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January 6, 2022

Top 10 milestone products in consumer electronics over the past decade

Ensuring the market longevity of a company's sustainable growth in the field of information technology is impossible if management is not able to look back to reflect on the business experience and analyze the achievements and mistakes made by themselves and their competitors. The interest in a retrospective analysis of scientific and technological progress is not nostalgia, but the desire of management to see in its reflection the future of business and the market, and those who succeed in this gain an invisible but very weighty competitive advantage - knowledge and experience.

The consumer electronics market behaviour is as volatile and difficult to predict as its key actors - retail customers; on the other hand, it acts as a litmus test, reflecting not only current consumer sentiment but also their expectations in the long term. According to the EETimes and Embedded report, total global production in the electronics and IT industries in 2019 was $2923 billion. In 2020, despite pessimistic forecasts due to the coronavirus pandemic, it hit the $2972 billion mark, showing growth of 2% due to growth in sales of computer hardware and wearable health monitoring gadgets. Despite expectations that the fall is usually the beginning of new product cycles for consumer electronics companies, 2021 has not lived up to expectations. Most manufacturing companies have significantly reduced spending on R&D projects and focused on maintaining partnerships with production sites. These are known to be mostly located in China, which exacerbated investment, production and technological risks against the background of new waves of coronavirus.

Wingle regularly publishes insights and collects data on developments in the consumer electronics market. Our more than 10 years of experience allows us to highlight the breakthrough inventions that not only changed the consumer electronics market but also set long-term trends. So here is a list of the most revolutionary developments in consumer electronics from around the world, let's go:

1. Tablets

In 2010 Apple introduced the iPad to the world. The iPad quickly won the hearts of Apple and modern tech fans because it had everything people wanted. It could perform the same tasks as a phone but had a bigger screen and a long-lasting battery. This device became a trendsetter among tablets and other manufacturers began to produce iPad-like devices at more affordable prices. Also, it is necessary to highlight the product of the Chinese company Xiaomi, which presented the conceptual smartphone Mi Mix Alpha. The feature of the device is the screen "wrapped" around the body, the area of which is 180% of the size of the phone. The flagship Galaxy Note 10 Plus was also not left out and boasted a 3D TOF-camera for 3D-scanning of objects and quick measurement of objects by the camera. In the B2B segment, smartphones are not left out either: South Korean company Samsung launched the Samsung Pay Touch application, which turns Galaxy smartphones into POS terminals that can accept contactless payments, starting in 2020. Samsung, together with the payment system Visa and Fiserv First Data unit started the joint development of the system to accept contactless payments of any amount directly to the smartphone, and representatives from LG reported that the company is working on a cryptocurrency wallet and filed an application for the registration of the trademark ThinQ Wallet.

2. VR devices

The second type of device for immersive virtual reality comes to the fore: VR helmets. The last decade was the rise of Oculus Rift. HTC Vive, PlayStation VR, Google Daydream, and Microsoft's VR headsets. Many real estate agencies, museums, and restaurants began to work actively to implement VR in their work. Thanks to this, you can now choose a new home and view houses and apartments from the comfort of your own home or “visit” a restaurant before booking a table.

To date, the top devices are considered Oculus Rift and HTC Vive. These gadgets have one thing in common: both of them are connected to PCs and cannot work without them. All VR content is stored in the PC memory, processed by a powerful processor and graphics card, and then transmitted to the VR-helmet as to the monitor. 

The second direction in the development of the VR-sphere is the creation of virtual reality gloves, which should more accurately transfer the movements of our hands to games and applications and even give a tactile connection. One such VR glove is Dexmo from Dexta Robotics (China). The Dexmo glove uses clawed robotic fingers that run along the back of the palm and end at the fingertips. This allows accurate finger movement and simulates resistance when the user touches a virtual object.

Another step in the evolution of VR is the bodysuit, which provides a deeper immersion and feeling of being in the viral world. Such an example is the HoloSuit product, which provides haptic feedback in various places. Possible applications include gaming, education, medicine, and training for industrial workers. The HoloSuit offers 26 motion sensors, nine haptic motors, and six control knobs to meet the needs of various disciplines.

The crowning development of VR is the development of artificial skin that can simulate touch through compressed air. This creates a mesh of small air bubbles between two thin silicone shells. The software sends appropriate signals to the artificial skin, which increases or decreases the number of air bubbles. The skin could theoretically be used to make entire garments, but whether the technology will ever be launched as a product, the authors-researchers at the Lausanne University of Technology in Switzerland are silent.

