If you happen to be a regular reader of NextPit, chances are high you might have come across a poll we ran a few weeks ago. In that poll, we asked you, the reader, to select their best and worst smartphones/products for 2020. The poll ran simultaneously on various editions of NextPit. Well, the results of those polls are out!
In this short piece, it's the turn of NextPit editors to look back on the year 2020 and share with you what they thought 2020 was like and what their expectations are from 2021.
Before we start, I'd like to take this opportunity to wish you all the very best for the new year 2021 on behalf of the entire NextPit team. 2020 was a tumultuous year for us as it was for most of you. But I'm looking forward to a 2021 that shall, hopefully, be much better for humanity.
Antoine - Our French Editor
I could cite the products that have appealed to me the most and those that have disappointed me the most this year. But the list would be long and ultimately uninteresting. I really hated the Samsung Galaxy Note 20, for example. Not because it's a bad smartphone, but because it reflected a cruel and tragic lack of ambition from Samsung, a brand that made me dream with its Galaxy Z Fold 2.
But as for the rest, I'm having more and more trouble seeing high-end smartphones in good light, as their prices are totally disconnected from the economic reality. A reality that has never been more palpable than since the beginning of the health crisis, showing how fragile our economy is and how our lifestyle is ultra-dependent on increasingly expensive technologies.
In fact, perhaps my biggest flop of the year 2020, is to have realized that I have less and less means to live my passion as a technophile. We're reduced to congratulating ourselves that Xiaomi offers a separate charger for its Mi 11 "for free", unlike Apple who charges us a lot for it.
You know me, I could go on bitching for hours but I'll now focus on what has positively impacted me this year. First of all, I would like to salute the efforts made by manufacturers on the software aspect, more than the hardware aspect, of their products.
As far as smartphones are concerned, I've been able to test most Android 10/11 skins and I've noticed a real evolution in the way user experience is taken into account. Features like Digital well-being, battery management, gaming modes, and control of personal data have never been so much in the focus of manufacturers' concerns in my opinion.
I'm not totally naive, though. I am well aware that there is still a lot to be done and that brands are not doing it out of good grace, but because they are forced to do so by consumers. But that's my other strength of 2020. I have the impression that real awareness has been created around data, for example.
When I was working at HuffPost, every article I published about personal data and the protection of privacy was a total flop. ZERO views! Now, Google gives a better grip on the access that apps can have on the data in our smartphone with the permissions menu. Apple will force third-party developers to specify how they collect your data and what they do with it in the App Store.
By forcing users to do this, the manufacturers have been forced to make data protection a selling point. They can no longer ignore it and are therefore forced to innovate in this area. This is a path of hope that is far from straightforward, but one that I will gladly follow with my eyes closed.
Ben - Our German Editor
2020 has really put tech companies to the test! Because part of the job for Samsung, Apple and others was to not only implement new technologies in their devices but to also ensure that they meet the needs of their customers. And thanks to the pandemic, their customers were suddenly very different this compared to what they were in 2019.
Such was the effect of the pandemic, people barely noticed that Samsung released a 1000 Euro smartphone with a 60 Hz screen and a plastic back. Jokes apart, while I agree with Antoine's comment about the need to "give up the Note range", I think it's unfair to do so at the expense of customers.
Google did it much better with the less ambitious but more balanced Pixel 5, or OnePlus with the good value of OnePlus Nord. I was also pleasantly surprised by Apple this year, which finally fulfilled the wish of many customers for a compact smartphone with a relatively large screen with the iPhone 12 Mini.
Moreover, Apple is proving that ARM architectures have a real future on laptops. The M1 is a strong argument, especially thanks to the good translation of Intel programs by Rosetta, so I could switch to a MacBook Air in the next few months - I think Linux is still awesome *wink*!
Whilst 2020 was a mess in terms of cancelled tech events, delayed product launches, online-only keynotes, and the rest of it, it was actually a really interesting year for the smartphone business. And boy did we need a change of pace. The smartphone cycle had become so dull we started reviewing robot litter trays.
We’ve seen several left-field moves and surprises from the biggest names in the business this year, and combined it’s created a market infinitely more interesting than the one we had at the end of 2019.
In 2020, foldable phones are good, like really good! Foldable phones are cool, like really cool! Apple has made a proper flagship smartphone that fits in your pocket. Samsung has made a flagship smartphone that doesn’t fit in your pocket and is made of plastic. LG is no longer the most boring manufacturer on the planet, far from it! Huawei has only gone and (almost) cracked life without GMS. Google has managed to release three smartphones that are all, more-or-less, the same, yet span two generations of hardware… run that one past me again Sundar?
Sure, there are winners and losers amongst these examples, but at least it’s unpredictable and fun for a change. That’s been the best thing about covering mobile tech in 2020.
The worst? The pandemic only made Big Tech richer and more powerful. Sure, lawmakers are coming for them now, but it’s (probably) too little, too late.
Julia - Our German Editor
2020 is the year, I am sure, that we will all remember for the rest of our lives. And I wondered what I was going to tell my children about that year. As derisory as it may seem, given its relative application, the collaboration of Apple and Google in the fight against the spread of Covid-19 with their common contact tracing API, is my highlight of this year 2020. This unnatural and improbable union has shown that all the bickering and squabbling between Android and Apple fans is in vain in 2020. We are all in the same boat.
My flop this year is not related to tech products either, but I regret that the event industry has had to miss out on trade fairs, events and other opportunities to interact with specialist journalists. On the other hand, we, the "editors", were stuck in our home offices and could not go out for interviews or live events. It's gruelling and I hope that the new year 2021 will open other doors that have been closed for too long in 2020.
While 2020 shall forever be remembered for the Coronavirus pandemic and the havoc it caused, there is also no denying that it was an interesting year for all of us in the tech industry. It is also true that there is definitely a lot to talk about the advancements and trends we saw this year. But I think the rest of our editors have already covered them in fair detail. I will, therefore, take this as an opportunity to talk about one of the best smartphones that I used this year.
The smartphone I will talk about here will definitely not make it to the “most wanted” or “most desired” smartphones list of most tech websites. I am sure most people - especially in the U.S. and Europe - will not even remember the device or the brand for that matter. My rather surprising choice for the smartphone of the year is a little known smartphone called the Vivo X50 Pro. If I am not mistaken, this device is sold as the Vivo X51 5G in Europe
Specs-wise, the Vivo X50 Pro is a pretty unassuming mid-ranger that is powered by the SD 765G chip. What makes the phone special, however, are the two key aspects. The design - and camera hardware. For me, personally, the Vivo X50 Pro is definitely the most handsome smartphone I have used in a really long time. It is outright gorgeous to look at. In fact, Vivo was so confident about the universal appeal of the X50 Pro, they have made it available in a single colour variant that everyone seems to love.
Apart from the sleek looks, the X50 Pro also came with another head-turner of a feature - a gimbal camera system - which was an industry first. It was also a feature that worked pretty well and aided in great low light photography. During my time with the phone, I found myself clicking more pictures than usual simply because of the stellar camera performance. I, in fact, found myself using the X50 Pro more than the OPPO Find X2 Pro which I was also testing at the same time.
The only chink in the X50 Pro’s proverbial armour was the software experience. Vivo’s FunTouch OS — even with a refined version on the X50 pro simply did not cut it and marred the overall experience. It’s a tragedy, really, that most smartphone enthusiasts might not even know this phone existed.
We already know your 2020 tech tops and flops, but what do you think of the NextPit editors' choices? Are we being too hard on the Samsung Galaxy Note 20? Let us know in the comments!
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