Biggest tech trends of 2012

We’ve reached that twilight zone between Christmas and new year. It’s not quite 2013 and we’re all sitting round the hospital bed waiting for 2012 to finally pop its clogs. As ever then, it’s time to take a look back at the life of the year that's been, and right now is the moment we remember the biggest trends of the year - Zeitgeist 2012.

Filtered photos

Pop post-production of mobile phone pictures had already begun a few years back when the Hipstamatic app hit the iPhone scene. As big as that app was, like Lomography, retro-filter photography was still a relatively exclusive experience given that it was very much platform and device-locked.

Instagram was the one to change all this in 2012 when it opened up its app to the millions of Android users the world over, and for free too. Cue square-shaped mobile picture explosion and a host of other services - Snapseed and Twitter, to name two - popping up to catch the wave. Art for the artless, some would argue but effective, popular, good looking and - ultimately - lots of fun.

Convertible laptops

Windows 8 and Windows RT was just the tonic that the laptop industry needed in the face of Steve Jobs’s much-mooted Post-PC era. With the success of the keyboard-toting Asus Transformer Android tablet range already proved, it wasn’t a big stretch for Windows computer makers to come from the other direction and turn their 2012/13 laptops into slates. As such we saw an explosion of the things at IFA 2012 which have begun to hit the shelves in the last month or two.

Convertibles come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, running both full Windows 8 as well as the tablet-intended RT version. Most curious of all, however, has been looking at just how each manufacturer has decided that the transformation should take place. There are sliders, flippers, spinners, detachables and more. Which do you like best?

7-inch tablets

At the same time, the tablet world decided in 2012 that the Samsung had been right all along and the move of the moment was to go to 7 inches. There were the Amazon Kindle Fires, the Nooks and the huge hit that’s been the Google Nexus 7 to name a few. Of course, the trend was given its royal seal of approval when the iPad mini was launched.

Apple would argue that it hasn’t jumped on the bandwagon given that the mini is closer to 8 inches. Ignore it. A tablet that you can fit in your bag and that you can hold in one hand is, apparently, what people have been crying out for all along. In 2012, anyway.

NFC

In 2012, if it didn’t have NFC, then it wasn’t worth buying, or certainly worth making, apparently. Regardless that it’s been more about Top Trumps than anything actually useful, NFC has been sold to consumers this year as something that it’s important to have in your device now. Obviously, it makes no difference that there are precious few worthwhile opportunitues to use the contactless communication technology.

In fairness, the applications are just around the corner. There are some decent music-streaming apps and one or two contactless payment options but expect the growth of NFC to be a title in the corresponding trends list on Pocket-lint next year.

Patent wars

For a few years, there had been a quiet patent arms race going on. Companies seemed to buy other companies largely to stock themselves up on patents with which to protect themselves - like the homeless stuffing newspaper under their clothes to keep out the cold. The protection proved just as temporary in 2012 when someone finally decided it was time to hit the button and this Doomsday machine that was supposed to maintain an aggressive stalemate ground into operation throughout courts across the globe.

Google, Apple, Samsung and "friends" all sued one another to varying degrees of success on various occasions and in various jurisdictions and the dust seems to have settled once more with everyone pretty much where they started. Well, that was worthwhile.

Crowd funding

Probably the most positive trend of 2012 has been the concept of crowd funding championed largely, of course, by Kickstarter. Founded in 2009, the site made it over to UK users this year and we’ve rather lost count of the number of high-profile projects to have hit the headlines since.

Whether you’re looking to invest in a game, gadget or innovation, it seems that people power is the way to get things done right now. There must be a lot of thumb-twiddling bank managers around at the moment.

4G

We spent most of the year talking about it but it was only in October that 4G actually arrived in the UK courtesy of EE, much to the chagrin of the other mobile phone networks. Finally, our country has caught up with the States and other global leaders on communication and we can download Temple Run even faster than before.

Whether you use it or not is rather immaterial. The point is that 4G and, generally speaking, LTE as a subject has had more ink spilt over it in the past 12 months than most other areas of technology. Are we going to shut up about it in 2013? Unlikely.

On-ear headphones

In 2011, the Beats brand took hold of the audio world. In 2012, everyone else jumped in on the action. On-ear headphones were popping up quite quickly already by the end of last year but what’s really made them a huge trend of 2012 is that it’s almost impossible to buy any brand new in-ear versions these days.

Audio has gone back to fashion. It’s important to be seen while you can see but not hear and whether you’re buying from Philips, Ultimate Ears, Sony or anyone else, there’s now a ginormous pair of cans just waiting or you.

Wireless portable speakers

We don’t remember the last time we wrote about a portable speaker system with a dock. Whether it’s the popularity of the Android platform, with it’s non-audio micro USB connection, or Apple’s move to ditch its 30-pin port, makes little difference. The upshot is that manufacturers have realised that they may as well play your playlists wirelessly to save themselves the headache and you the bother.

Some use Bluetooth, some use Wi-Fi, some even make their own wireless loops but the trend has really freed up these party machines not only to look much smoother but also to be used by all your friends at the same get-together. It also means that they should be a little cheaper, unless paying for AirPlay compatibility instead.



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