As the lines further blurred between work and home life, businesses began allowing workers to use their personal iPad, Android phone or other device at the office. Schools joined in, too, encouraging students to bring their own tablets. And T-Mobile, which doesn't sell iPhones, encouraged people to bring their own iPhone from other networks.
Director Peter Jackson's "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" was shot in high-frame rate (HFR) 3D. The video flashes twice as fast as a standard film — 48 frames per second instead of 24 — to portray movement more fluidly. Many viewers found the experience disorienting or, worse, disappointing — as the enhanced "reality" made some scenes look less like a movie and more like kids play-acting in the backyard. [See also: In 'Hobbit,' New Tech Mangles the Scenery]
A smartphone with this wireless technology can exchange data with other NFC-equipped mobile devices that are nearby. You can even make payments with your phone – if a store has an NFC reader on hand. Though not a new term, NFC popped up a lot in 2012 because many pundits expected Apple's iPhone 5 to ship with the technology built in. When it didn't, NFC enthusiasm faded.
Windows 8 brought many new concepts, including the idea of charms. The charms bar is really a menu that basically replaced the Windows Start button found in previous versions of the operating system. It allows users to return to the home screen, search and change settings. Each action gets an icon, called a charm. While Windows 8 terminology and ads were everywhere in 2012, consumer enthusiasm wasn't.
What's bigger than a smartphone, smaller than a tablet and has most functions of both? A phablet. They usually feature screens measuring from 5 to 7 inches diagonally, and all have full phone capability. Well-known phablets released this year included Samsung's Galaxy Note II and the HTC Droid DNA. There may be something to this phablet craze: Samsung sold 5 million Galaxy Note IIs in the two months after its release.
Google made a splash this year with something beyond the Web: Its screen-equipped glasses augmented reality by showing contextual information such as weather and maps. You could use voice commands to search the Internet, capture video and share your experiences. The product still isn't available to the public, so expect Google Glass to be a big word next year, too.
Fiddling with a smartphone or tablet while watching TV became its own national pastime this year. A November report from Nielsen shows that 40 percent of Americans do that at least once a day, and 85 percent do so at least once a month. People most often use their phones for texting and email while watching TV, and they surf on their tablets, sometimes — though not always — to find information related to what they're watching.
We are awash in data – coming from our online activity as well as the devices we carry everywhere. We also have abundant computing power to slice and dice the data to reveal new connections. Everyone from geneticists to marketers is using this "big data" process to learn more about everything from our genetic predisposition for diseases to what we like to buy.
Only Apple could turn a plug into a hot topic. When the company replaced the 30-pin mobile device connector it had used since the early days of the iPod in favor of the smaller Lightning connector on the iPhone 5, it instantly made all those docks, chargers and other accessories obsolete.
Sharing was a part of life long before there was an economy, but it became tech-savvy in a big way this year with apps and sites that make it easier to give and receive. What started with apartment renting (through Airbnb) grew to encompass ride sharing (Zimride), doing odd jobs (TaskRabbit), teaching others your skills (Skillshare) and many more activities. [See also: 6 Ways to Share and Save on the Web]