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2016 in review: The year in Android

Michael Simon | Jan. 3, 2017
Virtual reality, Google's Pixel phones, exploding Note7s, and everything else that made 2016 a year to remember.

Android is in a very different place than it was when 2016 began. While the last 12 months were filled with much of the usual pomp and circumstance surrounding the release of new handsets, connected gadgets, and OS refreshes, the state of Android has never been more promising or less predictable. Google stepped out from behind the curtain and into the spotlight. Headsets took over smartwatches as the trend of the moment. And Samsung’s phablet woes opened the door for smaller players to make big gains.

Through it all, one thing was constant: Android’s dominance. Throughout 2016’s wild ride, the mighty platform continued its reign, extending its penetration to a near-90 percent of the global market, and all but ending the OS wars once and for all. And somehow it still seems like Android is still just getting its feet wet. So before we step into what’s shaping up to be an exciting 2017 for Android, let’s take a look at everything that made this year so memorable:

The great exploding Galaxy Note7 debacle

For years, Samsung has dominated the end-of-summer headlines, positioning its best-in-class Note phablet as the definitive iPhone competitor. And this year was no exception; the Note7 was something of a Galaxy S7 Edge Pro, offering a slightly bigger 5.7-inch Super AMOLED curved screen with a similar metal chassis and specs, but adding an iris scanner and upgraded S Pen support. Initial reviews were stellar (including Greenbot’s), and it looked like it was going to eat the iPhone 7 Plus' lunch.

note 7 house fire 

Images like this became all too common in the weeks following the Galaxy Note7 launch.

But the headlines quickly changed. A few weeks after its launch, pictures of charred phones began appearing on customers’ Facebook pages. Then a Southwest jet was evacuated after a Note started smoking. And a Jeep caught fire. Dozens of incidents and two recalls later, Samsung officially halted sales of the Note7 and urged anyone who had bought one to return it. It remains to be seen what kind of long-term impact the debacle will have on the Galaxy or Note brands, but all signs are that Samsung is gearing up to release a splashy slate of handsets in 2017.

Android Wear 2.0 delayed

At its I/O conference in May, Google seemed wholly committed to the wrist. While the early developer preview of Android Wear 2.0 might not have been the kind of dramatic overhaul some were hoping for, it was definitely a serious upgrade to the somewhat rushed first effort, smoothing out the rough edges and adding a bunch of cool new features designed to make the next round of wearables act as smart as they looked. Among the new additions to Google’s wearable platform included Play Store support, richer watch faces for iOS users, and a decreased reliance on a nearby phone. Also tweaked were the user interface and the messaging experience, bringing them more in line with Android proper.


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