The iPad arrives. The iPad would've been the biggest tech story this year even if it hadn't been a runaway success. No product has been more heavily rumored in the short history of gadget blogging, or in the slightly longer history of gadget punditry. Look, we even made a chart. What was perhaps more interesting than the fact that it actually launched, however, was the fact that consumers actually wanted to buy it. The iPad has been a major success, and has proved surprisingly difficult to replicate. Big challengers are on the horizon, however, so we'll see how long Apple can reign alone.
The PlayStation Phone leaks out. We've been waiting on a PSP 2 for a long while, but our first glimpse at a true PSP sequel (no, the PSP Go doesn't count), turned out to be an Android phone. We started out with a description and mockup of the slider handset, but before the year was out we had photos and video. The device has been all but confirmed by Sony at this point, and now all we have to do is wait.
The iPhone 4's rollercoaster of journalistic emotions. What might've been a "routine" iPhone refresh has been anything but. First we got pre-release photos of the phone, then Gizmodo got its hands on an actual device left in a bar, kicking off a volley of legal drama and espionage intrigue. Almost lost in the kerfuffle was the iPhone 4 itself, which turned out to be a pretty great phone. Then people started noticing antenna problems, which threw the tech world into another tizzy, and required another Apple press conference to calm everyone down. Both episodes of drama are hardly remembered by most iPhone users these days, but let the gadget world's penchant for hysterics never be forgotten. Also, we still don't have a white iPhone, and we're totally bitter.
Windows Phone 7: the comeback kid. Microsoft did it. After taking a long, serious look at itself in a cracked Windows Mobile 6.5 mirror, Microsoft threw everything out and started fresh. Its brand new phone operating system, Windows Phone 7, has received strong reviews and moderate early commercial success -- now we'll see if Microsoft can keep the momentum going and truly compete with the titans of Android and iOS.
The life and death of the Courier. Microsoft giveth and Microsoft taketh away. After months of leaks and premature anticipation, Microsoft confirmed this year that it had been working on a dual-screen tablet project dubbed Courier, but that it wasn't going anywhere. And there was much weeping.
- Microsoft's Courier 'digital journal': exclusive pictures and details
- Microsoft confirms and kills the Courier in one fell swoop
Android takes off, the superphone cometh. Last year's Droid might've been the platform's first runaway success, but this year it seemed like every Android phone was a runaway success. "Superphones" like the EVO 4G showed the lust of the Android base for specs, and delivered a multitude of exclusive features (front-facing camera, 4G data, screen as large as a football field). Google also launched "Froyo," a significant update to the OS that really set Android apart. Sales followed, and Android's market share has ballooned to rival just about everybody.
- Everything you wanted to know about Froyo
- Engadget's EVO 4G review
- Engadget's Droid X review
- Engadget's Droid 2 review
- Engadget's T-Mobile G2 review
Motion gaming goes next-gen. If you ask Nintendo, motion gaming is so 2006, but Microsoft and Sony finally got on board with their own competing products: Kinect and PlayStation Move. Both are system add-ons, and both have been selling great, though truly great games have still yet to arrive.
The internet TV box breaks through. The internet has been threatening to take over our TV viewing experience for decades, but this year it finally got a taste of victory. Thanks primarily to the ubiquity of Netflix, we've been watching a lot less cable this year. Of course, hardware helped as well, with Google TV, Apple TV, Boxee Box, and Roku products all making a bid for living room primacy. No one has the perfect box just yet, but it feels so close we can taste it.
- Engadget's Roku review
- Engadget's Apple TV review
- Engadget's Google TV review
- Engadget's Boxee Box review
The infamous rise and fall of the Kin. While Microsoft's cancellation of the Courier was a disappointment, the entire Kin saga is just plain embarrassing. Microsoft's splintered, competitive corporate culture pushed a sub-par product to market, and nobody but Microsoft's top brass seemed surprised that it was an utter failure at retail and as a product.
Foxconn and a little bit of perspective. While we got plenty of goodies this year, we also saw a bit of the "seedy underbelly" of how our $200 supercomputers get made. Reports of suicides at Foxconn (who produces most Apple products, among many other things) raised the issue of low wages, long hours, and difficult working conditions. After months of bad press (and innumerable "exposes"), Foxconn raised wages and improved conditions somewhat. It's still hard to feel fully satisfied with the results, but our prickly collective conscience seems somewhat sated for now.
