From the tech standpoint, this has been an action-packed year. Technology evolves and transforms our world at a rate too rapid to notice. In the last 12 months, too, researchers and manufacturers have introduced impactful products that have changed the rules of the game forever and have set the bar very high. With high-performing and affordable smartphones, VR headsets and AI-driven smart speakers crowding the shelves, the tech space remained a buyer’s market in India, which always bodes well for the coming year. Here are some of the highs—and the unavoidable lows—attained by global tech brands in 2018.

Rise of VR

Although Virtual Reality as an area is thriving and covering new research milestones every few months, it is yet to make inroads into consumer technology that is popular and affordable. This year, tech giants attempted their best to bring VR to a larger audience. HTC’s Vive headset, known for its smooth touch controls and quality graphics, was one of the star launches in this area. It was followed by Facebook’s Oculus VR headsets: Oculus Go and Rift. The Oculus headsets were much talked about for their sleek design, which is unlike anything else available in the market.

Battle of speakers

Amazon launched its first Alexa-powered smart speaker, Echo, back in October 2017. In response to this, Google launched its own line of smart speakers, called Google Home. This inaugurated what was termed the war of the smart speakers. The two brands are now competing with each other on this front by adding new touches to their products in a bid to outdo the rival. When Amazon added a display panel to its speaker, naming the device Amazon Echo Show, Google followed suit with the Google Home Hub, also equipped with a screen. It’s anyone guess as to which direction these devices will take in the coming months. But they’ll surely continue evolving.

Smartphone 2.0

This year was ruled by some stellar smartphones. But it was the market leader, Apple, which stole the show with its latest iPhones—the iPhone X, iPhone XR and iPhone XS Max. This doesn’t mean, however, that other brands were caught napping. Smartphone manufacturers from China, OnePlus and Huawei in particular, took the global market by storm with their series of launches in 2018. Google Pixel 3XL, Samsung Galaxy S9, OnePlus 6t, Huawei Mate Pro, Vivo Nex were among the favourites this year. We also witnessed the launch of the world’s first foldable smartphone, Royole’s FlexPai, as well as two dual display phones by Vivo and ZTE.

Super computers

Just when we thought Apple’s most popular laptop, the MacBook Air, is going to die, the brand decided to revamp the product with new design and software features. The new MacBook Air is sleeker than ever, and yet packed with top-of-the-shelf specs. Apple’s much-lauded Retina Display technology also makes an appearance in the latest Air. Apple also launched an upgraded MacBook Pro earlier this year. Microsoft challenged Apple’s dominance of the laptop market with the launch of the new Surface, another power-packed machine that is perfect for professionals due to its good battery backup and hi-speed processor. Asus’ ZenBook Flip S UX370, Huawei’s MateBook X Pro, Dell’s XPS 13 and Lenovo ThinkPad’s X1 Yoga also deserve an honorary mention.

Gaming mania

India’s gaming community grows every year. And 2018 was no exception. The country was gripped in particular by PUBG madness, with the mobile game taking centre stage in several national and international gaming tournaments hosted here. Apart from Fifa 2019, the most-awaited launch of the year was Rockstar Games’ Red Dead Redemption 2 (RDR2), which was released in October 2018, becoming an instant bestseller. Marvel’s Spider-Man also created a lot of buzz internationally. But only one game was given top honours, and that was Sony’s God of War, which won the coveted Game of the Year Award, with RDR2 coming a close second.

Yahoo’s farewell message

Yahoo Messenger was one the first online platforms that introduced instant messaging to netizens. But after successful span, Yahoo’s messenger service failed to cope with competition. With new-age icons like GChat, Facebook Messenger, and especillay WhatsApp taking over the segment, Yahoo finally had to call it quits in July this year. After being launched in 1998, Yahoo Messenger had a pretty good run for two full decades. It became the most used messaging app at one point of time. But when its dominance ended, Yahoo had no choice but to pull the plug.

Samsung’s big commitment

In July this year, the South Korean consumer electronics brand Samsung opened its world’s largest smartphone manufacturing plant in Noida, making India a major player in the global manufacturing scene. In a recent conversation with  Guardian 20, Ranjivjit Singh, senior vice president, Samsung India, said, “India is now the second largest smartphone market in the world. It is also the fastest growing smartphone market in the world. We not only ‘Make in India’, but we also ‘Make for India’. We listen to our consumers and bring India-specific innovations for you. With this new factory, we have taken a gigantic step and announced our new ‘Make for the World’ initiative. Our aim is to export a significant portion of the mobile handsets produced in Noida by 2020. We will continue to seek the government’s support to make India an export hub.”