Time flies, eh? Almost as quickly as the gadget industry moves. As we draw to the end of 2012, we take a look back at the biggest trends of the year, from phablets to touchscreens in the place you’d least expect.
The seven inch tablet comes of age
Seven inch tablets have been around for years, but they didn’t mature until this summer, when Asus unleashed the super fact, super value Nexus 7 on the world. Rivals were quick to follow, with Amazon unleashing the Kindle Fire HD and Barnes & Noble the Nook HD. Even Apple weighed in with its 7.9-inch iPad mini. Make no mistake, this smaller, more portable sized tablet will soon become the standard for slates.
Android finds a size that fits
Apple’s arch rivals figured out something important not too long ago: not everyone likes the iPhone’s small screen size. So why compete? The likes of Samsung and HTC reacted with jumbo phones with screens measuring 4.7 inches across and beyond – and Samsung at least cleaned house with them. We’ve even seen the emergence of a new 5-inch-plus phablet category with the release of Samsung’s hotcake-selling Galaxy Note 2 – expect a slew of imitations to follow from everyone but Apple.
Laptops go touch
Windows 8 arrived in October, and with it a quiet revolution began: soon, you won’t be able to find a single decent new machine that doesn’t sport a touchscreen, from laptop to all-in-one. And why not? It’s just one extra way to interact, and with Windows 8’s huge, finger friendly icons, it’s a useful one too. Even Google is rumoured to be working on a touchscreen Chromebook running Chrome OS. How long before we see the same happen on Mac?
Voice recognition goes mainstream
The Siri voice assistant for iOS got a big update with iOS 6 this summer, bringing it to iPad and iPod touch, and adding some smart new commands. But it wasn’t alone. Google unleashed its new Google Now service in the summer that comes built into every Android 4.1 device: its voice recognition skills are phenomenally accurate and fast (and now also available on iPhone for those who are interested). As we move into 2013, expect voice to become one of the core inputs for tablets and phones.
Image sharing network Instagram struck gold this year – literally – when Facebook acquired it in a billion dollar deal in spring. The service, which specialises in providing retro image filters to tart up your camera phone snaps, passed the 100 million user mark, and soon attracted some stuff competition, when Twitter introduced image filters of its own to its mobile apps. Will it be enough? Time will tell.