As the calendar gets closer to 2015 it’s time to look back and recap the past year. 2014 will go down as one of the most important years in the history of Android. We saw tons of wearables, a brand new design language, new hardware manufacturers, new Nexus devices, and a few fails along the way. It’s been a fun year. Here are the top 10 Android stories from 2014.
Perhaps the most easy to spot story from 2014 is Material Design. If you’re an Android user or just an Android fan it’s impossible to look anywhere without seeing Material Design. Every since Google announced Material Design back in June we’ve been seeing it slowly trickle out to all things Android.
Material Design is the biggest change we’ve seen in Android since Ice Cream Sandwich. It’s much more colorful, playful, and full of animations. Google describes it as being made of digital paper. When something moves or expands into view you can see exactly where it’s coming from or how it appeared. Android has never looked better, and we have Material Design to thank for that.
One of the most controversial stories of 2014 has been a start-up hardware company named OnePlus. Before they even had a phone to show off they were making waves with their #NeverSettle marketing campaign. OnePlus claimed that phones from Apple, Samsung, HTC, and others required users to “settle.” In April they finally announced the OnePlus One. It had excellent specs and an even better price, but the trouble was just beginning.
First they caught flack for a “Smash the past” campaign that urged people to break their old phone to get a OnePlus One invite. No one could simply buy a OnePlus One online. You had to win an invite and then you were able to buy the phone. It wasn’t until August that OnePlus opened the gates and sent out 10,000 invites.
August was also when OnePlus’ arguably most controversial situation occurred. In an attempt to open up the invite system to more females, OnePlus asked their female fans to post photos of themselves in the forums. The photos with the most votes would win invites. Hours later it was removed due to an influx of complaints. OnePlus has stretched the definition of “any publicity is good publicity.”
In 2014 we were introduced to a brand new version of Android for wearables. Previously, Android had been used on smartwatches in clunky implementations. Google’s solution to the problem was a slimmed down version of Android that focuses on notifications. Android Wear was born.
The first couple of devices to get Android Wear were pretty boring, but they’ve picked up speed since the Moto 360 was launched. These devices display useful cards for notifications, alerts, and other info you might be interested in. Android Wear is incredibly simple and easy to use, which makes it one of the best platforms for a category that is about to get much more crowded in 2015.
Amazon Fire Phone Fail
The Amazon phone. Rumors about Amazon creating a smartphone can be traced back several years, but in 2014 it finally happened. Amazon used everything they learned with their Kindle Fire line and put it into the Fire Phone. The specs were mid-range, and it had a bunch of crazy features, but despite the hype it just didn’t sell very well.
There are many reason for why the Fire Phone burnt out. It was priced at $650 unlocked or $200 with a contract from AT&T. The specs were from last year’s flagship devices. Amazon’s UI is clunky and flat-out bizarre when you throw in the weird 3D effects. No Google services are present on the devices. Not even prominent placement on Amazon’s homepage could save this phone.
Motorola had a very good year. A year after releasing the original Moto X and Moto G, Motorola came back with a new Moto X, new Moto G, the Moto E, DROID Turbo, the Moto 360 smartwatch, and the Nexus 6. You could make a very good argument that Motorola has the best Android phone, phablet, low-end phone, and smartwatch right now.
Over the last couple years Motorola has become very popular among Android fans, thanks in large parts to being owned by Google at one time. In early 2014 they were sold to Lenovo, but their vision and design have not changed. Motorola continues to offer great build quality, stock Android software, and super fast updates. We hope 2015 is even better.
We already talked about Material Design and Android Wear, but both of those are part of a bigger story from 2014: Android is everywhere. You could argue that Android was already everywhere, but in 2014 Google made a big push to make it actually work well everywhere.
Android Wear. Android Auto. Android TV. All of these new branches of Android come off the Lollipop tree. The idea is simple, and something Android fans have wanted for a long time. One version of Android that adapts to whatever interface you need. Plug it into a TV and it looks one way; plug it into a car and it looks completely different.
Google has always boasted about how Android can run on many different kinds of devices, but in 2014 they started taking it serious. Android TV still has a long way to go, and Android Auto has barely left the garage, but in 2015 expect to see Android truly be everywhere.
Nexus Goes Phablet
Phablets are certainly not new to the world of Android. Samsung kicked off the big phone movement way back in 2011. In 2014 the Nexus joined the party. The Motorola-made Nexus 6 was released with a giant 6-inch display.
Reviews of the Nexus 6 were a mixed bag. People loved it for Android 5.0 Lollipop, the build quality, battery life, and horsepower. The one point of contention has been the size, but that has been the story with every phablet device released the last few years. Even the iPhone 6 Plus received criticism from some critics for its outlandish size. Phablets are here to stay, and now Google has a contender.
“How is Apple Pay on a ‘Top Android Stories’ list?!”
Android fans usually don’t get too excited about Apple announcements. That changed with Apple Pay. Mobile payments have been possible with Android phones for quite a while, but it hasn’t been very popular or well-know. People have been saying it will take Apple to make mobile payments mainstream. They were right.
Immediately after the announcement of Apple Pay retailers started advertising their compatibility. The funny thing is that most of those retailers have been capable of mobile payments with Android phones for a long time. Apple Pay has brought even more retailers on board, and since it uses the same technology as Android mobile payments we can all benefit from it. Thanks, Apple!
Nokia finally adopts Android
Every time a sexy new Nokia Lumia phone is announced we see the same comments: “I want this phone with Android on it!” In 2014 those people finally got their wish, but it came in an unlikely way. Early in the year Nokia announced the Nokia X family of Android devices.
The initial announcement came with three phones: the Nokia X, Nokia X+, and Nokia XL. All three devices had very low-end specs and were marketed toward emerging markets. On top of that they ran a skinned version of Android that looked like Windows Phone and had no Google apps. These devices were nothing close to what Android fans were hoping for.
In July it was reported that Microsoft would be killing the Nokia X experiment. The dream of a high-end Android phone with Nokia hardware lives on.
Samsung Tried Stuff
Samsung is a company that loves to try a lot of different things, and they aren’t afraid to release some weird products. Their “spaghetti flinging” strategy has received a lot of criticism, but it has produced some very interesting devices. In 2014 alone we saw a lot of interesting devices from Sammy.
On the smartwatch front they released the Samsung Gear Fit and Gear S. Both of these devices feature curved displays that fit comfortably around your wrist. The Gear Fit was marketed as a fitness device, while the Gear S abandoned Android for Tizen in a monstrous body.
The Samsung Galaxy Note Edge was one of the strangest phones to be released in 2014. It was announced alongside the almost identical Galaxy Note 4, but the Edge has one big difference. The Edge gets its name from the display that curves around the right side of the device. This extra screen real estate can be used for a number of things that don’t do anything really compelling.
Maybe the most surprising thing Samsung announced in 2014 is the Gear VR, a virtual reality headset made with Occulus. The Gear VR uses the Galaxy Note 4 as the display and internals to power the device. It’s easier to use than the Occulus Rift because it’s a completely mobile system. The only problem is finding something cool to do with it.
It’s been a great year here in Android World. Tons of great new devices, software updates, apps, games, and so much more. We can only hope 2015 is just as good. The future for Android is brighter than it has ever been. We’re interested to hear what you think was the biggest Android story of the year! Let us know in the poll below, or write in your own picks in the comments below!