This year has been an incredible year for smartphone lovers. Dozens of high-profile smartphones have reached the market and, likewise, consumer hands. And manufacturers have pushed the boundaries for what's possible in a pocket-sized computer and what said devices are capable of.
Chrome and iCloud Tabs for Safari prove that the home PC is no longer the staple in many people's computing, that more and more individuals are consuming the Web on the go. Ubuntu for Android, though not yet available to consumers, is a proof of concept that shows just what the latest smartphone technology is capable of. And countless third-party Android keyboards utilize gesture (or trace) typing with predictive input. Every step of the way, more and more cloud services are being introduced and smartphones are growing more connected and more knowledgeable about their owners.
But that's just a taste of the biggest software improvements of the year. In retrospect, 2012 has also been an impressive year for smartphone hardware, too.
Build quality, on many fronts, experienced a major overhaul. In many HTC devices, the mostly metal chassis of the past were traded for high-quality, unibody polycarbonate. Multi-core chipsets were doubled from two cores to four, and GPUs were drastically improved. LTE is now included in virtually all high-end smartphones, specifically those bound to a carrier here in the States. The display resolution standard for most smartphones is now 720p, making density and pixelation a non-issue on most smartphones. And at least a couple exceed that with an astounding (yet still very excessive) 1080p. Also, cameras have undergone impressive improvements, too, with better glass/lenses and software optimizations.
Devices like the HTC One X+, DROID DNA, Motorola DROID RAZR MAXX HD, Samsung Galaxy S III and Galaxy Note II are perfect examples of how well-rounded and incredible most modern smartphones are. They are no longer just emailing devices or mobile Web browsers. They're powerful machines that excel in gaming, video and media consumption, email, content creation and much, much more.
However, just as any other year, 2012 was not without fault. There were several, memorable blunders that the market could have done without. Particularly, there were a couple devices that we may have been better off without.
The Sony Xperia ion, for example, wasn't a terrible phone in terms of hardware. But this is 2012 and the ion launched in June with a late version of Gingerbread – Android 2.3.7, to be exact. It was updated to Ice Cream Sandwich in late September, which was a small win for ion owners. That said, there are entirely too many smartphones available that ship with Jelly Bean for Ice Cream Sandwich to be anything but a drawback of the device. For those out there wondering, the Xperia ion is expected to receive a Jelly Bean update in Q1 2013.
However, the Xperia ion doesn't hold a candle to what I find to be the most abominable smartphone of 2012. By fathoms, the worst phone of the year is LG's Optimus Vu, otherwise known as the LG Intuition on Verizon here in the States.
First detailed at Mobile World Congress in February, LG's Optimus Vu in time for it to still be relevant with decent specifications. It is a phablet with 32GB of built-in storage, 1GB RAM, a 2,080mAh battery, 1.5GHz dual-core Snapdragon S4 chip and LTE (as the Intuition). Everything else about this phone, though, is laughable, at the very best.
It has a 5-inch display with a resolution of 1,024 by 768 pixels. In terms of density, it's not terribly awful -- a mediocre 256 pixels per inch, just shy of the 267ppi of the 5.5-inch Galaxy Note II. The problem is the aspect ratio. Instead of a 16:9 like most current smartphones, the LG Optimus Vu, or Intuition, has an aspect of 3:4, the same aspect ratio as the iPad. The hard corners of the design make this square-looking device notably more square than any other smartphone out there.
Its design makes it terribly difficult -- if not impossible -- to use the phone one-handed and an ergonomical nightmare.
Not to mention, unlike the Galaxy Note (either generation) which comes with an integrated stylus called the S Pen, the Optimus Vu does not have a place to store its less-than-remarkable stylus, the Rubberdiem. And despite a few parlor tricks, the software does little to save this smartphone from being the clear winner -- or loser, depending on your perspective -- of the "worst smartphone of 2012" category.
The LG Optimus Vu may perform well and it may not be the worst smartphone of all time. But the ergonomics and design make it a very clear loser in 2012. It is one of the uglier devices and a clear indicator that LG is not yet ready for the phablet sector.
There were a few doozies in 2012. Which do you find to be the worst smartphone of the year? The LG Optimus Vu? The Xperia ion? Or something else?