Buddy Lo
Buddy Lo is a Sr. Technology and Consumer Electronics analyst at Mintel. He is responsible for researching and writing reports on technology and consumer electronics.

As we approach a new decade, consumers anticipate the next decade of technological innovation such as the promise of widespread 5G and an increase in automation across categories. But first, we’re taking a look back at the 2010s to reflect on the most impactful tech innovations, inventions and services launched in the past 10 years.

4G LTE connectivity

4G LTE connectivity can arguably be considered the most impactful tech innovation of the decade. While smartphones were improving in performance and power, smartphones were limited by less capable 3G networks. 4G LTE connectivity brought high-speed data to more powerful smartphones on-the-go, unleashing a torrent of apps and services that would turn out to have a significant impact over the next 10 years.

Voice Assistants

Source: Apple

While scientists and engineers have worked for years on developing artificial intelligence that can understand natural language and voice requests, voice assistants didn’t reach the average consumer until Apple launched Siri on its iPhone 4s in 2011. Since then, voice assistant access and usage has grown dramatically, and has generated entirely new connected devices like smart speakers. According to an upcoming Mintel report on voice assistants, nearly two-thirds of consumers use a voice assistant and nearly half of US households currently own a smart speaker. Voice assistants will become even more critical as more connected devices reach the market and consumers become more familiar and comfortable using digital voice assistants.

iPad and tablet computers

Source: Samsung

Tablet computers have been around for decades, but with the exception of the PalmPilot, launched in 1997, tablet computers never saw any sort of real mainstream commercial success. The original iPad was launched in April 2010 and saw immediate commercial success. The iPad essentially redefined the tablet computer category, spawning new competitors from Samsung, Amazon and Microsoft, to name a few.

Smartwatches

Source: Apple

Digital watches with basic computing functions have been around since the 80s, but never really garnered significant commercial success. With the introduction of the Apple Watch in April 2015, the smartwatch is another category that Apple has redefined and taken a dominant leadership position in. According to an upcoming report, Mintel research shows that one in five consumers own a smartwatch, with more than two-thirds of those owners have an Apple Watch compared to a quarter who own a Samsung smartwatch. In a time of hyper connectivity, the smartwatch combines the functionality of a smartphone with the hands-free utility of a wristwatch.

Cloud storage

Source: Dropbox

Cloud computing and storage is another tech service that has been around for decades, but has primarily been used by businesses instead of a consumer-facing service. Today, cloud storage and computing has never been more accessible, as consumers can store their photos, videos and other digital files with a variety of Cloud storage services like Apple’s iCloud, Dropbox, Microsoft’s OneDrive, among others. Consumers no longer have to worry about running out of space on their devices, as long as they’re willing to pay for cloud storage services.

Video streaming devices and smart TVs

Source: Walmart

Video streaming devices and smart TVs have exploded onto the scene in the past 10 years, giving consumers a direct link to a wide array of streaming services from their TVs. Since 2012, the percentage of households with either a smart TV or streaming device has increased from a quarter to three in five households in 2019. Apple TV, Roku players, Amazon Fire Sticks and Google’s Chromecast are some of the primary streaming device manufacturers in the market today. Access to a wide variety of streaming services is empowering consumers to cut cable and shift to a more a la carte approach to getting their media entertainment.

Ride sharing devices

Source: Lyft

Earlier in the decade, the emergence of ride sharing services like Uber and Lyft has changed how millions of consumers get around. Using technology to connect drivers with riders, the ride sharing industry has upended transportation services globally, and has spurred intense debate on the industry’s practice of categorizing its drivers as contractors rather than employees. Ride sharing has been so successful that its impact has garnered scrutiny on how ride sharing has affected public transit, traffic congestion and its role in spurring the “gig economy”.

Wireless headphones

Source: Apple

Wireless headphones were originally lambasted for their looks and stereotype of high-powered business executives talking boisterously on their hands-free headsets, but it is another product that has been reinvented and garnered mass adoption among consumers. Apple seems to have a knack of turning niche tech products into mainstream successes. Apple’s AirPods have been so successful, that if AirPods were a standalone company, it would still rank in Fortune magazine’s Fortune 500.

Smart home security systems

Source: Nest

The proliferation of connected devices spread to the home security industry within the past 10 years. Brands like Google Nest, Amazon Ring and SimpliSafe have connected security systems available for consumers to purchase and install. Mintel research shows that 11% of consumers own a smart security system. Consumers can now monitor their doorstep for deliveries, check in on pets left at home, or a child in a different room remotely via a smartphone. Security is the top area of smart home interest for consumers, as nearly half of consumers are interested in smart home tech related to security, compared to more than two in five consumers interested in climate control, as well as home monitoring and entertainment.

Advanced driver-assistance systems

Source: Shop Owner Magazine

Advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) such as automatic emergency braking, lane departure warnings, and blind-spot detection are recent automotive innovations that utilize LIDAR (light detection and ranging) and radar technologies to help drivers avoid accidents. According to Mintel research on automotive innovations, more than half of car owners have some form of autonomous driver-assistance tech in their vehicles. ADAS could be the most effective automotive safety innovation since the airbag, as research has shown that ADAS has reduced crash frequencies for current owners.

Peer-to-peer digital payments

Source: Venmo

Paypal kicked off P2P payments just before the start of the decade in 2009, however usage didn’t quite take off until shortly after. Since then, a handful of alternative payment services, like Venmo, Cash App and Zelle have launched and growth in P2P payments has been exponential with hundreds of billions transferred. Consumers no longer have to get cash to pay a friend back, today’s consumer can simply open an app and transfer funds with no fees.