Summarizing 2016 is best done by going through the highs and lows — well, mostly lows.
As this turbulent year comes to a close, GadgetMatch presents a total of 16 unforgettable moments and polarizing announcements that have shaped the past twelve months.
This is going to be a long read, so let’s get right to it.
Hit: Google releases its own smartphones to positive reception
Google’s Pixel and larger Pixel XL have been experiencing great critical and commercial success — so much so that Google’s third-party partners, specifically Samsung and LG, are caught in an upstream, and the Nexus program has been set aside for now. The search giant is showing manufacturers how to do Android right, but one question remains leading into 2017: Where’s Android One headed?
Miss: Samsung recalls its greatest phone ever
This has to be the most heart-wrenching miss on this list. The recall of the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 caused such an impact on the tech industry, we’ll still be feeling it well into 2017. It’s a shame really, as many media outlets — including ours — praised the stylus-equipped smartphone as not just the best smartphone this year, but even the greatest Android device ever made.
Miss: Apple lets go of everyone’s favorite port
No bit of tech news this year harmed mainstream audiences as much as Apple’s removal of the audio jack in its latest crop of iPhones. It’s a move marketing head Phil Schiller believes takes “courage,” but we think it has more to do with consumerism, making people buy new pairs of wireless headphones which Apple coincidentally markets together with partner company Beats.
Hit: Nintendo cares about our childhoods
Nintendo clearly won the award for coolest gift to buy your parents, yourself, or even your kids this holiday season. The miniature Famicom and NES consoles are always sold out wherever they’re available, and why not? They’re incredibly affordable, come preloaded with 30 classic games, and make you relive all those bitter sibling rivalries during childhood.
Miss: Android Nougat never really took off
It’s been four months since Android 7.0 Nougat began rolling out, but a total of only 0.4 percent of consumer devices actually have it today. To make matters worse, an even newer Android 7.1 came out already, and support for the more widespread Android 2.3 Gingerbread will be discontinued early next year. Google has a lot of ground to cover until Android 8.0 launches next year.
Miss: Smartwatches are going the way of the dodo
How many people do you know constantly wear a smartwatch? Exactly. Sales have been slumping, and even though the latest version of Android Wear is set to release early 2017, brands like Motorola and Samsung aren’t keen on applying Google’s smartwatch operating system, opting instead to either give up completely or use their own interface.
Hit: Chinese smartphone brands reach new heights
Chinese smartphone brands ruled 2016. Yes, Apple is still on top when it comes to total profit, raking in 91 percent of all smartphone revenue last quarter, but the global rise of Huawei, OPPO, and Vivo is unprecedented. And it’ll only get better with these Asian companies making a stronger push in the western hemisphere during the next few months.
Miss: Project Ara doesn’t see the light of day, sort of
We were so disappointed to hear this news: After years of development and hopeful demos, Google’s modular Project Ara smartphone never entered the mass production phase. Fortunately, an actual prototype of the project leaked last month, but all it did was remind us how much potential was wasted.
Miss: GoPro suffers financially and recalls Karma drone
GoPro has been the go-to brand for all things action camera since its conception. Now, unfortunately, its profits have plunged, and mishaps like the recall of its ambitious Karma drone doesn’t help maintain a positive image for the brand. GoPro will need some divine intervention to make up for its 40 percent drop in sales as compared to 2015.
Hit: Apple finally updates its MacBook lineup
After years and years of minor refreshes, Apple finally launched what we’ve all been waiting for: an all-new MacBook Pro. With so many changes — such as the new keyboard and loss of several important connectivity ports — it feels like a totally new product, but the true innovation comes in the Touch Bar, which is open to endless support from third-party developers.
Miss: BlackBerry gives up on hardware
In what was the least surprising yet still heartbreaking news, BlackBerry has halted all plans for designing its own smartphones. Instead, the entire development and manufacturing process is now in the hands of third-party companies, to the disgruntlement of long-time fans. The awkwardly named BlackBerry DTEK50 and DTEK60 are simply rebranded midrange Alcatel handsets with added security, courtesy of BB.
Hit: Xiaomi cuts in front of innovation line
We’ve seen hundreds of leaks and prototypes that never got turned into actual commercial products, but Xiaomi went ahead and pulled the trigger with its Mi Mix concept phone. Just look at its massive near-borderless display, ceramic-encased design, and high-end specifications — has Xiaomi set the standard for what smartphones will strive to be in 2017?
Miss: LG fails modular experiment
For every successful modular phone, there are a few that fail. LG had its first attempt with the flagship G5 earlier this year, but a not-so-great reception to its not-that-intuitive execution lead to the Korean company possibly junking it completely. The recently launched V20 doesn’t have modularity either, so Lego-like phones are probably better left as works in progress for now.
Hit: World goes crazy for Pokémon Go
No single game has caused as much controversy as Pokémon Go this year. The augmented reality app invaded smartphones all over the world, making developer Niantec filthy rich in the process. We ourselves got swept into the craze, writing comprehensive guides for getting started and finding the best spots for those rare creatures.
Miss: ASUS jacks up this year’s ZenFone prices
ASUS made waves in 2015 with ZenFones that had unmatched horsepower for their price points, effectively forming a booming segment of bang-for-buck phones we still see today. A year later, when the Taiwan-based company released the outrageously priced ZenFone 3 series, formerly loyal fans have been jumping ship for more affordable offerings.
Miss: Yahoo goes up for adoption
How the mighty have fallen — Yahoo was so wealthy at one point, it could have bought Google. Instead, the former internet giant got bought by Verizon for only $5 billion; that’s a huge drop from its $125-billion valuation back in 2000! The nail in the coffin came when news broke about 500 million Yahoo accounts getting hacked — two years after the breach actually happened.