JUN 25, 2022 / Technology Forefront

Top consumer tech trends for 2022

Crystal ball gazing into the future of technology is always a tricky matter. For every right pick, there’ll be a dozen more flash-in-pan ideas that just don’t pan out in terms of products that you and I actually want to buy. The further forward that you look, the less precise you can be in predictions around what will be hot, and what will be a flop.

2022 is here, and it’s already clear what the major technology trends are likely to be for consumers. Here’s what you’ve got to look forward to in 2022:

1. Foldable phones will become more mainstream

Foldable phones aren’t a new invention; if you’ve been using mobile phones for some years, you’d probably recall that lots of “flip phones” were popular back in the feature phone days. Modern foldables are a fair bit more powerful and capable than that, but to date they’ve been pricey and largely confined to just a handful of brands and models.

With new entrants offering more affordable foldable options, that’s likely to change in 2021. That should include both flip-up foldables that become smaller when folded down, as well as full sized phones that fold outwards to become effectively tablets in their own right.

2. You’ll be offered more subscription products, fewer outright purchases

Most Australians are already comfortable with subscriptions for entertainment, whether that’s streaming video through Netflix or music through Spotify. It’s a model that most of us like quite a lot, because it’s way cheaper than owning a huge library of Blu Rays or compact discs, and far more convenient with entertainment on tap.

While streaming media is big business, it’s really just the tip of the iceberg, because it’s coming fast to plenty of other business models. You can already subscribe to delivery services for regular deliveries of everything from coffee to toilet paper, but what about subscribing to features in your car? Tesla already does this for the full self-driving capability of its cars.

While subscriptions for technology make sense to consumers, that’s only in breadth of choice, but software and hardware makers also rather like it, because it gives them a continuous stream of revenue over time, and something of a captive market. The likes of Adobe (via Adobe Creative Suite) and Microsoft (Microsoft 365) already do exactly this, and it’ll become even more common in 2022.

3. You’ll hear way more about the Metaverse

Facebook caused some waves – and a little light mockery – when it announced in late 2021 that it was changing the company name to just “Meta”, in line with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s prediction that the Metaverse will be the next big thing in technology. Facebook is still Facebook, by the way – it’s just the company that owns it that changed its name.

2022 is likely to be a year where you hear a lot about the Metaverse, because many of the core building blocks to make it all happen are now ready or being rolled out. Faster wireless and wired broadband is becoming more common, many manufacturers are lining up AR and VR headsets to let you dip into the metaverse, including the like of Meta, Microsoft and Apple, and the processing power of mobile devices has never been higher.

Will the metaverse change the way we live and breathe the way Zuckerberg imagines? That’s a longer-term prospect, but you’ll certainly see a lot of movement in this space in 2022.

4. 5G will start to live up to its potential

We’ve seen a focus on the 5G rollout here in Australia for a couple of years now, with even mid-range phones now offering 5G as standard. But a bit like that classic oil advertisement, not all 5G is actually 5G the way it’s been hyped.

What we’ve largely had up until now was 5G using existing licensed “sub-6Ghz” frequencies. These are great for covering larger areas with 5G coverage, and they do meet the specification for 5G. However, that’s only the low-end of 5G speeds and capabilities. For 5G speeds over around 1Gbps (translation: very quick), what you need is millimetre wave 5G. That was out of reach of Australian telcos until the spectrum that it uses was sold off by the government, allowing telcos to start building out mmWave (pronounced “millimetre wave”) 5G sites.

To give you a practical idea of how much difference this will make, in live tests both Telstra and Optus have managed over 3.6Gbps (translation: ridiculously quick) on real world devices using mmWave, and there’s scope for even more speed increases down the track. The challenge right now is that there’s not many actual 5G mmWave devices, with just one handset, the Google Pixel 6 Pro, and a couple of modem devices that can access those frequencies.

That will change quickly in 2021, as will the rollout of more mmWave 5G sites, especially in heavy density areas like sporting grounds and public shopping centres. That opens an array of additional uses for not only that speed, but also the wider availability of mobile broadband. If you’ve ever struggled to get a phone to talk to a network in a busy airport or public event, you’ll know what I mean.

5. More robots and smarter home devices

No new technology trend emerges out of nowhere in real terms, and that’s absolutely the case for smart home automation. For years now we’ve had options around devices like robot vacuum cleaners, smart lighting arrays or smart speakers. What we’ve already seen will get smarter and simpler in 2022, with a lot of manufacturers promising full smart home robots.

Amazon, for example recently announced its first home robot, called Astro, which combines the company’s Alexa assistant with a robot on wheels, security sensors and just a dash of personality. There’s a jump here between a smart light bulb and having our own version of the Jetson’s robomaid Rosie, but it could be coming faster than you think.

6. Tech hardware’s going to get more expensive

So far, so great, right? Here’s the bad news. It’s entirely likely that when you go to buy a new gadget in 2022, even if it’s an established device category like a smartphone, laptop, or tablet that it’ll cost you more at the register.

That’s not a prediction based on any crystal ball gazing around the value of the Aussie dollar, mind you. It’s borne from the ongoing global computer chip shortage, started by the pandemic, made worse by droughts in the countries where most of the world’s chips are produced, and exacerbated by shipping issues.

Every tech maker is struggling right now to source the silicon that forms the brains of everything from calculators to smart home fridges, paying more to get what stock there is… and eventually that’s going to flow through to the cost of devices. It’s why it’s been so hard in 2021 to score Sony’s new PlayStation 5 for example. It’s not that Sony wants to keep production low for its own purposes; it’s far more that it’s been tougher than it anticipated to get the core ingredients that go into its new super-console.

So, there you have it – what to expect in 2022. If you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed, there’s no need to stress. Worse comes to worse, you’ll still have Geeks2U by your side to guide you through this ever-changing landscape. Give us a call anytime you need a hand!

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Alex Kidman
Tech Journalist