- COVID-19 pandemic accelerated technology adoption.
- There was too much tech in 2020, yet too little worth spending on.
- The smartphone makers remained bullish.
The pandemic-hit year had many impacts on our lives. One of them was the acceleration of technology adoption as a result of work from home, limited medium of entertainment and need to socialise through digital platforms. The growing demand across consumer tech categories gave boost to the sector, with increased usage of video calling platforms, short video sharing apps, OTT platforms, mobile gaming and more.
Result? There was too much tech in 2020, yet too little worth spending on. The smartphone makers remained bullish and kept dropping new devices every week, across categories, flaunting features that you could certainly live without. I mean, I am literally stuck at home with all the time in the world so whether a phone takes 1 hour to charge or 30 minutes, doesn't really matter. Tell me for how long will that battery not deplete or trouble me.
There were phones specifically targeting those who want to stream content but are on tight budget. There were phones for those who are inclined towards mobile gaming. There were phones for those who use them to create content. And, while smartphones can still be given a pass as a mainstream gadget that has become a necessity, other categories like TWS, smart home appliances and smart-wearables saw equal action.
With Work From Home becoming a normal practice, lot of audio makers launched earbuds under Rs 5,000 significantly less than what Apple, Samsung, Sony or Sennheiser price their products in the same category. Yet, when someone asks for a recommendation in this segment, you have to think before giving a name. Reason? The sub-standard audio quality and performance.
While the brands are trying to democratise features like ANC and superior codec support, these budget devices are far from a finished product and require more product. Users who bought affordable TWS a year ago, have already started facing issues. This also puts durability of these devices in question.
Similar trend can also be seen in the smart-wearable segment where several companies have launched what they call budget smartwatches. In reality, there are no more than a big-screen fitness band. So, it makes more sense to spend Rs 2000 on a band that has same features than a watch that just gives you a bigger screen for Rs 5000. Yes, there are exceptions but far and few.
The issue was evident on the software front as well. Look at what happened with popular gaming titles like FIFA 21 and Cyberpunk 2077. Both of them had to face the heat because of bugs and poor gameplay. And most users realise that after they have already spent on these games.
Is there too much tech?
The initial days of pandemic and consequential lockdown saw technology enter our lives in different ways. There was excitement. There was hope. Over the next few months, most of us kept adding gadgets to our home - laptops, smartphones, smart TVs, tablets, multiple pair of earphones, fitness trackers, smart bulbs and what not. There were several unorthodox gadgets like UV sterilisers, storage devices etc. And then came a point, where some wondered if there is too much tech around us!
Madhav Sheth - Vice President, realme and Chief Executive Officer, realme India & Europe disagrees. He believes that the Indian consumers are smart enough to understand which products will improve their quality and ease of living.
"I think that's a common misconception. The key to the success of a business is always consumer demand. At the same time, they prefer to break away from the clutter and noise and invest in technology worth their time. As such, there will always be a market demand only for products that bring trendsetting performance, technology coming and real benefits for the users," he told Indian Today Tech.
While Madhav makes a valid point, the key is the 'real benefit' users get. It's true. As long as the customers feel the need, they will continue to spend. But, who decides how much do you need?
Increased Time Spend on Smartphones
If gadgets had a kingdom of their own, smartphones would be the king. This is a trend we saw in 2020 as well. Usually, customers want the latest smartphone. In 2020, they just needed one new or old.
The average usage of smartphones by Indians is estimated to have gone up 25 percent to almost 7 hours a day as people depend on these gadgets for work/study from home and entertainment amid the pandemic, a study commissioned by handset maker Vivo and conducted by CMR, said.
"2020 was an unprecedented year disrupting major businesses across every sector. Undoubtedly, it has been a challenging year for all industries, but we believe that all the sectors are bouncing back slowly and gradually. Due to the lockdown and the working from home mandate, people were forced to manage things virtually, resulting in increase of smartphone usage," Nipun Marya, Director, Brand Strategy at Vivo India told India Today Tech.
The average time spent on smartphones in a day has been on the rise with average usage growing 11 percent to 5.5 hours in March 2020 (pre-COVID) from about 4.9 hours on average in 2019. This has grown by another 25 percent to 6.9 hours April onwards (post-COVID.
Vivo is also one smartphone maker which highlighted the increased use of smartphones among Indian users and initiated a switch off campaign. It admits that excessive usage of smartphones has led to addiction among some users.
"We launched the #SwitchOff campaign, urging smartphone users to choose to take a break from their smartphones and spend quality time with their near and dear ones. The campaign is founded on the observation from 'vivo Smartphones and their impact on human relationships 2020' study which brought out that the increased screen time could have an impact on physical and mental wellbeing of a person," Marya said.
Ask before You Spend
No matter how much we talk about the excessive use of technology and gadgets in our lives, the truth is this is how things are likely to remain, at least for a while. You buy a smartphone; you will still need a laptop. You buy a laptop; you will still need a good pair of headphones to go with it. Add a wireless charger, a power bank, a hard disk and a smartwatch and, you are looking at a table full of gadgets.
So, how do you de-clutter? Think. That is the only solution. Think before you spend on any gadget. Ask yourself if you genuinely need it. An 18-year-old smartphone is good even in the present day and can be handy for another 18 months.
Ask yourself why you actually need that gadget. Most things an ANC-enabled pair of headphones can do, your usual headphone can too. Do you really need ANC? If yes, only then spend on a new pair.
As for manufacturers, the focus should be on quality, not quantity. Give us gadgets that perform well, not today but even two years later. Gadgets, that customers genuinely feel spending on and have good time using. At this point, we can only hope that 2021 is better for tech enthusiasts and we are introduced to more awesome tech.