Though short, 2019 felt like an action-packed year. Between the Brexit brouhaha in London, Duterte’s tirades in the Philippines, and Trump’s shenanigans in the US, newspapers had a very busy year. However, despite the focus on politics, 2019’s journalism marathon also affected the technology industry.
Here at GadgetMatch, we constantly had our hands full with new developments and juicy rumors. As the year finally winds down, let’s run down 2019’s greatest tech controversies that made our eyes pop:
5. Where is Apple’s 5G iPhone?
A leftover from last year’s news cycle, Apple’s 5G problem starts this year’s countdown. As 5G finally starts up all over the world, most smartphone companies — like Samsung and Huawei — have made 5G compatibility a prerequisite for all their future phones. Surprisingly, Apple has not unveiled a 5G-compatible iPhone yet.
Of course, Apple has always notoriously lagged far behind its competitor’s development cycle. However, Apple’s delay has been going on for quite a spell. 5G technology is already here. As the questions pile up, Apple has constantly searched for the perfect partner for 5G compatibility.
Apple started the year with their long-standing rivalry with Qualcomm, a persistent thorn on the former’s side. Besides continued harassing, Qualcomm’s fights might ultimately delay Apple’s 5G-compatible iPhone. Since then, both parties have buried the hatchet. However, we still don’t have any word on the much-awaited smartphone (much less a Qualcomm-sponsored one).
Also, complementing the Apple-Qualcomm dialogue, several other parties have joined the conversation. Earlier this year, Samsung and Huawei have expressed interest in becoming Apple’s supplier for 5G technology. Unfortunately, the rumors turned into nothing other than sweet words.
Eventually, Apple’s 5G problem capped off with a monumental purchase of Intel’s 5G modem business. Even then, Apple’s 5G iPhone is still nowhere to be found. Our earliest reported launch date is still in 2020.
4. Is Alexa listening to my moans?
Since the invention of smart technology, AI-assisted spying has always been a constant source of paranoia. Are our smart speakers listening in on us?
Unfortunately, 2019 is a disastrous year for conspiracy theorists. Throughout the year, the tech world’s biggest names have found themselves on the wrong end of privacy issues. In June, Apple’s Siri reportedly recorded unauthorized recordings of its users.
However, the initial controversy stems from technical issues, like a pants zipper mistakenly triggering Siri’s voice recognition. The real crux of the problem begins where the recording ends. To maintain quality control, Apple hires a separate team to evaluate Siri’s performance, listening to recordings for successful service. Potentially, these recordings include accidental triggers and sexual trysts.
The controversy doesn’t end there. Weeks later, Google was found guilty of the same crime. However, instead of just accidentally recording offhand conversations, Google’s quality team purposely leaked sensitive audio data from their Dutch offices, prompting a new conversation regarding human interference in AI systems.
If that wasn’t enough, Facebook also hired a similar team, as reported a few weeks later. In the social media giant’s case, Messenger chats are apparently getting transcribed by outsiders for Facebook’s servers.
The privacy issue brings up another pressing concern today: who owns our data? Unfortunately, Siri storing an audio version of your sex tape is only the tip of the iceberg. Digital privacy is a controversy that will surely carry on to the next few years.
3. Is China controlling the world?
For most of the world, China is in a potentially threatening position. The Asian powerhouse is currently on the rise, calling a lot of things into question. Are our everyday products completely reliant on Chinese suppliers? Are our favorite companies ingratiated to Chinese bosses?
Sadly, 2019’s headlines have some bad news for those suffering from Sinophobia. In the midst of heated Hong Kong protests, Western companies face a tough choice: to shut up or speak out against injustice. Of course, companies consist of humans, too. Human beings can have opinions contrary to their affiliated companies. That’s the story of late 2019.
Blizzard, one of the world’s biggest gaming developers, recently banned a respected professional gamer for voicing out his pro-HK opinions on a tournament victory speech. Despite causing outrage in the gaming community, the developer kept quiet, sticking by its controversial decision. They eventually lightened the sentence, but not without damaging their integrity.
Since then, other Western companies have made surprising decisions regarding the HK-China debate including the NBA and Apple. With the Hong Kong protests still raging, the China problem will still haunt us in 2020. We have to ask ourselves: which side are our favorite companies on?
2. The short rise and fall of foldable phones
In November, the world finally saw its first foldable smartphones, thanks to Samsung and Huawei. It’s been a storied wait. The revolutionary form factor first debuted at the start of the year. It almost took a year to get the devices out into the market. What happened?
