The world of wireless technology has moved at an absolutely dizzying pace in recent years, and things will supposedly be getting even crazier with 5G in the near future. The Trust Compass has aggregated some of the top trends of the year, along with predictions for the near future, to cap off 2017 with some insight and send consumers and industry watchers into 2018 with, hopefully, a somewhat clear picture of what to expect. The company’s infographic starts out with some facts and figures to show just where we are in regards to wireless technology. At present, there are some 3.5 billion people on the internet worldwide, and that number is expected to go up to 4.5 billion users in 2020. There is a lot of talk about reaching “the next billion” in developing markets, and that’s exactly what this prediction refers to. Of those billions, 2.10 billion currently use smartphones, and that figure is expected to grow to 2.87 billion over the next four years. 91 percent of the population of the United States, one of the most developed markets, owns a wireless device of some sort. This sets the stage for the year’s trends in wireless technology, from mobile to smart home products and everything in between.
On the wireless front, you may be a bit surprised to hear that Samsung’s smash hit Galaxy S8 and Galaxy Note 8 are not on the top five worldwide best sellers list for the year so far. Results may vary a bit because of sales in the final quarter of the year, but data from Canalys shows that Apple’s iPhone 7 and iPhone 6S topped sales for the year, with the closest Android competitor actually being Samsung’s budget-friendly Galaxy J2 Prime. Rather than a large South Korean competitor or a trusted name like Motorola, the fourth and fifth slots belong to Chinese OEM Oppo, who saw a large measure of growth this year. Specifically, Oppo’s A57 and R11 snagged spots four and five, respectively. It’s not difficult to see that the sheer number of worldwide users going for budget-friendly Android devices far outweighs the popularity of flagship devices in more prosperous and developed markets. The fact that neither of these crowds manages to shake Apple faithful around the world is actually fairly remarkable.
Moving beyond smartphones and back to The Trust Compass’ own data, Wi-Fi printers and routers were among the top gadgets this year, along with network-attached storage drives. Microsoft’s powerful Xbox One dominates the worldwide gaming scene, despite some stiff competition in the form of the VR-enabled and RPG-laden Sony PlayStation 4, and the Nintendo Switch, which should, quite frankly, need no introduction at this point. Surprisingly, Google Glass made a resurgence in aggregate interest this year, most likely due to its new life as an enterprise-focused device and ecosystem. As far as smartwatches, the Fitbit Surge came out on top in the Android crowd, while the Apple watch remained a crowd favorite. Finally, the athlete-targeting FITguard joined those in the wearable category. As an aside to that, health monitors and smartwatches with health monitoring features were among the top health-related wireless tech trends this year, along with health-focused smartphone apps. Safety and security were the names of the game for smart homes this year, with smart locks, fire alarms, and security monitors besting other pieces of the home IoT puzzle in the trend map. Within that security subcategory, smart locks and full-building security systems with monitoring saw the most interest, according to The Trust Compass’ data. Moving out of the home and into the classroom, while Google’s Chromebook has been busy spending the year fighting off competitors for the right to be the computing device of choice for students, tablets have silently grown their niche in the education space, while ebooks and in-class VR have started to come into their own.
Consumer trends aren’t all that’s shaping the wireless world, of course. Network security data gathered by The Trust Compass shows that a staggering 19% of people who signed onto free Wi-Fi networks this year saw their personal data compromised, which ties into the fact that 89% of free public hotspots are unsecured. In laymans’ terms, a Wi-Fi network with no password has no encryption, which means that anybody else on that same network could potentially read all of your device’s data, if they simply had the right tools. At home, some 77% of consumers are opting for weak WEP protection schemes, which can be cracked in only 5 minutes, despite the vastly more secure WPA2 security being compatible with the vast majority of modern wireless gear. What this all boils down to is three simple points; public Wi-Fi is inherently unsafe and should be used with extreme caution, wireless security should be taken seriously at home, and basic security procedures like changing all of your passwords regularly should always be followed.
Moving on to forward-looking trends, this year’s hottest wireless buzzword was, without a doubt, 5G networking. The initial version of the official 5G NR standard was completed recently by the 3GPP, and as such, the race is on for carriers, network equipment makers, and device makers to get that technology to consumers as quickly as possible. The standard itself is a fairly loose set of minimum requirements for a network to call itself 5G, which means that a range of different standards could arise, though many firms involved in the development of the standard are actively working to ensure that doesn’t happen, and want to make 5G the world’s first unified and universally compatible wireless standard. Speeds are expected to range from 3.6 to 10 gigabits per second on the consumer end, when all is said and done, completely revolutionizing what a wireless network is capable of. This means that next year’s trend chart can and probably will look vastly different from this year’s, and drastic changes will likely continue until true 5G has become commonplace and been mainstream for a while.