This year felt like the year everyone was firing on all cylinders. Every market segment was on fire this year, from gaming to tech, movies and TV, books, music, and so much more. All that time spent locked down over the past few years has finally grown productive fruit, but it’s also been a bit of a weird year for me.
This year, I learned that some kinds of phones (and other displays) make me feel physically ill. As a result, I’ve had to get glasses for the first time since middle school, and I’ve had my fair share of weird injuries and other issues like that throughout the year. The big 40 is just around the corner for me, and I’m already feeling it.
But, paradoxically, it’s also the year I got into the best physical shape of my life; I got to travel for work again, and I got to see VR finally come into its own as a proper gaming medium.
So what else happened? Here’s my year-end recap of the top 10 things I loved in 2023.
Samsung’s foldables now have real competition
Motorola might be the first company to launch a phone with folding glass, but Samsung gets the credit for blazing the trail to make them popular. The problem is that the company has become rather complacent in its position of leadership over the past few years, and, thankfully, the competition got a lot tougher for the South Korean tech giant this year.
Phones like the OnePlus Open are just plain better than Samsung’s best, offering sleeker designs, better cameras, faster charging, and better battery life. That doesn’t mean Samsung’s phones aren’t worth buying — the S Pen functionality is still unrivaled, and Samsung’s software is a bit more mature than other players at times — but it’s now actually easy to recommend many alternatives to Samsung’s folding phones.
Because of this, Samsung’s portion of the foldable market share has dropped throughout the year, and I fully expect to see a renewed fervor in Samsung’s foldable products in 2024. I love foldable phones and want to see this space continue to thrive. I also need more companies willing to make displays that don’t make me want to curl up in a ball and die.
Getting to travel for work again
One of my favorite perks of this job is the ability to travel to see new places and things. I’ve been doing this for years, but COVID put a damper on that for a while.
This year, companies finally pulled back the curtain and did all the events. I got to go to New York several times this year, and I almost made it to San Francisco for the first time in over six years. Unfortunately, for that last trip, an American Airlines computer glitch caused all of my flights to get delayed and eventually canceled.
Oh well, maybe next year. Either way, I’m so grateful for the opportunity to travel and meet other members of this fantastic industry!
Kindling my love for matcha
I’ve lived with Tourette Syndrome my entire life, but you wouldn’t necessarily know it unless you know me personally. Still, even though my symptoms are usually mild, worse bouts come in waves, and there have been periods throughout my life where the tics are nearly unbearable.
Over the past year, coffee has started triggering my symptoms in the most horrible of ways, and I can no longer drink the aromatic drink I once loved. Thankfully, matcha has been there to replace it, giving me a caffeine kick when I need it without being as harsh as coffee.
L. Theanine has a lot to do with this, from what I’ve found out, and I’m grateful for a good drink that doesn’t make me feel awful!
Living in a Silo
I’m a sucker for post-apocalyptic books, tv shows, and movies. I’m not sure what it is about the theme that attracts me, but I can’t seem to get enough of it. Apple TV Plus’s new series, Silo, caught my eye immediately and was the first thing I watched when I finally tried out the subscription service this year.
My wife and I were immediately hooked, but there was a problem: the show ended on such a crazy cliffhanger, and this year’s writer’s strike ensured that season 2 wouldn’t be airing any time soon.
Thankfully, this show is based on a book series. Better yet, season one doesn’t even cover half of the content in the first book! We picked up the book after finding this out and are already nearly at the end of the second in the series.
In short, it’s a twisted tale of humans living in large underground silos because of some cataclysmic event. You’ll have to watch the show or read the books to find out more, but I promise it’s very worth your while.
Phones I can actually use
“Wait, aren’t you the editor in charge of phones,” I hear you ask. Yes, and while I split that honor with the great Harish Jonnalagadda, the problem is that most phones on this side of the Atlantic Ocean make my head want to split in two. Meanwhile, Harish gets to play with phones from manufacturers that actually seem to care about our eye health as consumers.
