The worst of 2016 in the smartphone industry

2016 has been a year of ups and downs as far as smartphones were concerned and looking back, we found some negatives which either moderately or severely impacted the industry.

The Galaxy Note 7 fiasco

Samsung's Galaxy Note 7 was on its way to become the phone of the year thanks to its combination of premium specifications, the best design concept, the large curved display and its range of features which were unparalleled at the time of its launch. However, it was not to be and within a month of its launch, Samsung was forced to recall all Galaxy Note 7 handsets permanently owing to unexplained battery woes.

While a lot of people across the world were surprised to see a premium phablet like the Galaxy Note 7 go up in flames, they were even more surprised with Samsung's failure to detect root causes for the disaster. Samsung has been investigating the cause of Galaxy Note 7 fires since October and also claimed to fix the cause once, but to no avail so far.

The lessons coming out of the Note 7 fiasco were several. One was that Samsung resorted to great haste in launching the phablet which may have impacted intensive testing of the phablet's battery performance. A number of Samsung suppliers also complained that Samsung's repeated change of specifications put them under severe stress and it is possible that someone may have goofed up ultimately. For consumers, not only did the fiasco dash their hopes of owning a next-generation phablet but also opened their eyes to the fact that premium phone makers were perhaps not too concerned with their safety while launching new devices with improved specs. The fiasco was ultimately an eye-opener for the industry as a whole and it is expected that along with Samsung, other manufacturers may have also got the message that consumer safety and product quality must always be supreme.

LG's modular let down

At Mobile World Congress earlier this year, LG launched the G5 with great fanfare, terming it as the industry's first truly modular phone which could fit in a number of accessories. A few months later, when we reviewed the LG G5, we stopped short of giving it a 5 on 5 because of LG's half-hearted modular approach as well as it's iffy build quality, and now it turns out that the G5 also suffers from defective Cam Plus modules and power buttons as well.

The removable battery in the G5 wasn't hot-swappable which meant you have to turn off the phone and turn it on again after replacing the battery. The other modular accessories weren't too bad but fact of the matter was that LG took too long to launch them in global markets, thus effectively rendering the modular nature of the G5 useless.  A few months later, a number of those who purchased Cam Plus modules began complaining that they either won't focus or G5 handsets won't recognise them.

To add to LG's woes, Lenovo launched the modular Moto Z a few months later which trumped the G5 as far as modular capabilities were concerned. You will be able to attach a host of accessories funnily named Moto Mods™ to the back of Moto Z with the help of integrated magnets. As of now, Moto Mods™ include a Moto Insta-Share projector, a JBL SoundBoost speaker and Incipio offGRID™ Power Pack. The Moto Mods feature worked a lot better with the Moto Z than G5 Friends did with the LG G5.

Goodbye Cyanogen

On Christmas eve, when most companies and services were greeting their customers and showering goodies on them, Cyanogen dropped a bombshell out of nowhere. The company announced closure of all services and builds no later than 31st December.

As a custom operating system, CyanogenOS was once on its way to become among the top alternatives to Google's Android OS thanks to partnerships with the likes of Wileyfox, OnePlus and India's Micromax. However, things gradually soured leading up to its closure a few days ago. According to Steve Kondik, who was instrumental in turning Cyanogen from an open source project to a full fledged custom OS, the decline resulted from a few bad business deals inked by ex-CEO Kirt McMaster earlier this year.

As things stand, the Cyanogen team have now shut down their Seattle office, leaving their Palo Alto office as their sole brick and mortar hideout. The team also had to fire a few of their staff who couldn't relocate from Seattle and the move has probably saved some much needed money for them to consolidate and improve their efficiency. Cyanogen are now dedicating their efforts towards a new Lineage OS project which will borrow heavily from the CyanogenMod project.


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