Pocketnow’s Favorite Mobile News of 2015

Here at Pocketnow, we’ve got our nose to the mobile-tech-news grindstone day-in and day-out, scouring sources the world over in the hopes of bringing you the hottest, most interesting news from not just the biggest names in the industry, but also the fresh faces working their hardest to be the next big thing.

apple-watch-appsWith the year rounding to a close, it would be easy to look back and point to some of the biggest stories to cross our path – the launches of the most popular phones, the arrival of long-awaited software updates, and the like – but that’s a little dry. After all, if you’re half the smartphone fan we are, you’ve been following all these developments yourself, and need to be reminded that Apple started sales of its first smartwatch in 2015 like you need to be reminded that the sun rises in the east.

So instead, we gathered up the team and asked them not to share their thoughts on necessarily the biggest stories of the year, but some of the ones that they personally found most compelling: the stories that weren’t exactly the flashiest, but those that really resonated with us, and maybe the ones we’re likely to remember as we look back on 2015 in five years’ time.

Before you start looking at some of our answers, take a moment and think about the mobile tech news you read this past year. What stories had you thinking, “oh, no they didn’t?” When did you find yourself cheering a company on? Did any new products or services leave you feeling excited to line up and be first to try them? Then read on to see if any of our favorite stories happen to line up with yours.

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BlackBerry Does the Unthinkable

BlackBerry’s been struggling to reinvent itself for years, to find a way to remain attractive as its smartphone competition becomes fiercer and fiercer – all while no managing to piss off its long-term fans that could make or break its continued success as a handset manufacturer.

About halfway through the year, rumors zeroed-in on what may have once sounded like a fantastic mash-up, like Google tapping Apple to make the next Nexus phone: Blackberry was going to run Android.

Pocketnow Editorial Director Michael Fisher explains his pick for this year’s top story:

No question about it: the Priv reveal. We said for years that an Android-powered BlackBerry was probably the only way the company would survive – but we also admitted, usually in the same breath, that BlackBerry had way too much pride for that to ever be a possibility.

When the Priv (then called “Venice”) broke cover and we actually got to see what an Android-powered BlackBerry looked like, it struck me as beautiful in that oddly aggressive way that BlackBerrys have always looked beautiful. Despite its many flaws, the Priv still sits at the top of my favorite news stories of 2015 as the dream that finally crossed over into reality: the Android BlackBerry.

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Microsoft Breathes New Life into the Laptop Market

Will we even be using dedicated laptops in another couple years? Tablets are offering larger form factors, major apps move to mobile operating systems, and as hardware continues to improve, is there really the need for you to have a phone, a tablet, and a laptop?

At Microsoft’s early-fall hardware event, we knew to expect some new Surface devices – and that’s very much what we got. But then taking a page from Apple’s classic “and one more thing” playbook, Microsoft pulled out its first laptop, the Surface Book … and then it showed us just what this puppy could do, with some unexpected screen-detachment action.

That was more than enough to catch the eye of Contributing Editor and Social Media Manager Adam Doud:

I have been raving about Microsoft’s introduction of the Surface Book since it happened. The entire event, while it did have some flaws, was just about the best product introduction I’ve seen in years. Specifically the part that continues to blow my mind is when they reveal that the screen detaches from the base. “Watch this again, a little more closely,” says Panos Panay, and then detonates our brain cells.

And let’s not forget that this is the same event in which Microsoft showed us alien bugs crawling out of the freaking walls. Yes, Hololens came out that day as well. Overall, this whole announcement was a big ball of awesome.

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Samsung Changes our Expectations for a Flagship

Sometimes the most interesting part of a new phone’s debut isn’t necessarily the big reveal itself, but the path up to that launch. As the news-hounds we are, the announcement of a major flagship is just the tail end of a rumor cycle stretching back months and months, as we watch early talk about features mature into things like hardware leaks, and we slowly develop a full understanding of just what kind of phone we’re about to get.

With the Galaxy S6, it quickly became clear that Samsung wasn’t about to just give us a GS5 with some beefier hardware, and the manufacturer was committed to making some real changes. We lost some favorite features, while picked up a new design that just might make up for them.

All told, the path to the new Galaxy itself was Editor-in-Chief Anton D. Nagy’s most memorable story of the year:

For me this is a very interesting topic. I remember when the first leaks of the redesigned Galaxy S6 came out (and S6 edge), and everyone didn’t know what to expect, or whether to believe such a dramatic change/move away from plastic to aluminium and glass. Then I remember the outrage generated by the lack of expandable storage and non-removable battery.

