Technology is fleeting. What was popular last year could likely now be sitting in a discount bin at Best Buy. Remember when we all needed GPS devices to get around? Luckily most of the technology innovations of the early 2000’s that created a lot of clutter have been replaced by the seemingly endless functionality possibilities available in our smart phone. In the 2010’s technology made a lot of other advances that will change how we live our lives forever. From lightning fast internet speeds to wearable technology and even futuristic beauty tools, here are ten of the biggest tech innovations that defined technology in the 2010’s.
Instagram – 2010
Surprise, surprise. We felt that it was vital to include Instagram because the platform played such a big role in changing how we consume media forever. Marketing blogs and specialists were met with a challenge in how to advertise to millennials in a world where so many of us were becoming increasingly distant from television, radio, and print. We spent so much of our time on social media sites like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, instead, so brands learned that they had to change the way they approached marketing in order to survive.
Ten years, and a major acquisition from Facebook later, and Instagram is one of the most lucrative marketing tools in the world. Not only is it estimated that the social media marketing industry will reach a collective $48 billion by 2021, but it provided an opportunity for an entire new generation of celebrity to arise—the influencer.
It is estimated that the influencer marketing industry will reach a $15 billion global valuation by 2022, making it one of the most important marketing strategies in the world. Who would have thought that one day we would be seeing commercial breaks on our friends’ vacation videos in our everyday lives and never think twice about it? The Instagram beast is unlikely to slow down into the 2020’s, especially since the platform is expected to amass over 111 million users by the end of 2019. Instagram, along with Facebook and it’s other communications network, WhatsApp, have carved their way into the “necessity” category rather than remaining a product of leisure.
Notable mention: the iPad. Can you believe we haven’t even had this gadget for a full decade? Steve Jobs premiered the touch-screen tablet back in 2010, and it has since become a major innovation used in our everyday lives.
Mac Book Air – 2011
Though the MacBook Air was first released back in 2008, it saw major innovations in the summer of 2011 that made it one of the most important pieces of everyday tech in the decade. Many analysts predicted that tablet computing would overthrow the popularity of the laptop over the next few years, but when Apple announced that its MacBook Air would get a complete overhaul during the summer of 2011, that changed things completely.
The all new MacBook Air did away with its old processor in favor of the much smaller and lighter Dual-Core i5 and Dual-Core i7 chips from Intel—along with other notable features like a backlit keyboard, no CD-ROM drive, and smaller ports. This made the overall thickness and weight of the computer smaller than ever, making it a genuine competitor for the super-portable tablet computer (which Apple was also spearheading with the iPad).
Sales of the MacBook increased by as much as 25% in just one year, and by Q4 of 2011 Apple had sold nearly 1o million MacBook Air computers around the world. This proved two things: despite analyst predictions that tablet computing would become the new norm, consumers were skeptical that the devices could fully replace a laptop computer. However, consumers were begging for a more portable option.
Google Fiber – 2012
While Google Fiber never really took off in the way that the company had hoped it would, it did succeed in pushing broadband internet companies to create innovations that change the ways in which we consume media forever. In the early 2010’s access to ultra high speed internet connections were few and far between once you left the major cities. Once broadband providers had made the massive jump from DSL and dial-up connections to high speed in the early 2000’s they began to slow down their innovations to focus on other things.
Google’s announcement of Google Fiber in 2010 and its plans to make ultra high speed connections available to everyone within the coming decade made it one of the most disruptive innovations in the 2010’s. A 2018 analysis of the company’s strategy in the Harvard Business Review discusses how Google Fiber succeeded in jump starting innovations in connection speeds throughout the last decade by creating a major threat to broadband. It even goes so far as to allege that Google planned the failure of Google Fiber all along to push other projects that required a high speed connection.
You are likely not connected to Google Fiber right now, but without the industry push that it created we very well could be in the race for 4G instead of 5G speeds today.
Oculus Rift – 2013
While Oculus Rift was technically released earlier in the decade, and VR has long been in development, it didn’t see a major arrival in the consumer market until at least 2013. Analysts were hopeful that VR would become the new norm in entertainment, and companies like Samsung began investing heavily in ways to monetize the products and services by integrating advertising strategies and entertainment opportunities into the gadgets.
By 2013, the Oculus Rift had made its way into dozens of year-end “must have” lists and earned tens of millions of dollars in funding rounds after beginning initially as a Kickstarter project back in 2012. Many experts boldly claimed that VR—by way of the Oculus—was set to become the next big thing in entertainment. It would bring a new level of interactivity to video games, make movie screenings more intimate, and give millions of people the opportunity to travel the world without ever having to leave their home.
The Oculus Rift made the possibility of home VR palatable to consumers. Unfortunately, pricey hardware and
the fact that most people get motion sick a lack of general interest in the product from consumers meant that the technology never quite took off in the way that Oculus hoped it would back in 2013. VR, however, is still a popular entertainment format in certain spheres—particularly gaming.
Amazon Alexa – 2014
The only reason we didn’t say Amazon prime instead of the Echo is because the service technically launched way back in 2005—but 2014 was around the time that the service became a household utility. That is not to say that the Amazon Echo did not provide a major innovation in the 2010’s. The smart home gadget allowed consumers to have all of the perks of a personal assistant at their disposal—like Siri, but for your house. Today, the device can be told to do anything from play a song, set an alarm, and send messages to people with a simple voice command. When synced to other smart home devices it can even turn lights on and off, lock and unlock doors, or set the oven to preheat without having to lift a finger.