3. AR-devices 

The most common AR devices are wearable computer glasses or smart glasses. With the help of these glasses, a user can shoot videos, take pictures, or get directions using GPS. Some of the glasses can only work when paired with a smartphone, some of them are completely standalone devices. The most famous AR device today is Google Glass.

Also, augmented reality has great applications in education, and apps like BBC Civilisations AR are paving the way for an AR-centric future. BBC Civilisations AR gives users the ability to admire different historical artifacts, view them from different angles and zoom in on them. Google Translator is used for text translation by simply taking a picture of text in a foreign language, so the user can see its translation in real-time.

4. Vaping and HnB devices

First of all, we consider popular alternative devices, which heat tobacco to a certain temperature (200-350 ℃): this does not allow the tobacco and paper to burn, instead this special aerosol evaporates from the tobacco. The most popular brands of such devices: IQOS, Glo, Lil, Ploom.

From the classic e-cigarettes and large vapes with a cloud of vapor, the market has gradually evolved to stylish, miniature pod systems (mini-vapes). A pod system is a closed-circuit e-cigarette. Unlike vapes, there is no liquid refill. Refills are sold in the form of "pods" (these are disposable cartridges). In the market, the undisputed leaders are Juul and Logic Compact.

The market of electronic devices for smokers is notable for the fact that both global tobacco companies, which started investing in the development of new generation gadgets, and techno startups, which generated only one "shot" product (the same Juul, Joint, Flex) freely compete on it.

5. Raspberry Pi 

Small single-board computers, developed by Raspberry Pi Foundation for teaching basic computer science in schools, and later it became a very popular gadget for making gaming devices, fitness, and weather stations. But its mission is still the same - to teach people of any age and education level in computer science. For the 2020 year, it is the best-selling British computer, made in the Sony factory in Pencoed, Wales.

6. Reinvention of e-cars

According to a report from Deloitte, by 2030 one out of every four cars bought will be an electric car. However, many investment funds and private investors are already interested in this segment. Tesla continues to be the leader among electric car manufacturers, with sales of about half a million cars in 2020, a record. 

The U.S. market is interesting because even though electric car manufacturers have a production plan only on "paper," a lot of money is already pouring into them. Traditional companies have a hard time competing with the U.S. market leader, Tesla, so they use the tactic of investing in startups.

Another example of the potential entry of traditional American auto-manufacturers into the electric car market is Ford's investment in Rivian to start producing electric pickup trucks (Rivian's focus is precisely on the production of these cars).

There are more than 400 registered electric car companies in China. These include both traditional domestic car manufacturers such as Geely, Dongfeng, and Chery as well as recently established and fast-growing companies such as NIO, Li Auto, and XPeng. More and more technology companies in China are partnering with automotive companies with the common goal of producing globally competitive electric vehicles. Among the most recent are partnerships between Alibaba and SAIC and between Foxconn and Geely.

Electric cars are our inevitable future, experts say. According to Wood Mackenzie's forecast, global demand for petroleum products will start to decline as early as 2025 due to the growing popularity of electric cars. In 2040 the share of electric cars and hybrids in the market of new cars in the world will reach 38%. 

7. Drones


In 2020, the largest volume of revenue in the unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) market was recorded in the military and energy segment, but by 2025 the points of growth will shift to the civilian sector: agriculture, construction, and product delivery. 

The absolute market leaders in professional UAVs are represented by the giants of the aviation industry: Boeing, BAE Systems PLC, General Atomics, Israel Aerospace Industries, and Elbit Systems; in the commercial segment main actor is DJI, who was one of the first to reduce production costs and bring drones to the mass segment, and today developers produce drones that are used in police, cinematography, agriculture, and cartography.

American 3D Robotics drones successfully compete with the multi-copters of Chinese manufacturers. The team from Slovenia, C-astral, has a very serious approach. Their drones have high performance and endurance and specialize in remote sensing.

A curious manufacturer is a French Parrot. He does not have a lot of weight on the market but makes interesting consumer models. For example, a folding quadcopter or a racing Parrot Mambo FPV.

Despite the annual growth of the UAV market, it is hard to say that recently there have been some revolutionary models: drones learned to fly higher and farther, to avoid obstacles, but everyone has always wanted more from them - everyone has been waiting for rescue drones, airborne trucks, air cabs, but just in these areas drones still can not do much. Today, the most promising area of UAV commercialization is the production of convertorcraft - a machine that combines the advantages of an airplane and a helicopter. Thanks to rotary mechanics in airplane mode, the convertorcraft can fly horizontally with fairly high energy efficiency, and when switching to helicopter mode, it can hover over a point, maneuver at low speeds, and move vertically. Today, the only successful model is the Osprey, which is in service with the U.S. Marine Corps.

