Top 5 Gadget Stories Of 2016

2016 was a huge year for hardware gadgets. Here are some of the biggest stories that went down:

1. Exploding Galaxy Note 7s

Samsung was at the forefront of what is arguably the biggest consumer safety disaster in the history of the smartphones.

The Samsung Galaxy Note 7 was supposed to be the company’s crowd-pleasing, super-high-end new smartphone. But after its release, dozens of reports of phones overheating, catching fire or even exploding started to emerge.

Samsung voluntarily recalled the phones, and then the Consumer Product And Safety Commission issued its own recall. Samsung vowed to replace all the Note 7s that were out there in the U.S., but before long its replacement phones began to display the same defects. Samsung was forced to recall the Note 7 for good—and is now in the process of rebuilding its brand to launch the Galaxy S8 in the spring of 2017.

2. Apple Kills The Headphone Jack

Apple AAPL +0.26% is known for being ahead of the curve on hardware. But one person’s annoying change is another’s visionary move. And this year, the big hardware change Apple made was ditching the traditional 3.5mm headphone jack on the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus.

Instead, users must now listen on wireless Apple Airpod headphones, wireless headphones from a third-party provider, or use a separate dongle to hook up their still-corded earbuds through another port on the phone.

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3. Fitbit Acquires Pebble

Pebble went from Kickstarter success story to Kickstarter consumer warning story in 2016. Pebble smartwatches were once the scrappy competitor to wearable greats like the Apple Watch, Garmin GRMN +0.10% watches and Fitbits. But Fitbit acquired Pebble purely for its software tech and is killing off Pebble hardware from here.

While Pebble assured consumers that the 2 million Pebble watches out there will “ continue to work as normal” it also said “Pebble functionality or service quality may be reduced in the future.” In other words, at some point Pebble owners could be out of luck in terms of keeping their watches functioning and up-to-date.

4. Google Gets Into Hardware… Again

This October Google GOOGL -0.24% made a big commitment in the consumer hardware space and launched an array of new devices. The Google Pixel is the company’s new Android phone that goes toe-to-toe with the iPhone 7 and Samsung Galaxy S7. There’s also Google Home (Google’s answer to Amazon Echo), Google Wi-Fi (its answer to Eero), and Google Daydream VR (its answer to Oculus Rift and Samsung Gear VR).

This isn’t the first time that Google has dabbled in consumer hardware like smartphones. Google bought Motorola Mobility for $12.5 billion in 2012 only to turn around and sell it for just $2.9 billion two years later.

5. Snapchat Spectacles

Snapchat decided to become a hardware company this year too. It made the surprise move to rebrand itself as Snap, Inc. and release its new Spectacles sunglasses, which let you take 10-second snippets of video and upload them to Snapchat.

What do you think some of the notable gadget stories of 2016 were? Let us know in the comment section.