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What was the worst year in modern smartphone history?

Google Calendar stock photo 3

We’d like to think that each year is a bonanza when it comes to smartphone releases, but some years are definitely worse than others.

We’ve already chosen 2014 as the best year of the last decade, but what about the worst years in modern smartphone history? Well, we can think of a few middling or even disappointing years in our book. Whether it was a general trend that was adopted by everyone or just several companies releasing bad phones in one year, you can check out our five picks below. Don’t forget to take our poll at the end of the article!

As bad as 2020 is so far (i.e. ludicrously expensive phones, power-sapping 5G and screens, oh… and delays caused by a global pandemic), we’re excluding it from the list as the year isn’t over yet. But it’s definitely a dishonorable mention.


Samsung Galaxy S Original

The Samsung Galaxy S
Credit: Samsung
  • This was the year that saw manufacturers and networks play hard and fast with the term 4G. From Wi-Max to HSPA, there was no shortage of brands claiming that their technology was indeed 4G. For what it’s worth, LTE and HSPA+ were generally considered to be proper 4G at the time.
  • Microsoft also launched the promising but ill-fated Windows Phone 7 platform, with the firm going so far as to hold a mock funeral for the iPhone at the time. If that wasn’t bad enough, the company also released two smart feature phones dubbed Kin that were terrible and mercifully became discontinued after only two months.
  • The iPhone 4 release was marred by “antennagate” after it emerged that the phone drastically lost signal when you held it… like a phone. It didn’t help that Apple initially told customers to stop holding it in the lower-left corner, before eventually offering a free bumper case to users.
  • It was a tough time to be a Nokia fan as the firm still stuck with Symbian for the most part. Sure, you had the Nokia N8 with its fantastic 12MP camera and the slick Nokia E7, but who cared when they ran a slow, unintuitive platform that was practically held together with duct-tape? At least we got the Meego-toting Nokia N9 and the first Nokia Windows Phones in 2011.
  • Samsung also launched the Galaxy S in 2010, kicking off the all-conquering Galaxy flagship range. Unfortunately, a US court ruled that the manufacturer had actually copied the iPhone’s design and software flourishes in the process. And it’s hard to argue otherwise when you look at the two side-by-side, serving as more ammunition against Android and Samsung for Apple fans.


HTC First review

The HTC First

  • The Galaxy S4 may have been the best-selling Android phone of all time, but Samsung definitely made a few bad decisions regarding it. Unarguably the biggest issue was the bloated software that was TouchWiz, as the firm tossed in a ton of features without considering performance. Throw in a cringeworthy launch event stacked with plenty of awful stereotypes and it definitely makes our list.
  • HTC debuted the HTC One M7 in 2013, which earned a reputation as one of the best phones of all time. The company also debuted the ill-fated HTC First that year, which was not one of the best phones of all time. The First was made in partnership with Facebook, running the Facebook Home launcher (remember that?) and offering solid specs for the time. The Facebook integration couldn’t save the phone from poor sales, reportedly moving just 15,000 units.
  • BlackBerry 10 was finally released in early 2013, delivering a proper touch-focused platform that was built from the ground up. This wasn’t enough to save the company though, as Android delivered more variety and apps (even though BB10 supported many Android apps). Another major blow was the fact that the BlackBerry Internet Service (which was available as an all-you-can-eat plan in many regions) wasn’t supported on the new platform. I know tens of people who lost interest in new BlackBerry phones when it emerged that BIS wouldn’t be available.
  • Apple’s iOS 7 also made headlines in 2013 for the wrong reasons, as the update introduced a host of bugs and crashes. From connectivity woes and iMessage issues to (ironically) the Blue Screen of Death, this was an update that the Cupertino company and customers would like to forget.


  • The Snapdragon 810 flagship silicon reportedly suffered from manufacturing woes, with many early phones powered by the chipset said to have performance or thermal-related issues. Early testing by the likes of Ars Technica showed major performance drops as phones with the processor heated up.
  • The HTC One M9 was a disappointing follow-up to the fantastic device that was the One M8, offering a less capable camera for low-light shooting and worse endurance. This also marked the third time we saw the metal design, with only minor changes compared to the HTC One M7. Truth be told, it seems like HTC never really recovered from this release.
  • Samsung’s Galaxy S6 series offered an all-new glass design, but ditched water-resistance, microSD storage, and a removable battery to get there. And the tiny battery in the standard S6 only added more salt to the wound.
  • This year also seems to have marked the start of LG’s bootloop issues, as the likes of the LG G4, Nexus 5X, and LG V10 all experienced this major problem to some extent. Cue the photoshopped Froot Loops images.


