We’re still a few months away from 2013, but most of the hot gadgets have been released, or will be by November, in time for the holiday gift-buying season. Here are 10 that made a significant impact in the industry this year, listed in the order of their release dates.
This cheap (starting price of $25) and small (about the size of a credit card) fully functioning computer was originally designed for educational purposes. It quickly sold out its initial run of 10,000 units, and can still be hard to come by. Enthusiasts have hacked the Raspberry Pi for all kinds of projects, like assembling an array of them to build a supercomputer. It inspired other companies to quickly develop and sell a plethora of similar devices, thus, creating the “tiny PC” market.
Ultrabooks (second generation)
A standard established by Intel, Ultrabooks run Windows on powerful mobile processors (Intel’s, of course), use SSDs, feature long-running battery times, and are housed in thin, lightweight form factors inspired by the design of the MacBook Air. Ultrabooks were first released in the fourth quarter of 2011, but they were expensive due to the cost of the SSD. So Intel relaxed the specifications for second-generation models by allowing for notebook hard drives. In 2012, an IdeaPad U310 - which uses both a hard drive and 32GB SSD - will cost you a little less than £600.
Samsung Galaxy S III
This is one of the Samsung smartphones Apple tried to get banned in the US, but failed to do. Sporting an enormous 4.8-inch screen, quad-core processor, and running Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, the Galaxy S III quickly rose in sales. (Samsung claims to have sold 20 million of them worldwide). A contributing factor was its aggressive launch schedule throughout the world that started at the end of May, and availability on approximately 300 mobile carriers. This ubiquity made the Galaxy S III the Android phone to have in 2012.
MacBook Pro with Retina Display
The third generation of the MacBook Pro was the first Apple notebook to incorporate the company’s Retina Display technology. First introduced in the iPhone 4, the basic premise behind it is that the average human eye will not perceive the pixilation of images on a display that has a high enough pixel density. The MacBook Pro with Retina Display jams 220 pixels per inch into a 15.4-inch screen set at a maximum of 2880-by-1800 pixels, which made it the first notebook - MacBook or other platform - with such a high-resolution display.
Prior to the Nexus 7’s release, the choices of Android tablets you could buy varied widely in quality. So Google worked alongside ASUS to create a tablet that would not only be a compelling product, but establish a standard that would motivate other Android tablet makers to follow. The Nexus 7 was immediately deemed by reviewers as the best Android tablet with a 7-inch screen you could buy, thanks to its powerful quad-core processor, 1280-by-800 resolution screen, and price of £149. It was also the first tablet to run and showcase the latest version of Android, codenamed Jelly Bean.
An evolution, not a revolution, is how the latest iPhone has been described. The iPhone 5 is thinner than the iPhone 4S, and has a longer screen, which adds an additional row of app icons. What raised a stink in the iPhone user community is the introduction of Apple’s new proprietary data interface - the Lightning connector. In what can be described as a “first world problem,” many tech news pundits lamented that the iPhone 5 was incompatible with their iPhone external devices and accessories that used the old interface.
When Amazon announced updated models to their Fire tablets and Kindle e-book readers, it’s the latter that saw the most obvious technological improvement. The Kindle Paperwhite uses a new proprietary display that has a contrast range 25% higher than in prior Kindles, 62% more pixels to produce sharper images, and a built-in backlight. Basically, the Paperwhite shows text set against white in such a way that it very closely emulates the appearance of text on actual paper - and you can read it in a low-light environment. The Kindle Paperwhite solidified Amazon as the leader in the e-book device market.
The Surface marks Microsoft’s attempt to break into the tablet market with its own product. This has sparked concern by OEMs selling Windows 8 tablets that would also, obviously, have to compete against Microsoft’s offering. What’s more significant is that the Surface uses an ARM processor; thus, its version of Windows (called Windows RT) had to be rewritten specifically for it. That means this tablet cannot run Windows applications originally written for an x86 processor. So essentially Microsoft introduced a brand-new OS platform this year through the Surface.
Nokia’s top-of-the-line smartphone showcasing the Windows Phone 8 OS sports a slick, one-piece case design, and a touchscreen that you can use even if you’re wearing gloves. Unfortunately, the Lumia 920 made news this year due to a misleading ad, which appeared to imply that footage in it was shot by a Lumia 920 when, in fact, it was not. But the phone can shoot images in resolutions up to 8.7 megapixels, and it utilizes image stabilization to produce blur-free photos and to reduce the shakiness of handheld video footage.
OK, technically this game console doesn’t fall into the 2012 calendar year, but we feel the Ouya is worth a mention because it will run on Android. The huge success of its Kickstarter campaign, which managed to raise well over its developers’ original $1 million goal to fund its development and bring it to market, suggests there could be significant interest for the Android platform beyond mobile devices. While Android is already being used in some so-called Smart TVs - officially under the Google TV label - the Ouya generated a lot of excitement this year as a consumer device bringing Android to the living room.
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