Poll of the week: What were the highlights and lowpoints of 2021?

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.

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