  • Samsung’s Galaxy S7 series was one of the best phones of 2016, but the year will always be remembered for the company launching the IED that was the Galaxy Note 7. Faulty batteries and over-ambitious design resulted in phones that were susceptible to bursting into flames. No wonder the company offered an update that killed the phone entirely.
  • The year also saw brands ditch the headphone port, with Android players like Motorola and LeEco doing so. Apple did the same with the iPhone 7, and we’ve seen loads of companies follow suit since then.
  • LG had a run of solid to great high-end phones up until 2016, when it launched the modular LG G5. The phone’s magazine slot-style design enabled you to use add-ons like a 360 camera and a Hi-Fi DAC. Unfortunately, a combination of questionable build quality, a smaller battery than the G4, and very few Friends (as the add-ons were called) killed any hopes of major success. At least the firm also offered an ultra-wide camera that’s now become standard on almost every major phone.


Samsung Galaxy Fold Review against the wall

  • The Pixel 4 delivered a smaller battery than previous Pixels, no fingerprint scanner in lieu of face unlock only, and gimmicky Motion Sense tech. No wonder many reviewers derided it at launch. At least the company introduced a long-overdue budget phone in the Pixel 3a.
  • Foldable phones were supposed to be the big thing in 2019, but the first wave of foldables made us realize just how fragile they could be. Between the Galaxy Fold’s delayed launch due to hinge/screen issues and the general trend of scratch-prone plastic screens (including the Mate X), foldables definitely fell short of the hype.
  • Arguably the biggest disappointment in 2019 was the US ban against Huawei, instituted in May. This meant that phones released after this point lacked Google services. It’s a real shame, because phones like the Mate 30 Pro were definitely among the best phones of the year on paper, but the lack of GMS means it’s a no-go for many.
  • Up until 2019, Samsung’s Galaxy Note series was known as the range of choice for power users looking for a quality, feature-packed phone. Unfortunately, the vanilla Galaxy Note 10 failed to live up to this ethos. Your $ 950 got you a battery that was significantly smaller than the Plus model and Note 9, no microSD card slot, and no 3.5mm port. The Plus variant also lacked the latter two features, but at least you got extras like a bigger battery, QHD+ screen, and faster charging.

What do you think was the worst year for smartphones? Take our poll below and leave a comment!

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What was the best and worst of CES 2015? (Post and Podcast)

While the Friday Debate is a long tradition for Android Authority now, we’ve also felt that there are plenty of ways to improve the format. Recently began integrating community comments into our weekly post, which has received quite a bit of positive feedback. Now we’re taking things a step further even, introducing our Friday Debate podcast, with our very own Josh Vergara as the host! You can check out our inaugural FD podcast above.

Now with further ado, let’s jump right in. For this week we’ll be discussing what we feel was the very best and worst of this week’s CES. While Android is our main focus, if you feel strongly about something non-Android, feel free to make mention of it as well.

First, let’s hear from our community (for all comments, click here):


I loved: I have to start with LG G Flex 2. The fact that it was to be introduced in CES was no surprise and it didn’t have any real surprises in it either, but it was quite a perfect update. For once someone actually made their phone smaller while making every aspect of it better! Also there’s just something about a phone that can actually be bent that tickles my fancy.

Then the Lenovo LaVie ZnHZ550! If you believe their marketing, this is the lightest laptop in the world (at least in its size category), weighting only 777g or 1.71lbs. It also packs a lot of power in it and the battery life is supposedly long, though most likely not on Macbook level.

I’ll add one more here: the Nvidia X1. More bits, more cores and more power with less power usage. We all love that, right?

I hated: … That I couldn’t be there?

I was impressed by: Laptops again! Some say they are a dying race, but keyboard is a must for me, so let me tell you about the world’s smallest 13″ laptop, the Dell XPS 13 2015. That beast’s bezels are smaller than what many tablets have! It doesn’t only make it look great, but it makes the thing the same size as 11″ laptops, but with more screen real estate of course. If this thing was made of the same material as the Lenovo (magnesium-lithium), it’d be a laptop from my dreams. I really hope more manufacturers follow these trends and leave the useless pixel race for the smartphone world.

I was horrified by: how almost the only things I can remember from CES are freaking laptops. Oh the price of the new Sony Walkman. That thing is going to cell like hot cakes… filled with poison and dead cats. Coincidence that the fairly new hit movie the Guardians of the Galaxy was quite focused on an old Sony Walkman and now this comes out? Sneaky sneaky advertising?

What Team AA has to say

Now that you’ve had a look at what community member Mastermuffin had to say, it’s time for Team AA to weigh in:

Jonathan Feist

CES is always a hard time for me, and CES 2015 was no different. I love the technology, innovation and glimpse into the future of electronic gear, but I can never take this show seriously. If I were to sum up the entire experience in one word, that word would be ‘prototype.’ Now, I know full well that real products are hatched, mended and launched at CES, but more often than not, I never hear about a CES promoted product again. But that is just me.

