Jon Lamont’s favourite things in 2020

Check out some of my favourite tech, writing, gaming and more from 2020

Well, 2020 has been a wild year. If you had told me this time last year what was coming, I don’t think I would have believed you.

Despite all the pitfalls, frustrations and other issues, 2020 also had some excellent moments for me. I’d love to take some time to recognize a few of those things and reflect on my favourite parts of this year, such as some reviews I thoroughly enjoyed writing, games I enjoyed playing and more.

Favourite tech of the year

2020 saw a ton of companies launch new tech products. One of the upsides to my job is that I get to go hands-on with and try out many of these new products. This year, there were quite a few items that really stood out to me as top-notch.

Perhaps my favourite new tech from 2020 was Microsoft’s Surface Laptop Go. Although I argued it was a tough laptop to recommend given its high price, I also fell in love with it. It was such a fun little laptop to review, and I had an absolute blast testing it out. For more about great laptops, check out this round-up of MobileSyrup’s favourite laptops in 2020.

Speaking of Microsoft, I also quite like the company’s audio offerings. The Surface Headphones 2 and Surface Earbuds arrived this year, and I regularly use both. Granted, neither are the best in their class, but at the same time, the Headphones and Earbuds are excellent at what they do and work great for me.

A few other highlights include Toronto-based Nanoleaf’s smart light panels — I tested several new additions to the ‘Shapes’ brand this year, and they’re quite nice. I also quite liked the Google Pixel 4a — both the regular 4a and 4a 5G are excellent Pixel devices for someone who doesn’t want to spend a lot of money on smartphones.

Favourite writing of the year

I do a lot of writing — it’s my job, after all. But most of the time, that involves short-form writing, quick snapshots of daily breaking news and similar content. This year, however, I had the opportunity to spend a little more time writing longer pieces, and I had a lot of fun with a bunch of them.

One of the more memorable pieces I worked on involved coverage of Apple and Google’s joint effort to build a cross-platform exposure notification system. This system eventually became the backbone for several exposure notification apps in multiple countries, including Canada’s own COVID Alert app. But the early coverage of Apple and Google’s system was fascinating. It was a unique experience covering the behind-the-scenes work so extensively and then seeing the fruit of that work arrive later in the year.

Along with that, I also thoroughly enjoyed covering the iOS 14 privacy issues that stemmed from changes to how Apple’s mobile OS handles copy and paste functionality. The changes exposed hundreds of apps that were reading users’ clipboards and ultimately led many developers to change the behaviour or better explain why their apps were reading data from people’s clipboards.

Finally, I had a blast working with my colleague Dean Daley to explore Google’s unique approach to the Pixel 5 and discuss what it really means to be a ‘flagship’ smartphone.

Favourite gaming of the year

Although I enjoy gaming and spend a lot of time playing games, I typically don’t prioritize new releases. With most games, I don’t mind waiting a while to play, whether that’s to give developers time to work out bugs or just waiting for a sale and lower prices.

With that in mind, I wanted to touch on a few games that I spent a lot of time playing this year. While many weren’t new in 2020, they were new to me.

Early in the year, I spent an absurd amount of time in Stardew Valley and Factorio. Several people at the MobileSyrup office found themselves playing Stardew, and the game quickly became a popular topic of conversation. With everything that’s going on, Stardew’s laid-back gameplay and relaxing experience were a welcome reprieve.

As for Factorio, a friend recommended it to me towards the end of my Stardew kick and that game dominated my evenings for several weeks after I discovered it. At a basic level, Factorio is about building a giant factory to eventually make a rocket ship. However, what’s unique about Factorio is that almost anything you can craft in the game can be automated by building a factory. In other words, players will find themselves building different factory systems to make materials they need to expand their factory to build more, and it becomes this really engaging puzzle.

Aside from Stardew and Factorio, a few other games have kept me quite engaged throughout the year. My friends and I spent time playing Apex Legends, Spellbreak, Remnant: From the Ashes, The Cycle, Fall Guys and more. Most recently, several of us decided to try out Microsoft’s Xbox Game Pass — the current $1 for three months deal is really good. After joining Game Pass, we took to the high seas in Sea of Thieves searching for lost treasure.

I’d recommend checking out all of these games, especially if you have a couple of friends to play with, as they’re all quite good.

Getting personal

Along with all the cool new tech, games and writing I did in 2020, I also had some significant changes in my personal life. I’m a fairly reserved person and usually don’t publicly share much of my personal life, so I’ll keep it short — this year, I got married.

Getting married in a global pandemic was quite the challenge. Still, thankfully we were able to do so safely by adhering to all the health guidelines — and going above and beyond in several areas — as well as by having a small ceremony.

Difficulties aside, it was hands down the best part of my 2020 and such an exciting part of my year. I can’t wait to see what next year brings, both for my wife and I, and also in the tech world.