As we reach the end of 2014, we remember the most notable devices of the year in a Hollywood inspired ceremony. Any similarities to films, celluloid or digital, is purely coincidental.
The “Exodus: Gods and Kings” award for Biggest, Most Magnificent Device
Just like the film named after it, it might have attracted more attention for its appearance and presentation, rather than its performance, but when it comes to sheer scale, this prize has got to go to the iPhone 6 Plus. Yes, we had heard that Apple was going the phablet way but few had expected the iPhone 6 Plus to be the size it was. Yes, it was a superb device and the first iPhone to last more than a day on a single charge but from the very day of its launch it could not get away from a cruel jibe: “hell, it looks like a Samsung.”
Runner up: The Galaxy Note 4, of course, which again stunned people with a magnificent display and amazing hardware muscle. And we would also like to put in a honorable mention for the Lenovo Vibe Z2 Pro which delivered a superb 6.0-inch display device with some neat design and interface touches.
The “Interstellar” award for device that People Liked but Could Not Understand
“Yes, very good but why?” was a question that accompanied BlackBerry’s comeback vehicle, the Passport, wherever it went. Why was it of that size? Why was the keyboard only three rowed? Why was there no space to accommodate call receive and call end buttons? Why was it so expensive? Many reviewers liked the device, but the queries continue to this day.
Runner up: The Samsung Galaxy Alpha. Once again people liked the device but could not understand who it was targeted at, why was it priced almost as much as the flagship Galaxy S5, why didn’t it come with a full HD display… you get the idea.
The “Expendables 3” award for One Sequel Too Many
We loved the device ourselves but it was hard to argue against the general consensus that Samsung had perhaps stretched the Galaxy magic a bit too far with the Galaxy S5. Those who had expected a radical reworking of the device in terms of design and interface were disappointed. The anti-plastic league raged and ranted against it, cynical judgement was passed on its bright TouchWiz interface and the cry of “all hardware, no apps” rang out again and again. It was simply a case of serving the same wine again to a restive audience.
Runner up: The HTC One M8 Eye. After the One M8 and the One E8, this was the third One of the year from the company with not too much radical change in terms of performance, specs or UI. Mind you, the EYE experience was eventually ported to other devices as well.
The “The Hunger Games – Mockingjay Part 1” award for the Sequel that was Better than the Original
If Samsung did not quite manage its sequels well, the same charge could not be levelled at Sony, who finally got a lot of things right with the Xperia Z3. The design was curvier than before, the camera an absolute ripper, the performance very good (we were so surprised by the battery life) and although the price was wince worthy, there was no denying that Sony had finally made a great Xperia Z.
Runner up: The first Lenovo Vibe X was a device known mainly for its thinness. Its successor, the Vibe X2 threw in a crazy layered designed and an octa core processor that redefined benchmarks. And it cost a whole lot lesser too!
The “The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies” award for Predictable Yet Still Awesome Sequel
Yes, we pretty much knew what it would offer well before it was a released – a better display, more stylus functionality, a more powerful display. And yet, we could not help but be swept away by the sheer awesomeness of the Samsung Galaxy Note 4. A little voice in our head told us that perhaps it was time for Samsung to do just a little more with its flagship phablet, but it was pretty much drowned out by the applause for a bevy of new features. Yes, it might be getting repetitive but unlike the Galaxy S series, the Note’s magic shows no sign of waning.
Runner Up: We are giving this to the Nokia Lumia 930. Yes, we had heard of a larger full HD display, a better camera and better specs, and Windows Phone 8.1 too. And yet it was difficult not to be amazed at the performance the device turned out. Yes, it was predictable. But hell, it was awesome too.
The “Fault Lies in Our Stars” award for the Surprise Low-Budget Hit of the Year
There were a number of candidates for this one, but in the end we decided to go with the Moto E, which pretty much opened up the “good performance, low price” segment with its combination of good display, smooth UI and minimalistic design at a surprisingly low price, easily made it one of the budget hits of the year.
Runner up: Improve the specs and design of the Moto E, pull down the price further, and you have the Xiaomi Redmi 1S. Pull the price up a bit but push up the specs too and add some good design and you have the Asus ZenFone 5. And that makes both these worthies runners up in this category.
The “Transformers: Age of Extinction” award for the Device that got Hammered By Critics and still was a Hit
When Micromax launched its Unite 2 device with a high-profile ad campaign, the reviewers were not exactly jumping with joy. The device did not get the greatest reviews and was critised for its design, its camera and compared unfavourably by many in comparison to the Moto E. Micromax, however, had the last laugh, selling more than a million units of the Unite 2.
