Stuff's 2016 in review: The best and worst of tech

These are a few of our favourite things. What's yours?

2016 - what a crazy year it has been. 

In a whirlwind of launches, explosions and moves, the year has flown by. It feels like we were only just talking about the tech trends that we saw at CES 2016, but the fact is we will be at CES 2017 in a few days. How surreal is that?

Despite all the ups and downs, we're always thankful to our readers for sticking by us. No matter the company we keep, it's always going to be you guys that keep us writing. So take a moment to remember the spec-tech-cular year with the Stuff team (sorry, we can't help ourselves). 

We'll see you in the next. Happy almost-New Year!

Best tech:

Apple’s partnerships have been on point for the Watch. First Hermès, then Nike. We saw many of their products coming, but we didn’t quite expect the Apple Watch Nike+ at the iPhone 7 launch. For its price and add-ons, it’s the Apple Watch to get if you're considering one.

AR won VR this year. While VR might have the sexier sell of the two, AR hit the masses in a big way thanks to Pokémon Go, showing us the appeal of AR gaming. Microsoft HoloLens, your move. 

Biggest disappointment:

Pebble calling it quits leaving a big gap for a platform-agnostic smartwatch. Coming in a close second is Vine’s closure. I’ve used the app many times to make short clips for many stories on Stuff. On an unrelated note, I've lost a chunk of reading material with Gawker’s departure. We’ve lost too many good things this year.

Everyone played it too safe this year, except maybe Microsoft. Call me jaded, but nothing blew my mind. May 2017 have more tech-citement of the good kind.

Looking forward to:

Fiercer smartphone competition. Samsung could have easily won this year with their smartphones, but alas, it was not to be. Having said that, the Note 7 incident comes as a timely “check yourself before you wreck yourself” reminder for the smartphone industry.

After a relatively dull 2016, I’m psyched for Samsung’s comeback phone be it in whatever form and also the much heralded 10th anniversary iPhone. The battle of the smartphones is back on and 2017 is when phones will be on fire again - hopefully not literally.

App-sessions this year

Spotify (iOS/Android): Discover Weekly is my favourite thing about Mondays, and now that there's Release Radar, my Fridays are even better.

Vainglory (iOS/Android): Since Scarf Guy’s appearance on stage back at the iPhone 6 event, this game has only gone from strength to strength with its regular hero updates.

Pocket Mortys (iOS/Android): This Pokémon-wannabe title encourages you to collect Mortys and helps make the wait for Season 3 that much more bearable.

Best tech:

Waterproofing/weatherproofing of smartphones going mainstream. Sony started it but Samsung and Apple refined it to the point I can no longer recommend flagship phones without it. In a world full of uncertainty, it’s nice to know that at least my phone can survive an unexpected rain shower or accidental dunking in the sink/swimming pool/loo.

Biggest disappointment:

Apple not updating the MacBook Air, as I thought this would be the year I finally get one. Instead we got the super-expensive MacBook Pro update which means that my only option (for now) is a Windows ultrabook. Nice as the Touch Bar is, it’s a non-essential and the MacBook Pro’s reported battery issues are slightly concerning.

Looking forward to:

Waiting to see if the next Galaxy Note will finally win me to Samsung’s camp. Also hoping the next iPhone is a departure from Apple’s usual incremental updates. The next Android Wear 2.0 update could breathe new life into the currently available smartwatches but am also hoping for better, cheaper Android Wear devices.

I also hope The Elder Scrolls: Legends gets out of beta and onto my smartphone ASAP, because it’s way better than Hearthstone could hope to be.

App-solute favourites

Microsoft Outlook (iOS/Android): It takes the best of Outlook on the desktop and puts it on mobile. Being able to access my calendar, files from OneDrive/Google/Dropbox as well as my email all on a single app makes working on my mobile so much easier

Teeny Titans (iOS/Android): It’s like Pokémon but with superheroes. Best mobile game I’ve bought this year and well-worth the purchase price

Google Photos (iOS/Android): Can’t live without this. Makes backing up my photos a breeze and I can delete my photos from my phone with impunity to save precious space

Best tech:

From Uber and Nutonomy self-driving taxis available for public trials, to Nike’s killer self-lacing HyperAdapt sneakers, it’s been a great year for lazy folk. Here’s to more autonomous tech in the New Year and the impending robot uprising — I for one will gladly welcome our mechanic overlords.

Biggest disappointment:

2016 will be remembered as the year we bid adieu to the 3.5mm headphone jack from one of the biggest flagship phones on the planet. Combined with the lack of port variation in the new MacBook Pros, we’ll have to figure out new ways of connecting devices (hopefully without too many dongles). Since Apple has always been a frontrunner in innovation, maybe change will be a good thing.

Looking forward to:

I definitely want to see virtual reality on a wider scope in 2017, not just for entertainment but for it to be implemented in all facets of life. Also looking forward to drone deliveries reaching the masses, I’m for anything that can possibly lower shipping costs.

Finally, can’t wait to test drive the hybrid Nintendo Switch — if the release trailer was anything to go by, this console could be a total… game changer.

App-sessions this year

Google Trips (iOS/Android): Like having a personal assistant to coordinate your travel itinerary, tickets and accommodation details, Trips took the hassle out of planning so I could actually enjoy my vacation.

Pokémon Go (iOS/Android): This is an obvious one but it actually got me out of the house and doing physical activity, no mean feat for an app.

Pocket (iOS/Android): I cannot emphasize enough how useful it is to have an app that let me save web pages from my desktop browser to my phone, so I could continue reading across platforms and on the commute.

Best tech:

Optical Image Stabilisation especially in mid-range smartphones has made my job much easier especially since I have (caffeine-induced) shaky hands. Photos don’t require a lot of set-up now and all I need is my phone and I’m set, all for less than RM2000.

Biggest tech disappointment:

Wearables in general have been very uninspiring. RIP Pebble and all, but Fitbit and the rest should step it up because smartwatches are crowding in on their market.

Looking forward to: 

What mid-range Android smartphones can bring to the table next year. Excited to see OnePlus, Asus Zenfones and Honor one-up themselves and bring the fight to Samsung and Apple.

App-solute favourites

Grab (iOS/Android) – This has been a godsend especially since I don’t own a car. Their app is constantly being improved and GrabPay makes it so I don’t have to keep carrying cash.

Netflix (iOS/Android) – Offline viewing has saved me time and time again during long roadtrips and crappy WiFi at home.