2012 has been a great year for tech enthusiasts and consumers, so let’s do a quick rundown of the highlights, as well as make a few predictions for 2013:
Note: This list is chronological and not in order of importance or magnitude.
1. HTC Launches the One Series
In February at Mobile World Congress, HTC announced its consolidated line of One series phones with the top of the line HTC One X with quad-core processor.
2. The iPad Goes Retina for 3rd Generation
In March, Apple announced its third iteration of its popular tablet, the iPad, touting a high resolution “Retina display,” which previously graced the iPhone 4 and 4S.
3. Samsung Sees Success with Galaxy S3
In May, Samsung revealed its Galaxy S3 phone internationally before the phone became available across all four major U.S. carriers in July. More than 30 million units have been sold to date.
4. Google Brings Out Inexpensive Nexus 7 Tablet and Jellybean
At Google I/O in June, Google announced its first Nexus tablet, the Nexus 7 – a 7″ tablet created in partnership with ASUS and powered by a quad-core Tegra 3. The tablet retailed for $199 for the 8 GB model, making it a great deal for the hardware. At the same time, Google announced its Jellybean update to Android that brought buttery smooth transitions, Google Now, expandable notifications, and more. At the same conference, Google teased its Nexus Q streaming device, which was subsequently canceled.
5. Apple and Samsung Take to the Courts
In August, after a few weeks of back and forth between Apple’s and Samsung’s lawyers, a U.S. jury ruled in favor of Apple to the sound of $1.049 billion. The case is being contested and since then, certain key patents such as “bounce back” and “pinch to zoom” have been invalidated by the U.S.P.T.O. Other international courts ruled differently. Japan said Samsung did not infringe on Apple, while South Korea ruled that each company violated some of the other’s patents.
6. Samsung Goes Big with Note 2
In late August, Samsung revealed its successor to the cult favorite Galaxy Note. The Galaxy Note series of smartphones are known for their giant 5″+ screens and stylus support. The Note 2 sports a gorgeous 5.5″ screen and significant improvements to the stylus. It released internationally in September and in November for the U.S. with 5 billion devices sold as of today.
7. Amazon Updates Its Kindle Line
Seemingly in response to Google’s 7″ tablet offering and rumors of Apple creating an iPad Mini, Amazon ushered a refresh of its own popular Kindle line with the Kindle Fire HD, which came in 7″ and 8.9″ flavors, and Kindle Paperwhite in September.
8. The iPhone 5 Goes Long
Also in September, Apple announced its successor to the wildly popular iPhone line with the iPhone 5. For the first time, the screen size increased to 4″ from 3.5″, adding a 5th row of icons to the homescreen, and the phone came equipped with the blazing fast speeds of LTE. At the same time, Apple announced iOS6.
9. Wrong Turn in iOS6
iOS6 brought an end to Google Maps for Apple fans while introducing its own native map program. While Apple users could finally get turn-by-turn navigation, these new maps were sorely lacking in detail and other options such as public transportation. Some locations were horribly incorrect and some images of places looked like they were taken from a post-Apocalyptic movie. Many users and reviewers slammed Apple for their new maps with some users refusing to update to iOS6. Today, Google Maps is now back in the App Store and within a few days of its release became the top free app.
10. Samsung vs. Apple: The Next Big Thing is Already Here
In response to Apple’s iPhone 5 announcement, Samsung released the following video touting its own Galaxy S3 smartphone.
11. The iPad Goes Mini
At a late October conference, Apple confirmed long running rumors by unveiling the iPad Mini, which has a non-retina 7.9″ screen. Despite hardware criticism, reviewers gave the device positive remarks and consumers like the lighter weight, which makes it easier to handle and hold for reading.
12. Apple Releases 4th Generation iPad and Retina Display Mac
At the same conference, Apple released its fourth generation iPad, discontinuing the third generation that was just release a few months prior. The latest iPad has a faster processor and the new “lightning” connector that the iPhone 5 came with. Apple also took the time to unveil a revamped iTunes store and new retina Macbook Pro, one of the first laptops to have a high resolution screen.
