Friday , February 16 2018

Chris’ Best of 2017

In many ways, 2017 has been more iterative than anything else; rather than any truly new, revolutionary products, we’ve seen iterative upgrades of existing product lines; Samsung’s Galaxy S8 wasn’t hugely different to last year’s Galaxy S7, this year’s Pixel 2 isn’t hugely different to the Pixel, and the companies that made successful Android devices this year are – for the most part – those that did well last year, too.

In a year that’s turned out this way, it’s hard to identify the best things, but there have definitely been some favourites.

Favourite Mobile of 2017

This year, I’ve had the privilege of using many of the top-flight phones released in Australia, and many others too. From the $1,500 premium devices to the $79 prepaid options, there’s been a wide field this year, and neither extreme has produced a clear stand-out.

At the budget end, Nokia’s 3310 3G certainly attracted its share of attention. Though it doesn’t run Android, and isn’t even a smartphone, tech nostalgia counts for a lot, and that alone will ensure that a good many of these phones are sold, even if they aren’t ultimately used all that much.

At the premium end, Samsung’s Galaxy S8 is undoubtedly a market favourite. Everywhere you look there’s people with a Samsung, and most often, it’s a Galaxy S8, followed closely by last year’s model (and variants), then the Note 8.

Picking my favourite phone right now is easy; I’m using the Pixel 2, and using it in preference to a number of other options, but it’s only been available for a month or so. Picking a favourite based on the most recent (and thus technologically best) release wouldn’t be fair, so I’ve gone with the phone that I used for the longest period this year.

Without further ado, my favourite phone for the year was Huawei’s P10. I first picked up one of these at MWC in February (it was a media freebie at their launch event, actually) and once I got back home, I set it up in early March (for the review linked above) and used it daily until August. I can’t remember the last time I used a review phone for five months

Huawei’s P10 will be a controversial choice, but ultimately it isn’t a hard one. Though I wasn’t immediately a fan of their take on Android (EMUI certainly has its negatives), it grew on me, and the combination of battery life, great camera, small and pocketable size, and the front-mounted fingerprint sensor won me over.

No other phone this year put a tick in so many boxes. Samsung’s Galaxy S8 was great in all regards except for the battery life (not great) and the stupid location of the fingerprint sensor (smudged photos, anyone?) The Pixel 2 is great too, and the battery life stellar, but I can’t help but feel Google and HTC could’ve squeezed quite a bit more screen into the phone instead of giant bezels.

Job well done, Huawei.

Best of other gadgets

In Android-specific land, the choices for “other gadgets” are a bit more limited than they once were. Android tablets really aren’t a commonly announced product anymore, and though wearables remain popular amongst enthusiasts, I think it’s also fair to say that smartwatches haven’t exactly achieved mainstream appeal.

With that introduction, though, there are a few gadgets I’ve really enjoyed using this year, most of them actually announced this year and some probably at the tail end of 2016 but released more widely in 2017. Here’s a brief rundown:

  • Sony’s RX100m5 digital camera was a firm favourite. I took it to Barcelona early in the year, and I’ve used it since at home for review photos, family outings and more. This is the digital camera in a compact form which convinced me to give away a full-frame DSLR. I simply don’t need one anymore. Find it for about $1,000, or less online.
  • Bose QC35 II wireless headphones are probably (depending on your measure) third or fourth generation noise cancelling headphones from one of the best audio brands around. Pairing effortless (and configurable) noise cancellation with comfortable all-day wear, built-in Google Assistant and a premium look that makes you feel special, I can’t recommend these headphones enough. Look around and find them for $399 or so.
  • The best tablet you can buy in 2017 was actually released in 2014. Sony has been clearing the decks and selling the Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact for a couple of hundred dollars from its stores and online, and if you can still get one, it’s one of the best tablets you can grab for your commute. It has a powerful processor, battery that lasts forever and a day, and though the internal storage is a bit limited (16GB is small by anyone’s measure) you can chuck a MicroSD card in for an additional 256GB of storage for your movies, TV shows, music and more. If you want something different, grab a cheap tablet from our guide to buying one online — there’s so many options.

That’s my selection of what I thought was the best gear this year. There’s plenty of honorable mentions, and probably so many I’d name that it would render the concept meaningless.

Stand by over the coming weeks, as the rest of the guys will bring you their favourites of the year, before we start looking ahead to what we’re going to see in the coming months out of CES and Mobile World in February 2018!

Chris Rowland   Editor and Publisher

Chris has been at the forefront of smartphone reporting in Australia since smartphones were a thing, and has used mobile phones since they came with giant lead-acid batteries that were "transportable" and were carried in a shoulder bag. He saw the transition from AMPS to GSM, loved the Motorola StarTac, and got into Palm technologies in a big way. The arrival some years later of the original iPhone, and then the early Androids, awoke a new interest in mobile technology, and Chris has been writing about it since.

Today, Chris publishes one of Australia's most popular technology websites, Ausdroid. His interests include mobile (of course), as well as connected technology and how it can make all our lives easier.

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