July 17, 2015
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Less is More: Why Low Tech is The Next Big Thing

At some point in the past decade or so, people realized that food doesn’t need 37 different kinds of sodium to taste good. Call it “clean eating.” Call it common sense. But whatever you call it, it ain’t stopping with food.

In the age of talking smoke alarms, intelligent toilets and voice-activated home command centers, the nostalgia of simpler times beckons. The “Back to Basics” trend is creeping into consumer tech faster than you can say, “flip phone.”

Here are five categories where “gadget overload” is pushing consumer demand for technological innovation… backwards.

1. Cars


Driving. Just… driving.

That’s the idea behind the Subaru BRZ sports car, and its Scion branded twin, the FRS. The design centers on a small engine mounted as low as possible in a super light chassis. The low center of gravity naturally keeps the car composed in corners; the light weight precludes the necessity for power-boosting gizmos. Simple. Affordable. No extraneous technology to detract from the drive. And that’s just the way a growing segment of young, automotive purists wants it.

And you can expect other automakers to follow Subaru’s lead. In fact, Ford lists the growing interest in “old school” values (technology, lifestyle, etc.) as the second most influential consumer trend in recent years.

2. Computers


Ever notice how computers get more powerful and more advanced every year, yet never seem to get any faster? So did Google. Their solution? The Chromebook—a computer designed to run a minimally demanding operating system, with minimal hardware specs… and minimal BS. No fancy processor. No resource-hungry OS running 9,000 background processes you don’t ever see, need, want or care about.

Look for this trend to continue, as the simple, intuitive appeal of smartphones continues to merge into the landscape of personal computers.

3. Watches


 A new generation of “smart watches” promises to bring the cloud to the wrist. And, a new generation of quality-conscious consumers couldn’t care less.

For those that appreciate old-world craftsmanship, the allure of wrist-mounted text messages only goes so far. Recent watch offerings, like the Swiss-made Slow Watch—which uses a minimalistic, one-handed approach to timekeeping—confirm that the demand for simplicity, quality and authenticity is alive and well in certain segments.

No doubt, the Apple Watch will sell like silicon hotcakes, but so will “boutique” alternatives that go against the grain of the mainstream. Like the Slow Watch.

4. Music


CD’s killed tapes. MP3’s killed CDs. Streaming audio killed MP3’s. And now… vinyl is rising like a phoenix from the ashes of the audio-media Armageddon.

Yes, Millenials—vinyl. As in records: large black discs that use analogue grooves to encode musical data. Think of it as the steampunk version of CD’s… and that’s why it’s cool. So cool, in fact, that U.S. vinyl sales have jumped from 1 million to 2007, to over 8 million in 2014. There are differences in the sound, too. Warmer. More dynamic. No loss in quality during recording.

Certain artists are now jumping on the trend, cultivating a sound that’s optimized for the nostalgic sound of vinyl. So go buy a turntable (a strange contraption that plays these “records”) and spin those groovy tunes.

5. Mobile Phones


Yup. You guessed it: flip phones are making a comeback… at least in Japan, where smartphone sales have actually dropped more than 5% in the last year. Japan is generally the trendsetter when it comes to gadgets, so we can probably expect the flip phone phenomenon (FPP) to go global in the next year or two.

In fact, we’re already beginning to see the first tremors of smartphone backlash here in the U.S. With its circular design and wooden construction, the Runcible phone evokes a bygone era… when well-to-do gentlemen carried fine pocket watches. Not iPhones in hip holsters.

There are no apps. No games. And no GPS modules to let Apple and Google know your exact whereabouts at all times. But don’t worry—the Runcible still lets you take pictures of your cat.

As a member of Seed’s copywriting team, Matt Donahue marries his love for creative writing with a keen interest in product innovation, technology and science. He’s a graduate of Seton Hill University’s “Popular Fiction” master’s program and writes whenever he can.

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