Pocket-lint tech year in review 2013: The winners
So the year is almost over and we've been treated to an amazing line-up of kit launches and new technologies hitting the market in 2013. Some brands and products have done better than others though, and have had an amazing year.
That's why Pocket-lint has looked back over the last 12 months and picked out a few that we think will be more than happy with their year. It could be for more general reasons or even just a specific product, but here are the winners of 2013 in our eyes.
Although it has had to contend with a flood of rivals, Netflix has gone from strength to strength in 2013. Now accessible through almost every connected device imaginable, the service has saturated the market. Even the Virgin Media TiVo box has a Netflix application these days, representing the first UK paid TV service to offer, technically, the rival on its own hardware.
But the biggest reason why Netflix is a winner in 2013 is that it is a winner in 2013, an Emmy winner that is. Netflix-exclusive House of Cards season 1 won three Emmy TV Awards and was nominated for nine. The streaming service also offered the last season of Breaking Bad exclusively in the UK, which is enough reason to include the company on this list of winners in itself.
There are some that would claim that Spotify has had a good year every year, but 2013 has been particularly special for the music streaming service. Thom Yorke criticism aside, it revealed that of the $1 billion (£610 million) it has paid in royalties to artists since the company's launch in 2009, over a half of that was in the last 12 months alone. The acceleration of growth has been massive this year.
In addition, the company recently launched a free option for mobile and other devices that means you don't even have to pay for a premium service to listen to music on the road. You are limited to what tracks you can choose, accessing shuffled playlists of artists instead, but it has been very well received by smartphone users.
Although the gaming nation will have to wait even longer for an announcement on Half-Life 3, Valve's Steam PC and Mac game portal has been an outstanding success in 2013. In October it announced that the service had reached the 65 million users mark, and supported over 3,000 games. That's 17 million more than Xbox Live.
However, the biggest reason why Valve has had an amazing year - and possibly another next - is that it stunned the console traditionalists with its plans to encroach on their turf, and revealed its SteamOS, Steam Machines and Steam Controller concepts that will help it take a foothold in the living room. If pitched correctly, the PC as console idea could wrestle the strangehold Sony and Microsoft have on the market and potentially put paid to Nintendo's Wii U once and for all.
It would have been fair to include Microsoft and the Xbox team on this list too, and they do get an honourable mention, but it was Sony and PlayStation that won the initial next-generation console battle. Not only did Sony come away from both E3 and Gamescom with many critics favouring its PS4 message over Microsoft's for the Xbox One, but sales figures on launch were spectacular.
In just two weeks, a staggering 2.1 million PlayStation 4 consoles were sold in the regions in which it had been released, including the US and the UK. Over 700,000 were sold in Europe and Australasia in four days alone. That's not to say that sales of the Xbox One weren't great - Microsoft confirmed that it sold two million consoles in the first 18 days - it's just that the all-time sales record goes to the PS4 and that's worthy of a "winner" badge.
READ: PlayStation 4 review
The Pebble E Ink smartwatch started shipping to its Kickstarter backers in January and the company has not looked back since. In a year where rival products emerged, some from the biggest manufacturers, the independent firm held its own and remains one of the wearable gadgets of choice for tech journalists. It's always a good sign to see Pebble smartwatches on the wrists of renowned members of the techies at press events.
Even by April, there were delays in getting Pebbles to consumers, so big was the demand. And the Pebble crew has since pushed multiple updates to add more features as they go. The future also looks rosy, with a dedicated Pebble app store to open soon. Oh, and the Pebble is a Pocket-lint Gadget Awards 2013 winner too, of course.
READ: Pebble review
The Korean giant is of such massive stature these days that it would be hard to pin its great 2013 down to just one thing, but perhaps the most surprising success story has been with another smartwatch. Like the Pebble, people have really taken to the Galaxy Gear, even though it started out having compatibility just with the Galaxy Note 3 launched at the same time and even Samsung said that it was really a work-in-progress.
Before actual sales figures were quoted, reports had previously suggested that Samsung had shifted only around 50,000 watches in over a month. However, that turned out to be a ludicrously low estimation and the real amount was closer to 800,000. By now, that could well be around the million mark, which is not bad for a device that will take some getting used to by the public.
Some might think it strange that we're listing Nokia, a company that was previously struggling, laying off staff and has sold its devices arm to Microsoft, but these are three good reasons to proclaim it a winner in our eyes. Not only did it turn around its financial standing, it has almost single-handedly established Windows Phone as a viable alternative to iOS and Android.
Plus, of course, there is the Nokia Lumia 1020, the most ambitious phone on the market today. Its 42-megapixel camera is quite simply astounding and the handset will be seen in years to come as the forefather of some truly inspiring technologies. The Microsoft deal has now been approved and we expect the hand-over to occur around February or March, at which time Nokia essentially becomes a software company, but we'll always remember a superb 2013 in hardware terms for the Finnish folk.
READ: Nokia Lumia 1020 review
Although it's not a company as such and was first introduced in 2009, Bitcoin has become more known among the general public in 2013. The virtual currency has had its ups and downs over the year, with almost a complete collapse in April, but it has recovered in style and there's even an ATM in Canada for traders to exchange cash for Bitcoins or vice versa.
An increasing number of companies are now accepting Bitcoin, with Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic even accepting the currency for trips into space. "Virgin Galactic is a company looking into the future, so is Bitcoin. So it makes sense we would offer Bitcoin as a way to pay for your journey to space," Branson said in November. Will still cost you a fortune mind. You'd better get mining now, and you might be able to afford a ticket in 20 or so years. One way, mind.
READ: What is Bitcoin?
While both the tech and car industries have been talking about Tesla for a few years, it was in 2013 that the electric car company really broke through into the global consciousness. For a start, it turned a profit for the first time in May, and set up its first showroom in the UK in October. But it is the Tesla Model S that has really put the firm on the map - an all-electric car that turns heads wherever it goes.
In the future, the company is planning to further establish itself with more vehicles, including cars for those with tighter budgets, and more charge points up and down the UK, but for now we thoroughly recommend you head to the Westfield Shopping Centre in Shepherd's Bush, West London, and check out the gorgeous beasts on display. We warn you now though, you'll fall in love.
Not only has Disney released some of the best games and other applications for iOS in the last year, and had great success with Disney Infinity, its collectable toy come video game range, but it announced several major deals and collaborations that are of great interest to Star Wars fans.
Having bought Lucasfilm at the end of 2012, announcing a new trilogy of films at the time, it waited until 2013 to announce that the helm of the last two Star Trek movies JJ Abrams would take the director's chair on the first of the new Star Wars films. In addition, it signed a long-term partnership with Electronic Arts to publish the console and PC games based on the franchise, which resulted in the announcement during June's E3 event that a new Star Wars: Battlefront would be developed by in-house studio Dice. And then there was Star Wars: Tiny Death Star of course. Contrary to some grumblings at the time, we can only see Disney's ownership being great news for the future of Star Wars on 2013's evidence.
What were the winners of 2013 for you? Are yours missing from the list above? Or are there other reasons why our selections are right or wrong? Let us know in the comments below...