Unfortunately, the foldable smartphone’s journey was rougher than what either Samsung or Huawei expected. After the initial announcement, the Galaxy Fold and the Mate X touted the next revolution of the smartphone world. As we know now, neither of the two foldable devices has changed the world yet.
Before its official launch, the Galaxy Fold carried a concerning flaw. The foldable hinge broke down too easily. It wasn’t foolproof. Fortunately, reviewers found the flaw before a wider global release. Regardless, a global recall was inevitable. Only a hair’s breadth away from the official release, Samsung pulled the plug on the world’s most anticipated smartphones of recent history. Naturally, Huawei followed suit, pulling the Mate X to avoid a similar mistake.
Months later, both smartphones practically disappeared, leaving the question of “when” unanswered. Around half a year later, the Galaxy Fold resurfaced with a final release date; the Mate X trailing nearby. Sadly, the resurrection didn’t go as planned either.
For one, the new Galaxy Fold has already failed both bend tests and real-world expectations. Samsung even agreed on the new device’s vulnerabilities. At the very least, the Mate X is doing well in China, its home territory.
Regardless, the form factor is on a decline right now. For one of the most anticipated devices in 2019, the foldable smartphone ended the year with a whimper. No one knows where the market will go from here. Only time will tell whether 2020’s foldable smartphones will end up in a similar state.
1. Huawei’s battles with the US
Was there ever any doubt? This year’s biggest controversy is, undoubtedly, the continued war between the American government and the Chinese smartphone maker, Huawei. Since last year, the company has found itself on the receiving end of America’s strong Sinophobia. For years, the American government has persistently pondered on an all-out ban against any Huawei and ZTE products. However, the rumored ban didn’t really go anywhere.
The battlefield soon changed when the US arrested Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou on accusations of fraud. Besides tarnishing Huawei’s global reputation, the government now had a de facto hostage in negotiations with Huawei and China.
The earlier part of the year consisted mainly of struggling with Meng’s arrest. However, the pressure finally exploded when the US finally banned the company back in May. Trump wanted more. Instead of settling with Meng’s capture, the American President needed another chip for his trade war with China.
The new ban affected both Huawei’s operations in the States and its business partners. In the months after the ban’s announcement, several American companies have started pulling out of business relations with the Chinese company. Key suppliers, like Google and Qualcomm, have put huge dents on Huawei’s plans for the year. For example, the newly launched Mate 30 series debuted without any of Google’s software out of the box.
On Huawei’s side, the company is currently subsisting on a series of temporary extensions to its operating license. Unless the US government settles the dispute once and for all (or gets fed up and doesn’t renew the license anymore), Huawei is in a state of limbo, unable to act on a more permanent game plan.
Fortunately, Huawei is working on a few tricks of their own. Rather than relying on a fickly foreign government, the company has successfully developed its own operating system called Harmony. They have also worked on improving the Kirin chipset to match international standards. Further, they are hunting for alternative suppliers. With a Google deal up in the air, Huawei is looking for more willing suppliers in other countries.
Unfortunately, Huawei’s troubles will continue well into next year. The current extension is until around February 2020. Chances are, we won’t get a definitive conclusion to the saga until then.
Spilling over to 2020
Without a doubt, 2019 was a busy year for us. However, with how inconclusive these five have “resolved,” it looks like an even busier 2020 for the headlines. Will we see a 5G iPhone? Will tech companies commit to better privacy? Will we finally get a conclusion to the long-standing Huawei saga? 2020, be good to us.
Illustrations by MJ Jucutan/GadgetMatch.
GadgetMatch Awards: Best of CES 2020
A peek into the future
Turning the page to a New Year always feels symbolic. It’s a new beginning, a chance to start fresh. What better way to kick things off than to get a sneak peek at what’s coming next? That’s exactly what CES 2020 gave us.
This year’s CES is by far one of the most well-rounded ones. Sure, we got our usual cool gaming things, some laptops here and there, and even new phones. But we also got a glimpse at living and traveling in the future could really look like.
Best Kitchen Appliance: LG InstaView ThinQ Oven with Air Fry
We’ve always loved how you could knock on LG InstaView refrigerators to get a peek at what’s inside, that way you save energy by not letting out cold air. This year, LG is bringing that same tech to their new InstaView ThinQ Range and it’s a match made in heaven. Imagine not having to open the oven to keep a close eye on the cake you’re baking, just knock on the oven door twice and the oven lights open. The oven is self cleaning too. Oh and did we tell you, it’s also got a built-in air fryer!
