2013 is officially over, and what a year it’s been. We at TechNorms have enjoyed watching the mobile industry continue to grow and change in (mostly) positive ways. A whole lot happened this year that affected mobile enthusiasts of all stripes.
To recap, we’re counting down the most important bits of news released this year in the tech world. These stories straddle Android, iOS, and general computing. Try separating those categories these days… everything affects everything else. 2013 was definitely a year for the history books in tech.
2013’s Biggest Stories in Technology
Google Sets the Stage for Android 5.0
Android enthusiasts noticed that Google tucked a new feature into the developer settings of Android 4.4 KitKat. Users could now choose between Dalvik runtime and the new Android Runtime (ART).
Android executes Java-based apps through Dalvik, a Just-In-Time compiler. Instead of developers having to compile their apps for every hardware possibility, they just build them for Dalvik, which runs across all platforms.
See this excellent explanation on Reddit for the nitty-gritty details of how compilers work. Although Dalvik has its merits, Google seems to think ART has some merit.
In theory, this could be the extra bit that gives Android some more smoothness and improves things like scrolling performance and battery.
Users over at r/Android report that ART seems to help. Additionally, ART has been known to break certain apps.
While ART needs more work to be ready for mass consumption, it promises better performance and improved battery life. Here’s hoping it shows up in Android 5.0, because it sounds awesome.
Intel’s Haswell Solves Laptop Battery Life
Intel released the latest generation of their processors to laptop makers this year. Haswell chips promised similar performance to Ivy Bridge, but with dramatically better battery.
We tried the new MacBook Air with Haswell and loved it. The new chips keep the machine’s battery life comfortably in the double digits, a godsend for users on the go.
Haswell amazes us. Having a no-compromises laptop with all-day battery life feels amazing. Laptop development just got a big boost with these chips.
The Year the Smartwatch Didn’t Happen
2013 surprised observers for what didn’t happen as much as what did. Despite constant rumors of an iWatch, Apple gave no sign of a new product.
Samsung jumped the gun with its new Galaxy Gear, a smartwatch few appreciated. That’s what happens when you release a gadget with terrible longevity and compatibility with only the very latest Samsung devices.
Little else of note happened in wearable computing. Google Glass continued on, and Pebble kept its dedicated fanbase, but no other company made a serious move in the market.
Perhaps 2014 will bring new products. Until then, we’ll keep waiting.
Another Year, Another Nexus
It still impressed Android enthusiasts with a killer processor, luminescent 5-inch screen, and KitKat. Despite a middling-to-decent camera, fans jumped at the chance and the device sold out in hours.
Google kept the price down to just $350 without a contract. You just can’t get that much performance for that price without a contract on another phone.
Motorola Tries to Innovate, Gets Burned
Give Motorola credit. They tried something different with the Moto X. It offered a smaller screen and sub-flagship specs but compensated with unique features.
The Moto X’s Active Notifications and always-on Google Now stand as examples of how to do custom skins the right way. Motorola kept their device to near-stock status and added only useful features, something Samsung could learn from.
Sadly, people ignored the Moto X. Poor sales and a lack of buzz forced the company to cut the price in hopes of attracting more users.
Conversely, Motorola saw some success with the Moto G. Reviewers lauded it as the best low-end smartphone you can buy.
The company has seen mixed success this year. With any luck, it’ll get back on its feet and keep giving us awesome ideas like Active Notifications.
Apple Skews Away From Skeuomorphism
iOS 7 finally ditches the faux leather stitches, and green felt in favor of a clean, modern design that frankly looks gorgeous.
Apple mirrored its moves on mobile when it released OS X Mavericks without the classic stitched background behind the Dashboard.
Opinion varies on Apple’s redesigns, but I’m a fan. iOS and OS X look clean, sharp, and modern. Can’t argue with that.
Facebook Spends the Year With Head in Sand
You’d think the world’s largest social network would have done something cool in 2013. Instead, Mark Zuckerberg and Co. opted for useless projects and auto-playing video ads.
The company’s most baffling decision, though, was the HTC First, the long-rumored “Facebook phone.” It ran Android with Facebook Home overtop, exclusively on AT&T.
BGR reported that AT&T sold fewer than 15,000 units in the first month before the carrier slashed the on-contract price to just a dollar. It then discontinued the phone.
Facebook real troubles laid with declining teenage interest. Frankly, Facebook isn’t as cool as Snapchat or Twitter. Kids don’t use it as much.
This isn’t to say that Facebook is in dire straits. It didn’t lose ground. However, it didn’t really gain any either.
Microsoft Yet Again Disappoints With a New Windows 8 Version
At TechNorms we write about Windows religiously. It is the most widely used Operating System in the world by far and has been a pretty good performer in the past with superb products like Windows XP and Windows 7. In 2012 they released Windows 8 which received a lukewarm response from its users. In their effort
Microsoft took the criticism seriously and tried to implement the users’ feedback and released Windows 8.1 in Oct 2013.
Once again this version didn’t live up to user expectations.
The NSA Hacks Everything
By far the biggest story in technology this year was the NSA revelations from leaker Edward Snowden. The former contractor revealed the agency has thoroughly riddled the web with backdoors and ways to listen in.
Snowden’s revelations have irreversibly changed the conversation about the cloud and our rights in the 21st century. There’s no going back.