When I sat down to write this same feature at the end of 2015, the world seemed a much simpler place. At least that’s the impression I have.
In hindsight, I’m sure the same anxieties that worried me throughout 2016 also worried me in 2015. Politics aside, 2016 was an impressive year in a lot of other ways, and like the rest of the MobileSyrup team, here I’ll highlight some of my favourite things from the past twelve months.
Best smartphone: OnePlus 3T
In a year in which Apple delivered the headphone jack-less iPhone 7 and Samsung couldn’t keep its best phone to date from exploding, the OnePlus 3 stood out to me as one of the most compelling phones to come out in 2016. Granted, Samsung also released the excellent S7, but even after the touchups the company made to TouchWiz, something about the minute-to-minute experience of using a Samsung phone still doesn’t appeal to me.
The OnePlus 3, meanwhile, impressed me with its clean take on Android and mountain of customization options. It also helped that 2016 was the year that Android grew into a stable and mature operating system.
I’m sure someone will jump into the comments to tell me 2016 saw much better phones than the OnePlus 3. They’re not wrong. The fact of the matter is, even with all the misses this year, 2016 saw some exceptional phones. That said, no other phone quite appealed to my particular tastes like the OnePlus 3 did.
In the past year, I’ve been fortunate to travel to cities like San Francisco and New York, as well as countries like Italy and Croatia. If there’s one thing that has helped me achieve that feat (besides a stable and well-paying job at MobileSyrup — thanks, Ian!), it’s an app called Hopper.
Made by a Montreal startup, Hopper allows iOS and Android users to easily track and compare flights to save money. Simply pick a destination and the date you want fly out by, and Hopper will notify you when it’s the ideal time to book a flight. I’ve saved hundreds so far using the app. I can’t recommend Hopper enough, even if you only fly infrequently.
Music: Chance the Rapper – Coloring Book
By all accounts, 2016 was an awful year, but if there’s one piece of music that helped me get through this year’s toughest moments, it was the soulful and hopeful vibes found on Chance the Rapper’s second mixtape, Coloring Book.
With a voice and delivery unlike anyone else on the rap scene, Chance soothed with his positive but poignant songs about young love, lost friends and faith. At its best, Coloring Book is a celebration of life, both its brightest and darkest moments, and it’s for that reason that I fell in love with it.
Coloring Book is also an important inflection point for both tech and the music industry. It is the first album to chart on the Billboard 200 based solely on streams — it was only available on Apple Music when it came out in May. Moving forward, I’m sure we’ll see more artists achieve the feat, but I can’t think of an artist more deserving of the distinction.
Music: Tycho – Epoch
Fun fact: according to Spotify, I am in the top 1 percent of Tycho fans.
I’ve been a huge fan of Scott Hansen’s music since 2011’s Dive, more or less the best piece of Boards of Canada-esque music released since Boards of Canada itself came out with Geogaddi in 2002. That said, Epoch is the band’s tightest, most focused album released to date, and it sees Tycho forging a musical identity that is all its own.
Best video game: Titanfall 2
2016 may go down as the year humanity consigned itself to a future of catastrophic climate change or nuclear annihilation (or both), but it will also likely go down as one of the best years in video game history, perhaps even matching the highs set by 1998 and 2004.
Between games like Dark Souls 3, Overwatch, Dishonored 2 and more, there were so many great gaming experiences to check out this year, but my personal favourite to come out this year was Titanfall 2. Between its incredible single player campaign that evokes memories of Half Life 2 and perfectly tuned multiplayer, Titanfall 2 is close to perfect. It’s a shame then that EA, the game’s publisher, decided to release it in between Battlefield 1 and Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, new entries in two giant franchises, but none of that diminishes from Titanfall 2’s brilliance.
If you have any interest in the game, it’s currently 50 percent off on EA’s Origin platform.