Consumer electronics technology trends 2020

A major concern for consumer electronics companies continues to be the impact on sales, profits, and supply chains of the ongoing trade war between the US and China. Many companies in the sector, like Apple, use Chinese subcontractors and operate complex global networks. These may have to be split open and new supply chains created if the trade war escalates. At the same time, the issue of Brexit is still unresolved and UK and European companies should also be prepared for cost, pricing, and supply chain problems.

Listed below are the top consumer electronics technology trends, as identified by GlobalData.

Virtual reality (VR)

Sony’s PlayStation VR headsets and the Oculus Quest headset are competing directly with the Nintendo Switch. Valve’s Index VR and HTC’s Vive Focus Plus headsets were both launched in 2019. Meanwhile, China has imposed a ban on games that feature blood or corpses. Lower prices and new launches in 2020 are expected to encourage growth.

Augmented reality (AR)

AR could be the next big computing platform in consumer electronics. Ultimately, AR glasses of some sort may replace the smartphone as the primary connected device. As the technology matures, subscriptions, location-based entertainment, and in-app purchases will become more prominent.

Smart speakers

Nearly every leading technology company is either already producing a smart speaker or developing one. Many vendors are releasing smart speakers that are singularly purposed yet also incorporate at least one of the dominant platforms – Alexa or Google Assistant. GlobalData estimates that the global smart speaker installed base will hit 300 million in 2020.

Automated home

Automated home technologies include speakers, TVs, fridges, ovens, washing machines, thermostats, lights, and security cameras, which connect through a hub. Smart speakers will increasingly operate as a hub for automated home technology. However, consumer skepticism around the overall utility of smart devices will continue to hamper adoption. By 2025, spending on smart appliances will hit $5.5bn, according to GlobalData.

Consumer drones

The consumer drone market has evolved quickly over the past three years. The industry’s future depends on continuing improvements in network infrastructure and photographic equipment. In December 2018, drone activity grounded hundreds of flights at one of the UK’s busiest airports. The consumer drones market is likely to evolve in more unexpected ways. Rapid and often conflicting changes to drone regulation will significantly affect this evolution.

Consumer robots

Consumer robotics includes robots designed for entertainment, for companionship, or to perform domestic tasks. The fastest-growing segment will be household service robots. Social robots are a long way from mass adoption but have gained traction in Japan. The last two years have seen some players exit the consumer robotics market.

Connected cars

CASE (connected, autonomous, shared, and electric) is the future of the automotive industry. Vehicle connectivity over the next two years will be driven by the deployment of advanced driving assistance systems as standard features. The two biggest themes in the coming years will be the arrival of 5G and the increase in cyberattacks on connected vehicles.

Wearable technology

Apple dominates the smartwatch category in consumer electronics due to its design, brand, and technology expertise, while Xiaomi leads in fitness bands. Vendors are using voice assistants and AI to enhance their wearables. Apple is using the Watch for large-scale medical studies, and the Series 4 and 5 can perform a single-point electrocardiogram and alert medical personnel in the event of a fall.

3D printing

3D printing is evolving rapidly, particularly around the development of printing materials. Jetting still dominates consumer electronics 3D printing. The consumer 3D printing market will continue to be dominated by a small number of manufacturers.

Internet TV

Subscription video on demand (SVoD) services such as Netflix have long allowed customers to view an unlimited amount of film and TV content streamed over the internet. Streaming media players include cable and satellite set-top boxes, game consoles, smart TVs, and dedicated devices such as the Amazon Fire and Roku player.

Traditional pay TV service providers have incorporated cloud DVR features on their video streaming platforms. Apple and Google’s strength in the smartphone market puts them ahead of other players in the video streaming ecosystem.

Flying cars

Prototype electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) passenger vehicles are now being put through their paces. Companies in the vanguard are Uber, Airbus, China’s Ehang, Germany’s Volocopter, and Google cofounder Larry Page’s Kitty Hawk.

eVTOLs have obvious advantages over helicopters. They are quiet and can both take off from, and land in, smaller spaces. Air taxi project Uber Elevate has offered helicopter services in New York since July 2019. The Ehang 184 has already tested over 1,000 flights with human passengers involving 10-mile trips lasting around 20 minutes each.

Foldable screens

In 2019 several products with a flexible display were released. Foldable screens have been beleaguered by design issues. Shortly after the Samsung Galaxy Fold was soft launched, reviewers found that the screen broke after a few days. The price of flagship phones increases annually with only minor improvements, so manufacturers are using foldable phones to revive the upgrade cycle.

This is an edited extract from the Tech, Media, & Telecom Trends 2020 – Thematic Research report produced by GlobalData Thematic Research.