The year 2021 has been nothing short of a miracle when it comes to the developments that we have seen. Last year, the Covid-19 pandemic put a halt on life as we have known it so far. While the first half of the year was mostly about video calling apps increasing their group limit and in some cases extending the availability of some premium features, in the second half of the year we saw an increase in demand for gadgets, particularly laptops, premium smartphones and home electronic devices. In 2021, we saw the world picking up the pace.
The first half of the year 2021 was primarily about the rise of Clubhouse and democratization of 5G smartphones. Part of this trend continued in the second half of the year as well with companies like Realme, Samsung and Motorola launching 5G phones in the affordable range. In the second half of the year we saw Facebook rebranding itself as ‘Meta’ signaling the company’s focus on developing metaverse. This triggered a cascading effect in the tech world with companies across industries rushing to cash in on this trend. In addition to this, we also saw a rise in conversations around NFTs and crypto currencies.
Here is a recap of the major tech trends that we witnessed in the 2021:
Rise and fall (sort of) of Clubhouse
The audio-based social networking platform, Clubhouse, was launched in 2020. However, it was in 2021 that the platform created a buzz not just in terms of the number of users but also in terms of features. The year began with Clubhouse registering over 8 million downloads in February. As the year progressed, the company launched an Android version of the app on Google Play Store. In less than a week after its Android debut, the app racked one million downloads on the Play Store. As the year progressed, the app kept adding features to its platform including a new logo, Wave and the ability to replay a Clubhouse session as it was happening live.
As the year progressed, the buzz started fading away with some users complaining about the app’s room recommendations and about how the app was struggling to moderate content especially in India.
Apple comes a step closer to Google
When it comes to platforms, Apple and Google are poles apart and usually there are no easy ways to navigate between the two. But this year, we saw the two companies inching a step closer to each other one year at a time. Earlier this year, WhatsAppp rolled out a feature that enables iPhone users to restore their chat history on a new Android smartphone. In Addition to that, Apple Music support started arriving on Nest smart speakers in more countries across the globe including in India. The feature was first introduced in December last year in the US, UK, France, Germany and Japan. This year it arrived in Canada, Australia and India among others.
More recently, Apple rolled out the Tracker Detect app on the Google Play Store. The app not only enables Android users to find out if a AirTag or a supported tracker is secretly tracking their location but it also gives users a step-by-step guide on disabling it if necessary.
Global chip shortage continues
Covid-19 pandemic triggered a global chip shortage last year. While the market did pick up pace this year, the shortage continued this year as well. This ongoing trend delayed the launch of Reliance Jio and Google’s brainchild – JioPhone Next. It also led to delays in the launch of the Samsung Galaxy S21 FE. The phone is now tipped to launch at CES 2022 next month.
Experts predict that the global chip shortage is likely to ease out a bit in 2022. “Supply has improved this year over 2020 and the situation is expected to improve even more in 2022, especially compared to 2020,” Qualcomm CEO Cristiano Amon said earlier this month.
Democratisation of 5G phones
The year 2021 also saw a rise in the availability of 5G-enabled smartphones in India, particularly in the mid-budget segment with Realme and Motorola taking a lead in this segment. Realme started the year by launching the Realme 8 5G smartphone in India. Over the course of the year, the company launched a host of 5G-enabled smartphones in India including the Realme 8s 5G, Realme Narzo 30 5G and the Realme Narzo 30 Pro 5G. All of these phones were launched in the 15K-20K market segment.
On the other hand, Motorola launched the Moto Edge, Moto G50 5G and Moto Edge 20 Fusion in India in the sub-20K market segment.
Rise of the foldable display smartphones
Another interesting trend that we noticed this year was the rise of foldable display smartphones. Until last year, there were few contenders in this race – Samsung and Huawei. This year, we saw more smartphone makers joining the bandwagon. While Samsung launched its third-generation of foldable display smartphones – Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 and Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3, Xiaomi introduced Mi Mix Fold earlier this year. While Samsung’s next-gen foldable display smartphones are available in India, Xiaomi’s Mi Mix Fold is yet to arrive in the country.
More recently, Oppo introduced the Oppo Find N – its first ever foldable display smartphone in China. The phone starts at CNY 7,699 (Rs 92,100 approx.) in China for the 8GB+256GB variant. There is also a 12GB+512GB variant that costs CNY 8,999 (Rs 1,07,600 approx.).
Facebook becomes Meta
One of the major announcements of the year, however, was Facebook rebranding itself to Meta. The announcement was made by the Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg at Facebook’s Connect 2021 event and it signaled the direction in which the company would be heading into going forward – developing the metaverse.
“Meta’s focus will be to bring the metaverse to life and help people connect, find communities and grow businesses…It will let you share immersive experiences with other people even when you can’t be together — and do things together you couldn’t do in the physical world. It’s the next evolution in a long line of social technologies,” Facebook wrote in a post announcing the news.
Rise of the metaverse
Zuckerberg’s announcement was followed by companies across the globe racing to be a part of this trend. After Meta, Microsoft announced its foray into the metaverse with Mesh following which other companies too announced their plans of joining this virtual space. Adidas acquired a virtual plot in a metaverse platform called Sandbox. Nike and Ralph Lauren announced their own virtual worlds on the Roblox metaverse. Additionally, Ubisoft announced Project Quartz to cash-in on the ongoing trend.
NFTs became a thing
Just like the metaverse, we also saw a rise in the adoption of NFTs with tech companies and Bollywood celebrities alike announcing their foray in this field. In India, celebrities including Amitabh Bachchan, Salman Khan, Sunny Leone and Kamal Hassan announced their NFT-driven ventures. Globally, Adidas, former FLOTUS Melania Trump, Pepsi and Parler ventured into this trend.
More recently, Adidas’s Into The Metaverse NFTs earned the company more than 22 million in sales after the company’s NFTs went on sale last week.
Another Indian joins the Silicon Valley CEOs’ club
Another highlight of the year was Twitter founder Jack Dorsey announcing his resignation from the post of the company’s CEO. “I’ve decided to leave Twitter because I believe the company is ready to move on from its founders. My trust in Parag as Twitter’s CEO is deep. His work over the past 10 years has been transformational. I’m deeply grateful for his skill, heart, and soul. It’s his time to lead,” Dorsey said in a post on Twitter.
He was replaced by former Twitter CTO Parag Agarwal. Agarwal joins the elite list of India-born executives that are leading big tech companies in the Silicon Valley. The list includes Alphabet Inc’s Sundar Pichai, Microsoft’s Satya Nadella, Adobe’s Shantanu Narayen, and IBM’s Arvind Krishna to name a few.
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