Top five smartphone disappointments of the year

The new iPhones should have had a better front camera and the Moto G should have had LTE, among other disappointments

Galaxy S5 in black

Galaxy S5 in black

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.

Send news tips and comments to mikael_ricknas@idg.com

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags amazonMotorolaAppleconsumer electronicsMicrosoftsmartphonesSamsung ElectronicsNokiaYEAR END

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Mikael Ricknäs

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Essentials

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?