When it comes to the best and worst tech products of 2010, top billing goes to Apple, according to the Wall Street Journal's venerable tech tester, Walter S. Mossberg. In a list ranking the year's highlights and disappointments, Mossberg named the Apple iPad as the best item on offer particularly for a 1.0 product and additionally gave the iPhone 4 top billing, tying it with the Samsung Galaxy S smartphone line for the number three spot.
Second place went to the nation's new 4G wireless networks.
In his March 31 review of the iPad, Mossberg wrote, "I believe this beautiful new touch-screen device from Apple has the potential to change portable computing profoundly and challenge the primacy of the laptop." However, Mossberg he added that it would have to prove that it really can replace the laptop or netbook for enough common tasks, enough of the time, to make it a viable alternative. This seems to have come true.
Mossberg found it a refreshing change to carry around the iPad, instead of a heavier, bulkier laptop; the iPad's battery to outlast even Apples promises for it; and the device to act as a better e-reader than even the Amazon Kindle. Mossberg even enjoyed typing on the on-screen keyboard which The New York Times tech critic David Pogue, who was uncharacteristically more reserved in his comments, found just barely usable.
As for the nation's 4G networks, Mossberg has likely had more opportunities than most consumers to test them, but heading into 2011, consumers certainly have a number of options.
Sprint has offered WiMax-based 4G coverage for some time now, and during 2010, Sprint continued to expand it. In late November the service went live in Los Angeles, Miami and Washington, D.C., among other cities. In early December, parts of Connecticut and Denver got the treatment, and on Dec. 28, San Francisco, Silicon Valley and other parts of the Bay Area will be switched on.
Giving Sprint some competition, T-Mobile began advertising its 4G network, based on HSPA+ technology, in early November, and on Dec. 5 Verizon Wireless turned on its 4G LTE (long-term evolution) network in 38 cities and 60 airports, while calling that coverage just the beginning. And by most accounts, when these networks are working, they are, indeed, wonderfully fast.
Also fast as well as feature-rich and well designed are the Samsung Galaxy S and Apple iPhone 4. The Galaxy S is representative of the powerful force that Android has become within the smartphone marketplace, states the Journal, accounting for the devices top-3 spot.
October data from The Nielsen Company found Android handsets to be the fastest selling smartphones of 2010, outselling the Apple iPhone and BlackBerry devices. And additionally, just the week before, research firm Gartner declared Android the number two mobile operating system worldwide, passing both Apple and BlackBerry to plant itself behind Symbian. With Android being activated on more than 200,000 handsets per day, Gartner expects to creep up on Symbian over the next few years.
The Apple iPhone 4 arrived in June and could hardly have received more press rumors of it swirled for nearly a year before its arrival; an Apple engineer forgot the device at a bar; and finally there was "Antennagate," which Apple CEO Steve Jobs dubbed the fuss that arose over the iPhone 4s antenna, which dropped calls when a users hand covered over a portion of the device.
Despite no longer being the only game in town and all the initial controversy over its antenna, the iPhone 4 is still the best overall smartphone, according to Mossberg.
On to the bad news, the worst products of the year, per Mossberg, were the Dell Streak, Google TV and TiVo Premiere.
Mossberg, like other reviewers, found the display size on the Streak - Dell's first Android-running tablet - to be odd.
It is really a tweener device, a design compromise, Mossberg wrote in his Aug. 11 review: "Depending on how you use it, the Streak can be considered a giant smartphone or a mini tablet. Dell is positioning it as a tablet, but, to me, it's more of a very large smartphone, but one that, for many, will be too large to carry around comfortably."
Google TV aimed to compete against Apple TV and Roku, among other competing products, but Mossberg reported there was little need to tune in just yet.
"For now, I'd relegate Google TV to the category of a geek product, not a mainstream, easy solution ready for average users," Mossberg wrote in his November review. "It's too complicated, in my view, and some of its functions fall short"
His latter sentiment went ditto for TiVo Premiere. Mossberg found it to show some flaws, as well as not go "nearly far enough" in tapping into the Internet. In sum, he continued, "TiVo Premiere looks incomplete. It seems more like a platform for a future set of offerings TiVo hopes one day to have, rather than a way to deliver new content right now."
Better luck next year, fellas.