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Consumer Digital Technology: Things to Watch in 2020

At the start of each new year I like to clar­i­fy my thoughts by writ­ing about a few things I think are worth keep­ing an eye on in the year ahead. They’re not pre­dic­tions; I’m not a futur­ist. In pre­vi­ous years I’ve described these as trends, but they’re bet­ter thought of as sig­nals. Or, even bet­ter, just some things I think are inter­est­ing.

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Voice-forward phones: Google Assistant and the next billion users

A range of new flag­ship phones got shown off at the MWC19 trade fair. At one end of the scale, Sam­sung intro­duced three vari­a­tions of its pre­mi­um Galaxy S10 and a new mod­el, the Galaxy Fold, with its inno­v­a­tive fold­ing screen and almost $2,000 price tag. At the oth­er, the Wiz­phone WP006, a phone made only for Indone­sia (where it will be sold in vend­ing machines), cost­ing about $7.

The WP006 is a fea­ture­phone; it has a hard­ware key­board, no touch­screen, 4G con­nec­tiv­i­ty, runs on KaiOS (an oper­at­ing sys­tem based on the aban­doned Fire­fox­OS project), and has a promi­nent micro­phone button—it’s a voice-for­ward phone, pow­ered by Google Assis­tant.

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Using Airtable to manage a trends-tracking email newsletter

For the last cou­ple of years part of my job has been to keep my col­leagues and employ­er up to date on tech­nol­o­gy trends; to make sure that every­one knows the moves in the tech­nol­o­gy land­scape, and to try to fol­low trends in the mar­ket to help the com­pa­ny posi­tion itself well to meet them. This post is about a new process I’m imple­ment­ing on a cou­ple of aspects of that part of my role.

I have two prob­lems that I want this process to solve. The first is that I want to be able to bet­ter track trends in tech­nol­o­gy, to under­stand new prod­uct releas­es and actions with bet­ter ref­er­ence to what’s hap­pened before. The sec­ond is that I send a week­ly email newslet­ter with curat­ed links to the most rel­e­vant and use­ful sto­ries about the tech­nol­o­gy land­scape, but my cur­rent method of assem­bling it’s cum­ber­some. I’m exper­i­ment­ing with a solu­tion to both of these prob­lems using Airtable.

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Trends in Consumer Digital Technology for 2019

For the past few years I’ve got into the habit of start­ing the new year with an arti­cle con­sol­i­dat­ing my thoughts on where we’re at with con­sumer dig­i­tal tech­nol­o­gy; look­ing at the land­scape, and at what the biggest play­ers are doing—my focus is most­ly on Ama­zon, Apple, Face­book, and Google, but it’s not exclu­sive­ly on them. I want to tease out a few trends to help ori­ent myself in my role for the year ahead. I try not to make pre­dic­tions, but per­haps play out some pos­si­bil­i­ties.

There are two big declines at the core of this year’s trends, which I think set the tone for where con­sumer tech might head in 2019. They are the smart­phone decline, and the Face­book decline.