A reliance on tech during the pandemic, coupled with digital fatigue, has reinforced consumer demand for analogue experiences.
From analogue music formats to physical productivity tools, analogue tech is perceived as calmer, more intentional and potentially more secure.
Here are the key themes to track:
Sources: Australian National Network (2020), Ofcom (2020), App Annie (2021), Ernst & Young (2021)
Analogue experiences offer familiarity, reassurance, control, agency and a sense of purpose, all of which are increasingly attractive in a world experiencing compound collective trauma.
For some people, analogue tech provides a necessary antidote to increased screen time, while for others it enables them to live in the moment, using devices with purpose and then putting them down. This approach taps into digital minimalism – a term coined by computer science professor Cal Newport, it involves defining not only what technologies you allow in your life, but how you use them.
As tech interfaces become ambient, tactile controls such as buttons, switches and dials feel appealingly tangible. The sensorial experience of analogue media – like crackling vinyl or unspooling cassettes – restores senses dulled by digital overload. This will continue to be key as the metaverse grows and even more time is spent online, for work and for leisure.
What does this mean for you?
There are several key product categories to explore, including music, photography and productivity, but the appeal of analogue tech extends can be applied to product design and CMF strategy to add value for all tech products. It has cross-demographic and cross-generational appeal and is key among nostalgia-seeking Millennials and Gen Z. As tech-enabled lifestyles become more digital-first, expect this mindset to become increasingly important as a counterweight.
Hernan Gregorio and Julia Stabio's desktop organiser emulates a screen, taking skeuomorphic UI (digital interfaces that mimic the physical world) in the opposite direction
“We are analogue beings living in a digital world facing a quantum future.”
- Neil Turok, physicist
Consumers are rebalancing their relationship with technology by bringing purposefully lo-tech devices into their daily routines.
One of our Consumer Tech Personas for 2023, the Inspired Minimalists, embody this lifestyle choice. They view technology as a means to an end and find comfort in the simplicity of an analogue lifestyle free from hi-tech interference.
Purposefully limited smartphones are a key product. Brands including US-based Light Phone and Swiss Punkt are focusing on stripped-back functionality and feature sets that prioritise essential communication. Polish brand Mudita's Pure uses a battery preserving e-ink display and includes meditation in its eight key features, underscoring the focus on wellbeing.
Other products are blending the benefits of digital with the appeal of the analogue. On Swiss brand RADO's True Square watch, designed by Japanese studio YOY, the white clock hands mimic a pixellated digital watchface. Amazon recently updated its Kindle e-readers for the first time since 2018. The upgrades focus on practicality: the e-ink devices are waterproof, with auto-adjust lighting to more easily read outside, plus battery life of up to 10 weeks.
How you can action this: design lo-tech products with curated feature sets that focus on the essentials, prioritising long battery life and low energy use. Use honest, tactile and comfort-driven form and CMF to make the object feel more sensorial to use.
Mudita's Pure smartphone features a distraction-free e-ink display, physical buttons and a Meditation feature
RADO's True Square watch by YOY blends the characteristics of digital design into an analogue device, including sharp visual contrasts
Amazon's Kindle has been updated with a focus on extended battery life and improved lighting that auto-adjusts for reading outdoors
Arcade gaming was a key theme at E3 this year and new consoles and experiences are launching to meet growing demand.
Consumers are looking for alternatives to the slick, hi-tech experiences of the latest Playstation and Xbox games. US brand Panic's Playdate, a handheld console that sold out its first product run in under 20 minutes, features a mechanical crank as one of its controls and will release games in bundled "seasons". US brand Analogue's Pocket handheld works with Game Boy and Atari Lynx cartridges to enable users to "explore portable gaming history". The device doubles as a synthesiser and sequencer for music production. UK-based Blaze Entertainment makes the Evercade VS, a family focused games console up to four players can use together.
Arcade machine experiences are being reimagined for a younger audience, who may not remember them from first time round. Brooklyn's Wonderville arcade is a place to explore the imaginative world of indie games, while Arcade1Up's new machine brings Konami's 1990s The Simpsons game to the home. On a DIY level, gamers are buying retro cathode ray tube TVs to assemble authentic home set-ups.
How you can action this: tap the power of retro gaming via arcade-themed activations and retro gamified experiences. Bring an expressive feel to hardware with bright contrasting colour palettes and graphics inspired by 1980s-1990s gaming nostalgia.
Panic's retro handheld console, Playdate, became available for preorder in 2021. Games will be released in "seasons"
Analogue's Pocket handheld works with legacy game cartridges, in single or multiplayer mode, and doubles as a music synthesiser and sequencer
Tube TVs have become a key purchase for gamers looking to build authentic set-ups for old games
Blaze Entertainment makes the Evercade VS, a retro home console for up to four players