Since its initial release in 2014 more than 100 million Echo products have been sold, in addition to competitors like the Google Home and Apple’s HomePod. With more smart home products being designed to integrate with the product, it’s likely that it will become more of a necessity in the future—in spite of the privacy scandals.
Apple Watch & SpaceX Falcon 9 Rocket – 2015
2015 brought with it two of the biggest innovations in technology to come out of the 2010’s. Remember back in Spy Kids 2, when the kids had that wearable piece of tech that let them access the internet, send messages, use GPS, and even check the time from a smart watch on their wrists? Who knew that would become an everyday product within just a few years.
Apple debuted the Apple Watch back in 2015 with big ambitions in the wearable tech world. Yes, we know Fitbit was already popular by the time the Apple Watch hit stores, but what the Apple Watch (and later the Samsung Galaxy Watch) brought to the table was its ability to integrate seamlessly with your iPhone, in addition to the health innovations that came in the later models.
Today, the Apple Watch has canonized itself as a tech utility rather than a luxury, with its ability to detect heart defects and whether or not an elderly person has suffered a major fall and needs help. Thanks to Apple, the 2020’s may never have to see a LifeAlert commercial ever again. Ah, the magic of tech.
SpaceX Makes History
All of that being said, it would be a disservice not to mention the fact that 2015 saw the first-ever successful landing of a reusable private spacecraft. SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket landed successfully on December 21, 2015. Throughout the next couple of years, Elon Musk’s SpaceX would make history as the first privatized space travel company to successfully launch and re-launch a reusable spacecraft.
The first re-usable rocket marked the beginning of a new era for space travel. Musk announced recently that the company is working on major space innovations like colonizing Mars, with civilian trips into space beginning as early as 2022—all thanks to the success of the Falcon 9’s reusable system.
Pokemon Go – 2016
Wondering what happened to VR? Something else came along that was even better because it was more distributable using the technology we already have. Pokemon Go has widely been touted as one of the most successful app launches of all time thanks to its use of augmented reality. The free game allowed users to hunt for and catch Pokemon in the real world using their smartphone camera. The best part? It didn’t require a new hardware purchase in order to play.
Augmented reality was nothing new at the time, companies began using the technology years before to market their products by letting consumers “try on” things like makeup and home goods online before purchasing. But until the arrival of Pokemon Go (and Snapchat’s many AR filters), the technology didn’t present itself to be the gold mine that it is.
Pokemon Go was downloaded worldwide nearly 100 million times within its first week alone, proving that augmented reality was set to become one of the hottest technology trends of the latter half of the 2010’s. Today, the technology is widely used in advertising and on social media, where users can sift through thousands of “filters” that do anything from instantly cartoonize their faces to instantaneously add thousands of dollars worth of cosmetic surgery. All, in part, thanks to Pokemon Go.
Nintendo Switch – 2017
There have been few game console launches in history that were as big and as disruptive as the launch of Nintendo’s Switch console in 2017. Millions of consoles were sold within just the first few weeks of its initial launch in March 2017, and by this year the gaming developer announced that it had sold nearly 40 million consoles worldwide, making it the fastest selling console of all time and one of the best selling gaming devices in history.
Sales aside, the Switch disrupted the gaming industry with its major innovation—or rather, the fact that it essentially eradicated the need for a mobile gaming console altogether. The device can easily be switched between a television console and a portable gaming device, eliminating the need for gamers to buy more than one console, which gave them the freedom of only having to buy games for one device.
It’s unlikely that the Switch is going anywhere anytime soon, either, as Nintendo just launched the Nintendo Switch Lite—its cheaper, portable only version of the best-selling console.
Dyson Airwrap – 2018
What is your personal limit for what you would spend on a hair dryer? For most people, the number is quite low. But Dyson—renowned innovator in the world of vacuum cleaners—disrupted the beauty industry when it released the Dyson AirWrap in 2018 for $550.
The price is steep, yes, but the Airwrap marked one of the first innovations in hair tools in decades that promised to both protect the hair and cut back on styling time by—well, how long it cut back on your styling time is subjective, but it takes a lot less time to style with the Airwrap than traditional heat tools.
The Dyson Airwrap is the next step in Dyson’s foray into the beauty world, offering an interchangeable drying, de-frizzing, straightening, curling, and brushing tool in one device. Plus, its state of the art technology helps to style hair without burning or damaging it in the way that traditional heat tools would.
Personal Drones – 2019
Drone innovation has come a long way since Buster Bluth earned a living as a military drone operator back in the early 2000’s. Today, personal drones are even more affordable (though, admittedly, less of a necessity) than the latest iPhone or other smartphone gadget. DJI, one of the most popular personal drone companies, sells its products for affordable prices that range from just a couple hundred dollars for its cheaper models, into the thousands for its more advanced products.
Personal drones are technically a product of the mid-2010’s, but their affordability and accessibility didn’t see them making waves in the technology and gadget world really until this year. In 2019 the amount of drones in the United States nearly doubled from one to two million, with that number expected to rise even more going into the early 2020’s.