What’s new in consumer technology for 2019?

February 12, 2019 By Southpoint Tuggeranong

Consumer technology developments come at such a pace these days that it’s easy to lose track of overall trends. So, we thought we’d take a look at what is happening with some key types of consumer tech and what it means for those of us who aren’t regular followers of tech fashion.

We found that 2019 is the year to think about bringing the smart technology we use together into a system and consider joining a revolution in wearable tech that can help use live more organised and healthier lives.

Some things don’t change... much

Today it’s hard to imagine life without a smartphone — a computer in your pocket that is much more capable than top of the line laptops at the turn of the 21st century. Yet the iPhone only came out in 2007 and the first android devices came out the following year. The iPad is even newer, first appearing in 2010.

These devices are now so mainstream that they no longer cause the excitement they once did. Nor do they appear to offer significant lifestyle changes as their capability increases.

Indeed, smart phones, tablets, laptops and digital cameras are so ubiquitous that their markets are often said to be saturated and advances in their technology seem less significant.

We plan to offer some guidance on buying your next piece of this now-standard tech and look at advances like mirrorless cameras and your options for portable speakers.

But our focus here is on significant consumer tech trends and the types of digital products that they have affected. Let’s start by looking at the key tech trends to understand in 2019.

Consumer tech trends

At the beginning of every year the Consumer Technology Association runs a trade show called CES where the consumer technology industry gathers to discuss and promote the latest gadgets. It’s a big event — 182 thousand people attended this year to hear 1000 speakers and see exhibits from 4400+ exhibiting companies. And it offers a great insight into what’s happening in consumer tech.

We looked at what was said at the event and coverage of it to see what it might mean for people looking to buy consumer electronics in 2019. We’ll look at these trends in a little more depth in the future. But here are the key trends to consider when buying gadgets and appliances in 2019:
  1. Smart home technology is becoming mainstream – If you’re not familiar with the ‘internet of things’ and the new capability of just about any new electronic device – from your front door, lights and fridge – to connect to the web and be controlled via it, now is the time to get a grip on what it means.
  2. Digital assistants running homes talk to devices from all sorts of brands – As Amanda Zantal-Wiener pointed out, up until now brands like Google, Amazon and Apple were looking to get you to buy their devices exclusively in a “branded ecosystem”. Devices that would be controlled by their hub device (think Google Assistant for Google, Alexa for Amazon, etc.). Now it’s a question of finding a device compatible with all the smart devices in your home, as we look at in a little more depth in the next section.
  3. Voice via smart speakers is the key to mainstreaming smart homes and the “smart life” Research presented at CES stressed the importance of simplicity when it comes to controlling all the new technology in your home and life and the role of voice activation as a simple way to get the technology to make life easier.
  4. Wearable tech is also becoming mainstream – How do you control this tech when you’re away from home? How do you make use of new technology that keeps track of your health? How do you stay in touch with people? Wearable tech like smart watches, and fitness trackers and the advent of voice interfaces mean that your smart phone is superseded when it comes to controlling your personal “internet of things” devices and appliances.
  5. 5G will make all this interconnectivity much easier – Scheduled to roll out in 2019 5G will offer wireless connectivity at fibre cable speeds and mean that your devices be they in your car, your home or on your wrist can stay in touch more easily. And with Telstra and Optus planning to offer home wireless via 5G* it could eventually replace the broadband network.
  6. Your next TV will probably be bigger and higher definition – Streaming entertainment is a big part of most people lives these days and TV sizes are growing. The next thing is much better quality pictures on your TV, with 8k quality streaming possible through the combination of better TV screens and 5G.

(*There is some talk that 5G will give a boost to a saturated smart phone market. With Apple not bringing out a 5G capable iPhone until 2020 and uncertainty around how fast 5G will be widely available, though, there doesn’t appear to be much incentive to rush out and get a 5G phone.)

Smart Home

How smart is your home? This year could be the year that Australian homes get a lot smarter as the “internet of things” takes some big steps toward becoming mainstream. And it might be worth investing some time in learning more about what a smarter home could offer you.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the smart device possibilities.

There are the more established smart devices from security systems manageable via your phone, to fridges that help plan dinner and your basic robot vacuum cleaners. Then there are things launched in 2019 that start to get a little sci-fi:
Don’t be overwhelmed. The key thing, for the moment, is to consider an interconnected future when you replace household appliances and gadgets. JB Hifi offers a little help here in the way it arranges its “connected home” products to show what digital assistant option devices work with.

Indeed, digital assistants are the piece of home technology that makes truly smart homes possible.

CES 2019 suggested that the coming year will be a big year for smart home technology as the mainstreaming of voice interfaces makes controlling your home’s digital devices via a digital assistant a little easier.

It’s likely you’ve got some smart devices in your home. Research shows that the average number of interconnected devices in Australian homes reached 17 last October and that will explode to reach 37 devices by 2022.

That’s just 3 years from now!

No surprise then that 2022, when we’ll have nearly 40 digital devices at our disposal, is the year that Juniper Research predicted digital assistants will run most Australian homes.

The challenge will be to manage all these devices in a way that lets them make your life easier. And that’s where digital assistants like Google Assistant, Apple Homekit and Amazon Alexa come into their own.

As Amazon’s smart home spokesperson told Digital Trends a year ago:
“For a long time, having a smart home meant you had to unlock your phone, open up an app, and press a button within that app just to turn on a light. At that point you might as well just have gotten off the couch and turned off the light yourself.”
With voice controlled digital assistants the smart home becomes a little more practical.

Smart speakers

Presenters at CES described 2018 as a year of extraordinary growth in sales, for voice activated digital assistant devices, reflecting a consensus across tech media. And the stats back up the assertion: A third of Americans spoke to a digital assistant in December according to research presented at the tradeshow.

