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2012 in Review: Tech

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2012 has been a monumental year in technology. This year we’ve watched Facebook truly realize the complete “American Dream,” as it went through with an IPO that valued the social network at $90 billion in May,  lost 47 percent of its value in 94 days, and subsequently began a slow ascent back to respectability. The Internet rallied its voice and defeated major legislation across the globe, including SOPA and PIPA that attempted to regulate the Internet. Major gadgets were released, including the Nexus 7, iPad mini, Microsoft Surface and iPhone 5. Copyright and patent laws around the world were put to the test as Apple and Android OEMs embarked on a game of ‘who can file lawsuits against each other in the most countries,’ with Samsung arising as the first victim of the lawsuits to the tune of $1 billion, which of course is being appealed.

All in all, it was a very eventful year in tech. Let’s take a look back at some of the highlights.

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2012 in Review: Android

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Join Current Editorials as we take a look back at the top trends, gadgets, and companies of 2012 in our year-end series “2012 in Review.”

Two new versions of Android, new flagship phones, new tablets—2012 was good to Android fans. While the rest of the mobile world didn’t exactly stand still, few ecosystems were the subject of as much news coverage and occasional drama as Android was. Let’s take a look back at what happened this year, and what 2012 meant for the future of Google’s mobile operating system.

2012 was a big year for Android smartphones. Anyway you slice it, the market for Google-powered phones grew by leaps and bounds, putting even more space between it and Apple’s iPhone. Microsoft’s Mango point release to Windows Phone failed to put a dent in Google’s march forward, and the once menacing Redmond software company found itself (again) rebooting its mobile operating system. RIM was… well, let’s not talk about RIM. Thorsten Heins has his work cut out for him.

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Mini Review: HTC Windows Phone 8X

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Mini Reviews are a new review format from Current Editorials that allows us to take a look at a selection of interesting gadgets and present you with the details you care about most in a bite-sized article.

HTC and Microsoft partnered up this year to launch the premiere Windows Phone 8 handset, the HTC Windows Phone 8X. It’s running the latest Windows Phone 8 software, and features top-notch, stand-out hardware design. Microsoft and HTC are promoting the 8X as the Windows Phone 8 handset, but can it live up to that title? And more importantly, is it worth your hard earned cash?

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Insta-Infringement

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Yesterday, Instagram announced changes to the existing privacy policy and terms of service. These changes will go into effect on January 16th 2013. You can read the brief announcement here.

The impending changes have serious implications that could impact users in an extremely negative way. The most significant change is that Instagram — much like its owner Facebook — has now granted itself the perpetual right to sell user-generated content (images) without payment or notification being sent to the user. This means that Facebook has the right to sell all public photos that are shared by users on Instagram to companies or any other organization for advertising purposes. Unless users of the social sharing network delete their accounts prior to the January deadline, they will not be able to opt out of how their images will be used.

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FreedomPop launches iPod touch 4G sleeve on Amazon

FreedomPop’s 4G Mobile Hotspot sleeve for the iPod touch hit Amazon today, offering owners of Apple’s most popular iPod access to free 4G WiMAX data wherever they go. The case runs for $99, though it is already listed as out-of-stock on Amazon.

FreedomPop launched their free data service in beta back in October, and offers customers 500MB of 4G data per month for free. The service currently piggybacks on Clear’s WiMAX network in the U.S., but the company has already signed an agreement with Sprint to start using their LTE network sometime in 2013. Right now FreedomPop only operates in select U.S. markets, so if you’re interested in signing up, check their website first to make sure the service is available in your area.

The iPod touch sleeve is the third product in FreedomPop’s portfolio, following the “Freedom Spot Photon 4G” MiFi hotspot, and “Freedom Stick Bolt 4G” USB dongle, both available now on Amazon or direct from FreedomPop. The company is also accepting preorders for their iPhone 4/4S case, which will also retail for $99, though a ship date is yet to be announced.

