Android Trends In 2016: Year in Review

Now that we are approaching the end of 2016, many people are looking back at the year that was. Seeing how things have changed over the past twelve months and even seeing what trends were born in 2016. There are quite a few trends that were born in the world of Android in 2016, and somethings even died, like the Nexus program. So here are the biggest trends in the Android world in 2016.

Big Smartphones Got Smaller

It seemed for a while that we were seeing smartphones getting bigger and bigger and bigger. But not it appears that these devices are getting smaller. Even if the actual screen size isn't getting smaller, the physical size of the device is. And this is largely thanks to having smaller bezels. Although no one put out a phone with as little bezels as Xiaomi did this year with the Mi Mix.

Many are loving having a larger smartphone display, but not a larger size device. So having these larger screens getting smaller bodies is definitely a good thing. Especially since it seems like we've hit the peak, as far as screen sizes go. With devices like the Phab 2 Pro from Lenovo hitting 6.44-inches. That's not really a smartphone, but bordering more on a tablet.

Mid-Rangers Got More High-End

Smartphone prices have continued to drop, but what changed in 2016 is the fact that mid-range smartphones got more high-end, in essence we basically got another entry into price points. With devices like the Moto G4 from Lenovo coming in at around $200, but also sporting almost high-end specs, many users had no real reason to go with something higher-end like the Moto Z, unless they really wanted to experience how these Moto Mods worked. Which is both a good thing and a bad thing. It means that these mid-range smartphones are selling better, but it also means that these true flagships may be selling less. Of course, we'll never know, seeing as many smartphone makers don't release their sales numbers.

Virtual Reality Became a Big Deal

In 2015, virtual reality became a pretty big deal but it only intensified in 2016. We saw more and more smartphones getting QHD and even higher-resolution displays, which is helping with virtual reality, especially for mobile-based virtual reality. But we also saw the debut of Daydream from Google. Which is a better experience than Cardboard was, essentially putting it on par with the Gear VR, but it's available with even more devices. Virtual Reality is only going to continue to become a big deal for the mobile world in 2017.

360-Degree Video

Speaking of virtual reality, 360-degree cameras really hit the spotlight in 2016, and this is largely thanks to both Samsung and LG launching their own 360-degree cameras at Mobile World Congress with the Galaxy S7 and LG G5. 360-degree, or as some call it, spherical video, became popular because people can watch the video in 360-degrees and really feel like they are actually there. Even if they are just on their couch looking around.

Smartwatches still haven't given us a Reason To Buy Them

Smartwatches seemed like such a good idea a few years ago right? Just about every smartphone maker around was working on a smartwatch, thinking it would be the next big thing, but they just never really caught on. This is partially because many users were unsure of what they wanted a smartwatch to be capable of. Some wanted more than just notifications on their wrist, which Samsung gave them loads more. But many others didn't want as much as what Samsung was offering. For example, having a full keyboard on your wrist is a bit overkill, not to mention a bit tough to use. Smartwatches will likely continue to falter in 2017, at least until a company can figure out what these things really need to be able to do to appeal to the mass market.

Faster Updates

About time right? In 2016, one of the bigger trends we saw was more and more companies coming out with their updates faster and faster. This is something we shouldn't be talking about in 2016, but we are definitely glad to see it taking shape. Most of these updates were security updates, which are just as important if not more important than OS updates, and they are definitely welcomed. However, Nougat has been coming to more and more devices faster than most other versions of Android, which is nice to see.

We also saw plenty of manufacturers coming out with their own beta program to test out new versions of software before pushing it out to everyone. Google really started this with doing OTA's for their developer previews of Android N back in the beginning of the year. But after Nougat finally launched, companies like Sony, Samsung, and even Huawei launched beta's for Android Nougat on their flagship devices. It's a good turn of events, as it allows users to send feedback to the company, and also help them iron out bugs before millions of users get the update.

Google's Hardware Division was Born

Let's be honest here, Google isn't new in the hardware game, but they are new in developing all kinds of hardware for consumers. Before 2016, Google typically built hardware with the help of partners. Like with the Nexus program, they would work with a company like Huawei to build a product like the Nexus 6P, however their partner would get some say in how the final product turned out, and even get their branding on the device. That changed in 2016, with Google creating Google Home, Google Wifi, and even the Pixel and Pixel XL smartphones.

In 2017, we'll likely see plenty more coming out of Google's hardware division. While we saw plenty in 2016, it was plenty of great products. The Pixel and Pixel XL smartphones, Google Wifi, Chromecast Ultra and Google Home were all loved by just about everyone - both reviewers and those who actually bought the products. It's going to be interesting to see what Google brings in 2017.

Artificial Intelligence

One could argue that Artificial Intelligence was a big deal before 2016, and they wouldn't be wrong. But 2016 only magnified it. Artificial Intelligence or AI is in just about everything. Xiaomi is using AI in their new robot vacuum, to map out your home and make sure it can clean everywhere and not miss a spot. Huawei is using it in their Mate 9 to see how you use your smartphone and keep the Mate 9 running smooth based on those habits. And not to mention we have AI in our homes with things like the Amazon Echo, Echo Dot, Amazon Tap and the Google Home. Artificial Intelligence is everywhere, and while it became a bigger part of our lives in 2016, it's only going to become a bigger part in 2017. And it's going to be in areas where you didn't think you'd see AI appear.

Wrap Up

Android changed a lot in 2016. We saw faster updates, more artificial intelligence and mid-range smartphones got better while still staying rather cheap. We even saw some new hardware from Google, under their new hardware division, which is sure to keep producing some rather sweet products in 2017. Artificial Intelligence is going to continue to be a pretty big part of Android going forward, especially with the way that Huawei is using is their Mate 9 smartphone. And that's only a fraction of the trends that hit Android 2016.

2017 is likely to be a pretty big year for Android trends as well. It wouldn't be surprising to see these trends continue, and some new ones surface. Of course one that really needs to surface is in regards to smartwatches. Manufacturers need to find a way to make these smartwatches appeal to the masses, and less might be better than more.

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About the Author
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Alexander Maxham

Section Editor
Alex has written for Androidheadlines since 2012 as Editor of the site and traveled the World to many of the biggest Smartphone and Technology events. Alex has a background in Technology and IT and Deep Passion for Everything Android and Google. His specialties lay in Smartphones of all budgets, Accessories, Home Automation and more. Contact him at [email protected]