2016 has been a year to remember for a whole lot of reasons. Though the news has been brimming with the election, celebrity deaths and natural disasters, tech has never been far from the headlines.
Here’s our roundup of the top tech stories of 2016. Some came because of success, others thanks to failure. These are the things that folks were talking about this year, and funnily enough we’re still talking about them.
Apple has always taken pride in its ability to make radical changes that shake the industry. This year, it makes a solid but mixed attempt to do just that by freeing users from their headphone jacks in the newest iteration of the iPhone.
People were mostly just angry at this revelation of wireless headphones. Really angry. Social media exploded when the news hit in early fall, and consumers felt more than a little betrayed when this mega company removed what seemed to be a standard piece of equipment.
Wireless is the future and now that users are forced to either get Bluetooth headphones or use clumsy adapters that attach to the charging port, they’re forced to accept this evolution in tech. Like it or not, Apple is forcing us all in the direction of a cord free society.
This year brought with it some major change to Twitter, and almost all of them had to do with cheating out those 140 characters. Link text no longer counts, nor do extra photos, user polls or videos. Quoted tweets and usernames that appear at the beginning of the tweet also don’t count as part of the character limit anymore.
All of these changes kept the integrity of the short form that has made Twitter such a powerful platform, but at the same time allowing users to express themselves more effusively than ever before. The changes were met with wide appreciation among users.
In the past, Twitter has hinted that it would allow more longform content on the platform, and this is an important first step in making that happen.
Exploding Samsung phones
It’s impossible to talk about the top tech stories of 2016 without discussing the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 and its explosive (haha, see what we did there) debut on the market. Initially, the feedback was fantastic for improvements like water resistant design, wireless charging and iris recognition for unlocking the phone.
That happiness quickly turned to terror when phones started to erupt into flames. There was damage to homes, to cars and pretty much anything that was close to the device at the time! The recall and replacement effort by Samsung only served to make the problem worse when the new phones shipped to worried consumers started blowing up as well.
It’s estimated that the whole fiasco cost Samsung about $10 billion in recall charges and lost sales. They had to finally bag the Galaxy 7 altogether. Consumers are anxiously awaiting the January Consumer Electronics Show to see if 2017’s offering will be any comparison.
2016 marked the first year that three sixty cameras were made available in any real affordable way to consumers. Though there’s no guarantee that these cameras will be truly user friendly anytime soon, there were some semi-successful first volleys into the world of immersive video.
This year saw the release of the Ricoh Theta and 360 Fly cameras, as well as the Samsung Gear 360 and the Nikon KeyMission 360. Each one has its limitations and we’re very far from having a 360 camera embedded in our smartphones, but it’s still progress.
Everything seems to be going waterproof, or at least water resistant, in 2016. From phones to exercise trackers to smart watches, this year made it finally possible for us to drop lots of our electronics in the toilet without frying them.
All joking aside, besides being a nice sales point, the truth is that waterproofing tech makes it far more functional in the real lives of real people. We are wet creatures and up until now our tech has not really appreciated that fact. Water resistant tech will be able to be more fully integrated into our lives. Of all of the big stories in tech in 2016, this one is by far the most practical and actionable.
Facebook Instant articles
In its unending quest to improve user quality, Facebook rolled out Instant Articles this year. Boasting faster loading times for long news pieces, the mobile technology of Facebook’s Instant Articles allows content by third parties to be integrated into Facebook to dramatically lower load times.
The advent of this new feature changed the way that referral traffic from Facebook are counted and required publishers to alter the way that they uploaded content in order for it to be optimized through Facebook. Though there was some initial blowback mid-year when this feature first hit the scene, it quickly died down thanks to improved user experiences.
Virtual reality headsets
If you haven’t seen a million advertisements for these fancy smartphone glasses, then you’ve probably not seen any advertisements at all in the last several months. These things are literally everywhere, with people lining up to escape from this world and dive into another that’s less real and marvelously enticing.
Strapping onto the eyes of millions of people this year, there was a cardboard version from Google that came onto the market in an incredibly inexpensive offering, as well as a wide variety of other iterations that go all the way up into the thousands of dollars.
Though everyone was talking about the Oculus Rift and some other more expensive versions some time ago, that conversation has started to fade more into the background as users clamor for an less expensive and more accessible option for escaping reality.
Who needs to write something on social media when you can just say it on video live and broadcast it? When Facebook rolled out its livestreaming video to all of its users, it became a huge success. Video embedded into social media was already around with apps like Periscope, but this year it went mainstream.
What were your favorite stories of this crazy year in tech? Which stories made you think, or got you excited, or left you surprised in 2016?