OPINION: Another year comes to and end and what better to look back and the best (and worst) tech moments of 2021 in the final Winners and Losers column of the year.
Even though 2021 was another year largely relegated to being stuck indoors, that didn’t stop the tech world from dropping some major headlines to catch our attention. From the iPhone 13 to the impressive Galaxy Z Flip 3, there was no shortage of incredble tech this year (unless you factor in the ongoing chip shortage), and that’s only factoring in the mobile space.
As you can imagine, it took quite some time and a fair bit of debate to whittle this list down to just six entries, but we feel that these moments best encapsulate what 2021 was all about in the tech space.
Best moments of 2021
Starting with the more agreeable moments of the year, there were plenty of new phones in 2021 to get excited about, particularly with giant leaps forward in foldable tech, but above all the mainline contenders, 2021 was undoubtedly the year of the Pixel.
It’s taken a long time and many trips back to the drawing board to make Google’s own-brand smartphone feel like a must-have device, but in the Pixel 6, all that hard work finally paid off. Debuting Android 12 and the new ‘Material You’ overlay, the Pixel 6 really gave Apple a run for its money, and that’s before you even mention the camera set-up on this thing.
Long gone are the 12MP main sensors of old, replaced with a more robust 50MP sensor that works so much better with Google’s computational processing to produce some of the best smartphone shots we’ve ever seen.
MacBook Pro’s return to form
Apple’s MacBook range has already been on an upward streak ever since the company’s M1 chipsets came to market, but this was the year where we finally got to see the true potential of what Apple silicon could do in the revised MacBook Pro range.
With the souped up M1 Max chip under the hood, the 2021 MacBook Pro is up to 2.9 times faster than the previous iteration, and able to go through a full day’s worth of work before needing to be topped up again. All of these features are great, but the real stars of the show are the returning ports from MacBooks of old.
Creators can now make use of a full SD card slot as well as a fully-blown HDMI output for presentations, effectively giving us the chance to wave goodbye to the dongles out there that have become a neccesity ever since Apple first did away with these ports. Simply put, the MacBook is back and it’s better than ever.
Right to repair
In a world that’s increasingly concerned with e-waste and the environmental impact of upgrading your phone every year, the right to repair movement seeks to give users the ability to service their own tech without having to go through convoluted channels set up by manufacturers. And in 2021, the movement got a real boost.
New laws passed in the UK and the EU that enforce certain manufacturers to make spare parts available for their products, and for the repair and replacement process to be easily understood by the general public.
This doesn’t apply to all pieces of tech, with the law focusing mostly on white goods, but it didn’t stop other companies from getting in on the action early.
Apple announced a new ‘Self Service Repair‘ program, wherein customers can order the tools they need from Apple to fix their iPhone 12 or 13 themselves. That’s a huge step in the right direction and we only hope that more companies continue to follow suit into the New Year.
Worst tech moments of 2021
The chip shortage
Undoubtedly the biggest and most enduring piece of tech news this year was the ongoing chip shortage that affected pretty much every market you can think of.
Not only has the chip shortage made it nigh-on impossible to get your hands on almost everything from the Nintendo Switch OLED to the Apple Watch Series 7, but it’s also forced manufacturers to scale back production and rethink their targets for the near future.
Apple in particular has been hit hard by the shortage amongst lower than expected iPhone 13 sales, and it could have a major impact on the company’s plans for 2022.
The demise of LG phones
Given that LG phones always struggled to carve out a niche in the same way that Sony phones or even OnePlus handsets have managed to, the writing was on the wall for quite some time but in 2021, the company’s smartphone division finally came to end.
This isn’t to say that we were happy to see the end of LG handsets, far from it. LG was one of the few companies left that was willing to try out new ideas year on year, even if some of those ideas didn’t stick the landing. It’s exactly the type of innovation the smartphone industry needed to keep things feeling fresh.
But with LG now gone in the smartphone space, we’re left to wonder if any other company might take up the mantle and continue to push the boundaries of smartphone design in 2022.
Last and sadly least, the OnePlus Watch could have been so much more – an alternative wearable to the then stagnant Wear OS platform but at a price that seriously undercuts the competiton. Instead we got a smartwatch with no personality and fewer features than cheaper fitness trackers.
The OnePlus Watch is now a cautionary tale for other companies: if you plan on releasing a product in a new sector, you better make sure that it’s a winning sell because it is isn’t, you’ll only damage your brand’s reputation in the process.
Unless OnePlus plans to take another stab at the wearable market, I think it’s best if we all left the OnePlus Watch in 2021 where it belongs.