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At the end of a full decade in terms of technological evolution, it was time to take a trip through the gadgets that marked it. In between “ups and downs”, one thing is certain: gadgets are here to stay and we probably wouldn't be able to imagine our lives without their presence.
The decade that now ends brought with it a profusion of gadgets that, step by step, were making the world more and more like the futuristic scenarios designed by science fiction. Over the course of 10 years, technological “gadgets” have become more advanced and portable, have gained intelligence and have become deeply integrated in almost all aspects of our lives.
Smartphones: The future is “foldable”, but there is still a long way to go
If 10 years ago it was already difficult to imagine a world without the presence of smartphones, today, mobile devices have become, for many, something truly indispensable. At the beginning of 2010, mobile phones were beginning to show signs of their “intelligence”, but it was this decade that put “smart” in a smartphone, opening a new world of possibilities.
In 2019, in addition to devices already prepared for the implementation of 5G, we saw the arrival of truly foldable smartphones: a new trend in a market that for some time has been experiencing difficulties to reinvent itself. Although everything indicated that 2019 would be his year, the new concept of devices still needs to go a long way to become, in fact, accessible to the consumer.
After Royole's “starting shot”, Samsung announced its first bet in the world of foldable smartphones. The rush to be one of the first in the market ended up not playing in favor of the South Korean manufacturer, which ended up moving forward in June with a Galaxy Fold with too many flaws and problems. After having postponed the official launch to avoid yet another crisis similar to the Note 7 and having corrected the technical flaws, Samsung began to market the Galaxy Fold gradually, with Portugal receiving it in 2019.
Still in the folding betting market, and among several chapters of a trade war whose end seems to be far off, Huawei started marketing its Mate X in China after some delays. For now, there is still no date scheduled for the arrival of the smartphone to the other markets. A spokesman for the company will have indicated, in October, that the manufacturer would be revising its plan for the worldwide launch of Mate X taking into account the arrival of 5G to different regions of the world.
The saga between the government of Donald Trump and the Chinese manufacturer made a lot of ink run throughout 2019 and its impact was immediately revealed in Mate 30 and 30 Pro, Huawei's first smartphones after the blockade. Although the company did not indicate it directly, Google Mobile Services appear to have been replaced by services developed by Huawei: a trend that will mark the next releases.
In October, the smartphone market indicators showed that it is growing, registering an increase of 2% in terms of shipments of mobile devices to stores, reaching 366 million units in the third quarter of 2019. However, the profits obtained in the same period they decreased by 11%, not exceeding 12 billion dollars. In this scenario, 66% of profits for the entire industry belong to Apple. The apple company unveiled its iPhone 11 in September, and while it “stretched” the price of its new devices, Apple had to increase its production due to higher demand than expected.
Although foldable smartphones have not fully fulfilled their promise, when it comes to the technological evolution of the next decade, one thing is certain: this will be strongly marked by the explosive commercial growth of 5G. Ericsson predicts that it sees the 5G reach a total of 2.6 billion subscriptions, globally, by the end of 2025. According to the company, the process of accelerating the technology will advance in 2020, laying the groundwork for the high levels of adoption that will register from 2021/2022.
"Smart" news everywhere
The "smart" novelties were not limited to small machines in the palm of our hands, arriving in the form of wearables, or "ready-to-wear" technology. In 2019, approximately 84.5 million units of technological accessories, known as wearables, were placed in stores during the third quarter of 2019, meaning a 94.6% growth compared to last year, according to IDC, equivalent to a record distribution for a single quarter.
The significant increase was due to the great demand for new products that were launched on the market, especially in terms of wireless headsets. Wearables that interact with smart assistants have also become popular, expanding beyond the usual health and fitness accessories.
And the main smartphone manufacturers have been betting on the segment, taking the “rivalry” to other lands, but, at the end of the decade, Apple ended up leading in terms of the distribution of wearables, either with its AirPods, which in 2019 arrived to its second generation, either with its Apple Watch, which reached its fifth version this year.
But that's not all: at home, gadgets have become ubiquitous not only thanks to the emergence of smart speakers, but also to the popularization of devices in the Internet of Things (IoT) ecosystem. Virtual assistants began to gain prominence in 2015, with the marketing of Amazon Echo and the well-known Alexa and, although they were no longer a new technology, already existing in smartphones, they took care of our devices and our homes.
At the end of 2018, more than 114 million people worldwide had and used a smart column, Canalys Research analysts revealed. The trend at the end of the decade was one of growth, with an increase of 82.4% expected by the end of 2019, meaning an increase to 207.9 million.
The market for smart speakers has become increasingly competitive. Google, which surrendered to the “fever” of smart personal assistants at home in 2016, presented its most recent bet in October this year: the Google Nest Mini with its Google Assistant. Apple announced the launch of the Home Pod in 2017 and Samsung also entered the race, promising, in 2018, the arrival of a domestic speaker equipped with Bixby. Although it updated its smart system, Galaxy Home was still in the workshop in August.
In 2019, Amazon presented several new features regarding the integration of Alexa in addition to the columns. Thus, the intelligent assistant of the e-commerce giant also started to be in glasses, rings, wireless headphones, leaving the promise that Alexa would start to communicate even with not so “smart” devices, such as light switches or thermostats.
Outside the comforts of home, drones have enabled anyone to explore air, land and even the sea, and are now used for professional purposes almost to the same extent that they are used by aviation enthusiasts and amateurs. In this universe, DJI has clearly assumed itself as the main brand and manufacturer of home and professional drones, and, more recently, it seems to be also trying to conquer the market for terrestrial remote control devices.
In this decade, "escaping" from reality has become as "simple" as putting on a VR headset or even augmented reality glasses, say, for example, the world of video games. After the fall and rise of Google Glasses, at least in their original concept, bets like Microsoft's Hololens and even “mixed reality” headsets like Magic Leap started to become well known. In the virtual reality world, for the PC, the Oculus Rift became popular, which captured interest in the famous VR glasses, drawing the attention of Facebook, which bought the company. In the world of consoles, Sony rules alone with its PS VR system, with more than 4 million systems sold.
Despite all the progress made over the past ten years in the world of gadgets, the current scenario may not be as utopian as expected. We become more dependent on smartphones and the small machines in the palm of our hands that accompany us 24/7 ended up changing many of our behaviors and habits.
In addition, our privacy has been increasingly compromised, not only due to platforms and social networks whose business model is considered incompatible with human rights, but by intelligent assistants who have come to know more than they certainly should about us. Among “ups and downs”, one thing is certain: gadgets are here to stay and we probably wouldn't be able to imagine our lives without their presence.