Interestingly, with time, the more I used the S6 (and Edge, and Note5, for that matter), the more I understood the what Samsung was trying to achieve. Sure, these won’t appeal to the hard-core power users (though I still think that this is a very, VERY small chunk of the market, and people love to exaggerate, but I’ll give them this) but for the masses, which Samsung is really interested in, it was a great move.

But it wasn’t just Samsung’s actions that are going to stick with Anton, and he’s also likely to look back on this era with some big questions about exactly what Microsoft thought it was doing:

On not such a bright note, I really don’t know what Microsoft’s plans are for the mobile. Sometimes it seems to me that they’re doing everything in their power to kill the division. First the Nokia acquisition, then the layoffs, then the two new Lumias (plagued with issues), and then the ongoing beta-testing for a non-beta product (Windows 10 Mobile), these are all nails in a coffin, and sadly, slaps for the users, fans, and adopters.

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The Year the Launches Never Stopped

When it comes to how smartphones are released, the only rule may be that there are no rules (there are also no empty, hackneyed phrases). Sure, we pick up on patterns, and let them help inform our expectations, but manufacturers can and do change things up in order to best position themselves for the market.

We’re used to early-year launches in expo season, some scattered summer flagships, and IFA kicking off the arrival of new gear from Motorola, Apple, and Google. But even with those last few happening year-in and year-out, the end-of-year season can tend to be a slow one, dominated more by holiday-season sales than interesting new hardware.

This year, though, we found ourselves positively inundated by new devices, a fact that didn’t escape notice of Contributing Editor Jules Wang:

The fall. The GD fall. We covered 12 major smartphone releases this season, 15 if you count Sony and OPPO. That beats out the six from last Q4. That is insane. It also goes to show that more manufacturers are just trying to keep up with each other for the holidays.

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Google Plays the Long Game on Home Automation

Tech news may happen every day, but putting it in context can sometimes require the memory of an elephant, looking at how today’s headlines fit in with news we heard last week, last month, and even last year. When you’re introducing a system that’s supposed to connect dissimilar devices, in any manner of unexpected configurations, and make controlling them all as easy and intuitive as posting a tweet, that can mean visiting and re-visiting those plans over a span of years.

Pocketnow Senior Editor Joe Levi isn’t about to let Google escape its promises, and he can’t forget the news this year that churned back up the company’s slow path towards a comprehensive home automation platform:

In 2011 Google announced project Tungsten and the Android @ Home framework. Home automation was finally going to become a “thing” that wasn’t proprietary and closed-source. Power users (like you and I) would finally be able to create our own security and automation systems with off-the-shelf hardware!

At least that’s what we thought would happen.

Months passed. Then years. Where did Android @ Home go? Apparently Google had abandoned it. Somewhere along the line Google acquired Nest. Aha! Could Nest usher in the Google-powered smarthome? That was almost two years ago, and Nest has become an integral part of the smarthome revolution – but it’s still not quite there.

Now we have Project Brillo and Weave from Google, and a smart hub partnership called Google OnHub that’s supposed to be the center of the yet-to-arrive Google Smarthome.

So, my thoughts at the end of 2015 are remembering when Google announced a home automation project… again. And how neither of them are here. Not yet anyway.

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2015: The Year That Was

What about this Chief News Editor? I may have written thousands of news posts this year, but what really sticks out in my mind? It’s already been said, but the BlackBerry Priv was such a you-can’t-serious … oh-wait-you-are moment that it’s destined to go down in my memory as one of 2015’s biggest mobile happenings. So rather than rehash what Michael put so well, I’ll leave you with a look in the mirror: here are some of the most popular mobile-news stories of the year, based on interest from you, our readers. We couldn’t do it without you!

There you have it – some of our favorite stories from the year, as well as a handful of the most-read news posts. Did your personal favs make the cut? Let us know what you think should have been mentioned, down in the comments.

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About The Author
Stephen Schenck
Stephen has been writing about electronics since 2008, which only serves to frustrate him that he waited so long to combine his love of gadgets and his degree in writing. In his spare time, he collects console and arcade game hardware, is a motorcycle enthusiast, and enjoys trapping blue crabs. Stephen's first mobile device was a 624 MHz Dell Axim X30, which he's convinced is still a viable platform. Stephen longs for a market where phones are sold independently of service, and bandwidth is cheap and plentiful; he's not holding his breath. In the meantime, he devours smartphone news and tries to sort out the juicy bits Read more about Stephen Schenck!