And Australia experienced its own stunning growth in smart speaker sales as five percent of Australians over 12 had access to the technology in July, just 9 months after it launched here.

In December, as Christmas shopping kicked into gear, the Australian Financial Review gave retailers a warning:
“It's been the year of the smart speaker, and if retailers thought they were a fast mover last Christmas, they ain't seen nothing yet.”
It’s a little too early to know the level of Christmas 2018 smart speaker sales. But smart homes rely on smart speakers and Google has sold a speaker every second since October. So, you need to start thinking about your options, if you want to take advantage of the smart home technology that connects digital devices soon.

We plan to explore your smart speaker options in more detail. In the meantime, Techradar has just published some useful smart speaker buying guidance that anyone considering making their home smart should read. It covers the options we’ve mentioned here and some others that are either available now or on their way to Australian stores.

Our advice: don’t rush into making a call on the smart speaker that will form the hub of your smart home, think through the smart devices you own and consider your options carefully.

Wearable technology

When most people think of wearable technology, they think of something that goes on their wrist like a smartwatch or fitness tracker — both of which we’ll take a deeper look at shortly. Whether monitoring our health or fitness, or giving us the freedom that comes with smart phone tech on our wrist, these devices are getting smarter and are set to be more common.

But there is much more to wearable technology than phones and wristbands. Techradar’s list of seven wearable tech products to look out for in 2019 includes only three smart watches. The other items on the list will have you thinking about your favourite sci-fi television series.

Apple Airpods 2 look like in-ear headphones. They are much more than that. They will be able to do the sort of health monitoring now available via smart watches by 2020, apparently. And better Bluetooth will mean smoother interaction with, digital assistant, Siri and make the pods them a hybrid between a smart speaker and smart watch.

Virtual and augmented reality headsets are also improving with Techradar pointing to new headsets from Microsoft and Bose. Microsoft’s HoloLens brings Star trek the Next Generation’s holo-deck to mind. While Bose’s Frames, with augmented reality capability, seems like Google Glass returned, offering an ability to learn more about what we are looking at.

Fans of The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy will remember the babel fish — a small fish that offered the ability to speak and understand just about any language when inserted into one’s ear. The WT2 real-time in-ear translator ear buds could do with a similarly catchy name. But they're set to offer the same service without the little-fish-in-your-ear yuck factor.

All that said, the thing that will make wearable tech ever more desirable in 2019 is its ability to keep a track on our health, motivate us to exercise, lose weight and generally help us avoid getting sick, as shown in recent research on “living the smart life”.

Smart watches

The coming year is expected to be a good one for smart watches with the growing popularity of wearable tech most evident here. is willing to go as far as to declare them a “mainstream tech category in 2019” and ZDnet predicted that sales will double in the next four years.

“Smart watch” takes you back to the watches with rows of buttons with basic digital game and calculator functionality of the 1980s and 1990s? It might be time to get up to speed with tech that you can now attach to your wrist. The guide to smartwatches is a great way to bring yourself up to date.

Today’s smart watches can do just about everything your smartphone can do and some things it won’t, like monitor your blood pressure. And, while most still need to connect to the Web via your phone, more and more are now able to connect independently.

The watch that best suits your needs will likely depend on your other tech choices. But you’ll recognise the prominent brands as related to the functionality smart watches offer: Apple, Google, Garmin, Fitbit, etc. as illustrated by Gizmodo’s recent buyer’s guide.

Fitness trackers

The growth of interest in smart watches could be said to be at the expense of fitness trackers. Why get the limited functionality of a fitness tracker when you can get the same information from your smartwatch?

Hang on, though, 2019 is a bit soon to write fitness trackers off.

The American College of Sports Medicine put wearable technology top of its list of fitness trends for the third year running. This, of course, includes smart watches, heart rate monitors, GPS devices and fitness trackers. But not everyone has the spare cash to buy a smartwatch to enjoy the benefits of health and fitness monitoring.

As Digital Trends points out in its list of Best fitness trackers for 2019 trackers are “low-priced, lightweight, fitness focused” devices. They’ll count your steps, and monitor your heart rate, activity levels and sleep. Perfect then, if you’re happy to let your smartphone handle smartphone stuff like calls, email and scheduling but want to keep a better eye on your health.

Virtual reality and augmented reality headsets

The closest many people have come to augmented (AR) or virtual reality (VR) is the VR headset that Sony Playstation offers alongside 400+ games. Or you might be familiar with headsets, if you have a gamer in the house.

But AR and VR technology is set to be more widely used, as the technology improves and becomes more affordable. You won’t necessarily have to be a hardcore gamer to want a headset. Forbes magazine predicts that AR and VR will be adopted as training and education tools and VR gaming and entertainment will becomes mainstream in 2019.

Google Glasses might have failed to catch on, but new technologies like HoloLens and Bose’s frames suggest that VR and AR will be a bigger part of our future lives.

Meantime, anyone looking to understand headset options for the gamer in the house could start by reading this headset buyers’ guide.

Preparing yourself for a smarter life in 2019

Some of the tech innovations we’ve looked at here are not likely to have a huge impact on our daily lives. And some of the more advanced wearable tech, including the headsets we just looked at, will remain the concern of early adopters and specialist audiences, like gamers, for a while yet.

But it is clear that we should probably be thinking about how we might connect up all the digital devices and smart appliances building up in our homes.

And maybe we need to consider the potential for wearable tech to help extend the connection beyond the home and help us stay healthy. After all, we might need the motivation to move that wearable tech monitoring offers, if we can run our houses via our smart speakers from the comfort of our couches.
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