Runner up: The Nokia Lumia 730 was criticised for being overpriced in an era in which the likes of Xiaomi, Lenovo and Asus were offering devices with better specifications at lower prices, but the consumers loved the funky colours and the bright AMOLED display, making one of the last Lumia devices to bear a Nokia branding a surprise hit.
The “300: Rise of an Empire” award for the Device With the highest Style Quotient
There were candidates like Samsung’s metal-tinged Galaxy Alpha and the wooden backed Moto X, but our vote went in the end to the one phone that turned heads whenever we put it on the table – Lenovo’s multi-layered Vibe X2, which brought a whole new look to phones by focusing on adding layers to the sides of the device.
Runner up: No, it did not surprise us as much as the first One (pun intended) did, but the HTC One M8 still was a remarkably good looking device. Some thought it too shiny. Others were too busy getting dazzled.
The “The Judge” award for Much-Hyped Device that did not Quite Live up to Expectations
Oh yes, we were expecting something really path breaking with the first Amazon phone, but in the end, for all its front facing camera magic, special shopping buttons and Amazon integration, the fact is that the Amazon Fire phone did feel a bit like a damp squib. Given what we had seen in the Kindle Fire series, we had seriously expected much more in terms of innovation and design. And so evidently had consumers.
Runner Up: So we know that a lot of people will be shocked at this but we had expected something pretty awesome from the sixth Nexus. The Nexus 6, however, surprised us more with its price tag than with its performance. Suddenly, the crown of being THE Android flagship did not sit too easily on a Nexus device, which to many seemed like another high-specced, high-priced device
The “Guardians of the Galaxy” Award for the New Superhero Brand in Techtown
It started the year as a company making its presence felt in China and ended the year as China’s numero uno in smartphones and one of the leading manufacturers all over the world. Yes, it was quite a year for Xiaomi, as the company rode high on the success of devices like the Mi 3, Redmi 1S and Mi 4 and an online-only model, even while tackling controversies about data being stored on Chinese servers and legal hassles with Ericsson. As 2014 made its way out of the calendar, Hugo Barra and Co. had plenty to smile about.
Runner up: This has to go to OnePlus, which made its presence felt with the outstanding OnePlus One, which like the Mi 3 and Mi 4, proved that flagship performance did not come at sky-high prices. Yes, people complained about the invitation-based sales model… and then went around trying to get an invite themselves.
The “Penguins of Madagascar” award for best Add On Device
Oh yes, 2014 was supposed to be the year of the wearable, but while it rained smart watches, tags and goggles, we found ourselves voting for what we think remains the best accessory for a smartphone, the Pebble Steel, which added some rock solid and yet classy design to the e-ink display running Pebble. It looked good, had great battery life and unlike some of the complex and more-powerful-on-paper devices out there, just worked. And kept working.
Runner Up: Smartwatches with the notable exception of the Pebble Steel were lumpy and looked like digital splats on the wrist, until the Moto 360 came along, oozing class and a “hey, it looks awesome as a watch too” goodness, not to mention some very interesting watchfaces. Yes, the hardware was not the greatest, the battery sucked more than a really solid lozenge, but Moto had proved that smartwatches could look gorgeous too.
The “Spectre (007)” award for We-Don’t-Know-What-it-is-but-it-will-be-Awesome Device
Right, this is going to sound predictable but we are expecting Apple to pull some seriously big rabbits out of its hat for the next iPhone. More megapixels on the camera? More pixels on the screen? More sensors? More app store censors? We know not, but what we do know is that come the new year, we will all be talking about the next iPhone. Already.
Runner up: We are handing this to the Xiaomi Mi 5 and the OnePlus Two (we assume they will be called that), because we just want to see how much more they can offer while keeping prices relatively affordable.
The “The Avengers: Age of Ultron Trailer” award for Best Preview of 2015 Product
And this one goes straight away to the product that made Tim Cook use the “And one more thing…” line, the Apple Watch. Yes, we expect it will have its critics, but for sheer style and impact, the Apple Watch launch was pretty much unmatched.
Runner Up: It came as a bolt from the blue, and brought many a sentimental tear to industry veterans. In the year when its mobile business went to Redmond, Nokia refused to lie down and die and surprised everyone with its Android tablet. Yes, accuse us of being a bunch of old fogies, but we are handing this one to Espoo for sheer surprise.