2012 has been a busy year in the tech world. Samsung got slapped with a mind-bending $1.05 billion patent infringement payout, Microsoft took a shot at the hardware business with its Surface tablets, paired with their new touch-centric OS, Windows 8, Apple finally released an iPad mini, Nokia took another stab at regaining its lost momentum in the smartphone world, and Google got more involved in the hardware scene with its revamped Nexus line.
Without a doubt, it's been a busy year. So, based on what was popular this year, what will the big buzz be in 2013? Let's take a look at the top Google searches in tech for 2012:
1. iPad 3
Apple's iPad lineup got a little fuzzy early on, with the iPad 3 being launched as "the New iPad" instead of just "iPad 3."
The new iPad launched with a faster processor, and was thinner, but it wasn't a revolutionary change from the iPad 2. It did support the new AirPlay standard for wireless video streaming with the AppleTV, but overall it was just a generic spec-bump, for the most part.
2. Samsung Galaxy S3
Samsung's latest smartphone, based on Google's Android platform, is definitely a good-looking phone. With a much larger screen than the iPhone 5, it provides a good choice for those consumers who aren't tied into Apple's ecosystem and who are seeking more real estate. The 4.8" Super AMOLED screen with Gorilla Glass (like Apple's mobile devices) provides a super-sharp view with high durability.
3. iPad Mini
Apple's long-awaited iPad mini finally arrived, sporting a screen resolution identical to its bigger siblings, and introducing Apple's new 16-pin connector standard, called "Lightning." Capable of running all the existing iPad apps, the iPad mini was a popular choice of tablet leading into the 2012 holiday season.
4. Nexus 7
Google partnered with ASUS to produce the Nexus 7, a 7" Android tablet that started at just $199. Pursuing a loss-leader strategy, seeking to sell content more than just hardware, Google priced the Nexus 7 to sell. It was followed up later with a 10" version, called (you guessed it) Nexus 10 from Samsung, and the 7 launched simultaneously with the Nexus 4, from LG.
5. Samsung Galaxy Note 2
The South Korean tech giant produced an interesting "phablet" (yes, that word sucks and should be summarily executed) that blurred the line between a phone and a tablet. Some complained that it was too large for most pockets, but an almost 6" screen on the Note II is a welcome option for a lot of people, considering that it sold very well.
6. Play Station
Sony's venerable PlayStation line has grown a bit long in the tooth, so it's no surprise that people are looking for information on the rumored PS4. However, since the next iteration of the line hasn't been announced yet, and it could be a year or two before it's released, you can expect the BlueRay-packing game console to still do well this holiday season.
7. iPad 4
The third Apple device to show up on Google's most popular list, the iPad 4 was released at the same time as the iPad mini, and brought only incremental improvements to the flagship tablet. It also boasts the tiny Lightning connector, but many iPad 3 owners were frustrated with the quick update that made their recent purchases outdated.
8. Microsoft Surface
The Redmond software giant has always been just that - a software company. However, with Google abandoning its software/service-only position and with Apple dominating the tablet market, Microsoft decided that it was time to try out its hand in the hardware game. Its somewhat fragmented Surface tablet was announced in two flavors, an "RT" or embedded Windows 8 flavor, and the "Pro," a more full-fledged Windows experience. Early reports suggested that the Surface wasn't selling as well as was hoped, but as Microsoft's cross-platform agenda is rolled out, connecting other devices with your media center (Xbox) and desktop, it remains to be seen exactly how the Surface will impact the tablet market.
9. Kindle Fire
Amazon's loss-leading Fire tablet received positive reviews, and while Amazon is notoriously tight-lipped about sales numbers, CEO Jeff Bezos declared that the Fire was the best-selling Kindle product so far, shortly after its release, pointing to it being a very popular product. Attacking the iPad on its home turf, with the benefit of being sold almost at cost, the Fire does provide a bit of a budget experience, but that's just one more option in a sea of customer-centric products that provide consumers with a huge diversity of product and service options.
10) Nokia Lumia 920
Rounding out the top ten is Nokia's attempt to regain a toehold in the American smartphone market, the Lumia line. The 920 sports Nokia's vaunted "PureView" camera, which is significantly more advanced than the camera offerings on other phones. The Lumia line runs Windows Phone 8, as Nokia has signed long-term agreements with Microsoft to be the software maker's flagship hardware manufacturer. Time will tell if the Lumia can rebuild Nokia's flagging business, but so far reviews seem to be positive, and it did make it into the top-10.
What's in store for 2013?
Like always, expect a new iPhone, an updated iPad, new phones from Samsung and Google, likely the announcement of new consoles from Sony and Microsoft (perhaps the just-released WiiU should receive an honorable mention here), and more competition in the budget tablet/e-reader business. There's no crystal ball to tell you what to buy or when to buy, or when you should wait, but RIM will be releasing its BlackBerry 10 mobile OS along with new phones, and Nokia will continue to improve its lineup in an effort to stay afloat.
The most telling will be how Microsoft reacts to its not-so-great sales of the Surface. While betting on them mothballing the project like HP's TouchPad would be long odds indeed, Microsoft's first attempt at hardware may fall flat simply because of the slow adoption rate of Windows 8.
But, above all, expect more choices, more options, and better prices as more and more companies compete for your money. With more and more manufacturers entering the various markets, you can find a product that suits your needs now, or wait a couple of months for the next iteration to roll around, or for a new product to be announced. 2013 should have it all (assuming the world doesn't end on Friday).
This article originally appeared at JamesLStreet.com