The global pandemic dominated product decision-making last year. Things are unlikely to change much in 2022, but we can expect to see the emergence of a new product category in a big way. Experts hope to see the uptake of extended reality (XR), with a focus on both hardware and software. But that doesn’t divert brands’ focus on smartphones which continue to get better but this year they might gain one or two new features to be adopted at the industry level. Meanwhile, Android tablets are expected to improve with consumers getting more options to choose from.
Here is what I think is in store for the next 12 months and how tech will reshape the lives of consumers in 2022.
Rise of AR/VR headsets
Meta’s Quest 2 is a legitimate success, selling millions of units, giving the industry some hope that there is money to be made in the VR space. Both virtual reality and augmented reality (AR) consumer headsets will be dominating conversations in 2022. With Sony eyeing the release of its PlayStation VR 2 and Apple reportedly readying its mixed reality (MR) headset for this year, consumer interest in extended reality (XR) which combines AR, VR and other immersive technologies will only increase. It’s a matter of time before both VR and AR become household names, though that is unlikely this year at least. The biggest grouse with existing VR consumer devices is the lack of immersive content and until developers and content creators start making new types of consumer entertainment experiences such as engaging games and movies made specifically for virtual reality, things won’t really change.
Google’s renewed focus on Android tablets
Although Android tablets don’t even come close to iPads, Google and its OEM partners stepped up in a major way, with options in the budget and high-end category last year. Budget offerings, especially from HMD Global (Nokia) and Realme, were impressive and that helped expand the market for Android tablets. But 2022 is expected to be even better for Android tablets. With Google releasing Android 12 L, a version tailored specifically for larger devices like tablets, the new software will address all the issues we have with Android-based tablets such as demand for better multitasking and improved compatibility support for apps. All major consumer brands selling tablets should roll out products with Android 12 L this year, and we expect to finally see Android tablets that can compete with the iPad in a big way.
More smartphones with under-display selfie cameras
When ZTE launched its Axon 20 with an under-display camera in 2020, it was anything but good. The camera quality was poor, and the area of the screen looked quite distracting. The Galaxy Z Fold 3 which came out last year had similar issues. However, under-display cameras are likely to get better and more companies will launch smartphones using this technology in 2022. In fact, the arrival of the Mi Mix 4 and ZTE Axon 30 late last year signaled that this new tech is getting better. Both phones used a different approach to the tech, marking a big improvement in the image quality. This year we will start seeing manufacturers using this tech in more mainstream phones, pushing the idea of bezel-free, all-screen smartphones.
Super (fast) charging coming to smartphones
Smartphone makers have been showing ultra-fast charging tech for years. Xiaomi, Oppo, Realme and Vivo have all demonstrated the extremely fast charging tech that can charge a phone in under 20 minutes. Consumers, for the first time, will get a taste of super-fast charging solutions in mainstream phones in 2022. Companies like Xiaomi have plans to launch smartphones with cutting-edge fast-charging tech in the market. The flagship Xiaomi 12 Pro has already been announced with 120W fast charging. Meanwhile, the Xiaomi 11i HyperCharge supporting 120W charge will land in India in early January. The company claims its HyperCharge tech will fill a smartphone’s battery from zero to 100 per cent in 15 minutes flat. Next in the line are the OnePlus 10 Pro and Oppo Find X4 Pro, both expected to come with 80W charging out of the box. Samsung is also rumoured to ship the upcoming Galaxy S22 series with a 45W fast charging.
MediaTek to give tough competition to Qualcomm
2021 was a year when we saw the explosion of smartphones with MediaTek chips inside them. The release of the OnePlus Nord 2 with the Demensity 1200 proved pivotal for MediaTek and how industry insiders perceive the Taiwanese chipmaker. With Oppo’s recent announcement of using a 5G-capable Dimensity 9000 chipset for its flagship Find X-series phones, Mediatek will give tough competition to Qualcomm in the high-end smartphone market. For the longest time, Qualcomm has been the go-to chipmaker for powering some of the most powerful smartphones on the market. The slow-and-steady rise of Mediatek and its ability to convince big players like Xiaomi and Vivo to run their next flagships with its 4nm Dimensity 9000 chip is a big deal. This not only puts pressure on Qualcomm but also signals a change in conversations around the Snapdragon chip lineup which has become confusing over time, giving no real advantage to vendors or end consumers. More handsets, especially on the premium mid-end and flagship-level coming with Mediatek chips, could pave the way for slightly less expensive price tags.