Poll of the week: What were the highlights and lowpoints of 2021?
As we start 2022, it is time to look back at the main stories, products, and brands from the past year. As countries around the world are still adapting to the effect of the pandemic, we asked the NextPit community about the highlights and low points of 2021. Let's check the results.
Distancing itself from the many yearly updates in 2021, the Fairphone 4 was clearly a stand out product among the NextPit Community, especially with our German readers, which chose the sustainable smartphone as the product highlight of 2021.
And my colleague Ben explained the reasons why in his review, with up to 6 years of software updates, fair working conditions and materials sourcing, good battery life and the best repairability in the market, it is no surprise.
The next highlight was the Pixel 6 line, which was the most voted option in the French and English sites, and second place with the German community. A new design, improved cameras, and an in house processor shows a bigger commitment from Google's hardware division, despite some availability restrictions outside the US.
In the brand department, Samsung was the winner for the NextPit Community. The combination of a promised longer software support for its devices - which already showed some early positive signs with many models already running Android 12, despite some early hiccups - with positive reviews for its foldable phones, positions the brand well for 2022.
Xiaomi was the top choice with the French community, showing not only the force of the Mi Fans but also the fact that the Chinese brand consolidated itself as the third biggest global smartphone brand, benefitting the most from Huawei's challenges not only globally, but also in their native market.
When asked about news highlights, three topics stood out among NextPit's readers. The first one was the promises of better software support for Android smartphones, a move led by Samsung, but soon followed by other brands.
The second one was WhatsApp announcing that it was not going to force users to accept its new terms of service, after weeks of doubts, miscommunication, delays, and its rivals getting more users. The third highlight were the new features and controls in iOS and Android designed to improve users' privacy.
Despite not listing many options for product disappointments in 2021, the poll had a clear loser in the eyes of our community. Huawei's "native" operating system, HarmonyOS, was chosen as the biggest disappointment last year.
Huawei actually managed to update millions of devices in China, but users soon found out that the Chinese brand's own OS was actually not that different from the custom Android+EMUI combo that was running previously on smartphones and tablets. In the west, meanwhile, EMUI soldiers on.
As for the brand low point in 2021, LG's exit was the most lamented one, despite its lousy software support, as noted by Olaf in the German community, the market lost a brand that did not fear launching weird concepts like the LG Wing and was promising to release rollable screen devices last year...
Huawei's quick fall was chosen by the French community as their top lowlight for 2021, with the Chinese giant falling to a single-digit market share not only in the west but also in its local market.
Moving on to our last question of 2021, product shortages were the most voted option in total for last year's bad news. The supply issues went beyond videogame consoles, desktop video cards, and also affected all sorts of electronic devices like smartphones, and even cars.
Other not so welcomed news included chargers not being included in more and more devices, and the disappearance of memory expansion slots in flagship devices - with few exceptions.
Well, that is it for our last poll of 2021. Despite some pessimistic opinions about the ongoing problems with the electronics supply chain, we are still hopeful 2022 not only will bring lots of cool gadgets to play with but mainly better news regarding the COVID pandemic around the world.
Let us know in the comments if we forgot any other product, brand, or news that deserved a spot on this article, and see you all on the next poll of the week!
As most people around the world are already in 2022, it is an appropriate time to remember the news and stories that marked the past 12 months. Join us to select the highlights and low points of 2021 on this week's poll!
Highlights of 2021
While many believed we would have left the pandemic behind, it is very much still among us. Not only the virus is still infecting thousands every day, but the impacts on the economy, tourism, supply chain, and many other sectors are not expected to go away soon.
Even with all the problems, companies managed to release their wares as usual — generally following their regular schedules, with a few exceptions. Apple not only resumed their September launch for the iPhone yearly update but also kept their plan to migrate the Mac line to their own SoCs.
Samsung, meanwhile, used their traditional August Unpacked event, not for a new Galaxy Note line (RIP), but to go all-in with their foldable screen Galaxy Z family, at the same time ditching Tizen for the Galaxy Watch line to adopt Google's Wear OS.
2021 saw some movements among brands, with Xiaomi leaving behind other Chinese brands like Oppo and Vivo to consolidate itself as the third-biggest smartphone brand in the world — behind Apple and Samsung. The Koreans for their part also garnered a lot of praise both for showing that foldables are ready for the mass market, and also promising four years of security updates for most of its models.
On the components side of things, underdog MediaTek left Qualcomm behind in 2021, with the Taiwanese company enjoying huge success in the Chinese market supplying cost-effective 5G processors for the local brands, just in time for the void left by Huawei, still affected by the US trade embargo.
Regarding trends, 5G was still a buzzword in 2021, with the new generation reaching cheaper and cheaper devices, together with increased network support. Megapixels, on the other hand, remained low-profile, with the same top resolution from 2020 (and 2019). The arms race in 2021 moved to fast charging, with Xiaomi showcasing the 200 Watts HyperCharge system and many Chinese brands including adapters with over 60W.
2021 also saw big improvements related to privacy in both iOS and Android, positive right to repair news from brands like Apple and Microsoft, and Meta (then Facebook) reverting the announced (and postponed) changes to WhatsApp privacy ToS.
Low points of 2021
Moving to the worst of 2021, talking with the NextPit editorial team, I couldn't find real disappointments regarding products, but some hyped devices didn't really live up to the promises made. Case in point, the Nothing Ear (1) TWS earbuds. While far from bad, the startup founded by OnePlus-alumni Carl Pei clearly overhyped its launch product.
Another release that was probably more marketing than substance was Huawei's "own operating system", HarmonyOS. Already in version 2.0, the mobile OS currently used in the MatePad tablet line is clearly still a fork from Android's source code, with confusing messaging around IoT devices and Huawei's in house LiteOS microkernel.
Lastly, while some of my colleagues listed the Pixel 6 line as one of 2021's highlights, others were clearly disappointed by the new smartphones, citing a lack of revolutionary features.
Regarding brands, 2021 saw one company quitting the smartphone market entirely. LG confirmed back in April that it was quitting the phone business. While its market share was almost insignificant in Europe and most of Asia, it still had a sizeable market in South Korea (of course) and the US (surprisingly).
Another Asian brand, this time OnePlus, was also on the news in 2021, not only because of its Hasselblad partnership, but especially because of its "new journey", settling as a sub-brand for Oppo, including adopting ColorOS.
What about trends and news? 2021 had its share from overheating components in smartphones to products and parts shortages. The year saw more and more brands stop including chargers in mobile boxes, especially flagship devices, which also seemed to have dropped memory expansion in 2021.
Besides that, Big Techs were constantly on the news, with executive hearings in the US, Facebook experiencing a long service outage, around the same time it faced negligence and manipulation accusations. Apple and Google also were in the spotlight, with the ongoing investigations around app stores' supposed market abuses, and also security exploits, especially zero-day breaches that made headlines with Pegasus and turned NSO Group famous overnight.
And that is it. Do you remember any other product, brand, or news that deserved a spot on this list? Feel free to share them in the comments below. Come back on Monday to see our analysis of this week's poll. I wish you all a happy New Year and hope that 2022 will bring much better news (and gadgets) than 2021.