As I’m sitting down to reflect on everything that’s happened in the past year, I feel as though this has been one of the wildest rides I’ve ever been on. We’ve seen the rapid decline of one of the most popular social media platforms, AI is rapidly taking over the world, and 2024 is already shaping up to be even wilder.
Originally, I was going to try and put these topics in a certain order, but, I ended up spending too much time going back and forth. Instead, I said, “forget it,” and decided to go with the flow. So, without further adieu, these are my favorite things of 2023.
More foldables – OnePlus Open, Pixel Fold
I’ve been beating the foldable phone drum ever since I got my paws on the Galaxy Z Fold 2, but my interest started to wane a bit. Mainly because Samsung has retained the same design for the past three years, and trying to import any of the cool foldables from overseas isn’t exactly fiscally responsible. Thankfully, Google and OnePlus pulled me from the pits of despair, offering two similar, yet completely different, experiences.
For as long as I’ve been using foldable phones, I’ve been waiting for the day that Google would release one of its own. The Pixel Fold finally arrived, and I was able to get it on launch day, replacing my broken Galaxy Z Fold 4. It’s pretty much everything I wanted from a Google foldable, but I also learned a few things about using non-Samsung foldable phones along the way.
The end of my daily use of the Pixel Fold came courtesy of OnePlus’ foray into the market with the OnePlus Open. If you think the Galaxy Z Fold 5 is too narrow and the Pixel Fold is too wide, then the Open is the perfect middle ground. It continues to be the phone I reach for the most, thanks to the incredible cameras and a cover screen that feels more natural to use than the others.
Legion Go, Steam Deck OLED, and gaming handhelds galore
As of late, we’ve been doing a little bit more coverage in the way of gaming handhelds. This is simply because there are so many fantastic handhelds to choose from, and I’m not just talking about the Razer Edge or Logitech G Cloud. This year alone, Lenovo launched the Legion Go (a Windows handheld), Valve launched the Steam Deck OLED, ASUS came swinging with the ROG Ally, and countless other handhelds were released.
That’s not to mention the likes of the Ayaneo Pocket AIR, AYN Odin 2, Retroid Pocket 2S Plus, Anbernic RG35XX Plus, Pimax Portal, and so many more. All of these run some version of Android, making it so you can either load up your favorite emulators or just install the best Android games. All without needing to worry about physically connecting a controller to your phone and worrying about battery life.
Honestly, these gaming handhelds have replaced mechanical keyboards as my current obsession. I just can’t get enough, and following Ayaneo’s announcement of the Pocket S, I couldn’t be more excited to see how much more powerful these handhelds can get.
Something that I’ve come to learn in 2023 is that the inner tinkerer didn’t actually disappear. I’ve started spending more and more time outside of Apple’s walled gardens and fell right into the arms of Framework. The single Chromebook that I’ve kept coming back to over the past year is the Framework Laptop Chromebook Edition, but it’s gone beyond that.
I’m currently working on either getting a new Framework Laptop or Mainboard. The reason for this has to do with the new Framework Chromebox that I built using the Framework Chromebook’s Mainboard and the Cooler Master Mainboard Case. Trying to figure out why I couldn’t get it to work ended up taking me down a deep rabbit hole, but when I came out on the other side, it was so refreshing and exciting.
Despite having a MacBook Pro using Apple’s M2 Max chip and understanding how much more powerful and efficient it is, I can’t help but be frustrated. Nothing about the MacBook is replaceable, so instead, I’m trying to “future-proof” myself a bit by moving to Framework. Because I could write about Framework forever, just head over to my Framework Chromebox piece if you want to know more about why I’m moving away from Apple in some regards.
Chromebooks continue to get better
After years of being stuck in what felt like purgatory, Chromebooks have been thrust into the limelight. While I’d like to sit here and gush about the HP Dragonfly Pro Chromebook, Acer Chromebook Spin 714, and Framework, this isn’t the place for that.
Google continued to show its commitment to the platform with the announcement of the Chromebook Plus initiative. Not only does this provide a set of guidelines for Chromebook makers, but it also opens the door for even more useful and exciting features down the line. Google also did the right thing and brought Chromebook Plus features to “older” devices, meaning that as long as the requirements are met, you don’t need to rush out and buy one just to get specific features.
ChatGPT, Bard, Claude 2
ChatGPT burst onto the scene late last year and, in doing so, turned 2023 into the “year of AI.” The prominence of OpenAI’s chatbot was so impactful that it seemingly forced Google to launch its public-facing competitor in Bard. But those aren’t even the only two LLMs that are easily accessible, as there are a plethora of options such as HuggingChat, Anthropic’s Claude 2, and even Elon Musk’s “Grok.”
