2016 is done. So is season two of Mallercast! Here’s episode 20:
It’s been a while since I’ve published an end-of-year list-type of post. The last time I did it was in 2011, back in the days when HP made a tablet called the Touchpad, when Netflix tried to split into two companies (one of which they named Quixter), and when Steve Jobs was still alive. It was only five years ago, but it seems like much longer.
This year I’m back at it, with an accompanying podcast episode to boot! There was a lot to hate about 2016. Prince died. I mean… come on. That fact alone made 2016 pure hell, but, there were many other awful and terrible things. With enough doom and gloom in the world, the following top 10 list focuses on my favorite positive things that happened in the world of tech in 2016…
10) Snapchat Spectacles
Snapchat Spectacles are compelling in many ways: they’re the first face-worn computers that some people actually seem to want, they had an ingenious product launch that involved a roving vending machine called the Snapbot (we covered this in episode 14), and their overall design is surprisingly funky and unconventional, yet normal people are buying them.
However interesting they may be, I still didn’t feel compelled to give them a higher number on my top 10 list. They deserve the bottom slot, in my opinion. Why? When people actually use them, they complain about how slow and clunky the experience is to share the content you create with them on Snapchat, which is the whole purpose of the device.
9) Pokemon Go
Unless you were living under a rock in 2016, you heard about Pokemon Go. It was the mobile game that harnessed augmented reality in a such compelling way that it became a nearly overnight mainstream hit. It also was one of Nintendo’s first successes in mobile gaming, even though their association with the game was loose at best.
The main reason I’ve included it on this list is that I was really impressed how it got people to go outside and walk around their local parks and towns. I witnessed Pokemon Go players interacting with each other in parks, people who were obviously strangers, having conversations and enjoying themselves. How many video games have accomplished this?
8) Dan Seifert controlling his Christmas tree with Alexa
Dan Seifert is a senior editor at The Verge, a technology news website. That’s a picture of him at the top of this post speaking on CNBC earlier this year, where they mistakenly got the spelling of his last name wrong (which his colleague Casey Newton very effectively teased him about on Twitter):
— Casey Newton (@CaseyNewton) September 16, 2016
Dan was recently a guest on a podcast, where he explained how he used a WeMo Switch Smart Plug to enable him to turn his Christmas tree lights on and off with his voice, using an Amazon Echo. It’s was a simple yet really fun idea, and an excellent example of how the smart home is becoming a real thing.
This is a podcast hosted by Walt Mossberg and Nilay Patel from The Verge. It launched in fall of 2015, so it’s really more of a 2015 thing, but I don’t care. I listen to a lot of tech podcasts, and this is one of my favorite shows. It’s interesting to hear Walt’s perspective on the current landscape of tech, because he’s been on the consumer tech beat for such a long time. In general, I really like how The Verge has leveraged having Walt on their team, and Ctrl-Walt-Delete is the best example of it.
6) The Touch Bar
There’s no doubt about it: Apple had a bad year. As Walt Mossberg pointed out on the latest episode of Ctrl-Walt-Delete (ever hear of it?), every product that Apple released in 2016 was a disappointment. The iPhone 7 had the same design as old iPhones and lacked a headphone jack, the Apple Watch 2 turned out to be fatter than the older one (that observation is mine, not Walt’s :), the new MacBook Pros were more expensive, had worse battery life, and only features USB-C ports that aren’t even compatible with the iPhone.
But, with all of that, I really love the new Touch Bar on the new MacBook Pros. Ever since I first learned how to use a computer, I’ve always thought the F keys at the top of the keyboard were weird and confusing relics. Apple finally did something interesting with them, and I think it’s excellent.
5) SpaceX Mars Colonization
The SpaceX colonization plans that Elon Musk debuted in 2016 were truly impressive. The Raptor rockets, the spaceship that can transport 100 people, the launchpad that sends the reusable booster rocket up and down over and over again. Elon always delivers.
4) Tesla Solar Roof
I’ve always wanted solar panels on my home, but I was never crazy about how they looked. Traditional solar panels are ugly, and they’re a bit too much of a statement. They tell passersby “HEY! LOOK! I’M GREEN! I’VE GOT SOLAR PANELS, MAN. WHAT ARE YOU DOING TO SAVE PLANET EARTH? NOTHING, RIGHT? I THOUGHT SO.”
The new Tesla Solar Roof are solar panels that look like regular roof tiles. Smart shingles, if you will. It’s a compelling idea that I feel like we all have thought of at one time or another, but it took Elon Musk to actually make them happen. You gotta love that guy.
3) Tesla Model 3
Look at that car (the one above). It’s beautiful. That is Elon Musk and the Tesla team’s vision for what the ideal mass-production, affordable electric vehicle should be. That is the Tesla Model 3.
Chevy has a different vision for that this car should be. They think the ultimate mass-production, affordable electric vehicle is the Chevy Bolt. This is it:
Which one do you want?
2) Apple stands up to the FBI
Apple stood up to the FBI in early 2016, and denied their request for a special version of their mobile operating system that would allow them to access the data of anyone’s phone. It showed their steely commitment to protecting their customer’s data, at all costs. You can learn more about this case on Wikipedia.
1) The Amazon Echo Dot
The Echo Dot won my number one pick because it was the product the piqued and held my interest the most in 2016. From its strange launch earlier in the year, to its wild popularity through the holiday season, selling out of stock just a few days before Christmas, it was an eventful year for this talking hockey puck.
I love tech that is affordable, yet powerful. I love tech that blurs the line of luxury and utility. The Dot was exactly this in 2016. It’s Amazon’s silver bullet to own the next paradigm in tech.
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Okay! The next episode of Mallercast will be available on Wednesday, January 4th. That’s right. We’re jumping right into season three without taking a break.
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