Mobile technical hits and misses in 2019

From foldable phones to 5G implementations, it was a big year for mobile technical news and releases. Jack Wallen weighs on the Apple Watch Series 5, the Pixel 4 and more.

Image: Samsung

The year is almost over and it’s time to summarize the highlights of mobile technology. There were so many new mobile devices and discoveries, but is there anything special that will make 2019 special when it comes to mobility? And is “special” a good or a bad thing? Let’s dive in and figure it out.

SEE: Management of AI and ML in the company 2019: technical leaders expect more difficulties than previous IT projects (TechRepublic Premium)

The hits

Smartwatches are there to stay

To be honest, I thought the smartwatch would be over by now, but 2019 proved that wearables are there to stay. Both Samsung and Apple brought two of the best smart watches on the market that once adorned a wrist: the Samsung Galaxy Watch (released in 2018) and the Apple Watch series 5. Both devices proved that the small form factor is perfectly capable of delivering an excellent user experience. The Samsung has the better price and battery life, while the Apple Watch has to install the most impressive range of apps. Anyway, the smartwatch is finally here to stay.

System76 Coreboot’s faster start-up time makes it a hit

Leave it to System76’s brilliant developers and designers to finally bring Coreboot to life. What is Coreboot? Coreboot is an open source replacement for its own BIOS and System76 managed to deliver it on two of its laptops: the Galago Pro and Darter. Coreboot is much leaner than the standard BIOS, which means it can boot faster; System76 claims that laptops with Coreboot start up 29% faster than their own siblings. When you are on the move, faster start-up times means you can get more done.

Joan Meeting Room Scheduler proves useful

This may not be the sexiest technology you’ve ever seen, but it’s certainly one of the most useful. The Joan Meeting Room Scheduler from Visionect uses e-ink technology and ultra-low energy architecture to create an environmentally-friendly planner for meeting rooms. Joan can synchronize with your Google, iCal or Outlook calendar to display a real-time schedule on a well-designed, easy-to-read tablet-sized device mounted on a wall outside a room. It is an innovative way to save paper, confusion and frustration.

AI is a victory

Artificial intelligence (AI) is not new in every imagination, but in 2019, AI was finally mature enough to become an integral part of mobile technology. The release of Android 10 leaned very heavily on AI with great success. The truth is that the only device that can absolutely claim the use of artificial intelligence is the smartphone with great success and Google has proven to be the leader in that field.

The misses

The collapse of foldable telephones

Let’s just get rid of this. I have said it a number of times, in different forums, and I say it again: foldable phones are a bad idea. Why? The obvious reason is the screens. OEMs are looking for the mystical material that can not only serve as a display, but is also foldable without wrinkling, cracking or breaking; they might as well have been looking for mithril to use as material for these displays. And yet there is still a push to deliver the foldable phone. Will folding phones ever catch on? If 2019 is any indication, the odds are not very good.

5G: Not fully realized

5G finally began rolling out in 2019 in certain US cities. Chicago, Minneapolis, MN, Denver, Providence, RI, St. Paul, MN, Atlanta, Detroit, Indianapolis, Washington DC, Phoenix, Boise, ID Panama City, FL, New York, Dallas and Omaha, NE, all benefited from this new network of carriers. This comes after years of hype and assumption that 5G would be the next big vaporware. And yet it is here.

Although it has finally arrived, it has not yet been fully realized. 5G operates on sub-6 GHz and millimeter wave frequencies (at 20-60 GHz). Although airlines were already using sub-6 for LTE networks, the millimeter wave frequency still needed to be used. The problem with 5G is that millimeter wave frequencies do not travel long distances and cannot travel through windows or buildings; as a result, there are still problems that must be overcome before 5G is rolled out to full capacity. In addition, not every device can work with 5G. Until that day comes, we just have to stick to 4G and wifi.

SEE: 5G mobile networks: a cheat sheet (TechRepublic download)

The pros and cons of Google hardware

In 2019 the latest hardware from Google was released: the Pixel 4 and the Pixelbook Go. Both mobile devices are too expensive compared to the competition. Although the Pixelbook Go has delivered on the promised battery life, the Pixel 4 has proved a disaster in that area; Sure, the camera is the best on the show, and the built-in AI is unparalleled, but how good are those functions if the battery cannot last a whole day? Even with the unobtrusive battery performance of the Pixel 4, if you can live with having to charge your device mid-day, you won’t find a better camera anywhere on a phone.

Regarding the Pixelbook Go, Google already had two of the best Chromebooks on the market: the Chromebook Pixel 2015 and the Pixelbook. Why Google didn’t generate those devices with a little bit of updated hardware and spit-shine, I’ll never know.

The end of Samsung DeX

Here’s another negative highlight, this time thanks to Samsung. Samsung promised for the longest time to deliver the Linux desktop to the DeX experience; unfortunately 2019 saw the end of that promise. This was a sad bit of news because those who experienced DeX loved it – DeX worked well and delivered a full Linux desktop powered by a Samsung smartphone. This bit of news should probably be the last nail in the convergence box. It was a great idea, but it seems that it never really catches on.

SEE: Samsung DeX wants to invade your laptop (CNET)

And there you go, my 2019 highlights for mobile technology. Let’s see what 2020 mobile users have to offer.

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