Tech Observations during the Holidays

I use holiday dinners, brunches, and gatherings to observe tech trends among family and friends. I’m convinced at times that anecdotal evidence is just as useful as a fancy “scientific” study. Since I am observing mostly the same people each year, sampling bias should be somewhat reduced. Here are some observations from the past two weeks:

  1. Phones. Within my social circle, it comes down to an iPhone, Samsung Galaxy phone, or feature phone. It has been like this for at least a year, but I am not exaggerating when I say I saw no other kind of phone. The iPhone 6/6 Plus upgrade cycle looks to be very strong, with older iPhone models (iPhone 5c) making inroads in families with 3-4+ phones. Phone personalization via various phone cases is also rampant. 
  2. Phone Sizes. A Samsung Galaxy Note (5.7-inch display) was the biggest phone I saw in the wild, although iPhone 6 Plus (5.5-inch display) was somewhat popular among teenagers. There is still a yearning for the iPhone 5s display (4-inch). 
  3. Apps. A few years back, I would hear conversation about the latest downloaded app or how a particular app was very cool. Not anymore. 
  4. Cameras. Last year, I still saw a few instances of people using dedicated regular cameras. This year: no dedicated cameras. Most have switched over to smartphones given much easier sharing capabilities.
  5. Tablets. I didn't see as much enthusiasm for tablets in 2014. Tablets are primarily being used as video players (Netflix and YouTube).  
  6. TV. Still popular with more than a handful of instances of upgraded TV sets.
  7. Wearables. Crickets.
  8. Smart Home Devices. Crickets.
  9. Other. Frustration with cable and home internet service providers is continuing to grow.

 Summing up my 2014 holiday tech observations:

  • The iPhone 6/6 Plus have ushered in the largest iPhone upgrade cycle Apple has ever experienced.
  • Samsung is holding its own among its loyal users in the phone market, but newer users to the brand are opting for older and cheaper Samsung Galaxy models.
  • Smartphones are basically turning into cameras with social messaging capabilities.
  • App discovery (and sadly innovation) seems to be slowing with concentrated pockets of exception. 
  • People like watching video on big screens (i.e. televisions).
  • Tablets continue to lose their cool factor, and bigger phones are taking over many use cases once held by tablets. 
  • The first wave of smartwatches flopped.