Mobile devices of 2015: The good, the bad and the meh


It's been a fairly solid year for mobile technology – from Apple's launch into wearables to Microsoft's Surface Pro 4 tablet, to a BlackBerry powered by Android. 

Smartphones aren't the only player in the mobility game now, and businesses are thinking about ways that wearables might be able to help them boost productivity and efficiency. 

We've rounded up a list of the most anticipated mobile releases of 2015 including wearables, tablets and smartphones. Some of those devices finished this year strong, while others fizzled out as soon as they hit the market.

Apple Watch loses momentum, Google Glass changes course

This year showed us that wearables encompass way more than fitness trackers. Smartglasses, smartwatches and augmented reality headsets are vying for a bigger piece of the wearable pie. 

Google Glass Explorer Edition | Source: Dan Leveille

When Google shut down its Glass Explorer program in early 2015, things weren't looking good for smartglasses. Since then, though, rumors have circulated about a possible enterprise-focused Google Glass product, and recently, reports have surfaced that Google is working on three Glass successors.

Microsoft has been consistently generating buzz about its augmented reality headset HoloLens in 2015 – though no product is actually available yet. Some onlookers have even gone so far as to say that this AR tech could replace desktops

While smartglasses and AR tech have enjoyed a fair amount of speculation in 2015, smartwatches have experienced their best year yet, and they may well be on their way to becoming champions of wearable tech.

Apple Watch | Source: Apple

Apple CEO Tim Cook first unveiled the Apple Watch in March, and it nearly broke the Internet. The smartwatch was officially released in April, and there were so many pre-orders that some people weren't projected to receive their Watch for months.

Companies like Salesforce and Evernote rushed to make apps for the device, but by October, app makers slowed down development due to lack of incentive to make apps for the Apple Watch. This happened despite an operating system update in September for the Watch that allowed for the development of native apps.

Though Apple Watch has stayed out of the news for quite a bit, it's still the number one smartwatch on the market, according to a recent report from Berg Insight. A second iteration of the Watch is expected to come next year.

Apple competitors didn't stand still this year, either. Samsung launched the Gear S2 smartwatch, and while it didn't receive as much attention as the Apple Watch, Yahoo Tech claimed it's the best smartwatch of 2015.

Yahoo cited the Gear S2's ease of use and compatibility with any Android device running 4.4 or higher as the reasons it beat Apple Watch. The round face of the watch, too, seemed to add to the appeal.

The Pebble Time gets less attention than the others but it's easily the most affordable smartwatch on the list ($199) and Wareable's pick for "tech nerds."

One of the biggest enterprise use concerns with wearables has been battery life. Pebble Time promises seven full days of use without charge. The smartwatch also works with iOS and Android devices, so it appeals to a wider user base.

IPhone loses momentum, other platforms keep trying

Smartphones had a decent year as well, with several of the mobile heavy hitters launching new devices. Some were more well-received than others, and one smartphone carries the weight of an entire company's future in handsets. Here were the most notable phone releases this year:

Apple's iPhone 6s 

iPhone 6s | Source: Apple

Apple's second iteration of the iPhone 6 didn't come with as much fanfare as it received for its Watch and iPad Pro, and that might be because there's not much of a difference between the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6s for users.

Unless of course, you count the pressure-sensitive Force Touch feature that TechInsider recently called "useless." Force Touch basically allows users to press hard on their screen to access shortcuts or get a peek of an app before they fully access it.

To be fair, the iPhone 6s does boast a better camera and a power-efficient A9 chip. In October, however, Apple did confess that the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus use two different chips, one more efficient than the other. The differences in power are relatively small, but the lack of transparency created uneasy feelings in iPhone enthusiasts and analysts.

Lumia 950/Lumia 950 XL

Microsoft released its Lumia 950 and Lumia 950 XL smartphones in November, and a lot of the press the launch got included the buggy Windows 10 Mobile build that came along with the phones.

Despite this, the phones have been on the market for nearly a month now, and they look promising for enterprise users. Panos Panay, corporate vice president for Surface Computing at Microsoft, boasted that the Lumia 950 can be turned into a PC using the Microsoft Display Dock and Continuum for Phones.

BlackBerry Priv

November was a big month for smartphone releases, as BlackBerry's first Android device Priv was launched. Prior to release, BlackBerry CEO John Chen explained that BlackBerry's security plus Android's OS could be just what the enterprise needs.

BlackBerry Priv | Source: BlackBerry

As anyone who keeps up with tech news knows, BlackBerry hasn't had the best few years. Forbes, for one, is eager to see the sales numbers on the Priv, especially considering Chen once said BlackBerry would ditch handsets altogether if they didn't turn a profit within a year.

The Verge reviewed the Priv and gave it an overall decent score. The nostalgic physical keyboard was a plus for the reviewer, and the camera was great, but the high price tag ($699) made it less appealing. We'll see if this Android/BlackBerry hybrid can save BlackBerry's handset business.

Apple stumbles with iPad Pro while Microsoft gets mixed marks for new Surfaces

Three tablets were released this year that caught our eye: the much-anticipated iPad Pro, Surface Pro 4 and Google's Pixel C.

Apple's nod to the enterprise came in the form of the iPad Pro this year, and it has received mixed reviews. 

This 12.9-inch tablet was thought to be geared toward business users due to its large size and promotion by Microsoft Corporate Vice President for Office Kirk Koenigsbauer at the Apple event. Plus, the iOS 9 split view, slide over and picture-in-picture multitasking capabilities are nice features for business users.

But in true Apple fashion, the efforts to reach enterprise users were lacking. Some believe that while the specs boasted by Apple for the iPad Pro are clearly enterprise-friendly, the consumer-focused iOS powering the device isn't enough for enterprise users

While Apple struggled to tackle the enterprise, Microsoft had a good year for tablet sales, largely due to enterprise demand. According to Strategy Analytics, its Surface tablets shipments increased by 58 percent in the first nine months of 2015.

Microsoft released its Surface Pro 4 tablet in November, and the reviews are in. One reviewer on TechRadar claimed Microsoft got it just right in its fourth iteration of the Surface Pro tablet. A slimmer design and hardy mobile processors make for a sleek product with all the capabilities of a proper tablet, according to the review.

One reviewer on Engadget claimed that, yes, you can ditch your laptop for the Surface Pro 4.

Surface Pro 4 | Source: Microsoft

However, the new Surface devices have some technical problems that Microsoft hasn't been able to fix. Until it does, the new Surfaces might not take off like Microsoft might have hoped.

Google is also vying for the enterprise market with its tablets. Back in September, Google announced a ton of new Android devices, including the Google Pixel C tablet. There was speculation in the beginning that this device could seriously compete with the likes of the iPad Pro and Microsoft Surface, but now that the product is on the market, mixed reviews abound.

Reviewers from EngadgetThe Verge and Wired agree that Google made obvious errors with the Pixel C. While they like the design, the idea of an Android OS on the tablet doesn't work, according to the authors. The Android apps don't display well on a screen of that size, the tablet needs more apps and it should have multitasking capabilities, said the authors.

Maybe this will give Google the motivation to step up its Android game when it comes to tablets in the coming year.

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