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Bah humbug. It's Andrew's Phones of the Year

'Tis not the season to be Jolla

Roundup When a blind chimp with a shopping strategy based around a pack of darts can come out of Carphone Warehouse with a decent phone - is there any point giving out awards? I've seen dozens of shiny new things this year - and I do wonder why reviews need to be longer than a few words. Maybe they don't need words at all. Perhaps everyone could do one-line reviews, only using emoji.

Phones. They're almost all good. Stinkers are few and far between. Apple makes its iPhone a bit better each year. "Value Android" isn't an insult any more. So in choosing the highlights I've gone for the unusual, or people who've tried a bit harder, either to please the value midrange market, or done something to diversify a very samey landscape.

Before I do, a word about the platforms. We're basically four down on last year, and two of these had serious backing.

BlackBerry put its BB10 on the backburner; with sales falling to 800,000 a quarter, it had little choice. BlackBerry's first Android device, the "Priv by BlackBerry", was well received. BlackBerry says a further one (or two) BB10 maintenance releases will be issued, but all the work is now focused on its tweaked Android. BB10 turned into a great alternative to iOS and Android - but it was probably doomed from the start (read why here).

Microsoft gave its mobile platform a much reduced profile. It's now a subset of Windows 10 that just happens to run on phones.

Windows Phone has been killed off, with Windows 10 Mobile, which only has a superficial resemblance to WP, the way forward.

I found that even in "released" form, W10M is a hellish beta test - and can't quite believe it was released at all. And I seriously questioned why Microsoft perseveres. But perhaps in a year's time the bugs will be ironed out, and the apps and content services will be poking a wary toe back in the Windows waters.

Two more minor platforms also edged into the background. The wealthy Mozilla Foundation said it would "stop offering Firefox OS smartphones". And Finnish Jolla first pivoted away from hardware, then put half of its staff on gardening leave. The company says it received pre-Xmas investment but without the reluctant gardeners. A Jolla rep described it as a "near death experience".

But what does it matter when Android storms on? To add to the list of mothballed platforms, are "pseudo platforms" that promised much, but didn't deliver in 2015. Cyanogen was on lots of pundits' lists 15 months ago, after Microsoft was reportedly investing (and Google too). But it hasn't become the Google-free that people expected (and that we suppose Microsoft wanted). Any guesses why? Tizen was another ghost at the feast. It's still being developed.

The flagship contenders were also bedevilled by problems with Qualcomm's 810 Snapdragon octocore chip, early versions of which ran hot.

As I wrote in my end-of-year mobile round-up it's all about China. The pace of manufacturing, falling costs, and the demand for SIM-only contracts, has created a vigorous market. This is reflected in my picks here, where value takes precedence over novelty. Flagship fatigue is here to stay.

Onto the plaudits.


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