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Fast Charge: Retro iPhones and forgettable foldables top 2020’s biggest mobile disappointments

2020’s been a weird year and that remains true in the world of mobile phones where we’ve seen some key developments, not all of them positive.

These have included everything from an ongoing tit for tat battle between telecoms heavyweight Huawei and the US government, to OnePlus spurting out more phones than any of us expected. But for us here at Trusted Towers, there have been five key massive disappointments that really need fixing in 2021.

A guy standing on a black stage with 5G displayed on a screen behind

5G’s still not fully here

5G is amazing. There’s not getting round that. The networking tech offers gigabit-per-second data speeds that make 4G look outright archaic. It also opens the door for key things you couldn’t do before, like streaming games over the cloud on services such as Stadia and GeForce Now or watching Netflix in 4K on the go.

Which is why it’s been a drag that the tech hasn’t really taken off in the UK yet. Sure the networks have done a decent job expanding which locations have it, but adoption is still low and we’re yet to make the jump to mmWave. For those out of the know, this is an even faster version of 5G than the version currently used in the UK.

The pandemic has also made using it a little pointless, with most of us locked up tight in our flats with Wi-Fi and ethernet.

Motorola Razr

Foldables are on a Razr’s edge

It’s no secret, many of the team at Trusted Reviews have never fully been sold on the concept of foldables. I myself described them as a “mini-disc technology” on more than one occasion this year. Which for young people means a bit of tech that’ll be redundant / superseded by something better before it gets good or mainstream.

And this year the evidence suggests I’m right. Despite massive hype for the next-gen Galaxy Fold and Motorola’s Razr, foldable phones still haven’t become an established category in the world of mobile. This in part is because of their prohibitive price, we’re talking over a grand, but also because the companies making them still can’t seem to release them without some gaping issue around the folding mechanism.

Which is why they earn a place as one of this year’s biggest mobile disappointments.

Related: Best phones

iPad Air 4

The iPad still doesn’t have a real rival

The tablet market hasn’t been booming for a while, with most research firms reporting a gradual decrease in sales every quarter. This is in part because people are choosing to hold onto their tablets longer before upgrading. But I can’t help but think it’s also down to the lack of variety.

Since Google formerly gave up making tablets many moons ago there’s not been a real iPad rival outside of the Microsoft Surface, which targets the power user market. Sadly, outside of the notable exception of the Galaxy Tab S7 Plus, this has remained the case in 2020, with there being no standout Android tablet to challenge the iPad line. This is a key disappointment for any casual buyer who doesn’t want to get locked into Apple’s walled garden that we really hope gets fixed in 2021.

The iPhone still has a notch and is missing a key feature

The iPhone 12 line is great. We said as much in our reviews. Cliff notes: They all have upgraded internals that make them the fastest iPhones ever made and come with a wealth of new features, including 5G connectivity. But, in the sea of positives there are two very big negatives.

First, they still have notches. A few years ago having a notch cutout to house a phone’s front camera was forgivable. But in 2020, given all the clever solutions we’ve seen on Android – which include everything from pop-up to in-screen selfie snappers – the use of a notch is disappointing.

Second, none of the iPhone 12 screens come with high refresh rates. Every single new iPhone uses a screen panel locked to the bog standard 60Hz. To non-techies Hz is a metric that informs how many images per second a screen displays. A higher number makes the screen feel smoother to use and generally snappier. On Android there are a wealth of phones, across numerous price points with 90Hz and 120Hz screens, which is why Apple not following suite is particularly disappointing.

Pixel 5

Google got a little lazy with the Pixel’s camera

Google’s Pixel line of phones have consistently earned a place among THE best camera phones when we’ve reviewed them. Which is why we had particularly high hopes for its 2020 Pixel 5 line. But come launch, while the Pixel 5’s camera is still very good, it didn’t wow us the way previous generations did.

This in part is because competing phone companies have really upped their game when it comes to mobile photography – pretty much every flagship we’ve tested this year has come with a solid snapper on its back. But it’s also because Google chose to focus on making its 2020 flagship affordable, leaving the Pixel 5 with a fairly by the numbers rear camera that didn’t offer any serious improvements on last year’s Pixel 4 as a result.

With Huawei’s P-line suffering from being cut off from Google services, this has left a serious hole in 2020’s camera phone market. Hopefully Google will pick up the pace next year.

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