Google's little Nexus experiment. When we scored the very first Nexus One review it was hard to tell where we were going with this phone: was Google really going to reinvent the phone distribution model and circumvent the carriers at last? Turns out, not so much. Google backed off its "experiment," and has been playing super nice with carriers ever since. Now the Nexus S is here, a T-Mobile and Best Buy exclusive, to show that Google isn't out of the self-branded phone game, it's just not planning on winning.
HP buys Palm, disinherits the Slate. HP has been chafing at its Windows bonds for a while now, and 2010 made the tension clear. After letting Steve Ballmer show off the Slate tablet at CES, in a weak sort of "we have a tablet, too" before the iPad arrived, HP ended up buying a struggling Palm and changing its tune entirely. The Slate turned into an enterprise-oriented device (after being shown displaying a copy of Twilight at CES, as pictured above), and HP started gearing up for webOS-based tablets. We're still waiting for Palm to build a phone that can fulfill the promise of webOS, and the jury's still out as to whether HP is a knight in shining armor, or a too-large, printers-obsessed millstone for this once darling of the industry.
Android tablets crowd at the gates. Apple re-purposed its touchscreen operating system for use on the iPad, so it made sense that Android tablets would rise as a natural competitor. The story has been much more complicated than that, however, with a tension between manufacturers who are perfectly capable of building tablet hardware (and boy are they trying), and Google, who has yet to realize a tablet-specific version of Android. Caught in the crossfire was the Galaxy Tab, a good tablet that wasn't quite a great tablet. Next year will bring Motorola's first tablet and the major Android overhaul dubbed "Honeycomb," but for now the time of the Android tablet is not at hand.
The e-reader price war. While innovations like the Nook Color and the ever-improving Kindle did much to bolster e-reader sales, the biggest innovation was much more simple: price. Amazon and Barnes & Noble engaged in a bloody price war, and the consumers won. Amazon just announced that its latest Kindle (now as cheap as $139) has vaulted past the seventh Harry Potter book as Amazon's best selling product ever, a mark well into the tens of millions.
3D tries for the living room. This was the year that you thought about buying a 3D TV but didn't. Or, this is the year where you bought a nice TV and later found out it was 3D-capable. For the most part, none of us could afford the premium 3D models, or the 3D glasses necessary to enjoy them, but we all could've bought a 3D TV set, 3D Blu-ray player (like a PS3), and a set of glasses and gone to town if we'd wanted to. And that's gotta count for something, right?
Nintendo's 3DS takes off the glasses. We might look back on 2010 and 2009 as the years that Sony and Nintendo lost their duopoly on the handheld gaming market, as iOS and Android entered scene, but Nintendo is hardly out yet. It unveiled the 3DS this year, a handheld gaming device with a glasses-free 3D screen. It was a sign of significant innovation and risk taking from a company that seems to do those things only a few times a decade.
4G and "4G." So 3D is a tough sell -- we have to pay for it outright -- but we've been paying carriers for years (in the form of big, hefty margins) to build out next-generation networks, and it really started to happen this year. Sprint launched its WiMAX network in a big way (including phones like the EVO and Epic), T-Mobile redubbed its HSPA+ efforts "4G," and Verizon just turned on some LTE. It's a whole lot of bandwidth, and we're finding plenty of use for it, trust us.
Nokia stumbles and bumbles. If you took a cursory glance at our year in coverage of Nokia, you might think we have it in for the company. Unfortunately, it's really been that bad of a year for the Finnish giant, struggling to maintain mindshare in the smartphone market, even as it dominates the low-end. CEO Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo was pushed out, The Symbian Foundation failed in its shepherding of the OS, and Nokia's flagship N8 handset was received poorly by reviewers and consumers who wanted something a bit more modern. The great hope for next year is MeeGo, but Nokia has a lot of ground to cover in a smartphone market that already feels overcrowded.
Video calling is cool again. Just when we thought we were bored with video calls and the awkward faux-eyecontact they entail, phones started getting front-facing cameras and putting us back in the video call saddle. Sprint was at the forefront, with its EVO 4G and Epic 4G, while T-Mobile's MyTouch 4G joined in later on (all relying on Qik for service). Apple's lack of 4G kept the iPhone 4 to WiFi calls only (at least, unless you hack it), but Apple easily won the award for "most adorable video calling ad."
And that's it from us, but we're sure there's something you'd like to add. That's what comments are for! Let us know what stories made 2010 for you.