COVID-19 has upended and forced us to reimagine nearly every aspect of our daily lives. It has affected our collective psychology, our behavior patterns, our energy levels and, in many cases, our incentives and priorities. It naturally follows that the consumer technology space – also inextricably intertwined with nearly every aspect of our lives (whether you like it or not) – will feel the effects of the pandemic. As part of a series of bite-sized Q&As with tech influencers and media on tech conversations that matter, we picked the brain of YouTuber Michael Fisher – a.k.a. MrMobile – on the topic of how the coronavirus crisis is impacting the way we choose our consumer tech.
1. COVID-19 has clearly created a lot of economic uncertainty and affected people’s psychology. How do you think this has impacted consumer electronics buying decisions on the whole?
MrMobile: I've heard people are spending less and being more cautious, but that's all anecdotal. Meanwhile, on the other hand, I've got manufacturers shipping products just like they always planned, and at least one major manufacturer said sales of its high-end handsets were up ... substantially. So I don't have a lot of solid data either way, but manufacturers don't seem to have changed their approach to product releases (not yet, anyway).
2. What have you heard and seen from your audience about their shifting interests regarding consumer electronics products? For example, are they showing more interest in smart-home devices lately because they’re quarantining?
MrMobile: We started to see more audience engagement around WFH and home tech at the start of the lockdown in the U.S. (so March/April/May) but it's definitely cooled since. Talking mainly about my sister sites there, since MrMobile remains mainly... mobile, but even my own "MrMobile Stays Home" series has seen a gradual tapering off of audience interest.
3. Do you think this trend (question #2) will change in 2021?
MrMobile: I think it all depends on whether we get a vaccine that will return us to some semblance of normalcy. An awful lot is still up in the air as we head into the next year, so I don't think it's possible to answer this question with any degree of accuracy.
4. Tough times can often spur greater creativity and innovation – what new kinds of products, applications and/or features do you anticipate resulting from people having different priorities?
MrMobile: My creative work has benefited from being stuck at home and having fewer distractions from travel, so I anticipate we'll see some significant developments in tech and beyond. As for which applications and products, I feel like desktop replacement laptops might see a spike (if they haven't already) because so many more people will be staying home playing games or doing work that requires real computing horsepower. Of course some folks will buy or build desktops for this purpose, but I still feel like people like to be able to move between rooms with greater ease than a desktop permits (especially since families are all living on top of one another, with kids doing remote learning, spouses working from home, etc). Hands-On Throttle And Stick setups have sold out for months thanks to Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 and the anticipated shelter in place orders.
And then you can never go wrong with tech that enables drinking, getting high and generally forgetting the dumpster fire outside. Blenders. Vape pens. That kinda stuff.
5. Big shows like CES, MWC and IFA have been staples of the CE industry over the past decade. Do you think this will change, or will things pick up where they left off after the pandemic?
MrMobile: When the Note 7 started exploding, people said it was the end of Samsung. When 787s started crashing people said it was the end of Boeing. Trade shows will still exist – though I hope this shakes them from their complacency somewhat and encourages them to start wooing mobile manufacturers again. Nothing worse than a CES where I have to cover alarm clocks and Impossible Burgers because there's no mobile tech to talk about.
... actually I dug the Impossible Burgers.
About Michael Fisher, a.k.a. MrMobile
MrMobile produces premium technology videos for the discerning gadget enthusiast. From his studio in Brooklyn NY, MrMobile's goal with every video is to uncover “the truth of the product” through an authentic, even-handed approach he has honed over a decade of reporting. He caters to the tech-centric consumer with a focus on high-end and distinctive products. You can find his YouTube channel, reaching over 1M subscribers, here.