Recapping 2016: XDA’s Most Popular Opinions
As we counted down the remaining days of 2016, we asked you, our readers, to give us your opinion on a wide range of topics – from the best application, game, and smartphone of the year to the biggest disappointment of the year.
These discussions generated fervent debate among our readers – no surprise given the diversity of opinions colored by individual preferences, experiences, and location. While the more popular opinions garnered a lot of affirmative responses, we were surprised by the arguments presented in some of the minority viewpoints. Whether or not we agree with your view, we certainly appreciate the time and effort you’ve lent to voice your opinion and participate in the discussion.
Without further ado, let’s look back at what readers of XDA answered the questions we posed during our ‘2016 in Review’ discussion series:
For the first question in the series, we decided to start off a simple topic – What was the best app of 2016? Given the drought of highly publicized applications released last year, we decided against restricting discussion to apps released only in 2016, and instead expanded the scope to include any application that you found most useful.
The most popular opinion for the Best App of 2016 is the ever-popular third-party launcher – Nova Launcher. We expected an application such as Nova Launcher to this category in the end, but nevertheless we couldn’t help but nod our heads in agreement with our readers. Nova Launcher is among the most feature complete custom launchers, with the flexibility to run a no-frills minimalist setup or extensively customizing various aspects to mimic even the Pixel Launcher. Towards the end of the year, Nova Launcher also celebrated its 5th anniversary, which is where the stable builds brought many Pixel features and support for the latest Android 7.1 functionality such as launcher shortcuts.
Honorable mention also goes out to XDA Labs, our own in-house developed application distribution alternative, which also doubles up as a convenient way to access the forums and News Portal. It’s free and ad-free, so there’s nothing to lose in checking it out.
Continuing the trend from above, we then asked you your opinion on the best game of 2016.
This particular topic attracted a plethora of differing opinions, which is quite understandable since mobile gaming has expanded to include thousands of titles and a multitude of different genres. Every individual has their own taste, and what one person may deem the best game may not be the best for another, but that’s fine.
Some of the more popular opinions mentioned Critical Ops, Deus Ex GO, Vainglory and Clash Royale as their favorite games of the year. But the title of the best game of 2016 would have to go to Pokémon GO – love it or hate it, its popularity is undeniable.
Best Phones of 2016
Arguing over whose smartphone is better is a time old tradition of smartphone enthusiasts. Of course, given the wide variety of smartphones released each year, we had to segregate the Best Phone of 2016 category into three different price points: Best Flagship, Best Mid Ranger and Best Budget.
When it came to flagships, fans of the OnePlus 3 made their voice loud and clear. Though some might dispute the OnePlus 3 being included in the discussion given its price, the phone featured specifications that were highly competitive with other flagship devices at the time of its release. Coupled with its relatively low price, it should come as no surprise that so many people vouched for the device. Honorable mention goes to the ZTE Axon 7 as an oft-cited alternative to the OnePlus 3.
The Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge also saw some love as the phone of choice for those of us with heavier coffers. Many users mentioned that they would have nominated the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 if it wasn’t for the phone’s explosive nature. To our surprise, the Google Pixel and Pixel XL saw relatively few mentions, as did the HTC 10. On the other hand, the Moto Z (and Moto Z family) did see some attention.
For mid range devices, the decision was more difficult to make. A few years ago, the debate was a lot more simple given the relatively little attention OEMs used to pay towards this segment. But Xiaomi pulled out all their stops with the Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 (with the Snapdragon 650), and was our readers mid-range phone of the year. This is despite the fact that the device is priced in the budget category – it’s just that good. Its performance is nothing like your typical budget phone, and I agree with the sentiment wholeheartedly. The phone stands uncontested in the budget end, and by virtue of its performance, it makes for a great mid-range phone without the mid-range pricing.
This was a tough question to ask, seeing that smartwatches did not have a stellar 2016. Sales were dropping and consumer interest was lowering, so naturally OEMs reacted by not releasing many new smartwatches.