Best Urban Gardening Solution: LG Indoor Vegetable Cultivator
With studies pointing to how there soon won’t be enough land to feed the earth’s growing population, giving people the option to grow food in their own homes is a step in the right direction. While it’s not going to be an appliance you’ll think of buying first, LG Indoor Vegetable Cultivator is a good way to invest in the sustainability of your future. While it might look like a fridge, a cooler it isn’t. Instead it replicates all the right conditions needed to go produce outdoors. The indoor gardening machine can grow produce enough for a family of four.
Best Mobility Concept: LG Connected Car
If there’s no place like home, wouldn’t it be amazing if everywhere was home? That’s the thinking behind LG’s new seamless life initiative. Their connected car concept imagines a future where rides are shared but the experience is still personalized. From seats that adjust to feel like your favorite comfy seat, to continuing that movie from where you left off at home, to a virtual assistant that’s a voice command away — LG’s Connected Car gets us excited about the future of mobility.
Best PC: Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold
While foldable smartphones are sexy, tablets that fold into laptop computers make even better sense and Lenovo’s ThinkPad X1 Fold is leading the charge. A concept device not too long ago became a reality at this year’s CES. Why do we love it? Because it’s one of the most versatile PCs ever. It’s both a desktop computer and a laptop. It’s an e-reader, digital notebook, tablet for watching videos or playing games.
Best Smart Home Device: Lenovo Smart Frame
If pictures can truly say a thousand words, then the Lenovo Smart Frame will let you say a million. It’s exactly what its name says it is. The Lenovo Smart Frame will let you display any album or collection on your Google Photos.
Don’t feel like showing off your personal shots? It comes with a free app with hundreds of art pieces to choose from. As far as wall decors go, this might just be one of the smartest at the moment.
Best Laptop: Lenovo Lavie Pro Mobile
Made of lightweight magnesium-lithium array through Japanese craftsmanship with a minimalist design. I don’t know about you, but that sounds sexy AF — and that’s not something one usually says about a laptop.
Every single inch of the the Lenovo Lavie Pro Mobile screams premium. Inside is Intel’s 8th gen chip with 8GB of memory and 512GB of SSD storage. That’s not bad at all.
Best Chromebook: ASUS Chromebook Flip C436
One look and you wouldn’t think the C436 is a Chromebook. It’s like a regular premium laptop through and through. At 13.7mm and 1.1kg, this is the thinnest and lightest 14-inch Chromebook.
That tiny body packs a lot of punch though. Up to 10th Gen Intel Core i7, 16GB of RAM, 512GB SSD storage, Wi-Fi 6. Two USB-C ports, microSD card slot up to 2TB.
Then the fact that it’s a flip which means you get various modes like laptop, tablet, and tent mode. This is as versatile a Chromebook as it gets.
Best Gaming Laptop: ASUS ROG Zephyrus G14
The very first thing you’ll notice about the ASUS ROG Zephyrus G14 is its LED dot-matrix lid. Similar to how you can customize RGB lighting on most other gaming laptops, you can make the Zephyrus G14 truly yours just like we did ours. Don’t lets its size fool you either, this gaming notebook packs a punch with NVIDIA RTX 2060 graphics card and 120Hz display for silky smooth gaming. Want!
Best Smartphone: Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Lite
Samsung Galaxy Note enjoys a cult following because of an experience and functionality that remains unmatched by any Android rival. Understandably this top-of-the-line phone comes with a premium price tag. Which is why we couldn’t be more than excited about the launch of the Galaxy Note 10 Lite. It’s got has everything you’d expect from a Galaxy Note: big display, huge battery, and of course the S Pen. It even offers something its big brother doesn’t — a headphone jack. Now everyone can own a Galaxy Note!
Best Lifestyle TV: Samsung The Sero
Remember the time when shooting vertical videos was laughed at? These days, we’ve embraced both portrait and landscape content, and it only makes sense that televisions can switch between the two — just like we do on our smartphones. While innovation in TV tech is defined by screen size, resolution and color, Samsung’s spinning The Sero, with its forward thinking approach to media consumption is THE ONE that caught our eyes at CES 2020.
Best Gaming Desktop: Razer Tomahawk
The most fun thing about building PCs is how you can easily change parts to upgrade. The Razer Tomahawk is a compact PC gaming solution that makes it easy to slot in upgradeable components without the need for a toolbox.
Utilizing Intel’s NUC 9 Extreme Compute Element — which is essentially a system-on-a-card that’s powered by 9th-gen Intel Core H-Series processors — the Razer Tomahawk N1 chassis can be opened from the rear, with a lock-and-slide mechanism allowing for easy access to the case’s internals.
