As this year winds down we’ve recapped its highlights to bring you the best of 2016 in fashion, sneakers, music, movies and more.
I think it’s pretty safe to say, at this point, that 2016 was probably the worst year ever. It was the hottest year on record (again), literally every great musician and actor ever died, and somehow a former reality TV star is our new President.
And that’s only a quick snippet of all the ridiculousness. It’s like we spent the year living in some crazy fucked up episode of The Twilight Zone, only this episode never ended after the half hour was up.
Though we lost Bowie, Ali and Prince, among others, this year wasn’t all bad. In fact, for the tech scene, it was an absolute blast to be a part of, with new developments in areas like self-driving cars and VR tech, but also fascinating catastrophes like exploding phones and phones with no headphone jacks.
The seconds are just ticking away until the end of 2016, so as one of Highsnobiety’s resident tech nerds, I thought it only appropriate to end the year on a high note.
Here are the top 10 tech stories of the year:
Samsung’s Exploding Galaxy Note 7
It may have been a pretty terrible year for the team at Samsung, but I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t intriguingly good fun to watch all the sparks fly. Back in September, Samsung was forced to recall over 3 million of its Galaxy Note 7 phones—the tech giant’s flagship model—after the phones’ batteries started unexplainably catching fire and exploding.
The whole thing was a shit show of miraculously epic proportions, and by the end of it, Samsung projected a nearly $20 billion loss in revenue, halted production on the phones entirely and the FAA even banned the Note 7 from transport on any airplanes. Talk about a crisis.
Spacecraft Juno Enters Jupiter’s Orbit
After a long five-year journey through the solar system, NASA’s Juno spacecraft finally began its trip through Jupiter’s orbit back in July, boldly going where no (man-made) spacecraft has gone before.
The milestone set a new bar for space exploration, and is allowing scientists to learn more about the largest—and one of the most mysterious—planets in our entire solar system. Not bad for a country whose space program has been all but gutted from the outside in.
Space X Drone Sea Ship Landing
Speaking of space travel, it was a truly phenomenal year for Elon Musk and the team at Space X. Their crowning achievement came in April when, for the first time ever, they successfully landed one of their reusable Falcon 9 rockets on a drone ship off the Florida coast.
It wasn’t the first time they’d successfully landed a Falcon 9, but it was the first time they landed one on a moving target in the middle of the ocean. Since then, they’ve made several more successful landings, but the first one marked the beginning of a whole new era for space exploration.
Google Unveils The Pixel
When the Galaxy Note 7s started exploding, and following Apple’s underwhelming iPhone 7 reveal (I’ll get to you in a minute, Apple—you’re not off the hook!), tech nerds everywhere were in a panic over who’d step up the plate to save the smartphone day.
Then came Google’s big bad Pixel. Popularly believed to be the best Android phone ever released, the Pixel proved to be a heavy contender for the number one spot on the smartphone totem pole.
Compared to the iPhone 7, it has a bigger 5-inch AMOLED screen, higher resolution display (1920 x 1080), 4GB of RAM and awesome battery life. For all intents and purposes, the Google Pixel is probably the best phone on the market, and while its legitimate impact remains to be seen, it’s the phone everyone is still talking about.
Apple Removes The Headphone Jack
I imagine Apple announcing the deletion of the headphone jack is a lot like the Kennedy assassination. I’ll never forget where I was on that fateful day, when Phil Schiller, Apple’s VP of Worldwide Marketing, stepped out onto that stage and told a room full of the most prominent tech journalists in the world, as well as tens of thousands of viewers at home, that Apple removed the (still extremely relevant) 3.5mm headphone jack from its iPhone 7. Why? Because of courage. C-O-U-R-A-G-E.
People lost their minds over this shit. It was complete pandemonium for a quick minute. In fact, it still is, since we now know that Apple has begun reducing orders of the iPhone 7 after a noticeable slump in sales, and is now allegedly shifting its focus to the iPhone 8. The iPhone 7 fail was so massive that many analysts and tech writers believe it the primary reason for Apple reporting an annual drop in profits for the first time in 15 years.
Love it or hate it, the fact is, Pokemon Go was one of the biggest tech releases of the year. The app, which allows grown-ass adults to pretend to catch made up alien-animals in real life, has been downloaded an astonishing 500 million times. It was so popular that it officially became the most widely-played mobile game ever in the United States, with over 21 million active users at one point.
It absolutely slaughtered every revenue goal set by any of its competitors, including Clash of Clans and Candy Crush. It caused literal stampedes, fatal car accidents and even got a few people robbed.
It was, at the same time, baffling and awe-inspiring. And like a Moltres rising from the ashes, it was over before it began. The game launched in early July, and by early September, it had lost nearly 80 percent of its daily players. We are living in fickle times, my friends.
The Fear of Fake News
This election year may have been one of the scariest in American history, but one of the few upsides is that it taught us a lot of things about the way our media works. Perhaps most importantly, it shed some much-needed light on the horrific impact of fake news and how it has been allowed to take a prominent role in our daily media consumption.
Everyone from Facebook and Google to publications like Forbes, The New York Times and Politico (and many others) are pledging change and doing their best to assure media consumers that they’re cracking down on fake news and the people who peddle the bullshit.
Though the issue was brought to light this year, it’ll most likely be an ongoing fight that’ll affect our media for quite some time—which is honestly a good thing.
The Hillary Clinton/John Podesta Wikileaks Scandal
By the time November rolled around, it seemed like most Americans were so disappointed with the Clinton campaign and the DNC that voting for her was little more than a desperate attempt to keep Donald Trump away from the White House.
What we wound up learning about Clinton, the DNC and major media outlets—planting news stories, undermining Bernie Sanders’ campaign, inflammatory Wall Street speech transcripts, the debate questions fiasco, etc.—proved catastrophic for her campaign, and turned off many Americans who would have otherwise supported her.
In essence, the Wikileaks may very well have played a key roll in altering the course of American history, and giving Trump control of the White House. If that’s not top tech news, I don’t know what is.
Apple vs. the FBI
On December 02, 2015, Syed Rizwan Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, walked into a holiday party hosted by Syed’s colleagues at the San Bernardino County Department of Public Health and opened fire on the people inside, killing 14 and injuring 22.
When the FBI went to Apple and asked for help unlocking Farook’s phone (both he and Malik pledged allegiance to ISIS prior to the attack), Apple politely declined. What ensued was a court battle between peoples’ privacy and national security. The FBI essentially wanted Apple to create an entirely new version of the iPhone operating system that could be installed on any Apple iPhone.
The goal, of course, would be to disable data encryption and allow the government to basically gather all the information they want from anyone they want it from. The FBI eventually did unlock Farook’s phone, but didn’t get their wish for a custom privacy-snatching version of iOS. Thanks, Apple!
Massive Developments in VR Technology
Virtual Reality (VR) headsets exploded onto the scene in 2016 and essentially changed the way people did everything from play video games to jerk off. It began with the release of the Oculus Rift on March 28, and then the HTC Vive on April 5, a week later.
From there, the competition exploded, with the release of Samsung’s inexpensive Gear VR, Google’s Daydream View, Sony’s PlayStation VR, Microsoft’s wildly expensive HoloLens, as well as several others in the loop for release next year.
What started as an expensive futuristic gimmick eventually warped into a massive industry that took the world by storm in mere months, dominating the headlines of every tech and lifestyle publication out there.
For more in the way of tech, check out how tech rumors get started.