The tech industry is constantly changing and evolving, and in 2021, the second year afflicted by the COVID-19 epidemic, the new normal began to take shape. As a result, new features and upgrades to smartphones, wearables, and even televisions became commonplace.

NFC on phones and decent cameras on laptops were more vital than ever, and tech areas that would have been overlooked in the pre-COVID world became deal-breakers. Here are some of the top COVID-related product trends we saw in 2021.

Cameras and picture quality

For more than a decade, camera quality on phones has been a significant problem, but cameras on laptops and tablets have gotten by as long as they took care of the fundamentals. Zoom, Google Meet, and Teams became the new way of conducting meetings for a major portion of the global workforce in 2020, and this trend continued in 2021.

Laptops became business computers, while tablets became mobile classrooms for children who wanted to learn from the comfort of their own homes. This meant that basic cameras were no longer sufficient. We started seeing far better cameras on tablets with larger sensors that could take in more light, allowing us to make video calls at night or in low light (without excessive grains, that is).

Faster WiFi, more data

Many people became accustomed to working from home in 2020, and the backbone of remote workplaces was reliable WiFi and cellular data connectivity. Telecom operators began offering larger data plans in 2021, along with new incentives such as bundled OTT subscriptions. Customers began to demand data rollover, and work-from-home data booster plans remained available.

With more people inside the house, TVs, tablets, cellphones, and even consoles all connected to the same WiFi network, interest in mesh WiFi networks began to grow, allowing for a more dependable networking experience for larger apartments and bungalows.

Moving forward, the introduction of 5G and the widespread use of WiFi 6 are projected to increase connectivity even more for distant work, gaming, and entertainment.

Audio products and wearables

As individuals worked and socialised remotely, good headphones, microphones, TWS earbuds, and even soundcards remained popular purchases. With the rise in audio competition, technologies such as ANC (Active Noise Cancellation) have become much more democratised, and what was previously a luxury feature can now be found on earbuds at around Rs 10,000.

We started noticing more differentiators as more players got on the audio product bandwagon, both on the budget and high end. It was no longer just about the sound in audio products. The aesthetic appeal of products like the Nothing ear (1) had shifted, while the Pixel Buds A-Series introduced functions like real-time translation.

UPI Payments, NFC and payment-oriented tech

One of the memories I'll take with me to the post-COVID era is walking into a store, paying for a bag of chips with Paytm, and hearing a robotic voice tell the merchant (and everyone else) that someone just paid Rs 20. Customers and businesses began standardising digital transactions in 2020, as payments went digital as well.

This trend continued in 2021, with products like the Paytm Soundbox receiving updates such as the Soundbox 2.0, which included SIM compatibility, multi-language support, and a screen. Paytm Smart POS, on the other hand, enables smartphones to be converted into credit/debit card payment terminals.

Meanwhile, elements such as NFC, which have been there for a long time, have taken on new meaning as contactless payments gain traction. NFC, which was once considered a premium technology, has begun to appear on more inexpensive handsets such as the OnePlus Nord CE and Samsung Galaxy M series phones.

Gaming and streaming services

Since 2020, gaming has grown in popularity, and in 2021, it remained one of the most popular kinds of at-home entertainment for many. A few daily rounds of PUBG Mobile or other multiplayer games like Among Us become the newer method to socialise for many of their peers.

As a result, additional phones, like the Poco F3 GT with gaming triggers, become gaming-oriented. Many businesses also launched gaming-related accessories, such as the Realme Triggers or the OnePlus Triggers, as well as a variety of other audio attachments.

Games are also available on Netflix as part of the streaming service's new features, which aim to set it apart from competitors such as Amazon Prime Video and Disney+ Hotstar.

Apple also revealed a cool FaceTime SharePlay feature that allowed iOS users to share their streaming with individuals they were FaceTiming with, making the experience as close to viewing a movie together as possible.

As cinemas closed, movies were released digitally, and firms such as BookMyShow emerged to rent and buy movies for digital distribution. Platforms like Voot have also licensed more sports, with La Liga (the Spanish league) and Ligue 1 (the French league) now available to broadcast (the French league).

Even after widespread immunizations, the pandemic will continue through 2022, as the new Omicron form of the virus now poses a severe threat. In 2022, our reliance on technology will only increase, and technical advancements will hopefully continue into the new year.