Best Gaming Concept: Alienware Concept UFO Prototype
For many years now manufacturers have tried to find ways to make PC gaming more portable. But the more powerful gaming laptops get, the farther away from portable they become. As a result many gamers resort to buying or building desktop rigs with an insane amount of computing power.
Alienware wants to change that and Concept UFO might just be the ultimate portable PC gaming device. Imagine being able to take your entire Steam library and play whenever, wherever. Its big display and detachable controllers make it a perfect companion for those who want to game at home or on the go.
Best Midrange Smartphone: TCL Pro 10
TCL makes a splash in the smartphone space this year with its first self-branded smartphone lineup headlined by the TCL Pro 10. In its first attempt at a midrange smartphone, it delivers on what we so desperately need — a flagship experience for less. Leveraging the company’s experience expertise in TV display technology and a focus on a camera that can compete with the best, this phone has all the right ingredients to make you want to consider it.
Best Value for Money TV: TCL 6-Series TV (2020)
TCL has always been known for offering good products for less money, and its popular 6-series TV remains at the forefront of that. Not only is it moving on from Quantum dots to Mini LEDs, rumors suggest the 2020 version might be even cheaper than the 2019 models.
So you’re getting a better viewing experience for less. Hard to argue when you’re getting such great value.
Best Wireless Earphones: TCL ACTV200BT
There’s much more to TCL’s new wireless earphones, the ACTV200BT, than just providing the soundtrack to daily workout. It’s also equipped with a multi-sensor system that will accurately read and monitor your heart rate. The system is called ActivHearts and it works with the majority of sports apps. The device can last over 14 hours of playtime and six hours with the heart rate monitor on. It’s also capable of fast charging so you can get two hours of extra power when you charge it for fifteen minutes.
Best Audio Product: Vizio Elevate Soundbar
When Vizio set out to make their award winning sound bar even better, they decided to focus on ensuring that when you listen to music on it, it sounds just as good as audio from your favorite movie or video game. Because you deserve great sounding content regardless! The new Elevate Sound Bar comes with auto rotating speakers so you get more focused Dobly Atmos and DTS:X content.
Best Mobility Award: Audi AI:ME
Over the last few years we’ve seen CES becoming more and more important to cars, to the point where it almost felt like a car show. While there wasn’t a shortage of concept cars this year, there weren’t a lot that you could actually drive — which makes our ride on Audi’s AI:ME self-driving car one of our favorite moments from the show. This futuristic vehicle was unlike any other we’ve experienced with massive glass windows, luxurious interiors and a feeling of zen. Audi wants its car of the future to be empathic — using artificial intelligence to understand and adapt to our needs and preferences. It’s a refreshing approach from a car manufacturer. At CES Audi didn’t come to sell any particular car, but instead is using it as a platform to engage in conversations about the future of mobility.
Best Personal Care Device: Colgate Plaqless Pro Toothbrush
Smart toothbrushes aren’t new and there are many good ones in the market today. But, like any tool, the effectiveness of a smart toothbrush relies heavily on proper use. Colgate’s upcoming Plaqless Pro toothbrush hopes to address this, with optical sensors that identify plaque on each tooth as you brush and an indicator light that tells you when to move on to the next one. Now that’s smart brushing done right!
Sustainability Award: Food Solution: Impossible Pork
While red meat tastes so good, excessive consumption of it is not good for the planet. So if you’re looking at ways of reducing your carbon footprint, a plant-based diet can be one of the easiest steps to take. There are many meat substitutes in the market today but nothing comes close to the taste and texture of actual meat than those made by Impossible Foods. At this year’s CES, the food tech company best known for the Impossible Burger rolled out Impossible Pork. At the show we tried a Vietnamese banh mi made with Impossible Pork, and it was so good we think the company should just rebrand to Possible — because thanks to them a plant-based diet is.
Sustainability Award: Use of AI in Agriculture: John Deere R4038 Sprayer
There were many sexy vehicles at CES, but we found the story of agriculture equipment company John Deere equally sexy. Using artificial intelligence and deep learning the company is building tractors, harvesters and other agricultural vehicles with a focus on sustainability and reducing farming’s impact on the environment. Take for example the R4038 Sprayer. Let’s put it this way, not every square foot of land have the same needs, this machine is smart enough to know which parts need extra care. And with its ExactApply nozzle control system, they’ve been able to make tasks like spraying pesticide an extremely precise operation. John Deere’s innovative tech solutions allow this behemoth of a farming machine spray just what’s needed to only where it is needed.
