My final submission for 2016 will not be an arbitrary list of top 5 or top 10 devices, but instead a consideration of hardware trends I’ve observed over the past year. It’s by no means complete, just the things that spring immediately to mind.
The Endangered Audio Jack
The good news, for Apple’s stockholders at least, is that iPhone 7 owners seem perfectly willing to go without the standard audio jack that remains on almost every other phone currently on the market—the Moto Z is also missing the 3.5mm plug, but I’ve honestly never seen one in use outside of a Motorola boardroom.
There are rumours that next year’s Galaxy S8 won’t have an audio jack, either. But why? The only justification I can think of is the continuing obsession with impossibly-thin phones that nobody asked for.
Smartphone OEMs have at least innovated their way around the dilemma of putting a zoom lens on an impossibly-thin phone. What started on the LG G5 was ultimately brought to the masses on the iPhone 7 Plus. Huawei’s P9 also has two cameras, but for a different purpose—the two sensors capture different colour information to produce a more vivid result.
Anyway, the trend of dual-camera smartphones is something I expected to continue into 2017. But there’s actually another way to put a zoom lens on an impossibly-thin phone: slap an actual optical zoom onto the back, and throw in a Hasselblad logo for good measure.
Modular phones were also a trend in 2016, but I’m not yet convinced that it’s going to stick. A pair of new Moto mods were announced earlier this month, but LG’s Friends have expanded to include a slew of decidedly non-modular accessories. Even more telling is that leaked renders of next year’s LG G6 show no signs of any modularity whatsoever.
And let’s not forget that Google’s own modularity experiment, Project Ara, is dead.
I’ll close off by mentioning an innovation from last year that I didn’t get to enjoy until 2016. Dual SIM support made an early appearance on the ASUS ZenFone 2, and was also a feature on 2015’s OnePlus 2. This infrequent world traveller got to use it on his OnePlus 3 over the summer, and as a fan of cheap local SIMs I can safely say it’s a feature that I’ll no longer be able to do without.
Feel free to add your favourite smartphone innovations of 2016 below!