2016’s biggest tech winners and losers
After carefully selecting the year’s overall top three phones across three price categories, as well as the five best cameraphones and audio phones, then recapping 2016’s highs and lows in the final Pocketnow Weekly episode, the time has come to dive deeper into the aforementioned highs and lows.
Better yet, why don’t we take a closer look at the tech companies and products covered on your favorite news and reviews website that impressed the most this year, and the ones that flopped the hardest? It wasn’t easy to handpick just 5 winners and 5 losers, primarily because this felt like a mixed year for, well, almost everyone in the biz.
You can’t have it all, and you can’t lose it all either, in 12 months, so at the end of the day, what counts is to be able to rack up more points in the win column. Without further ado, and in no particular order, here are our biggest 2016 winners and losers of the industry:
Realistically speaking, there’s almost no conceivable scenario that could bring Huawei ahead of Apple in global smartphone sales standings as early as 2018. But setting such an ambitious (read crazy) goal is half the battle. Another quarter is regular, steady shipment growth at a time of general industry stagnation.
Looking beyond cold numbers, Huawei deserves all the praise in the world for scoring hits in the low, mid and high-end market segments. No renewed Google co-branding partnership needed, and what’s perhaps most impressive, critical and popular success was easily achieved across two vast lineups of all-pleasing phones, P9, P9 Plus, Honor 8 and 5X included.
Unpopular opinion – Apple had a good year. Not a great one, but still, the Cupertino-based money-making machine made a ton of cash, sold a decent number of iPhones considering ominous projections a while back, shrewdly avoiding scandals, and even silencing headphone jack-killing detractors with hot-selling wireless Airpods.
Is the iPhone 7 innovative? Not in the slightest. But, as always, Apple found the perfect moment to “borrow” certain features from rivals (water resistance), while helping break dual cameras into the mainstream.
No stranger to controversy, the wearable market leader did at least two things right in 2016. On one hand, it retained and consolidated its domination over a business very few companies managed to crack, and on the other, it got a stellar bargain on Pebble. Oh, and let’s not forget about a lower-key purchase of essential Apple Watch-contending wrist-enabled payment technology.
OPPO and Vivo
These two can only be evaluated together, as they stem from the same parent company, rising at an extremely similar pace on nearly identical strategies. Offline sales and promotions are their strongest suit, though without a winning bang for buck and robust device portfolios, it’d be all for naught.
Technically also controlled by BBK (via OPPO), this flagship-killing little engine that could forged its own path in the ruthless smartphone landscape since its 2014 commercial debut. 2016 saw Pete Lau, Carl Pei and co. controversially trim some fat to make room for two hero devices for the first time.
Equally well-received, the OP3 and 3T were openly up for grabs off the bat, putting the pesky invite system away (hopefully, for good), which was the year’s biggest victory for OnePlus when all is said and done.
We knew the smartwatch pioneer was in trouble, but when exactly did things get so bad that both a software asset clearance and sudden hardware cancellation became unavoidable? Was it before or after Pebble raised another $12.7 million on Kickstarter from unsuspecting supporters of the Time 2, Pebble 2, Core, and the American company in general last spring?
No wonder many past and present project funders continue to feel betrayed, whether they qualify for (tardy) refunds or not. We don’t want our money back, we want our Pebble back. The really sad thing about this unexpected death is it signals not only the tragic fate of once-so-promising smartwatches, but also the tech crowdfunding “phenomenon.”
Did the Galaxy Note 7 double recall and subsequently premature discontinuation cost Samsung a boatload of cash? Sure. Will the world’s number one smartphone manufacturer be able to recover both from a financial and reputational perspective? Most likely, as long as mistakes are not repeated, and flagship device launches rushed.
Can we pretend nothing happened if that’s the case? Absolutely not. Not today, not tomorrow, not a decade from now. The only way Samsung, and other OEMs for that matter, will learn to do a better QA job, is if we constantly remind them of this unprecedented, hopefully never-to-be-followed fiasco.
Facebook and Google
Shocking US election outcome aside, we can all probably agree (save for Mark Zuckerberg, perhaps) that so-called “fake news” are a problem. A big one, not just for Democrats or Republicans, Hillary Clinton or President-elect Donald Trump.
Even with a seemingly foolproof plan to dodge online hoaxes in place, anyone can occasionally fall victim to an intricate enough prank. That’s where the world’s largest social network and top search engine ultimately came in. But it’s too little, too late. Especially too little.
It’s probably not fair to call all of LG a 2016 loser, although the Korean company’s mobile division in its entirety bled a whopping $380+ million in the year’s third calendar quarter alone. The once promising, ultimately too experimental G5 was to blame, and the more level-headed albeit still nichey V20 simply didn’t have enough time to completely right the ship.
But there’s more to G5’s failure than an individual lack of focus and overblown ambitions, as other modular concepts also proved non-starters this year. Is the notion DOA? Motorola, or rather Lenovo, would beg to differ. Let’s wait and see if the masses agree.
Don’t give up on the long-sinking, slowly-decaying email service, they said. It’ll be safe, they said. It turns out, not so much. The (multibillion dollar) question now is what happens to Verizon? Does America’s largest mobile carrier stand to lose from its proposed acquisition too? Will there eventually be a renegotiation? We’ll keep our eyes peeled and revisit the matter this time next year.
For now, we’d appreciate it if you kept things civil in the comments section below. It’s natural to disagree with at least one of our above picks, but let’s stay away from labels like “iSheep”, “fandroids”, haters and so on… for once.