2012: The Best Consumer Technology of the Year

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2012 has been a busy year in the world of technology, from its start at CES last January then onto MWC and then the first Apple launch of the year. All before March!

We take a look back at what we consider to be the best consumer gadgets from phones to tablets or something else entirely and then we look forward to what we expect in 2013.

Top 5 of 2012

Nokia Lumia 920

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The Nokia Lumia 920 is a huge step up for Windows Phone and Nokia, it is a true package of innovation that hasn’t been seen since the original iPhone was released. It’s unfortunate that most seem to be oblivious to all the technology crammed into the solid polycarbonate shell that Nokia has created.

The quick refreshing HD display is smooth and super sensitive allowing the phone to be used with gloves, then there is the optical image stabilised camera and wireless charging before we even dig deeper into the massive improvements made with Windows Phone.

Nokia have hit a high water mark here with the Lumia 920 and if they build on it through 2013 then Microsoft have all the tools to challenge Apple and Google.

Asus PadFone 2

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A phone that becomes a tablet? What a brilliant idea and it’s a shame that the limited availability of the PadFone 2 in the UK means that not many have had this phone in their hands but those that have been lucky enough have been smitten.

Asus have made one of the most powerful Android phones available with Android 4.1 JellyBean, an amazing 13-megapixel camera and full UK 4G LTE compatibility into 2013. The PadFone 2 is a great experience before you even slide it Into the PadFone station. It then slides magically, almost like a dream Steve Jobs might have had, into the station and becomes a tablet with all your content and your data connection shared. No messages from Three warning you that you can’t use your SIM card in a tablet and your phone gets charged so the battery seems to last forever.

Asus should use the PadFone 2 in 2013 to bring even more form factors to this device as it is a compelling offering.

iPad Mini

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Did you try and buy an iPad Mini this Christmas? The answer is most probably that you wanted to but couldn’t get one because unsurprisingly Apple have another hit on their hands.

I’m not a stock market expert but I’d sink all my money into Apple continuing its success for as long as it exists as you can be sure that every successive product they release will sell out and the new iPad mini is no different.

The Mini is the perfect example of Apple taking something that competitors created and charging much more. There is no doubt that the amazing build quality and user experience marks the iPad Mini out as a piece of technology that is very hard to do without despite its compromises. For the first time you can read a magazine or book with one hand on your iPad and Apple have created the ultimate media consumption device simply because everyone will buy one.

Microsoft Surface

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There are mixed reviews for the Surface but Microsoft has created the best of both worlds with a device that can straddle fun with browsing, games and apps and then turn on the business side with full Microsoft Office.

Microsoft has also innovated in form factor with the brilliant kick stand and touch and type cover keyboards so productivity can be achieved with portability. I love the Surface and use it for almost everything and not one real life consumer has failed to see how great a product it is so it’s a shame that the tech journalists don’t realise that for themselves.

It didn’t do quite enough to top this best of list but that isn’t to downplay its significance and how it could change tablets in 2013.

Samsung Galaxy Note 2

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Forget the Samsung Galaxy S3 and look at the king of 2012 smartphones from Samsung with the Note 2. Samsung took everything good about the S3 and enhanced it with more performance, a better display and more features.

The S-Pen became larger and more sensitive and the software was beefed up with multi-window multitasking and astounding battery life. There is literally nothing the Note 2 can’t do and only the simple fact that Samsung didn’t take any huge hardware steps forward keep it below the Lumia 920 as the second best pick of 2012 smartphones.

Just missed the list

The iPhone 5 is a phone that can do no wrong with amazing build quality and a larger, improved display complete with faster performance but it doesn’t do enough to stand out in the packed tech world of 2012.

The early year Android contenders in the Samsung Galaxy S3 and HTC One X were outstanding but both suffered from their early release. That’s not to say there is anything wrong with them, the One X has possibly the best display of any device this year and the S3 has software enhancements that make it a joy to use.

It seems that 2013 will be the year of 1080p Android phones so the HTC J Butterfly/Droid DNA doesn’t make the list but I would be very surprised if my colleagues in the US don’t place it high up on their lists as they got to use the device in 2012.

Sony has made some outstanding NEX cameras this year, from the improved NEX 3 to the new NEX 6 and enhanced NEX 5 and the top of the range NEX 7 but software has let them down, maybe a bit of Android next year will take them to a different level.

What to look forward to in 2013

4K Ultra High Definition

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IFA saw the huge 84-inch 4K televisions from LG and Sony at mind boggling prices in excess of £20,000 but CES 2013 may well be the year of Ultra High Definition. LG have already announced a range of TVs starting at 55-inches which are sure to start at a much more affordable price of between £2,000-£3,000 specially when considering forthcoming announcements from all the other TV manufacturers. It may well be that next year gives us the quickest and most affordable jump in television technology since the original jump to HD.

Full HD smartphones

HTC have already given us the first 1080p Android phone and LG and Huawei have announced plans for CES to introduce their own models, and lets not forget the OPPO Find 5. As Full HD comes to phones consumers will want 4K to feel like their televisions were worth the cost.

The return of BlackBerry?

The press that have seen and had the forthcoming BlackBerry 10 smartphones and developer models in their hands this year have raved about how good it will be. I’m not personally convinced but time will tell.