Android is in a very different place than it was when 2016 began. While the last 12 months were filled with much of the usual pomp and circumstance surrounding the release of new handsets, connected gadgets, and OS refreshes, the state of Android has never been more promising or less predictable. Google stepped out from behind the curtain and into the spotlight. Headsets took over smartwatches as the trend of the moment. And Samsung's phablet woes opened the door for smaller players to make big gains.
Google had a lot to showcase at its annual developer conference on Wednesday, from a new home virtual assistant to plans to delve deeper into virtual reality. This year's Google I/O focused heavily on machine learning and VR, and how these technologies are being applied to Google's core products. Google Home, launching later this year, is very much what it sounds like: a virtual assistant for your house. It's a voice-activated device meant to be placed in the home that allows for access to Google when your phone isn't nearby. The company also positioned the device as a smart controller for the home during its presentation, saying it's capable of communicating with nearby connected gadgets like smart light bulbs and Nest devices.
In many ways, the world in 2016 was defined by its mistakes. Companies let products languish, and when they did release updates, they often made questionable design choices. And of course, one of Samsung's most important phones literally went up in smoke. This year was a different story though. Some previous offenders learned their lesson while others set themselves up for success down the road. Not that everything was rosy. There were plenty of errors along the way, including glitchy products and misguided strategies. With that in mind, let's look at the hits and misses of 2017 -- and more importantly, consider how they'll affect what happens in 2018.
Will the next version of the Apple Watch be able to make calls? Are smartwatches about to get a bit more independent of smartphones? Researchers Canalys predict 7.5 million smartwatches with cellular connectivity will ship in 2016, rising to 53.6 million in 2020, driven by a new Apple Watch with built-in connectivity. Canalys analyst Daniel Matte said he expects the next version of the Apple Watch -- predicted to arrive later this year -- will be able to connect to mobile networks itself. Google added cellular support to Android Wear in November last year.