2015 was a big year for Ausdroid. This is the first year we attended international events, first with Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, then through multiple phone launches in Singapore and London, then IFA in Berlin and of course the big ones: Google I/O in San Francisco, which of course included a visit to the Googleplex, and a subsequent invitation to the launch of the 2015 Nexus phones and Pixel C.
Across all those countries and events, we have seen some stunning stuff, visited some beautiful and interesting new places and met lots of people in the tech industry, from tech reporters to the co-founder of Google, Larry Page and of course current CEO of Google Sundar Pichai, all of whom I grabbed a selfie with if I could. It’s worth noting that I never saw myself as a selfie person until this year, but that’s what I get and hey, it’s made me appreciate those front-facing cameras on phones a lot more.
What did I like from this year? Let’s start from the top.
1. HTC Vive.
VR took off for me this year when I took a look at the Samsung Gear VR, it was good, but it was only when I put on the HTC Vive at Mobile World Congress that I was truly blown away – this is what VR is going to be, it’s immersive, lag free and wonderful.
HTC, in partnership with Valve, has created a fantastic experience that, come April when retail units go on-sale, will have me lining up to update my PC and buy a unit. There’s a number of pieces of software that HTC and Valve demoed to me at MWC and Jason at IFA that were just stunning, even if they were just proofs of concept, and they definitely whet our appetite when it comes to VR.
HTC hasn’t yet brought the Vive to Australia as part of their world tour, but we continue to hope they will soon. If you get an opportunity to try it out – do it.
2. Mattel View-Master.
If the HTC Vive is the best VR experience, then Google’s Cardboard platform is the one that will bring it to the masses, from cheap headsets made of cardboard to the Mattel View-Master at $50 a pop Cardboard is a versatile platform but you get what you pay for and after checking out most of the Cardboard viewers available the View-Master is worth it.
The best thing about Cardboard is that it’s cheap and potentially available to anyone with a phone and we’re seeing new and interesting software still being released to Google Play all the time, from games, educational titles and even just new ways to see and experience the world. We’re getting new content all the time and I love it.
3. Huawei Watch.
Android Wear is still relatively young, and though it has been around for almost 2 years, Google is still innovating with new and revamped features in terms of software. What vendors like Huawei have done though is design the absolute hell out of the Huawei Watch.
The Huawei Watch is by far the best looking watch out there, it’s also light, comfortable and with that sapphire crystal display, it’s nigh on unbreakable.
4. Huawei Nexus 6P.
This is the year I found a Nexus phone I could live with for a year and not look at other phones with envy as they brought much better camera options. Google and Huawei have finally nailed the camera here, from the awesome 240fps slow-motion to burst capture or even just those gorgeous still shots I can now capture. That camera is killer.
What Huawei did however is far more important: they designed and built one sexy phone. It’s sleek, svelte and comfortable to hold. It’s also fast as lightning. Huawei has impressed the hell out of me this year, their hardware manufacturing processes are absolutely world-class, they proved this with the P8 back in April and again with the Mate S, G8 and MediaPad M2 in September. They’re are at least on par with HTC, or very close to beating them at this game and it’s going to get interesting next year between these two and I can’t wait to see what both have to offer.
5. Google Photos.
If there was one piece of software which really changed my usage patterns it was Google’s new Photos service/app they launched (re-launched?) at Google I/O.
I was already using Photos (when it was part of Google+) to back up my photos and loving the occasional Auto-Awesome picture or GIF that was generated, but Photos has taken it up a notch. The introduction of unlimited storage for pictures up to 16MP was fantastic and add to that the face and location detection that allows you to simply search a city you visited or a person you know to get all the pics is mind blowing. The recent addition of shared albums has taken it up another notch further.
With the camera question on Android phones well and truly solved by at least Samsung, LG and Google – with even Huawei showing their goods on the pretty darn good P8, the question is what’s next?
2016 is the year we’re going to see a lot of exciting things in Android, mobile technology and technology in general and more excitingly we’re going to be there to see it. We have CES coverage coming up in a couple of weeks, and it appears we have Mobile World Congress locked in too. We’re hoping to get to Google I/O (everything crossed) and even IFA again – and maybe some more stuff in between.
We began our Patreon campaign this year as well, which we’re hoping will help to achieve three goals: get rid of ads on the site, get us to events and lastly, maybe do Ausdroid full time – and you can help with that, a $1 per month from each reader and we’re there.