Douglas’ top 2014 mobile HOT TAKES!

BlackBerry Passport review

In 2014, MobileSyrup launched not only a weekly podcast, but also the Tête-à-tête series, whereby Daniel and I spit hot fire about the most interesting topics in the mobile landscape.

Looking back over a year of debate, it’s clear that a few themes emerged from the ashes of 2014. Here then, are the hottest mobile hot takes of 2014, plus some additional picks of my favourite mobile things.

BlackBerry: new company, same great taste?

Okay, okay, I get it. No one wants to listen to the ex-BlackBerry employee talk about BlackBerry (disclosure: I used to work for BlackBerry) unless they’re writing about keyboards and trackpads. But 2014 was one of the most important years in the history of Canada’s preeminent mobile tech company, seeing the insertion of a new CEO with a fresh take to stave off bankruptcy and generate, you know, revenue.

That fresh take? Going back to basics: releasing hardware that eschews the consumer market in favour of a direct appeal to BlackBerry’s core demographic of productivity warriors. While the company may have tripped somewhat on the tightrope between nostalgia and concept demo, all the sound an fury was simply a ruse to garner attention for BlackBerry’s real business: enterprise services. In 2014, everyone thought BlackBerry was checkers, but John Chen was playing chess.

I don’t know how to properly consume digital content

This year I barraged Daniel with endless complaints about the way Canadians are forced to: listen to Wilco; watch Game of Thrones; and cheer for the Raptors. Call me a curmudgeon (no, seriously, call me a curmudgeon to my face. I dare you), but 2014 made two things abundantly clear: while technology has changed the way we relate to media, it’s in fact the entrenched business models that define how Canadians consume it.

Apple Watch

I want an Apple watch and I don’t know why

In 2014 wearable technology presented itself as the successor to smartphones as the avant-garde of mobile tech – but wait, don’t you need a smartphone to use them? That dichotomy between intention and execution defined smartwatches released this year, which for the most part provided little bang for the buck (unless you really like notification triage). Even Apple, who took great pains to articulate the intricate design decisions and processes which led to the construction of the Apple Watch, had little to say about what the smartwatch was actually designed for.

That said, I still want one, even if I’m not sure exactly why. 2015 will be the year that wearables matter, for some reason. Probably.

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: Android vs. iOS

Despite my impeccable credentials as a straight to the metal, command line nerd, I believe that the true aim of technology is to simplify complexity. As such, I’ve always carried an affinity for Apple’s mobile approach to make smart choices for me rather than Google’s, which is to provide me with endless choice and customization.

In 2014, both mobile platforms moved closer to each other, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t admit that Google did a better job of walking the line between simplicity and function. Overdue in answering calls for a design overhaul, Google delivered with Lollipop, wrapping Android’s power in a candy-sweet chrome.

Of course, because no Android smartphone was released in 2014 that could match the iPhone’s trifecta of screen, camera, and build quality, I was also remiss to switch (the Galaxy Alpha came soooo close).

AnthonyLacavera

Help us Chairman Handsome, you’re our only hope!

It’s fitting to end this retrospective essentially where the Tête-à-tête series essentially began: with a plea for Canada’s own #uncarrier. Stuck in a three-player market that prioritizes network quality over pricing competition, 2014 was the year in which Canadians hoping for a fourth major carrier… continued to wait.

The conditions on the ground won’t change until a company such as WIND gets the spectrum to compete nationally, something it could do through a merger with Videotron or via smart purchases during 2015’s AWS spectrum auction. On the former count, newly minted WIND CEO Pietro Cordova remained lukewarm, while boasting on the latter that it would be very hard “to f**k this up.”

Here’s hoping Cordova is right. Canadians want competition, if only as a respite from ever-increasing smartphone plan prices, which offer the same for more. In Chairman Handsome we trust.

My Dessert Island Decisions

In addition to prestige and an adoring readership, my role as Senior Editor at MobileSyrup provides me with an endless bounty of fun kit to play with. But life is about choices, so below you will find the mobile hardware and software that I found myself unable to part with in 2014.

iPhone 6 review

Hardware

iPad mini 3 – yes, it’s the same as last year’s model, but in this case, it’s a good thing (price aside). My iPad mini 3 goes everywhere with me, which is something I’ve never said about a tablet before.

iPhone 6 – Screen, camera, build quality. Name one phone that does all three better than the iPhone 6 (while fitting in one hand, thank you very much!), and I’ll eat my hat (note: I will not eat my hat).

Software

Evernote – It’s sometimes clunky, it takes a deep commitment to the app to extract maximum value, and everything is way too green. But the promise of the cloud is anywhere, anytime access to that which is most important to you, and on that front Evernote delivers in spades. It is the de facto home for my musings, ramblings, and best of lists.

Twitter – If I awoke to discover that Twitter was suddenly only available on Windows Phone, I’d switch in a minute. It is my ingrained connection to that which is called ‘the Internet’, and losing it would feel like exile from my digital self.

Instagram – Like Twitter, but for my narcissism. Regardless of whatever pablum Facebook spills about it being the home of your digital memories, a quick jaunt through your Instagram timeline is like binge watching the Wonder Years. Did you know it also has filters?

Transit / Hailo – The two applications I most relied on to navigate the wilds of urban Toronto. One got better this year, the other got out of town.

theScore – Micro content done right. The 24/7 digital equivalent of the bar buddy who says ‘did you see that?’ Related: LET’S GO RAPTORS!

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