As the technology and blueprints for convertorcraft are declassified, its commercial clones appear, such as the E-Flite Convergence VTOL, Flight Wave: the most advanced models are capable of speeds up to 200 km/h, staying in flight for several hours, lift loads of about ten kg, take off and land vertically from a small platform and perform tasks unavailable to classic vehicles.

8. Voice devices

Smart speakers and other devices with Conversational AI technology are conquering the world. In 2020, the world market got new record point - 150 million devices (according to calculations by Strategy Analytics), and by the end of 2023 there will be 640 million smart speakers worldwide (Just AI expert's conclusion) and Juniper Research experts expect that by 2024 there will be 8.4 billion any devices with included voice assistants.

The main trends in the voice-assistant market are as follows: 

1) the emergence of highly specialized voice assistants, each aimed at solving specific user tasks, for example for financial and lifestyle services; 

2) the opening of platforms for creating new skills of smart assistants by third-party developers, in other words - orientation towards a model somewhat similar to the open-source principle; 

3) emergence of new mechanics of user interaction with smart assistants and experiments with digital avatars and various devices - companies are actively developing voice control technologies for live displays, avatars, Emotional AI, and wearable devices to ensure their safety and increase personalization; 

4) increase in the use of voice control in smart devices - by 2025 75% of all conversations at work will be recorded and analyzed, including through smart speakers (Gartner Analytics). Main points of growth are expected in banking, medicine, customer support, transportation, urban services, education, culture, and media spheres. 

5) Voice biometrics - biometrics will develop and help distinguish users to access sensitive data - payments, mail, correspondence in social networks, which is a normal evolutionary development of functionality.

9. Wearables (Apple Watch, Airpods)

According to a review by Strategy Analytics the global market for wearable electronics in 2020 reached 527 million units, an increase of 37% compared to 2019 - 384 million units, with 98% of all products accounted for smart headphones and wrist-worn gadgets, which in value terms was $ 68.99 billion against $ 46.19 billion a year earlier. 

According to experts Gartner, the main driver of the market of portable electronics was the development of innovations and the appearance of miniature functional devices. The accuracy of sensors is increasing, and non-medical gadgets in their effectiveness are approaching the medical devices.The second factor is the development of the practice of remote work and local lockdown on the background of the pandemic COVID-19, which encourages people who are more interested in tools to monitor their health.

Other noteworthy trends include the return to growth of the children's smartwatches segment due to the transition to distance learning, the development of cross-functional gadgets with the option of health sensors (body temperature, ECG, heart rate, lung saturation).

Apple has a 31.7% share of the global market of wearable gadgets. The company is the leader. Xiaomi is in the second place with 12.4%. Next are Samsung, Huawei, and Fitbit, which own 9.2%, 8.3%, and 4.7% respectively. In the Chinese market, the leader is Xiaomi. Second place goes to Huawei.

The main wearable products of Apple are the headphones brand Beats, as well as Apple Watch and AirPods. Xiaomi's main wearable gadgets are the Xiaomi Mi Band fitness bracelet, Xiaomi Watch, Mitu kids watch, and Xiaomi True Wireless Earbud Bluetooth headset.

10. Hololens

Microsoft HoloLens is the first Mixed Reality helmet and the first Microsoft product to run on Windows 10 and the Windows Holographic subsystem. All sensors are handled by a built-in HPU (Holographic Processing Unit) chip, which allows the processing of gigabytes of spatial data, essentially on a mobile device. Mixed reality and holograms in Microsoft's concept allow us to augment the space around us with three-dimensional objects that can not just "hang in the air," as in the usual version of augmented reality, but fit seamlessly into the interior and interact with it. HoloLens has very high positioning accuracy and takes into account the peculiarities of human perception of the combination of real objects and images on displays. This is what makes holograms look so stable, and it is the key difference between mixed reality (MR, Mixed Reality) and virtual reality (VR, Virtual Reality), which completely replaces the user's environment with a virtual world.

The closest technologically to the HoloLens v2 is the Magic Leap One, which launched in 2018 and is the most advanced device on the market.

There are several industries in which the use of MR has the most potential: 1) the field of communications - MR technology can help more effective cooperation between people, when, wearing a helmet, one can communicate freely with each other while within the real world; 2) Mixed reality can be used in education, allowing students to see immersive holograms integrated into the real world; 3) Mixed reality technology can simplify production processes: holographic instructions will reduce the risk of human error and eliminate the errors associated with it, which significantly improves the quality of production, especially in maintenance or repair work in industries requiring great accuracy and experience.

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