13. Windows 8 – Microsoft’s Hail Mary
In late October, Microsoft released its Windows 8 OS along with Windows RT for tablets and Windows Phone 8 for mobile phones. The three together create a unified user experience with distinctive Live Tiles and shared app store. Microsoft, who has lost a lot of ground in the mobile space, hopes users will buy into their new mobile devices if the desktop OS is similar to what is on mobile devices. As of late November, Microsoft has sold 40 million Windows 8 licenses, but many analysts and partners are saying demand is low for Windows 8. Other partners and many reviewers criticize Microsoft for not properly explaining the differences between Windows 8 and Windows RT to the consumer. Others complain about the sloppiness between the classic desktop environment and “Metro” environment.
14. Microsoft Enters Hardware Market with Surface Tablet
Along with the release of Windows 8 and Windows RT, Microsoft released its own tablet, the Surface. This marks the first time that Microsoft has themselves released a piece of hardware, competing directly with its hardware partners. The Surface also features a unique touch cover keyboard that acts as both a keyboard and screen guard. Sales have been reportedly low for the Surface and the Surface currently only comes with Windows RT. A Surface Pro running Windows 8 is set to be released in January 2013.
15. Google Extends Its Nexus Family
In late October, Google also confirmed long standing rumors about a multi-manufacturer Nexus line. After Hurricane Sandy canceled the press release in New York, Google unveiled online its new LG Nexus 4 smartphone, 3G-enabled refresh of ASUS’s Nexus 7 tablet with more storage, and Samsung 10″ Nexus 10 tablet. All three devices came with a slight software refresh to Android 4.2. The Nexus 4 is not only a great piece of hardware, despite its lack of LTE, but is also offered at the great price of $299 for the basic model off-contract. The Nexus 10 has a screen resolution superior to Apple’s own retina display. Since the release date in November, the Nexus 4 and 10 have been consistently sold out on Google’s Play Store. Google has come under fire for underestimating demand, the second time it has happened this year with its Nexus products – the first being in July with the original Nexus 7 launch. In addition, Android 4.2 had a bug where December would not be displayed in the contacts app, leading many to speculate that Android 4.2 was rushed to meet the release of these Nexus devices. The December bug has since been fixed with Android 4.2.1.
16. Nintendo Kicks Off Eighth Console Generation With Wii U
In November, Nintendo released its newest console, the Wii U. The Wii U competes with Sony’s PlayStation 3 and Microsoft’s Xbox 360 with HD graphics and new tablet-like controller. Sales of the Wii U have been decent across the world although not nearly as high as Nintendo’s original Wii. In its home country of Japan, the Wii U has been slumping since Christmas with sales of 122, 000 units this past week, compared to the nearly 8 year old PSP’s 58,000 units. Sony and Microsoft are expected to announce their own plans for next gen consoles in 2013.
What to Expect in 2013 – My Predictions
Apple, Google, Facebook, and Amazon will continue to battle their ecosystem platform war;
iOS and Android will continue to dominate the mobile market despite Windows Phone 8 and BlackBerry 10;
Battery life to continue to be a hot topic and point of development for mobile devices;
We can definitely expect a new iPhone, but the question becomes iPhone 5S or iPhone 6? I’m betting on iPhone 5 and we may see a glimpse of a change to the iOS user experience with Jony Ive taking the reins of interface design;
The iPad Mini will go retina;
Android and Chrome OS may combine (not likely, but the two will be inching closer to one another), but Android will definitely see some Key Lime Pie, expanding its already robust feature set, and new Nexus devices;
Rumors are already circulating about Samsung’s Galaxy S4 although a bendable, unbreakable display doesn’t seem to be in the cards – I expect it to be just as successful as the S2 and S3 before it;
Google and Motorola are apparently cooking up their own X Phone, which may have a bendable display and rethink how we use phones;
The Surface Pro with Windows 8 is set to release in January 2013 and you can expect more hybrid devices that use Windows 8 as hardware makers enter round 2 of releases;
Speaking of Windows 8, expect the app store to slowly gain more traction as people slowly upgrade to Windows 8, although it won’t be happen nearly as quick as Microsoft needs it to;
Sony and Microsoft will unveil their next gen consoles at either E3 or, in Sony’s case, TGS.
2012 was a huge year for technology, particularly for the tablet market. If 2012 is any indication, then 2013 will be equally impressive as mobile continues to develop and corporations fight to entrap customers into their respective ecosystem or platform. The intense competition among Apple, Google, Facebook, and Amazon will hopefully create unprecedented innovation for customers in 2013. Happy New Years, everyone, and see you all in 2013!