Luckily, some big names brought some big releases to the show, or at least to the day 0 press conferences. I am liking what I am seeing in the HTC Desire 826 and the ASUS Zenfone 2. LG’s second rendition of the curved and bendy phone, G Flex 2, is pretty sweet as well. YotaPhone may be an award winner in Las Vegas, but without the device in hand, it is still as quirky and awesome as it was before for me.

I think I am not going to be alone in this, but my number one highlight of the week was the presentation by ASUS Chairman Jonney Shih. That guy is just plain fun to watch – I really do want to see him do a cooking show. The products he announced were pretty slick as well, but that is beside the point. Thank you.

Now, I would not dream of listing all of the things that I liked about the show, there was just so much awesome, instead, allow me to make a complaint.

Complaint – televisions (and by extension, Samsung.) I get it, I do, TV is a huge industry, and super important to many out there. Personally, ‘my’ television set is 800 miles away in a storage locker. It has been there for over two years and I do not miss it. I have not paid a cable bill in almost ten years either. Basically, I am not your target audience for TVs, I don’t care how many of them Samsung put on the stage or stacked to the ceiling at their booth, all of that effort is wasted for me.

Is Super duper Ultra High Def a cool thing? Absolutely. Do I care in any way, shape or form who that fancy architect/artist dude is that designed that 88-inch Samsung TV? Not a chance. (No offense.) And thank you.

Now, Android TV, and the immense support from TV manufacturers like Sony, is exciting to me. Don’t get me wrong, I would rather plug a Nexus Player into my computer monitor than buy a new TV right now, but I think the segment is coming along nicely, I cant wait to see where it goes next. I’m looking at you, Razer Forge TV.

Home automation is also high on my ‘that’s cool’ list. Thing is, most of the stuff we’ve seen at CES this year is, well, too smart. Let’s not even discuss that I think things are too expensive, as well. Again, I understand the plug it in and forget about it mentality, but I think I’d rather a couple Arduino kits and Tasker.

In the end, I am kind of glad CES is (almost) over, it is time to start talking about new phones and MWC in February. That is where my head is already at. And thank you, see you next week.

Gary Sims

As the name clearly implies,  CES is about consumer electronics: everything from fridges to cars, from smartphones to TVs. When Android was just a smartphone operating system that meant that only new handset announcements would be relevant to Android Authority. But CES 2015 has demonstrated once again that Android is going viral!

I’ll get to the handsets in a moment, but one thing that CES 2015 has really demonstrated how Android is going mainstream. Specifically it is being put into cars and into TVs. Android Auto will probably have less of a general impact than Android TV, just because of the cost of luxury cars. However CES 2015 has shown that Android and TVs make a perfect match. It was also interesting to see that Sony picked MediaTek as its SoC supplier of choice for its 4K Android enabled TVs.

One area which I thought would get more attention at CES was wearables. If this is meant to be a consumer electronics show then to me it seems that it would be the ideal place to announce and promote Android Wear devices. It is clear that OEMs are still struggling to find that magic combination of price and features that will make smartwatches (and other wearables) attractive to consumers. In one sense wearables is a product group that manufacturers want to foist on consumers, rather than a product which consumers are demanding. The lack of wearable news from CES 2015 is probably a testament to that.

Moving on to handsets, the clear winners of the show were the LG Flex 2 and the ASUS ZenFone 2. The LG Flex 2 is just extraordinary in terms of its design (i.e. the whole flex thing) and in terms of its top notch specifications. While the ZenFone 2 is probably redefining what users can expect to pay for almost flagship type phones. OnePlus started this trend last year and as I wrote for last week’s Friday Debate, companies like HTC could do this, but instead it was ASUS that stepped up to the mark. The fact that ASUS has put together a 64-bit, quad-core Android smartphone with a 5.5 inch full HD display and 2GB of RAM for just $ 199 is outstanding.

So, that was CES – Android is everywhere and consumers are benefiting. But like Feisty said, next is Mobile World Congress… Bring it on!

Joe Hindy

Much like Gary, my excitement from CES 2015 didn’t have so much to do with handsets that were announced but rather with the peripheral stuff that Android is getting into which include cars, TVs, and other appliances. We’ve come to expect OEMs to throw their own events when announcing smartphones and we’re sure to see HTC and Samsung toss events later this year for their Galaxy S6 and One M9 launches. Many OEMs also wait for the later events like IIFA and Mobile World Congress to announce their latest flagships. So it was kind of cool to see LG announce the G Flex 2 and Asus announce their product line up (by the way, did you see that presentation they made? Hilariously awesome!).

