The past ten years have seen some incredible innovations in the world of technology. To celebrate this, here are what we think are the standouts of the decade.
The decade started with a bang as Steve Jobs unveiled Apple’s vision for tablet computing in January 2010: iPad. While there were those at first who thought of it as just an oversized iPhone, it wasn’t long before the device had firmly ensconced itself in the hands of millions of people around the world.
Other tablets have come to try and compete, but only the budget Amazon Fire range seems to have been able to stay the distance. The iPad is simply the best tablet experience you can buy and with the new iPad Pro range it only looks like getting better.
Apple was in something of a purple patch in 2010, as following on from the iPad it released the iPhone 4. Gone was the plastic construction of the iPhone 3GS and in came beautiful craftsmanship, elegant design, and a device that resembled a piece of fine jewellery rather than a phone.
Yes, there were problems with the antenna, but by the time the iPhone 4S came out a year later those issues were resolved. It might look small and a bit chunky by today’s standards, but in 2010 it was technology that was practically art.
It seems second nature now to take photos and share them online, but Instagram was the first app to truly popularise the idea, mainly thanks to its filters. Where once were badly composed shots of landscapes and nights out with friends, now there where atmospheric images that looked like they were taken in the 70s or on incredibly vibrant days in the sun.
The old adage of the ‘best camera you have is the one that’s with you’ could be adjusted to ‘the best camera is the one with the best filters, which are on Instagram’. Not as catchy, but for a while it was definitely true.
This decade has very much been a golden one for gaming, with the three main players all introducing next-gen consoles. The Sony PlayStation 4 arrived in November 2013, Microsoft also launched its Xbox One at practically the same time, while the Nintendo Switch came in 2017 but offered a combination of mobile and TV gaming.
Armed with these devices, developers produced some of the best titles of all-time, including The Witcher 3: Wild hunt, Uncharted 4, Fallout New Vegas, Skyrim, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Red Dead Redemption 2, Mass Effect 2, Horizon Zero Dawn, GTA V, and many more. What a time to be a gamer!
Google showed that a laptop could be cheap, easy to use, and not require virus software and other bundled nonsense, when it announced the Chromebook.
Initially marketed as your second or third computer, the one that you didn’t mind bashing around, they soon grew in popularity, aided by the fact that smartphones and cloud storage services took on many of the duties that used to be the preserve of big home PCs.
Today, a Chromebook is still probably all most people need from a laptop and they’ve also become a huge favourite with schools.
A trend across the decade was for devices to become harder and harder to repair or upgrade in any way, meaning that many young people (and quite a few adults) didn’t know how something was put together.
The Raspberry Pi sought to fix this by returning the kit building days of early computing. These ultra-chip motherboards had all the ports you needed to build computers, specialised software that you could load and then use to make games, plus a number of peripherals to expand its capabilities. People built PCs, robots, and a whole host of weird and wonderful things. Again, schools adopted the technology, allowing children to become tinkerers rather than just consumers.
This idea would also appear in software form thanks to Minecraft, the game in which you built worlds rather than trying to kill everything in them. It became a world-wide sensation and still remains a hugely popular title as it celebrates its eighth birthday at the end of 2019.
Another revolutionary product was Pokemon Go. This was the first game, following on from Ingress, to take Augmented Reality to the mainstream. Rather than staring into your smartphone on a train or sitting in front of the TV with your console, Pokémon GO used geotagging and mapping to place Pokemon in real, physical locations that you could go and find.
The effect was extraordinary, with people going out onto the streets to hunt and capture the creatures, often teaming up with other players and essentially becoming rambling groups. It got so popular that you’d even see news reports of hundreds of players swarming to locations after hearing about a rare Pokémon that could be found in the vicinity.
Amazon Echo (Alexa)
Voice control software has been a major technological advance over the past 10 years, but while Siri laboured to understand anything you uttered, Google and Amazon went head-to-head in the smart-speaker market where the feature seemed to most effectively capture the imagination of the public.
Of the two, Amazon’s Echo products are perhaps the best distillation of the technology. Not only are the devices affordable and sound great, but Alexa proves genuinely useful and reliable whether she’s telling you the weather, finding music on Spotify, or letting you know when your next Amazon delivery will arrive.
After the unmitigated disaster that was Windows 8, Microsoft found itself on the ropes. But rather than admit defeat, it rebuilt the operating system, put touch as an option instead of a necessity, and managed to make a modern OS that was fast, solid, and actually nice to use.
The release of Windows 10 also saw the company switch to a new approach where there would no longer be new major versions of Windows appearing every few years. Instead, it’s a constantly rolling and evolving product. Effectively, Windows 10 was the last version of Windows that Microsoft would release, but it should be around for many years to come.
Wearables was a tough nut to crack, with Google Wear devices often underwhelming and fitness trackers not offering much in the way of functionality. Then Apple showed up and pretty much stole the market from under everyone’s feet.
The Apple Watch was intelligent, reasonably intuitive, looked good, and could do much of the things you’d hope from a smartwatch. Yes, it was very expensive, and you still to this day need an iPhone to use it properly, but it was the device that appeared on the most wrists around the world and still does today.
It’s fair to say that the 2010s could easily be coined the decade of mobile. Smartphones developed into truly awesome and powerful devices, while laptops and tablets also made it easy to work and create on the go.
At the heart of this was 4G LTE. With much faster speeds than the 3G is replaced, 4G made using a mobile device outside of an office, home or coffee shop’s WiFi zone a reality. It allowed documents to downloaded almost instantly, offered consistent video streaming capabilities, and generally made a mobile life something that was efficient and enjoyable. Now it seems like that’s the way it’s always been, but 4G was a huge step forward.
Of course, in the decade ahead we expect 5G to become mainstream in the first few years, so 4G will disappear into legend. But there will always be some of us who remember when, at least for a time, it was the fastest thing around.
We asked you what you thought was the best gadget of the decade and here are the results: