And just like that, 2016 is almost over. The year has been a rollercoaster ride for many people, and probably won’t be looked at fondly by any stretch of the imagination. It’s also been a big year for tech in the Philippines, both good and bad, and today we’ll be taking a look back at the stories that made the headlines in 2016:
Dual camera technology comes of age
Smartphones with two rear cameras aren’t new – LG’s Optimus 3D and HTC’s Evo 3D both had dual-cameras on their backs, though their purpose was a little different than the ones on phones today. Despite this, they were commercial flops, and it wasn’t until the arrival of devices like HTC’s One M8 and Huawei’s Honor 6 Plus when the real potential of having two rear cameras showed itself.
This year we saw companies like LG and Huawei release dual-camera devices like the G5 and the P9 at the beginning of the year, and their ranks grew bigger each quarter. And while the dual-camera trend was seen as a gimmick by many people in the tech industry, even Apple has embraced the trend with their iPhone 7 Plus.
Expect a lot more phones with dual-cameras in the next months, in all sorts of price brackets – ASUS’ Zenfone 3 Zoom will probably debut with a price tag under 20K when it’s announced in CES in a few short weeks, while local companies are probably going to release their own dual-camera smartphones to compete with Starmobile’s Knight Spectra that was released a few months ago.
The third telco that never was
To say that the Philippines is hungry for a third telco to compete with Smart and Globe is an understatement of epic proportions. People are so hungry for a third choice that they’re willing to chuck commonsense out the window at even the hint of a third player coming in to save them from both telcos.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case this year. Australian telco Telstra withdrew from their supposed partnership with San Miguel Corporation after talks collapsed, and despite initially promising to go at it alone, SMC suddenly decided to call it quits.
The company sold its telco assets that included the highly lucrative 700MHz bandwith to Globe and PLDT. For their part the two telcos pledged to make good use of the spectrum to improve their internet services, but the people still hunger for a third telco to challenge the status quo. While there have been new franchises approved by congress lately, none of these have materialized into a third player, unfortunately. Hopefully that will change next year.
The Galaxy Note 7’s explosive and unexpected end
When Samsung launched the Galaxy Note 7, the device was on track to become the best big phone that we’ve ever seen. It was the best phone that we’ve ever seen from the Korean brand.
That was before the phone started exploding for unknown reasons. This triggered an unprecedented product recall that encompassed around 2.5 million devices worldwide. Samsung re-released safe Galaxy Note 7’s to the public in an incredibly short amount of time, an achievement made possible by the company’s logistical prowess.
Unfortunately, the second batch of supposed “safe” Galaxy Note 7s also started exploding, which prompted Samsung to announce the permanent withdrawal of the Galaxy Note 7 in stores. While Samsung has been tight lipped about what caused the problems in the Galaxy Note 7, it’s been speculated that the Korean giant pushed the boundaries of design too far in their efforts to capitalize on Apple’s lack of innovation and vision in their recent releases.
The silver lining in all of this is that Samsung will be pulling out all the stops in their next big smartphone reveal, the Galaxy S8, in Barcelona, Spain during Mobile World Congress next year. You can bet that the Korean giant is looking to put the explosive past of the Note 7 behind them, and what better way to do that than release a stellar flagship?
Xiaomi leaves the Philippines
While Chinese tech player Xiaomi has been enjoying brisk sales in China and nearby ASEAN territories, they’ve been relatively quiet in our shores. In June, we found out why – apparently the company has quietly pulled out of the Philippines.
It wasn’t entirely surprising – the company hasn’t been doing well in our country in terms of sales, and the entirely all-online model hasn’t meshed well with the buying habits of Filipinos. Still, their absence has been felt by Filipinos that want high-end devices for cheap, and despite local resellers picking up the slack, the greater gadget buying public would prefer buying direct from the company themselves, and availing of the official warranty from the company.
Facebook Live hits mainstream, almost guarantees to kill PPV’s
While Facebook announced their livestreaming service in August of last year, it wasn’t until this year that the social media giant made the feature available to everyone.
With the ability to livestream anytime, anywhere, people started to use the new feature in surprising ways. Streaming gameplay is one of those things, but the most surprising (and most disruptive) use of the new feature is streaming paid content, free, straight to the masses.
Until Facebook finds a way to block and limit these streams in real time, the feature certainly means the death of traditional pay-per-view streams. It wasn’t difficult to find livestreams of Manny Pacquiao’s latest fights, which is what will happen moving forward. What’s the use of paying for the right to watch a hotly anticipated fight when you can find a free stream in your Facebook feed on the same day?
Selfies become OPPO’s new niche
Chinese manufacturer OPPO has been present in the Philippines since 2014, but it’s only this year that they’ve managed to rack up record sales numbers thanks to an unlikely vertical: selfie smartphones.
For the past year OPPO’s recent releases relied heavily on their selfie capabilities to sell smartphones to the public. While we were a little skeptical of their strategy at the beginning, the result of their efforts are hard to deny – the brand has gained massive ground in both marketshare and mindshare, enough that their domestic rival Vivo, have started on the same path.
You can expect more selfie-focused smartphones from top tier players by next year – Samsung’s Galaxy C9 Pro’s eventual release in January will kick off a year filled with selfie phones.
Modular phones hit major stumbling blocks
The promise of being able to upgrade your phones just like a consumer desktop has long been a dream for many consumers. Google’s Project ARA was once heralded as the future of smartphones, and consumers had long hoped that Google’s oft delayed project would finally bear fruit.
It wasn’t meant to be sadly, as Google cancelled the project back in September. LG’s ambitious modular phone, the G5, hasn’t been as successful as the company hoped and signs point to the Korean company shelving the modular aspect of the phone for the G6.
The only successful, modular phone on the market right now is Motorola’s Moto Z family of devices, and to be honest calling that particular phone modular is a stretch. Still, it is something – hopefully other players will follow suit with their own modular ideas next year.