Source: FreedomPop, Amazon

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Samsung Announces Galaxy Note II Sales Figures, Over Five Million “Phones” Sold

Image Credit: Samsung Korea

Image Credit: Samsung Korea

Samsung just announced that the 5.5-inch Galaxy Note II has sold over five million units worldwide. That’s two million more than Samsung had sold just a month ago, when the Korean electronics company reported sales broke three million. Five million units is a merely respectable figure in the smartphone market, but the Galaxy Note and Note II have done incredibly well for what are essentially specialty devices. The massive Note II is too big for most consumers to comfortably use as a primary phone, despite carrier support for traditional telephony services, and too small to replace larger tablets. Samsung’s strong sales in spite of the Note II’s weird size are most likely the result of a strong, albeit snarky, marketing campaign for the entire Galaxy line and support for styluses, a feature most phones and tablets lack. You can check out the Korean press release here.

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Leaked BlackBerry 10 L-series (left) and N-series (right) smartphones. Image credit: Crackberry.
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RIM to launch BlackBerry 10 at January 30th event

Leaked BlackBerry 10 L-series (left) and N-series (right) smartphones. Image credit: Crackberry.

Hold on to your keyboards, BlackBerry fans! Research In Motion announced this morning that they will hold a BlackBerry 10 launch event on Wednesday, January 30th, 2013. The event will take place “simultaneously in multiple countries around the world” according to RIM, though official venues and times were not announced.

The company says they will show off the first two BlackBerry 10 devices at the event, which are likely to be the recently leaked L-series touchscreen and N-series QWERTY devices. Launch information for the new phones will be discussed, though RIM has already stated that BlackBerry 10 will launch in the first quarter of 2013.

RIM will also show off a near-final version of their new BlackBerry 10 operating system at the event, which we already know will feature a new UI, innovative touch keyboard, navigation gestures, a universal Messaging hub, and home screen “live tiles”.

Source: RIM

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Windows Phone 8 Final Features Revealed: Kid’s Corner, Rooms, Live Apps and More

Microsoft formally unveiled Windows Phone 8 today, launching an operating system Microsoft hopes will finally mount a compelling challenge to Apple’s iPhone and devices running Android. Microsoft had already shown off much of what was new in Windows Phone 8 at an event earlier this year, but they did have some new features to show off today.

The most important new announcement was a brand new lock screen, powered by what Microsoft is calling Live Apps. Live Apps can push relevant information, such as pictures, sports scores, news, or other data you might find relevant, to your lock screen. The feature doesn’t appear to be as robust as home screen widgets on Android 4.2, but Microsoft is hand displaying data with the same elegant aplomb it’s shown with the rest of the Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8 user interface. It’s not a game changing feature, but it does bring Windows Phone’s glanceability to the lock screen. An updated Facebook app will be one of the first live apps in the Windows Phone Store.

Microsoft also announced that it’s expanding People Hubs to include Rooms, private groups that can share files, calendars, lists, and other information and chat in real time. Rooms will be cross platform, Microsoft showed off Rooms running on an iPhone, but no word yet on how the feature will work and which operating systems it’s going to be available on. We do know, however, that live chat will only be available between Windows Phone users.

Kid’s Corner is a new Windows Phone feature that lets parents, and other Windows Phone owners who don’t want their kids poking around where they might find more *ahem* adult content set up a place for children to use approved content. Kid’s Corner can be accessed directly from the new lock screen, and the list of approved programs can be adjusted from the Kid’s Corner app. Think of it as multiple users, lite. Like the new lock screen, it’s not nearly as powerful as multiple users in Android 4.2, but it is better than what Apple’s offers on iOS: nothing.

Also announced was Data Sense, a set of data saving tools that includes a live widget to track data usage, data compression in Internet Explorer, and the ability to automatically find and connect to Wi-Fi hotspots. Windows Phone 8 will also force applications to be a bit thriftier with data as users approach their cap. Unfortunately, Data Sense won’t work for all users right away—it requires support from carriers to work properly. Verizon Wireless will be the first to support the new feature with its upcoming Windows Phone 8 devices.

If you’re a prolific smartphone photographer, you’ll need to use Data Sense—Microsoft also announced instant photo uploads to Sky Drive. Google+ and Dropbox have brought similar features to other platforms, but neither integrates as deeply with the operating system as Sky Drive uploads on Windows Phone will.

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