Remember 2010? You might, but I don’t think you do. Let’s jog your memory: the birth of life-changing apps Instagram, Kickstarter and Flipboard. The very first iPad unveiled alongside the iPhone 4, and Team Android gets its very first Nexus smartphone – the precursor to today’s Pixel smartphones. 4G starts to roll out globally.
It’s been a decade since all these things happened, and as much as we’re excited about what the 2020s have in store for us, we’re very much indebted to the developments the last decade has brought us.
Here’s our pick of the top 10 pieces of tech that have transformed our world for good.
10. Google Home (2016)
Smart homes aren’t a new thing, but Google Home (now Google Nest) made it easy for anyone to start.
Offering functionality like asking “What’s the weather?”, “What do I have next?” out of the box, Google Home also allowed users to interface with smart gadgets remotely via voice commands.
This meant it became an important cornerstone to any smart home, and allowed for an almost endless combination of smart gadgetry to customise your tech-inundated domestic set-up.
9. Dell XPS 13 (9343)
Again, a trend – the Dell XPS 13 is a fine example of an Ultrabook, but it’s far from the first. Firstly, “Ultrabook” is a term coined by Intel as a classification of powerful thin-and-light laptops that competed directly against Apple’s new MacBook Air (2008).
One of the most prominent contenders from from the Windows camp was the Dell XPS 13. A futuristic aluminium-and-carbon fibre construction, the Dell XPS 13 was light, compact and powerful. Most notably, it packed a 13.3-inch display in a 12-inch form factor – just a smidgen larger than the diminutive 11-inch MacBook Air.
This meant that for the first time, the Windows camp could be proud of a device that boasted the sleekness, power and build quality that rivalled the offerings from Apple’s MacBook lineup.
That was impressive, and also set a new benchmark for flagship portable business laptops. It led the trend of minimal display bezels, meaning users could bring a whole lot more display in a smaller footprint.
8. DJI Phantom 4 (2016)
While certainly not the first consumer drone, let alone the first drone, the storied military history of this technology best manifested itself in the public consciousness with the stark, white unibody design of the DJI Phantom 4.
Where it had style, it had substance. On top of the regular GPS navigation provided by its competitors, the DJI Phantom 4 boasted object tracking and obstacle avoidance – very practical features for technology designed for the lay, single operator-consumer.
Readily-available aerial footage completely transformed the face of photography and videography as it did the legal landscape with a litany of privacy concerns.
Still the dominant player in the consumer drone industry (as well as the commercial market), DJI’s follow-up photography drones have served to deliver comparable payloads in smaller, more affordable footprints.
7. Sony A7 (2013)
For more than a decade, DSLRs ruled the roost when it came to professional photography. Swapping film with a digital sensor, DSLRs kept the bulky mirror box-and-pentaprism set-up that reflected the scene into the photographer’s eye.
Sony, after experimenting with a translucent mirror in its SLT (Single Lens Translucent) cameras, entirely ditched the bulky internal optics. Relying entirely on the sensor to relay the scene through the LCD and the electronic viewfinder, the A7 coincided with a video content creation boom and performed admirably as an all-round camera.
The weight savings meant that the A7 series cameras weighed significantly lighter than the lightest full-frame cameras, and was even smaller and lighter than the micro four thirds Olympus OM-D EM1.
6. Samsung Galaxy Note (2011)
Phones used to be tiny. Launched the same year as its contemporary the iPhone 4, the 5.3-inch display on the original Samsung Note dwarfed most of the smartphone field.
The rest, clearly, is history. Big phones are a dime a dozen, and the biggest iPhone sports a 6.5-inch display. It’s led to an explosion of handheld video consumption, which in turn arguably catalysed the proliferation of live video streaming along with on-the-go video content like vlogs on YouTube and serials on Netflix.
5. AirPods (2016)
Picture this. It’s 2016. Wireless headphones are by now a dime a dozen. Long-standing audio manufacturers, expanding electronics companies and completely new entrants on Kickstarter – everyone wanted a piece of the pie.
You wouldn’t have bat an eyelid when Apple choose to enter the category in 2016. But encased in a tiny glossy white rectangle shaped (and sized) like a dental floss container, and dangling from the ears when worn, they became an instant object of … ridicule.
