2016 was a year that none of us are likely to forget any time soon. Pokémon took the world by storm. The craziest (and longest) election cycle in recent history finally came to an end. “Chewbacca Mom” became an internet sensation. And during the whole thing, we had our handy dandy smart phones to keep us updated along the way.
Like the rest of the world, the mobile technology industry took some big leaps in 2016. There were ups and downs and some shocking twists. So what stuck out the most?
The (slow) rise of Type-C™
First and foremost, the future-proof cable has started its slow takeover of the world—but not in the way we expected. While flagship phones from larger companies were supposed to give a huge boost in popularity to the cable, the brunt of the work ended up falling on smaller-name phones, due to some unexpected turns in the smartphone industry.
These setbacks, in addition to the reports of untested USB-C cables failing to meet required standards, has led to a bit of a rocky start for the cable; however, it’s seen great success with phones from companies like HTC and LG, and is still on track to make a big entrance within the next few years. The new MacBook and MacBook Pro offer up to four USB-C ports, meaning that Apple, too, is pushing consumers toward this (soon-to-be) universal cable.
USB-C wasn’t the only cable under scrutiny this year. Amazon came under fire from Apple in October for selling a bunch of unauthorized, potentially dangerous, knock-off Lightning™ cables. Over 90 percent of cables sold on the website were actually not MFi certified. While these cables haven’t been widely reported as dangerous, Apple insists they’re damaging to the brand due to their poor quality—they tend to fall apart, charge slowly, or short circuit.
These kinds of reports have inspired distrust in consumers, and a desire for higher quality products, even if that means shelling out a few extra bucks. With cables becoming more and more future-proof, as well, a bit of an investment in mobile accessories makes a lot of sense.
The titans still rule … for now
For the first time, there are cracks in Apple and Samsung’s dominance, and new players are seizing their chance. Google’s new Pixel is one. But it may soon mean an influx of Chinese-manufactured phones as well.
Even though these cracks are forming, Apple and Samsung continued to dominate sales this year within the United States. Even with the lack of a headphone jack, Apple’s sales of the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus remained strong. In fact, the iPhone 7 sold even more than the iPhone 6s did in its first two weeks—and got close to the performance of the iPhone 6. As for Samsung, they had their own trouble with ups and downs this year, but still remain the top smartphone provider in the world.
Despite the fact that the HTC 10 and LG G5 both share the same specs as the Galaxy S7 (Snapdragon 820 CPU, 4 Gb of RAM, and 2560 x 1440 pixel resolution, while beating the battery life of the iPhone 7), consumers are so entrenched in their brands that it’s hard to get them to look at anything without an Apple or Samsung logo on it. This has become more evident than ever this year, even as that structure began to break down in the latter half.
Charging technology takes a breather
As exciting as wireless charging may sound, it still hasn’t been able to make its mark. Maybe it’s because Apple hasn’t given the technology a shot yet; maybe it’s because the 5W charging pads are simply too slow, expensive, and inconvenient for the average mobile phone user. Whatever the case, this technology of the future hasn’t yet made a mark, at least for the general population.
What it all means
The market had some surprises for us this year. With the slow rise of USB-C, the focus on proper certification, and the new cracks in smartphone royalty, consumers are more willing to explore their options, even if those options come at a slightly higher cost. Quality, long-lasting products are on the minds of consumers, and they’re willing to search a little bit more to find ones they trust. It’s a good shift for original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) who play by the rules, as it encourages consumers to find the best products, not just the most easily accessible.
What does it mean for the future of the industry? We’ll have to see. But with new players entering the game, a huge shakeup expected in mobile phones next year (Apple will launch its 10th anniversary iPhone, while others try to one-up them), and USB-C’s potential just being tapped, it should be exciting.