But the stuff I’m liking are the TVs and cars. Smart TVs have always been something I’ve kind of balked on because I never saw a TV with the kind of specs and power that I could see myself owning for ten years. Unlike smartphones, which I can replace every year or every other year, Smart TVs are still very expensive and not conducive to my financial well being to try to upgrade every year like a phone. With the Android TV devices coming out now, I really feel like I’m within a year or two of updating my TV to an Android TV because there will finally be one that I could keep for 5+ years without feeling the need to update. There aren’t any yet, but it’s getting there and that’s exciting.

On the car side, it was good to see car manufacturers taking Android seriously. The Hyundai Android Wear app to remote start one’s vehicle was really awesome I thought. I used to have an auto starter on a previous car and I miss it all the time.  It’s a little gimmicky but that’s the kind of functionality I could see Android Wear having right out of the box for people who run Android in their car and that’s the part that excites me.

The only thing I didn’t like were the smartphones that were announced that are probably not going to end up in the West. It may just be a personal thing, but when you have bloggers from all around the world and you have a show in Las Vegas, Nevada, United States, and you announce a phone that will only be available in Asia or India, it seems disingenuous to me. I think this fragmented release of smartphones (some only going to some countries, etc) has always been a horrible business decision. If you’re going to build the damn thing, why not make it available to everyone?

Overall, this year wasn’t nearly as disappointing as I thought it was going to be. Everyone knows these shows have been an up-and-down thing over the last half a decade as more OEMs break off to do their own announcement shows separate of big tech shows and that’s a shame. However, there was plenty of news, demos, and future tech there and some of it was actually exciting. Yay!


Robert Triggs

The LG G Flex 2 was my personal favourite announcement at this year’s CES, mostly for its sublime design. As Andrew discussed after the unveiling, I think LG’s take on flexible displays is the right way to go, compared with Samsung’s more gimmicky Note Edge design. A slightly curved handset can do wonders for ergonomics and design, and a Full HD display finally brings LG’s design into the flagship segment.

Like Gary and Jon, the Zenfone 2 is a really solid look range at a hard to beat price to me. Intel may finally have found a way to gain some traction for its smartphone chips. I also quite like the Saygus V2, at least in principle. The massive storage space is something I’ve been waiting to see in a handset, but its design is not the best looking. So-so to HTC’s Desire 826, it’s another good looking midranger, but HTC has a lot of those these days. The ZTE SPro 2 mini-projector receives my vote for the most interesting product.

I think the Kodak IM5 is probably the biggest misstep at this year’s event. I really can’t see the appeal in such a device, there are already plenty of decent photo managing, printing and sharing software suites out there. A phone with some cutting-edge camera technology aimed at the old point-and-click camera market could have been interesting, but the IM5 seems to exist solely to capitalize on what little brand recognition Kodak has left.

Overall, a really interesting start to 2015 and there’s plenty more to come.

Jimmy Westenberg

Some really great stuff was shown off at this year’s CES. Not so much on the mobile phone side of things, but it was still a really great year for the ecosystem as a whole.
As for my favorite announcements? I was really intrigued by the Android Wear integration into cars. Hyundai showed off their technology on the show floor, and Viper even announced that their technology is coming soon. Most of these car companies already have the technology readily available in smartphones, so I know it’s not a huge deal that it’s coming to Android Wear. But I just can’t help to think that starting or navigating to my car with my watch isn’t the future.

Another thing that jumped out at me is Android TV integration, more specifically, the new Sony Bravia TVs. Sony has been pushing their clunky Smart TV OS for way too long, so the fact that they’re jumping over to a new platform is a big step forward. If all goes well on the Sony front, we’re going to start seeing way more television manufacturers come on board.

So, what really made me cringe? The biggest one that jumps out to me is Sony’s 128GB Walkman, being offered for only $ 1,200.00. What? If Sony wants to resurrect their Walkman brand, this is not the way to do it. Of course, making a midrange mp3 player in 2015 isn’t going to work out (because we all have our phones for that), but the price is just absurd. If they offered it for half price and still marketed it as premium audio product, they might actually sell more than 30 units.

This next product didn’t really disappoint me, but I just don’t know why it exists. Fuhu announced a 65-inch “tablet” for kids that doubles as a television. The biggest model they announced has a 4K screen, 4GB of RAM and it’s running on NVIDIA’s new Tegra X1 processor. That sounds really awesome, but it’s also being offered for $ 4,000.00. I just don’t know who in their right mind would buy it. It’s a cool idea, and I get it. But again, cut the price down, and you have yourselves a winner.

Now it’s your turn

You’ve heard from Mastermuffin and Team AA, now it’s your turn. What do you feel was the best, and worst, things shown off at CES 2015 this year?

Android Authority

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