And then everyone got them. The AirPods became the best-selling wireless headphones in April 2019 with a 60 percent global market share and 12.5 million units shipped.
So, from meme sensation to status symbol, and from tech icon to ubiquity – And now they come in a noise-cancelling version.
This one’s a thorny one for Singaporean readers, whether they adore or abhor these affordable, portable, speedy marvels of modern transportation.
Before the swathe of accidents caused by a hateful genre of “YP” (Young Punks), e-scooters promised affordable, compact last-mile mobility for the many individuals who could not afford cars and the exorbitant parking and taxes in the most densely-populated cities in the world.
They’ve existed for decades now, but really gained prominence with scooter-sharing operators like Lime, Bird and Razor in the US and Grab Wheels in Singapore.
While Singapore is not the first country to ban e-scooters to some degree, the increased availability and accessibility of this technology this decade marks another point of proliferation of electric transport and a disruption in metropolitan transport.
3. iPad (2010)
Ostensibly a large iPhone at launch, this milestone Apple product (yet again) was subject to widespread ridicule. What didn’t help were soccer moms vying for that perfect photo opportunity with their sleek but gigantic aluminium slabs (while presenting a view-blocking eyesore to everyone behind).
First presenting a use case as an ebook reader and general media consumption device, the addition of a Retina Display and Apple Pencil transformed it into a veritable creative tool like no other. For the first time, the iPad allowed for a relatively affordable pen-to-paper experience markedly different from the disembodied input Wacom and other digital stylus brands were offering.
They could have stopped there, but after more ridicule following their “What’s a Computer?” TVC campaign in late 2017, Apple finally delivered the a true computer-redux experience with the launch of iPadOS at WWDC 2019. Samsung, Microsoft, I hope you’re taking notes.
2. Tesla Model S (2012)
Tesla’s first mainstreamproduct, the Model S hit the road on June 22, 2012. Electric cars then weren’t anything new – the Nissan Leaf was another popular option at the time, and the 2008 Tesla Roadster had already shown what the maverick mind of Elon Musk was capable of.
But what Tesla did for the tech and motoring world was to make electric desirable. One might thumb your nose at a Prius (in a bygone pre-Thunberg world) but few can resist salivating at any Tesla model – even the Cybertruck.
1. Apple Watch (2015)
From its iPhone-only restricted user base to relatively limited battery life, this ubiquitous wearable has its fair share of shortcomings.
But what’s undeniable is its status as the best-selling watch, ever. Apple Watch owes a large degree of its success to the ubiquity of its iPhone, but nonetheless, it is still a case of successfully piggybacking products.
Competitors offer a litany of similar features, and on paper, seem to outdo the venerable Watch on several fronts. But from the sleek squared-off aesthetic, vivid Force Touch OLED display, smooth animations and easy-to-use digital crown, the design of the Apple Watch launched it to instant stardom, becoming a veritable status symbol.
So much so, It’s my foremost recommendation for those in professions and communities where horological choices matter a lot in indicating status, experience and proficiency – like in legal, finance and banking circles.
And excel the Apple Watch does – not only in form, but also in function. From taking calls with the microphone and speaker on the waterproof chassis, to launching and operating the camera on the paired iPhone, and to seamless, on-the-wrist communication with fellow Apple Watch users via Walkie Talkie.
But truth be told, there is one reason the Apple Watch sets itself apart from any wearable and indeed the many other pieces of tech released in the decade to take first place in this list. It is built to save lives.
Sure, the stellar activity, menstrual cycle and heart rate tracking features are useful and might even be good for your health, but the Apple Watch also packs an Electrocardiogram (ECG), and a regular Atrial Fibrillation (AFib) detector included with the heart rate monitor. There’s also Fall Detection with automated emergency service notification for vulnerable groups, as well as international SOS calling with the long-press of the side button.
It’s ubiquitous, is a piece of technology designed to follow users everywhere and add utility and safety to their lives. Bonus points for being sleek, always-on and integrated with users’ everyday digital interactions.
In focussing on the consumer tech hardware that defined this decade, we’ve inevitably missed some key moments in software and deep, commercial tech. The rise of apps like Whatsapp, Uber, Airbnb, along with a revolution in space exploration with SpaceX – all mark watershed moments in tech.