Nothing can escape the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. It’s touched every corner of the world, with an immediate healthcare toll closely followed by economic devastation. In fact, IG has demonstrated that it is possible that 92.9% of countries will end up in a recession in 2020 – higher than for any other crisis in history, such is the scale of the global fallout.
It’s no surprise, therefore, to see an impact on the world of gadgets. It stands to reason that when businesses are struggling, consumers spend less – either because their work has dried up or because they are worried that their job has become less secure. On top of that, supply chains and manufacturing capacity went into lockdown, drying up production of new gadgets.
Gartner noted that global smartphone sales have dropped 20.2% in the first quarter of 2020 alone – perhaps the starkest indicator of the way spending has suffered in this sector.
Anshul Gupta, senior research analyst at Gartner, explained: “The coronavirus pandemic caused the global smartphone market to experience its worst decline ever. Most of the leading Chinese manufacturers and Apple were severely impacted by the temporary closures of their factories in China and reduced consumer spending due to the global shelter-in-place.”
Yet it’s wrong to say things are all looking gloomy for gadgets – and painting a wholly negative picture would be inaccurate.
Around the world, lockdowns and restrictions on travel etc have had an impact on the way we’ve all behaved. With people stuck at home more, increasing numbers of people have become reliant on gadgets to keep them entertained or, indeed, just connected to the outside world. Many people have tried things that they were previously reluctant to use – fast-forwarding adoption of some technology and making some aspects more mainstream.
As McKinsey shows, increasing numbers of Australians have taken to online streaming, video chats and conferencing, remote learning, online fitness, telemedicine and gaming. While some people might well return to the way they behaved before the pandemic, it’s likely that many will see their behaviour permanently altered by the events of 2020.
The current crisis has also presented an opportunity for savvy innovators to come up with new gadgets. As the Times of India demonstrates, this has resulted in the creation of such products as a ‘hygiene hook’ that allows doors to be opened without the need to touch handles through to fruit and vegetable disinfectants. As countries search for safe ways to live and work while we await a vaccine, there will be lucrative opportunities for a whole raft of new gadgets to make that ‘new normal’ life simpler.
The example of VR and AR might be instructive here too. As with smartphones, sales were badly hit earlier in 2020 – with supply and demand both effected. Yet, now, as populations across the planet grow weary of their usual sources of entertainment being postponed – and as companies consider ways to cut travel and person-to-person contact, VR presents a possible solution.
Data analysts IDC predict that this will see a big rebound for sales in 2021 and beyond. Research manager Jitesh Ubrani said: “While gaming remains at the forefront of consumer VR, other use cases such as virtual concerts and virtual workouts are also starting to resonate with buyers.”
He added: “Meanwhile, many enterprises continue to ramp up their use of VR with training, collaboration, design, and manufacturing use cases driving momentum. We expect the commercial segment to grow from 38% of the worldwide market in 2020 to 53% by 2024.”
So, yes, gadgets have had a tough year. But, changing consumer behaviour and innovation are coming together to ensure that the picture isn’t as bleak as it might appear at first glance.