Not to mention that as the platform seemed to stabilize around GPT-4, OpenAI introduced extensions, while Google eventually did the same with Bard. Then, Google surprised many by introducing three new models, bringing Gemini Nano to the Pixel 8 Pro and infusing Gemini Pro into Bard. We’re also awaiting the arrival of Gemini Ultra, which could be Google’s answer to GPT-4, but that won’t come until sometime next year.
So many great games (old and new)
I could have just slotted this into the same section as gaming handhelds, but that would be a disservice. 2023 saw the launch of so many incredible games, such as The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, Baldur’s Gate 3, Starfield, and the list goes on.
But, my passion for retro gaming was reinvigorated, largely due to the various gaming handhelds that have hit the market. Being able to play some of my favorite childhood classics on pretty much any device I want is simply incredible. The best part about it all, for me at least, is that I don’t need to use my phone and can just rely on a dedicated device.
From a single device, I can go from playing Baldur’s Gate 3 or Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 to firing up Super Mario Bros. Wonder or Tears of the Kingdom. Now, the only thing I need to worry about is making sure that my portable charger has enough juice to last until I get home.
AR/XR glasses are a game-changer
Something that reared its ugly head in 2023 was having to deal with chronic headaches. It’s not related to my eyes but instead is because of the pressure that I put on my neck when testing out Chromebooks and tablets or playing games on my phone or other devices. However, I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to mess around with smart glasses such as the XREAL Air 2s and TCL NXTWEAR S.
These largely work with pretty much any device out there, including the best Android phones and Chromebooks. It has come in handy when taking trips and riding shotgun, as the glasses allow me to get work done (or play games) without needing to stare down at my laptop or tablet screen. I’ve even started using these at the end of the day when I just want to lay down on the couch but want to finish my daily objectives in Call of Duty on my Legion Go or ROG Ally.
The return of the ultrawide monitor (to me)
One of my big WFH purchases after the pandemic started was an ultrawide monitor, as I needed something larger than what I had. Last year, I gave that up in favor of the LG C2, as it offers 4K/120Hz and can be used as a monitor for Windows, macOS, and even ChromeOS. However, my entire home office setup was again thrown into disarray after I laid my eyes on the Samsung Odyssey OLED G9.
This behemoth of a monitor is 49 inches wide, with a 5120×1440 resolution and up to a 240Hz refresh rate, and offers me more flexibility than I even imagined. It gives me the same experience as using two 27-inch QHD monitors without the separation in the middle. Unless something breaks, I don’t see myself going back to regular monitors anytime soon.
New tablets in all shapes and sizes
For the most part, I’m still of the belief that if you need a tablet, you should at least consider an iPad. However, the gap between the iPad and the best Android tablets got quite a bit smaller in 2023.
There’s the Pixel Tablet that doubles as a smart home hub, even though Google says that wasn’t the point. Amazon’s Fire Max 11 remains one of my favorite tablets, as long as you get the one that doesn’t constantly throw ads in your face. And Samsung’s Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra is almost perfect if you want a laptop replacement.
I’m not sure whether Android tablets will be able to close the gap any further, as there are rumors that Apple is aiming to revamp its iPad lineup in 2024. This potentially includes using OLED displays for the iPad Pro models and introducing the latest M3 chips to certain models. At the same time, rumors also suggest a larger iPad Air getting thrown into the mix. Even still, I’m excited to see what kind of response there will be from the likes of Samsung and, maybe, Google.
A growing family
I don’t talk too much about my personal life here or even on the podcast, but there’s another reason why 2023 has been such a roller coaster. After years of pleading with me, I finally caved, and we adopted Leia, who has been the most incredible coworker that anyone could ask for. She’s a mix of four different breeds and, unfortunately, has a personality that’s a mix between my wife and me.
Just a few months later, I took a break from working only to have my wife share the wonderful news that we were expecting! Things have been a whirlwind since then, and we still have a little ways to go before the big day, but I have never been more excited (and afraid) of anything in my life. It’s always exciting to start the next chapter of your life, and shortly after the calendar flips into 2024, my next chapter will begin.
2024 is already shaping up to be exciting
When the year started, I didn’t expect to end up where I’m at now. Not only have there been some pretty massive changes in my personal life, but 2023 has helped to change the way that I think about everything.
As we get ready to turn the calendar over and start a new year, I’m excited about what we might see. Gemini Ultra should be making its way to us sooner or later, the Galaxy S24 launch is right around the corner, and who knows what the year could hold for Chromebooks and ChromeOS.
More importantly, I’m extremely grateful to be working with the team here at Android Central. You really couldn’t ask for a better band of misfits to work alongside, and if this year has been any indication, it’s only going to get better from here.