stressful idea of change — especially from things we do so often, and have done so for years — we will interiorize how the benefits far outweigh the cons.
I’ve had a taste of it, and really don’t want to look back. But I will wait for you all to join — the wireless future awaits.