Best of 2019: Our favorite cars
Different rides for different lifestyles
Here at GadgetMatch we always try to find the right match for you whether it be the latest smartphones, gaming laptops, and even vehicles. This is why for this article, we’ll be listing down our favorite car models that we’ve personally tried and are great options for everyone’s different lifestyles.
2019 Chevrolet Spark 1.4 CVT Premier
2019 MG ZS
2019 Honda Civic RS Turbo
2019 Nissan Leaf EV
2019 Suzuki Jimny
2019 Ford Ranger Raptor
2019 Toyota RAV4 LTD
A video on the Toyota RAV4 is yet to come out so be sure to check back for it!
2020 Range Rover Evoque
And when the situation calls for it, the Evoque could tough it out and go off-roading.
2019 Hyundai Veloster Turbo
Mazda MX-5 RF Club Edition
For those not afraid of attention, roll down that hardtop and enjoy the feeling of freedom this sleek machine has to offer.
Foldable phones arrived in 2019 but do we really need them?
Or is it just a gimmick?
2019 has definitely been an exciting year thanks to the numerous advances we’ve made in mobile technology. We’re one step closer to the 5G revolution, the number of camera lenses on a phone has drastically increased, and affordable phones offer more features than ever.
However, this year witnessed a major milestone. Samsung has been working on foldable displays for years. Their AMOLED display technology is unchallenged and the brand wanted to leverage it for other futuristic projects like a bendable phone.
The Samsung Galaxy Fold was unveiled and was supposed to go on sale soon. But, the initial units were found to be extremely delicate and journalists ended up with broken display within no time. Samsung was quick to acknowledge the fault and delayed the commercial launch by a few months. In the end, the Fold was available commercially and despite its hefty price tag, the response has been positive.
Though, everyone who bought the phone knew what they’re getting — first-generation technology. This means the product still has a lot of room for improvement due to future advancements and this is just the stepping stone. Samsung has been confident that it’ll be able to carve out a new market for foldable phones and recent reports have also suggested a low-cost foldable phone could be in the works.
But why do we need a foldable phone?
Ideally, a foldable phone has a lot of use case scenarios. A phone can be easily converted into a tablet for a bigger display (Fold’s implementation) or we could just fold a phone and make it smaller (Motorola razr’s setup). The technology offers more room for designers to play around with.
Following the footsteps of Samsung, Huawei too unveiled the Mate X this year, but there’s no word on its commercial launch due to the ongoing US ban. Ultimately, every phone maker is keen on getting on board this trend because everyone is talking about it.
Why foldable phones are still a niche?
Practically though, it’s a risky bet to actually replace your conventional phone with a foldable one. Firstly, the body of the phone is often considered sensitive and cannot handle drops like a usual phone. A single crack on the screen could render it useless and fixing a bendable screen isn’t going to be a pocket-friendly affair.
Secondly, the industry is yet to accept foldable phones as a mainstream offering. A decade back, the developer industry was scrambling to make their apps work on a 16:9 screen of a smartphone. Similarly, foldable phones have a unique set of challenges in the user interface that need to be addressed individually. Samsung has implemented a pretty smooth UI, but not all apps are actually scaling or transitioning smoothly.
Adding to this, foldable phones lack a standardized size. The modern standard for a mobile’s screen is anywhere between 16:9 and 20:9. The Fold has an aspect ratio of 21:9, while the smaller display is extremely tall. On the other hand, the Motorola razr gets a different size, increasing the complexity.
Obviously, this isn’t the first time we’ve seen sensitive phones or weird display sizes. The Mi MIX series looks stunning with an edge-to-edge screen but is also extremely delicate. BlackBerry has launched a few phones that have a square display and a physical keyboard.
But these phones don’t cost as much as a foldable phone. And that’s exactly why a customer would think twice before getting one. Is the folding property enough to convince a potential customer?
Foldables vs 5G
While we’re discussing foldable phones, another technology is maturing fast and ready to take over the world. Qualcomm recently held its 5G Summit and announced two new chipsets — Snapdragon 765 and 865.
Both of them support 5G network and the flagship 865 chipset only supports 5G. There’s no extension available to support 4G. In the coming year, the two most trending keywords shall be “foldable” and “5G”. What will you prioritize?
There’s no doubt that foldable phones are the future. But with so many brands trying to make a mark in a short span of time, it just feels a little early to join the party. Especially because a lot of brands lack long-term goal and are simply trying to milk the current trend.
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