With an eventful year almost coming to an end, we’ve been taking a look at the significant tech happenings of 2020. We’ve listed the items that were – in our opinion – the best laptops, the biggest tech surprises and disappointments, and the coolest of the lot. We’ve also recapped what Microsoft had in store this year and what we expect of the Redmond giant heading into 2021.
However, as is the tradition every year, we will also look at the top 10 stories of 2020 that our readers deemed the most interesting, making them the articles with the most amount of traffic. It must be noted, however, that the list does not include our popular editorials, reviews, unboxings, and the Weekend PC Game Deals series in order to avoid skewing the results. Additionally, there is an honorable mention at the end from the Software side of the website – which may or may not be a surprise if you’ve been following our top 10 lists from the past couple of years.
With that out of the way, here are our top 10 stories that we posted on Neowin this year:
The advent of the global pandemic brought about a paradigm shift in the workplace, as more people began working remotely, mostly from their homes. This meant that collaboration and conferencing apps’ usage skyrocketed, including the likes of less-known services like Zoom. While the service served to be a boon for many, a lot of privacy and security issues came to light, casting doubt about the offering’s reliability amongst many.
Arguably, one of the most serious issues was that of a vulnerability in the app’s chat that could be misused to siphon off users’ Windows credentials. The feature that automatically linked UNCs (universal naming convention) or URLs from a chat to allow for easier navigation could be manipulated by a bad actor to persuade users into clicking on a networking path, which resulted in Windows sending users’ credentials for authentication – in turn compromising them.
The company then committed to a 90-day feature freeze to focus on and iron out all known privacy and security issues.
WhatsApp is an extremely popular IP messaging service that boasts of over two billion users worldwide. It is no surprise then that a major outage to the service would be major news. The global outage back in January resulted in people being unable to send or receive media files such as pictures, videos, and GIFs via chats, upload status updates, and more. The #WhatsAppDown hashtag also began trending globally.
Luckily, the outage did not last too long and was rectified swiftly by the Facebook-owned service. While the company cited server issues, it did not detail the issue or provide more information on the actual impact.
Microsoft’s Your Phone app provides a nifty way for users to mirror their screens to their Windows PCs and manage it right from the desktop. However, this capability is exclusive to select Samsung phones, leaving out a majority of Android device owners. With more people spending time in front of a PC while working from home, our guide that helps mirror your Android phone’s screen to a PC seemed to have interested a bunch of our readers, earning it a spot in the top 10 list this year.
The solution is possible thanks to an open-source application called scrcpy that provides a feature-rich experience to not just mirror but also navigate through your phone using a mouse and keyboard. If you missed the guide and are looking for a potent solution, you can check out our guide here.
Microsoft released the Windows 10 May 2020 Update on May 28, 2020, after almost 15 months of testing the release with Insiders. The company also made available the updated Media Creation Tool on the same day, which allowed users to perform in-place upgrades or create bootable USBs for installing the OS on other PCs.
The release – despite being tested in the Insider rings for about 15 months – came with a bunch of known issues at launch and was a troublesome release for the firm. These issues also proved to act as upgrade blocks on many devices, including on Surface PCs, with some of these devices failing to receive the update for months. The update blocks were gradually lifted as more cumulative updates were served to address and fix the known issues.
Considering how popular dark mode is, it will be surprising to not have a post related to dark mode on our list. This time, it’s a guide for enabling the theming option on the popular messaging app, WhatsApp. The massively popular service finally began rolling out dark mode on the beta version of the Android app – a feature that had been a long time coming.
However, with not many people possibly enrolled in the beta, our guide provided the steps to become a tester, download the beta version of the app, and enable the dark theme on the messaging service. The feature was eventually made available for all users on Android.
At the end of 2019, OnePlus held an Open Ears Forum to gather feedback from users about problems, potential solutions, and feature suggestions for its devices. The firm then shared with everyone in January 2020 the improvements and enhancements to the camera that it was bringing to current and future OnePlus phones, based on the feedback.
The list included a bunch of features and improvements, everything ranging from composition consistency across the multiple lenses on a device to overall performance improvements, including a faster camera experience. The company also promised improvements to video recording, such as better stabilization when recording in 4K resolution and more. Some of the fixes and features needed newer hardware.
Surprisingly, the news about Google beginning to let users allow the Play Store to automatically download and install apps that they have pre-registered for was the fourth popular story this year. Previously, pre-registering for an app or game would give users an option to get notified when the listing was available, which then required the user to manually head into the store and download the game. However, with this change that began rolling out in May, an option to allow the store to automatically install the app when it became available was added.
While it was a small addition, the feature seemed to be an interesting one for our readers.
While Windows 10 version 2004 was a full-blown OS update with a bunch of feature additions, version 20H2 was a minor update with a few new – albeit exciting – features that were delivered via a small enablement package, like the Windows 10 version 1909 update. The enablement package, as the name suggests, enabled a bunch of features hidden in version 2004, and installed just like a cumulative update would. Our detailed guide of the features and enhancements made it to third place on our list.
The Windows 10 October 2020 Update brought with it a refresh to the Start Menu design – which can be enabled on the May 2020 Update as well –, other improvements to the desktop environment, the pre-installed Chromium-based Edge browser, and a few new integrations to improve multitasking, and much more. You can head to the guide here to read through the entire list of features and enhancements.
Every year, Samsung gets on stage to unveil its flagship Galaxy S series offerings and details everything that is new with its latest and greatest offerings. This year was no different, as the Galaxy S20 series was launched with much fanfare, with the South Korean firm boasting of improvements to the displays, the cameras, and much more. However, for those with relatively new Galaxy flagships or other phones, there were some reasons not to upgrade to the Galaxy S20 line, which we detailed in our guide.
These reasons included the relatively minor gains when going from say an S10 to an S20, or the parity in software capabilities between Samsung flagships from one year ago. There is also the premium in cost brought about by the addition of 5G across the range – a technology that is still in its early stages of adoption.
In what might not be a huge surprise, our comprehensive and excellent guide to all that is new in the Windows 10 May 2020 Update was the most viewed post in 2020. The detailed list of all the features added to the release, put together by João Carrasqueira, took the top spot by a huge margin.
As mentioned earlier, this major OS update was released to the public after almost 15 months of testing with Windows Insiders. The update brought with it a ton of new features for the desktop environments, search improvements, updates to the Settings app, various new accessibility features, enhancements to Bluetooth and connected devices, cloud-based OS recovery, WSL 2, and much more. The addition of features also brought with it a bunch of issues, many of which were gradually fixed via cumulative updates.
In what has become a yearly tradition, the Google Chrome offline installer post for version 86.0.4240.75 of the browser has made its entry into the list. The post comes from our Software-only section of the website. While there are numerous posts in that section, this particular article outweighs all other software news in popularity, once again bagging the spot in our honorable mention this year.
And that wraps up our list of the 10 most popular stories in what’s been an eventful 2020. Cheers for all the visits, and for taking a walk down memory lane through the most popular news stories.
Have a great New Year!