- For the first time, Work from Home was take seriously.
- New smartphones were launched despite challenges.
- The app developers were quick to react to bans, the game developers were not.
Technology changes fast. It is inevitable. At the beginning of each year, analysts and experts sit down to predict how the industry will evolve over the next 12 months. Let's say, 2020 wasn't too kind to them. This has been a significant year for the technology sector in India, in more than one ways. And, none of them could have been predicted. This is also a year when all that happened in the wider world directly impacted technology. For the first time, we took Work From Home seriously and made adjustments to make it a part of our lives. Tension on the border also made its presence felt in the world of tech as hundreds of apps were banned by the Indian government, leading to a call of vocal for local.
While some home-grown brands used this as a chance to drop new products, others timed their comeback to perfection. Despite all the on-grounds events cancelling and new challenges coming up, there was no stopping smartphone brands which probably dropped more products than ever. And, as we move towards the final few days of what has been a forgettable year, there are few unfulfilled promises tech enthusiasts would complain about.
COVID-19 and Work From Home
I was flying from Delhi to Mumbai in the first week of March after a work trip. Little did I know that would be the last time I will do so this year. Almost nobody saw what was coming. The COVID-19 pandemic brought life to a standstill. The biggest tech exhibition of the year Mobile World Congress was first to bite the dust and all the other events followed. This was the beginning of the chaos. Employees were forced to Work From Home on short notice and that's where laptops, enterprise software, video calling applications and others made the difference.
"For homebound consumers, technology enabled them to connect, collaborate, create and consume content. While adults could focus on learning new life skills, children and teachers alike became adept at embracing tech. The need for new companion devices- such as laptops and tablets, became imperative to streamline living and learning," says Prabhu Ram, Head-Industry Intelligence Group, CyberMedia Research(CMR).
While tech brands were affected in the beginning, it turned out to be an opportunity for most.
"Enterprises looked at emerging from the chaos and uncertainty, by defining purpose and order. The new remote work culture focused on outcomes, rather than demanding presence. In the new work-from-anywhere paradigm, video conferencing could enable enterprises to collaborate more closely, and to close business deals, without all of the business travel" he adds.
Video calling is the new normal
The first big gainers were the video calling apps. Little-known platforms like Zoom and Microsoft Teams became household names in no time. Giants like Google and Facebook also moved fast, launching or expanding their existing platforms. Questions were raised around privacy but were addressed soon.
"2020 was a watershed year, wherein human lives were irreversibly upended. The work-from-home, learn-from-home and unwind-at-home routines gave an unprecedented uptick to video video calling, video creation and consumption. Going forward, many of the current trends will gain permanence. Technology will enable greater and swifter digital inclusion at scale. There is no going back to how things were," says Prabhu.
No stopping smartphone brands
For the first time in last few years, no new smartphones were launching in India. Everything planned between March and May was put on hold. But once the gates were open, there was a wave of launches. There were delays but nothing was cancelled. It was the year that brought 5G phones, 108MP cameras, 7000mAh batteries and 144Hz displays to the country.
Also Read |Mi 10i tipped for India launch
Both Samsung and Realme launched close to 20 smartphones, while Xiaomi wasn't that far either. Apple launched more smartphones than any year dropping four iPhone 12 models while bringing back iPhone SE. OnePlus introduced its Nord line up, Vivo continued to impress with the camera performance while Motorola and Oppo also entered new segments. Homegrown Micromax also made its much-awaited comeback and created a lot of buzz both for right and wrong reasons.
The only brands who were on the backfoot were Asus and Nokia. The first focused on laptops and launched just one phone in 2020 while Nokia for weird reasons, remained defensive in an year that was full of opportunities.
Also Read |Best smartphones under Rs 20,000
This was also the year when more and more smartphone brands entered into IoT space and launched lifestyle products. OnePlus, Vivo, Oppo, Realme, Xiaomi all launched their first audio devices. In fact, there was a time when a new pair of TWS was dropping every week.
TikTok and PUBG Bans
Another moment of madness came when the government banned TikTok and PUBG on separate occasions, along with many other apps that had connections with China. Both stories had different endings. Within days of the TikTok ban, we had several alternates both homegrown and otherwise - like Chingari, Bolo Indya, Mitron TV, Moj, and many more. Instagram also came up with Reels which has probably been the most successful among all. All these platforms witnessed unprecedented traffic, aggregating millions of downloads within days.
"The TikTok ban opened up a huge opportunity for Indian short video apps to bloom and come to the forefront. It created new avenues for Indian short video platforms to come through and make their mark. Both content creation and consumption is growing at large numbers. It is also clear that competing for eyeballs isn't going to get any easier as more apps enter the video-sharing market. It's a multi-billion dollar market that's worth watching," says Sumit Ghosh, CEO & Co-Founder, Chingari app.
The app developers were quick to react, the game developers were not. We had already-existing options like Call of Duty: Mobile and Fortnite but no new game was able to make use of the situation. The only big announcement came in the form of FAU-G (Fearless And United-Guards), but the developers were quick to clarify that it is not a battle royale game like PUBG.
The Unfulfilled Promises
The year will also be remembered for a lot of unfulfilled promises. For starters, the Poco F2 never got launched, despite the brand separating itself from Xiaomi. Apple stuck to the 60Hz refresh rate panel and disappointed some of its fans. Even FAU-G was initially scheduled to arrive on November 26 and while the pre-registrations are now open, there is no word on the new launch date yet.
However, the biggest disappointment comes in the form of Sony's inability to launch PlayStation 5 in India, or even provide any clarity around it. The much-awaited gaming console has been launched in foreign markets and it's a shame that Indians are yet to get a hand on it.
Also Read |Apple MacBook Pro M1 13-inch review
In more than one way, 2020 is a year which transformed the tech industry both enterprise and consumer. It will have a long lasting impact on our lives, effects of which will be seen across 2021 as well. Returning to offices or going back to physical meetings won't be as organic as you may think. The dependency on smartphones and other gadgets will transform the way we live or work. You might see more solutions catering to your work-life balance. After Jio's announcement, 5G is also likely to make its way to the country next year.
The other big events to look out for are PUBG's comeback, Samsung's decision to end the Note series and Micromax's ability to take on Chinese counterparts in the budget segment. If 2020 showed us the way, 2021 appears to be another exciting ride.