Change is a given in the world of tech, with every year bringing new gadgets, gizmos and contraptions. The 2010s saw more change than most, with a whole host of innovations changing the ways that we interact with each other. Of the bunch, these are the most important — the ones that, in many ways, changed how the very ways that we live.
Galaxy Note - 2011
Mobile phones went through a massive revolution this decade, completing the transition from simple communicators designed for texting and calling to full-blown computers akin to tablets — or as Samsung's Galaxy Note become known, "phablets". This hybrid between tablet functionality and phone convenience mirrored a rising trend in the early 2010s towards chunkier and more robust phones that could double as more practical machines for work and play.
The rise of the phablet meant that users had easier access to internet on the go, and streamlined the ways that everyone could communicate with each other. No longer were phones simple machines in the 2010s — instead, they became essential devices that connected people together, closer than ever before. The Galaxy Note family is now in its tenth iteration.
Tesla Model S - 2012
Electric vehicles (EVs) are the way of the future — and it's not just Tesla investing in this technology. That said, the Tesla Model S is perhaps the most significant electric vehicle because it became so commercially successful and popular when it first released. In fact, a year after it arrived, it became the first EV to top monthly new car sales globally, and went on to become the top selling plug-in EV in 2015 and 2016.
Years of refinement has changed the original Tesla Model S, adding in game-changing features like autonomous driving in the 2014 model — a feature that, while still unrefined, is set to have an impact on the way we drive in the years to come.
Philips Hue - 2012
Smart homes were in vogue this decade, but no product more so than smart lighting. Products like the Philips Hue — a system of interconnected, colour-changing, app-controlled lights — gave people more control and flexibility over their home than ever, and definitively solved the problem of coming home to a dark, empty house.
Smart lighting was just one component in the smart home revolution, but it was a deeply important one. With a range of options, users were able to remotely control their house lights from a distance and take control of their home lighting set-up. Later innovations like smart power plugs were equally valuable.
Raspberry Pi - 2012
Raspberry Pi devices changed personal computing, and enabled people around the world to learn programming languages through the nifty little machines. Simply, the Raspberry Pi range is a series of small, programmable computers that cost around the $70 mark, and can be used as a tool for robotics, a games emulator, a printer, or even a desktop PC.
Raspberry Pis encouraged more interest in robotics and programming, essential skills for our tech-driven future. With numerous guides and books available online, the Raspberry Pi put the secrets of computing into the hands of the average citizen, and made it accessible, fun and interesting for a mainstream audience.
Amazon Alexa - 2014
Smart assistants have become so entrenched in our lives that it's difficult to remember a time when they weren't around. Every request or question can now be answered with a simple 'Alexa!', or even an 'Okay, Google' if you're on a Google device.
Alexa can be found in Amazon smart speakers like the Echo and its associated devices, meaning that users are never far away from an answer that they crave. Unfortunately, the proliferation of smart devices has also lead to a range of privacy issues, including strangers reviewing personal recordings without consent and so-called 'spying' happening with frequency.
While it's the norm now, Alexa contributed heavily to the breakdown of expected privacy while using smart devices, arguably helping to infringe on the personal lives of users. It's part of the reason why Alexa, and its fellow smart assistants, were such an important and life-changing technology this decade.
Apple Watch - 2015
This decade also saw the rise of wearables, as people started focusing more on their health, as well as their desire to be more connected. When the Apple Watch released, it became the world's best selling wearable as mainstream audiences began to discover the ease and convenience of wearable technology. Later iterations increased the battery life, introduced wider app capabilities and doubled down on the health functionality.
At the start of the decade, wearables mostly belonged to the realm of science fiction, but by the end, they've become fairly commonplace. Into the next decade, expect wearables to rise in popularity, from smartwatches to wilder ideas like smart jackets.
Apple AirPods - 2016
Earphones with wires are so last decade. With the rise of wireless bluetooth earbuds like Apple's AirPods, the way that we listen to music changed this decade. While their popularity only skyrocketed in the later half of the decade, bluetooth earbuds are becoming more widely adopted, with music listeners everywhere opting to ditch the cord and invest in higher priced earbuds.
This change also came about as new phone designs began to drop the tradition headphone jack, making traditional wired headphones somewhat obsolete.
To the surprise of exactly no one, Apple's new generation of iPhones will not include a standard 3.5mm headphone input. The decision signals the demise of an audio port that's been used for more than 100 years — and honestly, it's about time. The death of the headphone jack is a very good thing. Hear me out.
Apple's AirPods brought the tech to a brand new audience, and helped the technology become more widely embraced. Expect to say goodbye to your headphone jacks (and other ports) completely in the next decade.
Nintendo Switch - 2017
The Nintendo Switch is a fantastic little device, and it made waves when it debuted on the scene in 2017. Finally bridging the gap between handheld portability and high-performance graphics, the Switch was a console that could do anything. It even ran some of the highest spec AAA console games with relative ease (although titles like The Witcher III were somewhat paired back in their Switch ports).
The Nintendo Switch was a wonderful and important gadget because it was so adaptable. It meant that you could finally bring high-spec games on the road with you, or switch it up in docked mode and play through games as you would any other console. While Nintendo stumbled early on this decade with failures like the Wii U, the Switch was an immediate about-face, and an important innovation in the often-stagnant world of gaming.
DJI Mavic 2 Pro - 2018
While DJI weren't the creators of the first successful commercial drone on the market (that was the Parrot AR Drone), they are the creators of several of the most popular drones on the current market. The DJI Mavic 2 Pro is one of DJI's flagship products, and the one most often used by videographers around the world.
DJI's contributions to the rising popularity of drone use in film, television and news media can't be understated here. Products like the Mavic 2 Pro, alongside newer drones like the DJI Mavic Mini, have changed the way that we capture film this decade, and they're getting more affordable and accessible with every iteration. In the next decade, expect drone technology to be a permanent and widespread fixture.
Xbox Adaptive Controller - 2018
Accessibility should be a core concern of technology going forward — after all, tech should be for everyone. In 2018, Microsoft made a giant leap for accessibility with the release of the Xbox Adaptive Controller, a device designed to improve controller functionality for those with any kind of disability. Buttons could be remapped and programmed according to the user's preference, making sure that gaming on Windows PCs and Xbox One consoles would be as comfortable and natural as possible for everyone.
This was an important leap in tech, and kickstarted conversations around how tech could be inclusionary and adapt to the needs of everybody.
Samsung Galaxy Fold - 2019
The $2,999 Samsung Galaxy Fold was a disaster when it first launched, with several phones being flat out destroyed before their reviews because of poor design choices. In October 2019, the redesigned fold debuted in Australia, and commercial 'foldables' entered the mainstream.
Foldables are the next stage of mobile technology, as companies like Samsung, Motorola and Huawei look towards a future where convenience, portability and comfort are key features for mobile devices. The commercial release of the Samsung Galaxy Fold, while low key (and expensive), revealed the direction that mobile devices are heading, for richer or poorer.
Last month the $2,999 Samsung Galaxy Fold was announced for Australia. Once it went on sale some Australian reviewers who received the Fold only had a couple of days with the product to accompany the short embargo period. This has been due to a lack of supply. With such a short lived experience with a new form factor and thus an inability to adequately test it, I can't in good conscience call this a review. But I do have many thoughts.
At the beginning of this decade, some of the innovations on this list would've seemed technologically improbable, but as each year approaches we see new and more exciting technologies. The next decade is sure to bring just as much change, and that's something we should all look forward to seeing.
This article has been updated since its original publication.