Top 5 tech trends of 2018 [Year in Review]

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Top 5 tech trends of 2018 [Year in Review]
We take a look at what really changed for Apple and other tech companies in 2018.
Photo: Cult of Mac

Cult of Mac Year in Review 2018: Top 5 tech trends of 2018 Growing concerns about how much companies are spying on us tops our list of the most significant tech trends of 2018. Also on the list are some big changes in applications, a trend in phone design, and a new type of device that became nearly ubiquitous. 

As the new year begins, let’s take a look back at what changed for Apple and the tech world over the past 12 months.

Privacy scandals galore

In the spring, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg had to testify to Congress about the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Later, we found out that Google lets third-party developers read people’s Gmail messages. These were just a couple of the most high-profile violations of people’s privacy by tech companies in 2018. There were many more. Plus there were all the unintended data breeches. 

As a result, there’s increasing backlash against Facebook, Google, and others whose entire business model is gathering private data about users and selling it to advertisers. A sweeping data privacy law went into effect in the European Union this year.  Legislation to limit data collection by companies has already been proposed for the U.S.Congress, and could be debated in 2019.

Apple, by contrast, believes strongly in protecting the privacy of iPhone, iPad, and Mac owners. It takes the stance that privacy is a fundamental human right. Every Apple product is designed to minimize the collection and use of user data.

Notches here, there, and everywhere

In 2018, it became increasingly difficult to buy a smartphone without a screen cutout, also referred to as a notch. The iPhone X was criticized for pioneering the design at the end of last year, but the idea was embraced by nearly all its rivals in 2018, to the point where Google had to limit the number allowed. Even Samsung is prepping a couple.

The reason is obvious. Smartphone buyers want the largest screens possible, but devices must have front-facing cameras, speakers, etc. A screen cutout lets the display cover as much of the front of the phone as possible with minimal dead space. That’s why the notch is likely to be with us at least until folding screens become common.

Multiplayer mobile gaming goes ubiquitous

Fortnite is wildly popular, and this game and others like it are part of a quantum shift.  Years ago, people playing on their phones were up against the computer. Sometimes they were competing against their friends, but mostly it was man vs. machine. In contrast, PUBG and Fortnite pit players against other people from all around the world.

This type of game isn’t new, but it’s become far more popular than ever before, especially on smartphones and tablets.

Smartspeakers on parade

2018 was the year Apple joined in the burgeoning smartspeaker market. Sales of this type of device have been growing, and market-research firm IDC estimates they reached 100 million units in the last 12 months. They’ve popped up in homes all across the U.S. and the world.

But Apple’s HomePod started out slowly. It accounted for just 6 percent of global smartspeaker shipments in the third quarter of the year, the most recent for which we have data. But don’t call this smartspeaker a dud: it pulled in 16 percent of all revenue from this type of device.  And HomePad had 70 percent of the premium smartspeaker market.

There have been persistent rumors that Apple will soon introduce a version of the HomePod that costs less than the current $349 price. That could improve sales in the coming year. WHich is important, and millions more of these will appear in living rooms, kitchens… you name it.

Subscription apps becoming inescapable

Apple quietly urges developers to stop charging one-time fees for iOS and Mac software. Instead, it wants users to pay reoccurring subscription fees. And its campaign is working. The company announced a few months ago that revenue from subscriptions was up 95 percent over last year.

Apple takes 30 percent of these subscription fees in the first year, and 15 percent in each subsequent annum. Hopefully, developers are using the remaining money to continuously improve their software offerings.

Scammers have been quick to leap on this trend, though. A handful of applications in the App Store were caught charging exorbitant subscription fees for basic functions. All iPhone and iPad users should check to see what reoccurring charges they are paying and cancel the ones they don’t want.