The poor design of two different smartphones, a low-resolution front camera with the new iPhone, the Moto G's lack of LTE, and the hefty price tag of the Amazon Fire led to disappointment this year when it came to smartphone releases.
The design of the Samsung Galaxy S5
I almost feel sorry for Samsung Electronics and the year the company has had. For example, while the overall smartphone market grew during the third quarter, Samsung's sales dropped by about 9 percent to 73.2 million units, according to Gartner. And there is no getting around the fact the all-plastic design of the Galaxy S5 was a huge miscalculation and put a damper on the company's most important product. Samsung has started to make some changes with the use of metal on smartphones like the Galaxy Note 4, but it remains to be seen if that is enough to turn around its high-end fortunes.
The front camera on the iPhone 6
One of the big smartphone trends this year was the addition of high-resolution front cameras for better selfies. But this trend was unfortunately ignored by Tim Cook and his colleagues at Apple. The iPhone 6 and 6 Plus only have a 1.2-megapixel front camera, which simply isn't good enough for products that are as expensive as the new iPhones.
Apple has always been good at knowing how much it has to upgrade the iPhone and still have fans line up to buy one. With their larger screens, the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus were always going to be big hits, irrespective of other changes. But now Apple has at least one thing it can easily improve on next year's new models.
The lack of LTE on the Motorola Moto G
When I went to the launch of the new Moto G in September, I didn't even think to ask if the it smartphone had LTE. To me, that was a given after the company had launched the 4G version of the original model. But the product planners had decided against that. An LTE version of the new Moto G is likely on the way, but Motorola hasn't reveled any official plans.
Luckily for smartphone buyers, next year LTE will become a standard feature on smartphones priced just below $200 without a contract, thanks to cheaper components. I'll even bet that the next version of the less expensive Moto E will have LTE.
The screen on the Nokia Lumia 530
One of the main reasons Windows Phone is still around is the success of the Lumia 520, which offered good design and performance for not much money. But when Nokia finally got around to developing a successor things didn't go well. The Lumia 530 may be cheap at less than $100, but the sacrifices the company felt it had to make to get there were too big. The screen is especially disappointing, and I am not alone in thinking that.
"We hate the Lumia 530's display. Even though its pixel density is better than that of the Lumia 520, we can honestly say we found that phone's display more satisfying. And the Lumia 530 can't compete with the Moto E in this regard. It really is a poor-looking display, in our view. And we can't really fathom why," PC Advisor wrote in its review.
The Amazon Fire Phone's original price tag
Amazon finally launched its first smartphone, the Fire Phone, in July. While the company can be forgiven for not getting everything right on the first try, the decision to charge $199 with a contact, or $649 without one, was delusional. The smartphone didn't have the features or hardware specifications to justify the price. Amazon quickly realized its mistake, and lowered the price. But it still missed the buzz that comes with a product launch.
Even though Amazon has struggled to sell the Fire Phone, the company shouldn't give up. The contextual menus and gesture navigation are promising, and the smartphone market needs companies that dare to do something different. So I am looking forward to what Amazon has in store for next year.
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