The Samsung Gear S3 Frontier LTE did win out in the end, though. This is perhaps the only popular smartwatch that can fully function without needing a smartphone to babysit it. This smartphone-less, smart functionality is thanks to the watch’s LTE support. The rest of the specifications sheet is impressive with features like the rotating bezel complementing Tizen OS UI navigation. While it’s a shame that Samsung’s Gear smartwatches do not come in Android Wear variants, perhaps this decision might actually be for the better.
If you thought smartwatch options were limited, try naming the tablets released in 2016. It made little sense to ask the Best Tablet question here – there were barely any to choose from. The limited options gave way to limited sales and popularity, which is a vicious cycle that tablets have entered into.
That is a reason in and of itself why the Android tablet’s decline persisted this year. Smartphones are getting bigger and our use for dedicated tablets are shrinking by the day with the advent of Smart TV’s, smartwatches, and now Home Assistants. Furthermore, people find that tablets end up lasting much longer than smartphones, thus giving them less of a reason to buy a new one. With Chromebooks also entering the picture – and with Android application support to boot – we expect this trend to continue into 2017.
Honorable mention does go to the NVIDIA SHIELD K1, which many people agreed to be a good purchase within the current limited options, despite it not being a 2016 product.
Given the popularity of the OnePlus 3 as mentioned earlier, we were not surprised to see OnePlus win the most improved OEM of 2016 category. This opinion comes derives from them bouncing back strongly after a dismal 2015. But due credit should go towards their attempt at an open smartphone platform, which helps soothe the wounds of the bitter Nexus enthusiast.
Honorable mention also goes to HTC. The HTC One M9 was caught in the crosshairs for the Snapdragon 810 debacle, but the HTC 10 flew under the radar despite how impressive it was. HTC’s mid-range portfolio was rather lacking this year, with the OEM choosing to theoretically-refresh-but-practically-degrade this segment with the release of the HTC One A9s.
As was the general theme of 2016, we saw a lot of disappointing things happen this year.
The general consensus of our community was in naming the death of the Nexus line as the worst OEM decision last year. Google’s decision to replace the Nexus with the Pixel brand meant spelled the death of the truly open device many enthusiasts had come to love. What happens for 2017 is still up in the air, but seeing how the Pixel duo are resonating better with the general audience than any previous Nexus phone ever did gives us little hope on a revival.
(Dis)Honorable mention goes to the removal of micro-SD card slots and the loss of the 3.5mm headphone jack in some devices. To be fair, the removal of micro-SD card support has been an ongoing process, so this does not really qualify. But on the other hand, the loss of the 3.5mm headphone jack port on some very popular phones, and the reported removal of the port on future phones in 2017 just leaves us with one word — Ouch!
We saw two Android version releases this year: the major Android 7.0 update and then the minor Android 7.1 update. Many would agree that Android as an OS is a lot more mature than what it once was, but that does not mean we cannot not enjoy a new feature or two rolling out across the board.
Double Tap Recents to switch to the last used application won the best new feature of Android last year. This features increases the speed with which we multitask between applications. Granted, this feature has been available through custom ROMs and Xposed modifications for a while now, but it is always nice to see Google and OEMs bake these features directly into the stock OS.
This category was an interesting one to discuss. As is natural, we end up expecting a lot based on our needs and wants; only to end up with disappointed when something fails to live up to our expectation.
Surprisingly, the Google Pixel and the Google Pixel XL have been the biggest disappointment of 2016 according to our users. Users mentioned that they expected something more appealing in terms of build quality seeing as this was to be Google’s answer to the iPhone. What we got was indeed Google’s answer to the iPhone – but with the iPhone’s signature large bezels and equally large price tag.
And of course, there’s no way we can leave out the Samsung Galaxy Note 7. The phone was initially the exact opposite of disappointment, but public opinion quickly turned when news of the phone’s explosiveness spread like wildfire.
2016 was a very eventful year and will be remembered for years to come. We would like to thank all our readers for supporting us through the year. Stay tuned as we kick start 2017 with more discussions – and let your voice be heard!