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Fast Charge: 2021’s biggest mobile developments

OPINION: From the M1-toting iPad Pro to Samsung’s foldable focus, 2021 has been packed with mobile innovations and developments.

It has been a long 12 months in the tech world and the effects of Covid-19, along with the worldwide chip shortage, are certainly still being felt. Innovation remains though, and 2021 has been packed with upgrades and improvements to all manner of mobile tech.

But what caught our eye the most? Let’s have a look and see.

The iPad is now far more powerful…but why?

The iPad Pro didn’t get a huge redesign this year (rumours suggest that’s coming in 2022) but it did get a new chip. Instead of building a chip specifically for the high-end tablet, Apple plucked the M1 from the MacBook Air and iMac 24.5-inch and popped it into the iPad Pro. On paper, the move was impressive.

And yes, in benchmarks the iPad Pro is a true powerhouse. It’s just a shame then that the iPadOS software doesn’t really let anyone fully utilise all the power and all the RAM available. Maybe iOS 16 will bring the answer?

Samsung gets the foldable phone right

2021 has been a big year for foldable phones. Not necessarily in terms of a load of new models, but in how improved they have been.

samsung galaxy z fold 3 half open
Galaxy Z Fold 3

Samsung is currently the heavyweight in this small sector and the two foldable phones it released this year were truly meteoric improvements over both their predecessors. They also happened to be the first two foldable phones we’d happily recommend to anyone who is happy to pay the, admittedly steep, entry price.

The big upgrades come in durability. Both the Z Fold 3 and the Z Flip 3 are the first water resistant foldables, they also have stronger constructions. These small changes make the phones far easier to slot into regular everyday life.

Google finally redesigns Android

Google announced Android 12 during its I/O conference in May and it heralded a new era for the software – at least that’s the idea.

Android 12 is the first big redesign of the software in years. The Material You feature lets you customise the software far more than before, with colours pulled from your wallpaper and injected into the newly designed widgets and other UI elements.

How many of these Android 12 elements make their way across to other brands’ versions of the software remains to be seen, but at least the Pixel has a fresh new look.

Google Pixel 6 vs Google Pixel 6 Pro
Google Pixel 6 vs Google Pixel 6 Pro

..and includes its own chipset inside the Pixel 6

Not only did Google redesign Android 12 for the Pixel 6, but it also fitted its latest flagship devices out with a chipset based on its own design. The Tensor SoC made its mark, ensuring the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro are excellent in terms of machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI). Features like the Magic Eraser are made possible by these advances.

The focus on AI is also seen elsewhere, with touting it heavily with its new Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chipset.

Apple finally adds ProMotion to the iPhone

It feels like we’ve been waiting an age for Apple to finally match many of the best Android phones around and add a 120Hz display onto the iPhone – and this year it finally happened.

As it has done with the iPad Pro line, the latest iPhone 13 Pro models are the first Apple phones to boast a ProMotion display that can adapt its refresh rating depending on the task at hand. It’s a small detail in the grand scheme of things, but the smoother scrolling and more responsive gaming are hard to ditch.

Snapdragon G3x Gen 1 in a gaming portable

Qualcomm is going after the Switch

Qualcomm hosted its now annual Tech Summit in Hawaii at the start of December and it was an event full of launches and talking points. Of course, there was the new flagship chipset that’ll power the majority of 2022 flagship Android phones along with an updated chip for ultra-portable 5G laptops.

But our attention was piqued the most by the Snapdragon G3x, a chip designed to power Nintendo Switch-like portable Android consoles. Qualcomm even showed off a prototype device, built by Razer, that highlighted what sort of devices we might see powered by this chip.

This is certainly something to look out for as we enter 2022 and it’ll certainly be exciting to see what’s in store.

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