I’m talking about PWM sensitivity, a condition that I’ve developed over the past year and a half. The funny thing is that I had never heard of phone displays that flicker, yet almost every major flagship device released in recent years has a screen that flickers to varying degrees.
My brain hates this light flicker, and without my astigmatism-correcting glasses, looking at one of these phones for even a few seconds can give me a headache, make me feel dizzy, or even make me nauseous.
Thankfully, more companies are paying attention to this growing problem, and upcoming phones like the OnePlus 12 have displays that help mitigate the negative effects many modern displays create.
The internet isn’t always a mistake
Part and parcel to figuring out that flickering displays negatively affect me is the amazing community of people at the PWM-Sensitive subreddit and the LED Eye Strain Telegram community.
This group of helpful people is constantly looking out for one another, testing the latest phones and reporting on their success rates for display sensitivity. It’s hard enough to have a problem that only affects a small percentage of the population, but these wonderful people have given me a community to share my pain with, and that’s really something special.
It turns out the internet wasn’t a complete mistake after all!
VR games that feel like real games
This year is the year VR went AAA, no doubt about it. With Asgard’s Wrath 2’s release this month and Assassin’s Creed Nexus VR’s release in November, there’s little doubt the Meta Quest 3 offers up the AAA-quality games we’ve been dying for.
But those two games aren’t the only big releases this year. On the Quest, we also got games like Breachers, a Rainbow Six Siege-like multiplayer title, the Escape from Tarkov-like Ghosts of Tabor, a reboot of cult-classic The 7th Guest, the incredibly well-written and produced Arizona Sunshine 2, and a slew of other high-quality titles, as well.
On the PlayStation VR2 side, we got not one, but two Resident Evil VR games, Horizon Call of the Mountain, Gran Turismo 7, Arizona Sunshine 2, and the promise of more gaming greatness from Sony in the coming year. It’s been a brilliant time to be a VR gamer, and it’s only going to get better from here!
The gift of pets
Some people love cats or dogs, but I’m more of a fan of pets that don’t get my house dirty or ruin my furniture. I’m specifically talking about my pet chickens who live in a chicken castle I built for them in my backyard.
Scoff all you want, but these lovable feathered friends brought me much joy in 2023, along with a helping of sorrow. I lost two of them to diseases this year, but the ups always come with downs in life, and it’s a joy to look back at the memories these little goofball hens made throughout the year.
Plus, the community of chicken folk I’ve found on Instagram is truly one of a kind and has been very kind and helpful. Yes, I actually run an Instagram account filled with their antics. I’m mildly obsessed.
I’ve never been a sports person or someone who liked to work out. My extracurricular activities in high school and college mainly involved hanging out with friends and playing video games, but I learned something around the time I turned 35: use it or lose it.
I’ve been going to a don’t-call-it-CrossFit gym called Hard Exercise Works for the past three years, but 2023 is the year I finally went all in and started going nearly every day of the week. The progress I’ve made this year is nothing short of astonishing to me, especially as a person who has never had much in the way of coordination or overt physical strength.
I might have my fair share of weird problems (listed above), but I’m in the best physical shape of my life, and man, it feels good. If you’re at all considering doing the usual “I’m going to get more fit” New Year’s resolution, I’d heartily recommend looking around for a gym that does CrossFit-style workouts.
As has been the case with some of the previous points in this article, the community really makes a difference and keeps me going even when I’m feeling tired, and it makes all the difference in the world.
Our new AI overlords
Yeah, ok, so this last one is a little bit of a joke, but it’s also semi-serious in a weird way. This year marked a massive milestone for AI, one that’s both amazing and frightening at the same time.
Movies and TV have conditioned us to believe that AI will eventually destroy all of humanity, and we probably should never build it in the first place. Yet, humans are going to be human and forge forward no matter what. Google Gemini is the latest AI tool in a sea of them and promises to blow our minds in 2024 with its human-like thought capabilities.
Let’s just hope Terminator or The Matrix weren’t prophesy.