The year in review: Tech: Beyond the trend

31 Dec 2018 / 11:57 H.

RATHER than focus on just the latest products that came out this year, in this annual tech roundup, I would like to look closer at a few tech-related issues facing consumers today, and give my take on them.

You know the story where humans brought over a predator species to control the pests in an ecosystem, only to wipe out the pest and have a new invasive species as a problem?

That about sums up Malaysia’s journey to going cashless.

Malaysia has been on the path to going cashless since 2013, by moving to replace cheques with electronics funds. In 2016’s phase two, efforts have been made to replace cash with debit cards, and now in 2018’s phase three, mobile payments are poised to replace cash and cheque payments.

Thanks to phase two, Malaysians began to see more and more payment counters accepting plastic over paper. Thanks to phase three, with the introduction of e-wallets, we see banks work harder to compete and push more debit and credit card facilities.

The result? Plastic (as in debit and credit cards) is now more accepted than ever.

Cards and their virtual counterparts, like the ones used in Samsung Pay (which is available now), Google Pay, and Apple Pay (which is expected to be available next year), is the solution to our goal of going cashless.

However, in a pipe dream to achieve the same level of success as AliPay and WeChat Pay, Bank Negara Malaysia greenlit over 30 e-wallet services in Malaysia. This effectively unleashed a literal cash grab.

This sheer number of competitors is crippling. Can you imagine needing 30 different apps on your phone, or playing match the logo with a shop display just to see if you can shop there? All the while your debit or credit card, that is almost universally accepted everywhere, is sitting in your wallet?

And don’t get me started on how most of these e-wallets are actually prepaid placeholders that you have to fill with fixed denominations of cash before you can actually use them.

Why make it more complicated?

Can you remember when was the last time you used Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and the rest of their ilk to socialise?

And I mean not to broadcast something for likes and shares, not to read or spread links that echo your own personal opinions, and not for self-promotion – but to make friends, to catch up with someone you know, and to generally socialise?

For me, those moments are few and far between now.

If reading social media posts gets you depressed, and the only pleasure you get from them is the response you get from your own posts, then you are not alone.

This year, social media got into more trouble than ever before, as people looked up from their devices and finally realised that all is not what it seems.

Facebook in particular, got into very hot water for being one of the media that were being used to not only manipulate voters in certain countries by specific foreign agents, but also the mode of communication of choice used to incite racial and religious violence.

As a result, big social networks such as Facebook and Twitter have been made answerable to governments.

Also, let’s face it. Social networks are designed to sell you stuff. It’s in their best interests to get you to stay on their page or apps for as long as they can while they push advertising in your face.

Forget cash: likes, shares, and subscriptions are the new form of currency.

The two biggest players in home console gaming – the PlayStation 4 and the Xbox One – were launched back in 2013.

After five years, we are beginning to hear rumours of a new generation of gaming consoles on the horizon. More specifically, the PlayStation 5.

But, let us take a step back and look in the here and now. In Malaysia, the battle for the attention of console gamers is being fought by two old rivals, Sony and Nintendo.

Note that Microsoft never officially launched the Xbox in Malaysia.

Nintendo’s Switch, which was launched last year, is the latest of the three gaming consoles to hit the market. It brought with it a new way to play games, a hybrid of a big-screen experience and portable gaming.

Sadly, it has limited support in Malaysia. Its lack of a Malaysian eShop makes it feel like Nintendo does not take Malaysia seriously.

On the other hand, Sony’s PlayStation 4 dominated the Malaysian gaming console market by offering its full range of games and services here, including a complete online store, a relatively affordable VR headset, and making Malaysia the destination for some of its most significant events in the region.

With the shadow of the next generation of PlayStation console in the horizon, there is no better time than now to get Sony’s gaming console.

Why? Because it has matured. Games made for it are better than ever before, readily available, and the library is bursting at the seams. And with mobile gaming nipping at its heels, you know Sony will have to try harder.

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