The 10 Tech Products That Defined This Decade

There's no shortage of products that are hailed by their creators as "revolutionary" or "totally transformative" upon launch. Sure, every company that births a new gadget into the world wants to believe that its innovative design and fancy new manufacturing process is going to profoundly change the way we experience technology in the future. But of course they think this way—it sometimes actually happens.

Here are 10 instances from the years between 2010 and 2019 when it actually did happen. These are the products that arrived with a splash and grew into a typhoon. Since they span various industries, their impacts can't be measured on the same scale. So, it doesn't make sense to us to rank the products from one to 10. Instead, we're presenting them chronologically. Here are the 10 technology products that defined this decade.

WhatsApp

The private messaging service technically launched in November of 2009, but that's close enough—and its impact on the decade that followed was significant enough to warrant inclusion here.

In the early years co-founders Jan Koum and Brian Acton charged a $1 annual fee to use the service, but that didn’t stop WhatsApp from spreading, particularly in developing nations like Brazil, Indonesia, and South Africa. While a lot of non-SMS-based messaging apps required you to own an iPhone, WhatsApp ran on just about any modern mobile device, where it gave people an SMS-like experience without all those SMS fees. It also globalizing end-to-end encryption by rolling out the privacy feature to its legion of users. By the time WhatsApp added voice calling and video chatting, it was the de facto standard for keeping in touch across borders.
In early 2014, Facebook acquired WhatsApp for $19 billion (yes, billion with a “b”). And what a prescient acquisition that was, as WhatsApp has swelled to 1.6 billion users and has become one of the most important social networks in the world. (Though WeChat still rules in China.) As with any social platform though, WhatsApp is used as a tool for nefarious purposes as well as good intent. As WhatsApp has grown, the company has struggled to keep up with the spread of misinformation on its platform—which, in some cases, has lead to civil unrest and violence.Apple iPadWhen Steve Jobs first showed off the iPad in early 2010, a lot of people wondered whether there was “room in the middle” for a product that was much bigger than a smartphone, but lighter than (and more limited than) a laptop. Were you supposed to make a photo call on this thing? And, that name! But the iPad was also the culmination of years of tablet starts and stops for Apple, and Jobs might have envisioned what the rest of us hadn’t imagined yet: That “mobile” products really would become the most important devices in our lives, and that the processors inside these devices would eventually outpower the chips inside your everyday laptop. Other manufacturers got the message and raced to iterate—some successfully , some not .

2013, the iPad Air redefined what “thin and light” meant, and the 2015 iPad Pro was the first Apple table to work with a stylus pen, attach to an always-charging “smart” keyboard, and run on a powerful 64-bit A9X chip. The iPad is no longer just a nice tablet for reading magazines and watching videos; it’s the computer of the future.

Uber (and Lyft)Who would have thought a couple of tech bros having a hard time getting a cab in San Francisco would lead to one of the most transformative technologies of the decade? UberCab launched in June 2010, which let people could call a “cab” with the push of a virtual smartphone button. In the early days, the service only operated in a few cities, included a hefty surcharge, and dispatched sleek Town Cars and limos instead of Foci and Priui. The launch of the lower-cost UberX service in 2012 changed that (and also appeared to put a gajillion more hybrid vehicles on the road), while Lyft’s launch that same year gave Uber a serious competitor.