Every year, Google reveals the most popular searches on its special page dedicated to everything that was hot across dozens of categories. From news to sports, science and technology to pop culture, the year in search is a detailed breakdown of everything the world has been searching for over the last 12 months.
Of main interest to us are the charts related to technology, gadgets and mobiles. Here is just a tiny snippet of some of the data – you can find all this and more on Google’s Year in Search page.
The Google trends of 2014
Phones, consumer drones and wearable tech
According to Google, smartphones led the way in terms of consumer electronics. This won’t come as much of a surprise considering the way most people are obsessed about the gadgets they carry with them just about everywhere.
Five of the top 100 global trends in 2014 were for phones, with Apple, Samsung and Nexus leading the way. This year also saw increased searches for wearable technology and lightweight HD cameras, as well as the emergence of remote-controlled consumer drones – Google Year in Search
We won’t dwell on drones too much, except to say that they have really matured over the last year or so. Affordable, high quality and easy to fly models (like the Phantom Vision 2) from companies such as DJI have proved a massive hit with consumers. Incidentally, I own a Phantom Vision 2 and can testify that it’s an amazing piece of kit that is incredible to fly.
Back to smartphones and other tech; of all the global searches in the consumer electronics category, the iPhone 6 came out on top closely followed by the Samsung Galaxy S5. In fact, seven of the top ten searches were for specific smartphone models although the Xbox One, Apple Watch and iPad Air also rounded out the top ten.
Nokia’s X-series smartphones even managed to sneak into the number 9 position, proving that somebody somewhere must be interested in Nokia’s high quality, low cost Android devices.
Last year, Apple and Samsung also held the first two positions, but the Playstation 4 and Xbox One signified that old-school console gaming isn’t dead yet. Only the Xbox One clung onto the top 10 this year however, with the Playstation 4 failing to make an appearance.
Google also lists a “Tech Gadgets” category for the U.S. only (at least, there is no UK version) which mirrors the previous chart with the iPhone 6 taking the top spot, followed by the Galaxy S5 and the Nexus 6. The Apple Watch came in at number 4, just above the Google’s own Chromecast TV-in-a-stick – has there been some massaging of the results by Google here?
If we look at some of the smartphone operating systems over the last ten years in terms of search volume, it’s clear that BlackBerry has fallen out of favour and replaced by Android and iOS, with Windows Phone bringing up the rear. Note however that the search terms allow for a lot of variation in results depending upon the exact term selected.
Nevertheless, Android has clearly taken the lead with greater search volumes than all the others combined.
In terms of the smartphone manufacturers, it’s also an interesting picture – one that was dominated by Apple in 2014, with a huge spike around the time of the iPhone 6 launch (and surprise reveal of the Apple Watch) in September.
Predictably, searches for Apple’s various iPhone models broadly reflected the release date of the phones with the newer models ranking higher, except the iPhone 5 which somehow beat the 5s.
Google’s search tool also allows categories to be specified (such as “Smartphone”) but doesn’t yet recognise the iPhone 6 as anything other than a generic search term. For this reason, it was excluded from the following iPhone-only comparison.
The popularity of Apple’s entire product lineup was reflected in the search results in pretty much the same order as the revenue they generate for Apple – the iPhone being number one followed by the iPad, and the MacBook (and other Macs) trailing behind.
Interest in the iPhone is always cyclical with the peak surrounding each year’s launch , but “iPad” as a search term remains flat throughout the year – much like tablet sales in general.
It’s interesting to note that Samsung’s Galaxy S range follows a similar pattern to the iPhone, with newer models (farthest right in the chart below) generating more searches. The exception was the Galaxy S5 (the green dotted line) which created a huge buzz when it was announced in March, before falling back into the background noise shortly afterwards.
Currently, the Galaxy S4 (the orange series below) is generates slightly more searches than the S5…
Many people believe that wearables (which includes smart watches, activity trackers, VR headsets, life-loggers and many more gadgets) are about to explode in popularity. A recent survey by Morgan Stanley concluded that 30 million (one in ten) iPhone owners are “very likely” to buy the Apple Watch some time after it’s release in early 2015. Even 10% of iPhone owners is a huge number for a product that remains largely unknown and unproven as a mass-market device.
Whatever combination of search terms you enter into Google Trends, it’s clear that the Apple Watch generated more excitement than any other wearable this year – the peak was during the announcement by Apple’s Tim Cook in September, although it has remained ahead of “Android Wear” and “Samsung Galaxy Gear” since then.
Cellular network technologies
Network technologies are perhaps not the most exciting search category. Nevertheless, as 3G networks are replaced by newer 4G technologies and with 5G on the horizon sometime in the next decade, the search volumes of each are reflected pretty much as you’d expect. But it was only this year that “4G” overtook “3G” as one of the most popular network searches, probably because the term has entered the mainstream as mobile networks roll out and begin to publicise their 4G services.
Judging by the search results, even “3G” as a search term was relatively low until it surged in 2008. There’s no obvious explanation that springs to mind, but perhaps the launch of the iPhone 3G that year contributed to the sudden increase?
There is so much data in Google’s Year in Search that it’s impossible to cover everything related to technology and mobile in this article. However, the statistics reveal a lot about our preferences and interests over time as new products and technologies are announced.
Our prediction is that “iPhone 6s” will be the most popular tech search in 2015, followed by “Samsung Galaxy S6″…
The other categories and charts listed by Google also make an interesting (and even amusing) read – for example “Chocolate Cake” was the UK’s most popular cake search (followed by “Lemon Drizzle Cake”) and Peppa Pig was the most-searched-for TV show.
In the U.S., “how to Airdrop” was one of the most popular searches in the “how to” category.
It’s a funny old world.