5 tech stories that caused disruptions in 2016

Javed Anwer
Javed AnwerDec 31, 2016 | 12:23

5 tech stories that caused disruptions in 2016

When it came to gadgets, 2016 was a rather dull year. But technology? Boy, did it explode. And no, I am not just talking about the Galaxy Note 7.

It turned out to be the year when tech pervaded our lives so thoroughly that there was no escaping. It was no longer something peripheral. It was integral to the lives of people. Even those deep within rural India were not left untouched as Prime Minister Narendra Modi unleashed his demonetisation drive, and then asked people to use smartphones to make all purchases, including daily bread.

With this context in background, here are the biggest tech stories of the year:

All aboard demonetisation

In a way this is an economy story. But so integral is the digital part of it that the Indian government's great demonetisation drive is also a tech story. With 86 per cent of all currency notes out of circulation, literally, overnight, the onus of keeping the economy chugging fell on cashless transactions enabled by internet banking, credit and debit cards and e-wallets like Paytm and Freecharge.

The cashless economy is all about the digital transactions and with the PM of the country himself asking people to step up and get smartphones for cashless transactions, demonetisation has unleashed a wave that is going to change the way people use (or abuse) personal technology in India.

Jio arrives. More or less.

Launch of Jio is probably the biggest telecom news of the decade. Reason is simple: with Jio, Reliance aims to disrupt the whole market and to ensure that it succeeds in its goals, the company has spent billions of dollars. So far, the promise of Jio has not been realised. Although, despite teething problems, Jio has its fans in India because it is free. It has been free since the day its services rolled out to general public on September 5 and it will continue to be free until March 31.

But these are the early days and it is possible that in the coming months Reliance may fix the Jio problems. Even if it doesn't, the big impacts of Jio are already visible. Companies like Airtel and Vodafone have slashed the data tariffs for wireless internet.

Overall, there seems to be some buzz in the telecom industry, with consumers at the centre of it. Without Jio's entry, it wouldn't have been possible.

Launch of Jio is probably the biggest telecom news of the decade.

Fake news, real consequences

Not everything you read on the web is true. But never before all the lies and falsehood that are paddled on the web affected the real, serious world of politics the way they did in 2016. It is not entirely accurate to say that Donald Trump is going to be the president of world's most powerful nation because of fake news. But there is no doubt that all the lies that shady blogs pushed helped his case. Just the way they helped the case of so many other politicians and mischief makers across the world.

The information on the web is no longer neutral or benign. It is not longer mere trolling. When a story, fake or real, spreads on Facebook, it has real world ramifications. Until 2016, the world looked at the virtual and the real with different lenses. In 2016, we realised there is no difference between the real and the virtual.

Pixel perfect

For years, Google relied on its proxies to fight its smartphone battle against Apple. But in 2016, it entered the fray itself. The company came out with Pixel phones, which it claims are the first "made by Google" phones. The entry of Google into a market that its partners like Samsung and HTC dominate is significant. It alters the whole landscape.

Google, with its Pixel phones, not only competes with Apple's iPhone but also faces a battle from Samsung's Galaxy S7. For consumers, too, the implications are big. For long, users have demanded a pure Android phone, which has all the goodness of Android but without all the junk that Google partners often put in their phones.

In 2016, Google obliged. The best bit is that the Pixels in 2016 were like trailers. The real picture, or so we hope, will come in 2017 when Google releases Pixel successors that are possibly designed and engineered from the ground up.

Google, with its Pixel phones, not only competes with Apple's iPhone but also faces a battle from Samsung's Galaxy S7. (Credit: Reuters photo)

Note 7 stars in a Greek tragedy

This was the Greek tragedy of the tech world in 2016. And it starred the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 in the lead role. Just like the heroes in Greek tragedies, the Note 7 looked invincible. It was an absolutely fantastic phone, on top of its class with superlative hardware and unique features. But then one flaw, a tragic flaw, and the whole story came undone. Problems with the battery saw Galaxy Note 7 exploding and burning, across the world.

Initially, it seemed the exploding Note 7 were just exceptions. But soon they were not. The airlines banned the device from flights and it was deemed a hazard almost everywhere it was released. Samsung tried dousing the fire but failed. It then took a hit that would run into billions of dollars and decided to recall and kill the Note 7. It was probably the best phone of 2016. But for that one flaw!

Last updated: January 03, 2017 | 12:27
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