Half the year has passed. And six months in the dynamic world of technology and social media means a slew of exciting launches, as well as some casualties. Here’s our recap of what worked, and what didn’t, so far. Of course, we’re also looking forward to a few other things, the future of which, we, the consumers, are yet to determine.
Net neutrality: India marked a major milestone in digital activism when Internet users bombarded the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) with a million emails to ‘Save the Internet’. The TRAI had invited public opinion on its proposal to allow telecom-Internet providers to charge differently for different uses of data. The ensuing outrage saw several big and small app developers pull out of schemes like Airtel Zero and Internet.org.
Drones: It’s almost impossible to write about the first half of 2015 without mentioning the increasing popularity of quadcopters. From ones that took selfies and captured images in 4k resolution to those that followed voice commands and hunted down other drones, launches took place thick and fast in the first quarter of the year.
The rise of Chinese smartphone makers: There was a time when the smartphone turf war was fought between Apple and Samsung. Not anymore. Posing a serious challenge are Chinese smartphone makers, like Xiaomi, Oppo, OnePlus, Meizu, Lenovo, Huawei and Gionee. And if the popularity of their devices is anything to go by, the big boys have a lot to worry about.
Live-streaming apps: Though not exactly a new concept — services have been around since the 2000s — the launch of Meerkat and Periscope made it easier to broadcast lives on the go. And if the selfie trend is anything to go by, the fad to point at and post whatever is going on isn’t going away soon.
Dubsmash: You’d have to be living under a rock to have not heard of this popular app that lets you lip-sync to songs, movie quotes, and more. From Alia Bhatt and Saina Nehwal to Hugh Jackman and Rihanna, many have fallen victim to Dubsmash.
Oculus Rift: Critics call it ‘the coolest product in the world right now’ and gamers can’t wait to get their hands on this headset that promises a truly immersive experience in the virtual world. Shipping begins in the first quarter of 2016 with pre-orders possible by the end of this year. Ready for some virtual reality?
Xiaomi Mi band: Fitness trackers turned specialists this year with smart bands that monitored sleep, stress and even your heart rate at a premium price. That was till a certain Chinese smartphone maker entered the market with a price tag of `999 and made everyone sit up, changing the rules of the game overnight.
Mortal Kombat X: There was a lot of hype around this game’s release and, if the sales figures are anything to go by, the title has hit bulls-eye, dominating charts around the world. It has done well both critically and commercially, and the action-hungry gaming community too has taken a liking to it. Clearly, a win-win situation.
Online activism gets an icon, literally: From gay and feminist emojis to ones that help kids to report abuse and represent racial diversity, emoji activism took off like never before. And though they had detractors claiming that such activism was unnecessary, it did catch the fancy of netizens.
Samsung Galaxy S6: Termed as the ‘Android phone to beat this year’, it boasts of an improved fingerprint reader, a camera shortcut key and decluttered take on Android 5.0.
Selfie sticks banned: While the craze around selfies refuses to die down, the list of places where the popular picture-taking gadget is unwelcome is getting longer. Wimbledon and Disney World have joined the likes of The Museum of Modern Art, The Palace of Versailles, the Colosseum, and Manchester United and Arsenal’s home grounds, among others, in enforcing a no selfie-stick rule.
Alternative payment systems: Not too long ago, the bitcoin captured the imagination of millions as an alternative currency. Experts believed 2015 would see the emergence of digital wallets and other alternative payment systems. Though Apple Pay, Paytm and a few others did create some amount of buzz, they are nowhere close to replacing traditional payment systems in India.
Online piracy rampant in India: As broadband penetration improves, developing countries like India are increasingly contributing to the rise in piracy. This year, the first four episodes of the Game of Thrones leaked online before the show’s premiere. The first episode was downloaded a whopping 13 million times — a new piracy record for the series. Most of those downloads (10 per cent) were from within the United States. India was a runner-up along with countries like France, Brazil, China, Russia, UK, India, Canada, Australia and Spain.
Secret shuts down: Apps promoting anonymity and inviting users to confess their deepest and darkest thoughts were quite the rage for quite a while. Then, suddenly, the creators of Secret announced plans to shut it down citing anonymity as a double-edged sword. The app had been dealing with highly publicised cases dealing with bullying and gossip for some time now.
AIB Roast/India’s Daughter banned: Two bans in the first half of the year caused much outrage among netizens. While the AIB Roast was pulled down from YouTube for its supposed obscene content, the documentary India’s Daughter was banned by an Indian court because the excerpts “appear to encourage and incite violence against women”. Despite the bans, both went viral.
Internet Explorer to be replaced: The the Microsoft browser Internet Explorer (IE) will soon become extinct. Microsoft is working on a new browser, tentatively called Project Spartan, to replace it. RIP Internet Explorer, you will be missed.
Barack Obama’s debut on Twitter: It is not every day that the world’s most powerful man makes his social media debut. In less than five hours, @POTUS had a million followers. However, Caitlyn Jenner, formerly Bruce Jenner, broke that soon after by hitting the same mark in four hours.
Windows 10: There’s been a lot of buzz around this latest OS from Microsoft. But while it may be a task to get those on Windows 7 to upgrade and mollify those who hate Windows 8, expect a lot of noise from critics and fans alike on July 29 when it becomes available for free download.
Android TV: Google’s first attempt to popularise Android TV is best not talked about. However, the second act has seen more apps, better hardware and a host of new features. Of course, none of this guarantees success for the relatively new platform. But if word-of-mouth catches on, it may well be worth that little extra expense.
Apple Watch: There’s been no shortage of gadget reviews for Apple’s latest device. For the most part, the consensus is that it’s probably the best smart watch you’re going to find in the market. But the apps aren’t anything to rave about. With most Apple fans yet to get their hands on the product, the jury is out on this one.