2016: The Year in Cellular

Happy 2016 new year word over blue. Vector paper illustration.

There’s no doubt at this point that the cell phone is the most important possession most people have. Assuming the weather was nice enough, I’m pretty sure most of us would do without pants instead of doing without out phones. They are the way we see the world, period. That may not be right but it sure is true.

2016 has been a big year for the cell phone industry in general and it’s come down to a few factors.

Samsung: literally boom and bust.
No question that the big news story in the cellular world was the spectacular failure of Samsung’s Galaxy Note 7, which had the unfortunate tendency to catch fire, just when you didn’t want it to (although, not sure when you would ever want it to.) Even a recall couldn’t stop the problem and this ended up being the highest profile product failure in Samsung’s history, possibly in the history of cellular communication.

The bad press associated with the GN7, combined with stronger-than-expected demand for Apple’s warmed-over iPhone 7 (which boasts a new color scheme and not much else) meant all of a sudden Samsung didn’t look like the king of the Androids anymore. They’ll come back, but it’s going to take a while.

On the other hand, late in the year, a court decided that Samsung didn’t have to pay Apple roughly 400 gazillion dollars for copyright infringement. The actual number is yet to be determined although it will probably be at least a few gazillion.

LTE Advanced finally advances
Carriers started rolling out LTE-Advanced this year, which is the first “real” implentation of the LTE standard that carriers have been claiming they’ve had for five years. It’s been a quiet revolution, but all of a sudden getting 40Mbps on your phone is pretty routine. Cellular data is now fast enough that it can compete with home internet, and you should expect that to have a huge impact in 2017.

The rise of zero rating
With net neutrality rules coming into play this year, carriers like T-Mobile, which had previously offered free streaming of certain services, needed a new plan. AT&T, which had bought DIRECTV, definitely needed a way to leverage that purchase. The answer is “zero rating.”

Zero rating comes from the idea that your carrier can send you text messages and let you use their apps without charging you. It’s not fair to expect you to pay to check your data plan, right? The thing is the rules are written so that carriers can choose not to charge you for any services they (as opposed to a third party) provide. AT&T interprets that as, you can stream DIRECTV content without affecting your data plan since AT&T owns DIRECTV. It’s good for people who take advantage of it but the current FCC leadership has signaled that maybe it’s not fair. It’s hard to know what is coming with the next administration.

The year in cell boosters
The big story this year was SureCall. SureCall rose in 2016 from being everyone’s second choice to being the unquestioned leader in cell boosters, with innovative products such as the EZ4G which doesn’t require an outdoor antenna, the Fusion4Home which outperforms competitors’ products costing twice as much and the massive Force7 which covers a medium-size warehouse with one central booster. There has never been a better time to get a cellular booster, and SureCall is your best choice.

In 2017, it’s hard to imagine that we’ll find a way to rely on our phones for even more, but I guarantee it will happen. Look for Apple to try to retake leadership with the long-anticipated iPhone 8, Samsung to release new phones that probably won’t blow up, and the rest of the market to get even bigger.

The FCC is going to play a big part in 2017, although it’s hard to know what that part’s going to be. I think that will be the real source of excitement.

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.