10 technology trends that defined the last decade

This decade has seen the app ecosystem explode with over 5.5 million applications from a mere 140,000 in the App Store when Steve Jobs unveiled the iPad in 2010.

Updated - January 02, 2020 09:57 am IST

Published - December 31, 2019 05:37 pm IST

From the launch of iPad to the 5G spat between U.S. and China, technology has never had a more avant-garde, yet tumultuous decade in recent history. These past ten years have seen the app ecosystem explode with over 5.5 million applications from a mere 140,000 in the App Store when Steve Jobs unveiled the iPad in 2010.

That app explosion coupled with cheaper, smarter handsets amped up online interactions over the decade, making users connect to even their immediate environment through the phone. In this ecosystem, social media firms like Facebook and Twitter propped up individuals on digital pedestals built on algorithms driven by engagement, while Google and Amazon worked on building customised worlds driven by user data.

From this tech explosion, we identify some of the main trends that defined technology as used by the common man in the last decade.

1. Front-facing camera and the selfie culture (Nokia, Apple)


In 2013, the word ‘selfie’ was added to the Oxford English Dictionary. The culture of taking pictures of oneself became popular with the rise of front-facing cameras in mobile phones and picture sharing apps. Originally conceived to make videocalls, this technology opened up a new way of self-expression, enabled by image editing and filtering options provided by popular photo- and video-sharing applications.

Nokia’s N-series phones were among the first few handsets that were sold, between 2005-2011, with front-facing camera. But they were part of the pre-app ecosystem, a time when most of the online social interactions were on the desktop, not on the mobile. Later, Apple led the wave with its 4S phone, unveiled the day before Steve Jobs died in 2011. That launch also marked the beginning of voice assistant technology, Siri.

2. Rise of the tablets (iPad)

Global tablet shipment grows as demand for basic computing devices rise.

File photo of Apple's iPad on display.


Apple’s co-founder Steve Jobs asked, what is a future computer device that can be under $500? With that question, his team embarked on a mission to create a device that could perform tasks which will place it between a laptop and a phone.

“We want to kick-off 2010 by introducing a truly magical and revolutionary product today,” Mr. Jobs said, before unveiling the iPad in San Francisco on January 27, 2010.

When it was launched, people wondered if there was “room in the middle”, as Mr. Jobs said, for a product that was slightly smaller and lighter than a laptop, but bigger than a phone. But, true to Jobs’ vision, the iPad transformed mobile device technology, making other manufacturers follow suit.

3. Messaging revolution (WhatsApp)


WhatsApp isn’t a social network, but it has fundamentally changed the way we interact. It was co-founded by Jan Koum and Brian Acton, and when it was launched the duo charged a $1 annual fee, which was later waived.

WhatsApp ran on all mobile devices and provided a SMS-like experience without the fees that mobile operators charged. It also provided end-to-end encryption to its users by rolling out privacy features.

By 2014, when WhatsApp had reached over 1.6 billion users, Facebook bought the company for $19 billion. In recent times, the company has come under scrutiny as the platform enabled fast dissemination of fake news.

4. Socialising online (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram)

Representational image

Representational image


Until 2009, Facebook and Twitter were largely accessed on computers. But, by 2012, social media was tethered to the smartphone, enabling users to spend more time online.

The platform’s variable reward, showcasing different newsfeeds, increased user interaction. Also, with the emergence of Snapchat, which allows users to post pictures and short videos that will disappear after 24 hours, the engagement with users and social apps increased.

For its part, micro-blogging site Twitter doubled character limit for a tweet to 280 from 140 in 2017. In spite of the change, the company said its users continue to limit their average number of characters to 33. However, it said abbreviations like ‘sry’, ‘gr8’, ‘b4’ are used much less than before.

5. Ride-hailing (Uber, Didi Chuxing)


The story goes that on one New Years’ eve Garret Camp and his friends spent $800 to hire a private driver. They wanted to find a way to reduce the cost of transportation. Travis Kalanick joined Camp, and together the duo founded Uber.

The app-based ride-hailing was officially started in 2010 in San Francisco, and it redefined transportation across the world.

In another part of the world, Cheng Wei left his job at Alipay in 2012, and founded DiDi Chuxing in China. Four years later, DiDi and Uber China teamed up in China. As part of the deal, investors in Uber China will receive a 20% stake in the newly formed company the Chinese ride-hailing company will make a $1 billion investment in Uber Global.

6. Finding a room (AirBnB)


Unable to afford the rent for their apartment, two roommates came up with an idea of putting an air mattress and turning the living room into a bed and breakfast. After a few venture rounds, the site hosted over 10,000 users and 2,500 listings in 2010. A year later, AirBnB won the “app” award at the South by Southwest conference.

As AirBnB was expanding its business internationally, a 17-year-old Indian entrepreneur started Oravel Stays with a goal of making nine lakh bookings in four years and Rs. 650 crores in annual revenues. That young man now runs Oyo Rooms and Hotels, world’s third largest hotel chain by number of rooms.

In India, and around the world, Oyo has simplified and eased the process of booking rooms.

7. Electric cars (Tesla)

File photo of Telsa company logo

File photo of Telsa company logo


Electric vehicles have been around for many years. But what makes Tesla unique is the way it caught the attention of the car lovers around the world. The Model S helped shift focus from a compact hatch-back to a luxurious five-door vehicle. Elon Musk’s star status only added to the allure of electric cars.

Recently, Tesla’s autopilot feature has come under much scrutiny following several fatal accidents, in which the driver increasingly relied on the technology and did less of actual driving. That hasn’t deterred the company from spurring innovation in the electric vehicle market. The EVs are still a small slice in the large auto pie.

8. Digital Payments (Google Pay, Apple Pay, PayPal)


After its failed attempt with Google Wallet, the tech giant bought Softcard, a mobile payment platform run by a consortium of wireless service providers. The acquisition allowed Google to pre-install its wallet in devices sold by the mobile carriers. The combination of users, made available through the carriers, and near-field communication (NFC) enabled Google to compete against Apple Pay in the mobile payments industry.

Currently, Google Pay allows its users to transact between bank accounts and make payment for online and offline purchases. PayPal, which was the leader in online payments before Google and Apple’s entered the market, is expanding internationally. With its GoPay acquisition, PayPal has become the first foreign payment platform to provide digital payment services in China.

9. Food discovery and delivery (Zomato, Swiggy, Uber Eats)

A delivery executive of Zomato.

A delivery executive of Zomato.


Zomato, Swiggy and Uber Eats have changed the way we look for restaurant recommendations, find menus and order food. Through its app, Zomato suggests restaurants based on user rating. The food aggregator also showcases pictures of the restaurant and the food menu for the potential customer to make a decision to dine-in or not.

Swiggy and UberEats have consolidated the food-delivery market by bringing newly-launched and existing restaurants onto their platforms. According some news reports, Uber is in talks to sells its delivery business in India. The talks were earlier reported by TechCrunch, which said a deal would value the India business of Uber Eats at $400 million.

In India, Uber Eats has been struggling in a fiercely competitive market where Swiggy and Zomato are well established.

10. Streaming Online (Netflix, Spotify, Prime)


Access to broadband and uninterrupted mobile internet enabled video and music streaming services to thrive. The on-demand nature of these platforms offered consumers flexibility and convenience. Most of the movies, series or songs are seen and heard on users’ smartphones.

In this segment, Amazon’s Prime and Netflix are constantly compete to gain market share in the video streaming space. Spotify is exclusively providing music and other audio content to its subscribers.

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