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The Tech Highs and Lows of 2015

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Windows 10

The Tech Highs and Lows of 2015: From Twitter to Emojis

It’s been a heady, rocky and exciting year in the world of tech. From Windows 10 to Taylor Swift, we take a look at the highlights and lowlights

Windows 10 arrives… and is actually decent

They actually did it. They actually pulled it off. Sure, Microsoft’s frequent nagging to get users to upgrade to Windows 10 may have been annoying, but the end result was a new Windows OS that was – whisper it – really rather good.

Related: Windows 10 vs Windows 7

Windows 10 start

Having taken plenty of deserved flak for the cubist nightmare that was Windows 8, Microsoft calmed down a little with trying to woo tablet users and went back to basics, focusing on creating a smooth experience that worked for desktop users as well as the touchscreen crowd.

The Start menu made a triumphant return, Cortana made a promising debut, and best of all Microsoft made the upgrade free for a year for existing users.

It’s not perfect, but Windows 10 is a great upgrade and we were thrilled to hand it Product of the Year 2015 at the Trusted Reviews awards.

We want to marry the Samsung Galaxy S6

It may not be legal, practical or particularly advisable, but we want to do it anyway. This year Samsung produced the best smartphone on the market in the form of the Galaxy S6.

A beautiful all-around performer with an astonishingly good camera and a host of tasty future-looking features like Samsung Pay and wireless charging, the Galaxy S6 crushed the competition to be the deserving recipient of our Smartphone of the Year award.

Samsung Galaxy S6 camera

Sure, the battery life could be better, but we’ll allow a few rough edges. The Galaxy S6 is a superb phone and a huge highlight of our 2015.

Apple’s iPad Pro takes on the Microsoft Surface

The fight between tablets with keyboard attachments has kicked off. In the red corner is the Microsoft Surface, in the black and silver corner is Apple’s iPad Pro. Both angling to replace your laptop, these two will still be duking it out long into next year and beyond as new iterations are announced and released.

Which should you buy? Well, if it’s an actual laptop replacement you’re after then for our money it’s contest: the Surface Pro 4. Which will prove more successful, however, is another matter. We’re looking forward to seeing how these lines develop.

Emojis rule the world; resistance futile

Emojis have slipped into our online speech and syntax so seamlessly that it can be difficult to remember a time before they were commonplace. Even so, most people were caught by surprise when Oxford Dictionaries announced that it’s word of the year was the “Face with Tears of Joy” emoji, better known as “not actually a word”.

hollywood emoji

Really though, in a year when presidential candidates asked voters to express themselves in emojis, we shouldn’t really have been surprised. The omnipresence of Face with Tears of Joy and its brethren are really just indicative of the growing importance of visual culture and imagery in the era of mobile browsing. The landscape of communication is changing, and Oxford Dictionaries were right to pick up on this.

There was the obligatory spate of “death of culture” thinkpiece outrage, but pretty quickly the dust settled and the internet got back to the sort of thing it does best: arguing over how the word “emoji” should be pluralised.

The rise and rise of Instagram

The Facebook juggernaut rolls ever on as that little photo-sharing site it bought for a cool billion a couple of years ago continues to rise and rise. Instagram had a phenomenal 2015, reaching the milestone of 400 million users that saw it pulling ahead of Twitter (more on that later).

2015 was also the year that Instagram started to be a place of breaking news, epitomised by NASA’s decision to share its unprecedented stunning image of dwarf planet Pluto via Instagram. One thing’s for certain: the future is not only bright, it’s also got a Mayfair filter over it.

Lowlights

Apple gets told off by Taylor Swift

Well, this was embarrassing. Apple’s launch of its new streaming service came with much fanfare, especially at the news that it would be offering users their first three months free.

However, this excitement was marred a little by the news that this saving would be coming partially out of the pockets of the artists, who would be receiving not a penny in compensation for the free streams.

Taylor Swift

There was some outcry, but not even the head of Big Machine Records was able to get Apple to budge. Then, of course, Taylor Swift got involved. A few pulled albums and one open letter later, and the tech giant had changed its tune (pun semi-intended). It may have worked out amicably in the end, but it made for an ignominious launch for Apple’s music service.

Hacks, hacks, hacks

Lots of people, companies and things got hacked in 2015. It wasn’t just giants like TalkTalk, who suffered a particularly galling security breach, but also unexpected targets like Edinburgh City Council, a Jeep Cherokee, and even Betty’s Tea Room in Harrogate all experienced misery at the hands of hackers.

But of course, the most infamous hack of the year was suffered by extramarital dating specialists Ashley Madison, succinctly summed up by its tagline “Life is short. Have an affair”.

The result? 32 million users’ private data released into the wild, including, it seemed, that of users who had requested to have their accounts deleted and their details scrubbed. Worse still, investigation of the data revealed that a few of the site’s female users have not have been, in a technical sense, real people.

Not 2015’s finest moment by any means...

Ashley Madison

Twitter starts to flounder

In stark comparison to Instagram’s continued blossoming, Twitter had a rather depressing 2015. Studies of its userbase indicated that actual active accounts (i.e. people who are actually logging in and using the site on a regular basis) may have peaked in August 2014, and have been tapering off ever since.

The reasons for this decline are complicated and difficult to pick out, though one writer here makes a convincing case for the culprit being Twitter’s oft-acknowledged harassment problem.

The firm’s stock reached an all time low this month, and cutesy cosmetic touches like changing the “Favourite” star icon to a “Like” heart don’t seem to be addressing the problem (shocker). Twitter has some work ahead if it wants to have a better 2016.

What are your tech highlights and lowlights for 2015? Let us know in the comments section below

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