And so, with 2012 now behind us, the traditional reflection on the year past begins. Being British, last year was pretty memorable -- the Diamond Jubilee celebrations and the Summer Olympics in London two standout moments. We've also seen the mobile world continue to grow at an incredible rate, as our smartphones and tablets become an increasingly integral part of every day life.
AC's editor-in-chief, Phil Nickinson, couldn't have put it better -- "In this job, you can't help but be buried in plastic from time to time." It's true of each member of the team. We talk about devices and apps all day every day, but we don't really talk about what we're using in our own, every day lives. It's been a heck of a year in these parts, so click on past the break to find out what I've been using the most during 2012.
First up -- yes, that is a BlackBerry in the photo, and yes, it's there on purpose. We'll get to that in a minute.
It really has been an incredible year on the hardware front. Like many, I began 2012 using a Samsung Galaxy Nexus. As the New Year arrived it had been in my hands for about a month and a half, and I honestly couldn't think about using another device. Aside from feeling woefully plasticky when compared to my much loved LG Optimus 2X, and a slightly disappointing camera, it was perfect at the time. Ice Cream Sandwich was such a mighty leap forward from what had come before.
Then Mobile World Congress came and went, and along came the HTC One X. Hands down, one of the finest pieces of equipment I've ever had the pleasure to use. Everything about the hardware excited me. The design, the exceptional build quality, the screen, the camera, everything. The One X became my daily driver. I had the white one, and it drew interest wherever I took it. But, it didn't last long. In fact, it lasted until precisely one day after the Android keynote at Google I/O. The let down for me was always Sense. I just can't get along with it. Some think it's great, I really don't. I did toy with the idea of going down the custom ROM route with it, but I'm old, and lazy, and something else came along.
The return of the Galaxy Nexus to everyday use, and along with it Android 4.1 Jelly Bean. The Galaxy Nexus was without a doubt my most used device of 2012. It would still be in use daily right now, were it not for it's successor.
The Nexus 4. Some got one, others couldn't. The whole thing was a shambles, and I feel the pain of anyone who tried and failed, and who may still be waiting. Truth be told, I hadn't believed I'd had a successful order go through. But, it's a fantastic device, no mistake. One of the main reasons behind my love for it? The price. At £239 in the UK for the 8GB version, the Nexus 4 is pound-for-pound the best smartphone you can buy, bar none. It won't suit everyone, but the build quality is superb, the performance is incredible, and it's going to be with me until the next Nexus emerges.
Tablet wise, I've tried a few, but there's only one winner. The Google Nexus 7. Simply put, the best tablet I've ever owned. It's that good, I even got my wife one for Christmas. Her first ever Android device, and she loves it just as much as I do. I use it every single day.
And so, to the BlackBerry. It's there on purpose, and with good reason. I'm not deserting Android any time soon, but truth be told I've rocked a BlackBerry of some form for the last 4 years, ever since jumping away from Windows Mobile. Why do I use it? Because it's still the best communication tool that fits my needs. My Bold 9900 houses my main phone number, so it's the one I do pretty much all my communicating on. The keyboard is amazing, and sat on a desk next to any of my Android devices and my laptop, it will always ping to let me know I've got an email first.
As with Phil's picks, I'm not going to talk about any of the Google Apps in any way -- darn -- because they're just there. We all know they're there, and everyone uses most of them quite a lot. Looking through my "All" tab in the Play Store is pretty hefty work, a lot of apps have crossed my path. Some of them find a permanent home on my devices. So, here's a list of what's kept me ticking over day to day this year.
- SwiftKey 3, and more recently SwiftKey Flow: The first app that gets installed on any device that ever comes into my hands. I've always regarded it the best Android keyboard, and that doesn't look like changing anytime soon.
- Pocket: There's so much great content out there on the Interwebs, that getting through it all in one sitting is nigh on impossible. To help me out, I use Pocket. The app is extremely nice to use on both phone and tablet, and while I may use it because I had a Read It Later account anyway, it's still one of my daily go to apps that I enjoy using.
- Falcon Pro: I spend a lot -- read, too much -- time on Twitter, but never found an Android client to truly take residence on my devices until Falcon Pro came along. I don't need multiple account support, but it's just so smooth and joyous to use, it's a keeper.
- Action Launcher: I should probably mention the launcher. I fell in love with Chris Lacy's Action Launcher the moment I first used it. See, I use my phone one handed, in my left hand. I don't like having multiple homescreens filled with stuff either. The slide out app drawer from the left means I don't have to prioritize quite so much, because I can swipe and scroll with my left hand and reach any app easily.
- Reader (HD): We spend a lot of the day reading news, and the best Google Reader client I've found is Reader (HD). All the features I want are there, and it looks good on a phone and a tablet without sacrificing functionality.
Those are some of the biggies. Elsewhere on my homescreen though:
- Media folder: Spotify and TuneIn Radio Pro pretty much take care of my daily music fix. Pocket Casts is my podcatcher of choice, as I spend a lot of time driving and listening to podcasts. I've been a long time user of Pocket Casts and nothing else has come close. Netflix is also tucked in there. In absence of any proper Android streaming solution for LOVEFiLM, Netflix is pretty much the only way to go. TVCatchup also finds a place in here, a UK only app, but great for catching up with some (almost) live TV. TVCatchup was probably my most used app during the Olympics.
- Stock camera app: Photosphere is great fun to play around with.
- Shopping folder: I'm always on the go, and I do a lot of shopping online. So I keep eBay, Amazon Mobile, Paypal, Gumtree -- a kind of UK Craigslist -- and Google Shopper handy.
- Stock 4.2 Clock Widget: I'm one of possibly a minority that actually likes it. The ability to add it with world clock times too is essential for me.
And not forgetting of course, those which don't grace the homescreen but are still pretty essential to me:
- Amazon Kindle
- Pattrn: The best wallpapers I've found, anywhere.
- Notification Weather: See Andrew's review for the full run down, but everyone needs a good weather app. And this, is a good weather app.
- Starbucks: Essential. Also, the only widget I ever consider using.
- Cloud Storage apps: Drive, Dropbox, Skydrive, I use them all. Don't know why, but I do, so I need the mobile apps. The Skydrive app is actually pretty nicely done, if a little lacking in some desired features and downright frustrating at times. I also use OneNote too from Microsoft. Again, for reasons I don't entirely understand, but I take a lot of notes and I just really like OneNote.
- Sports apps: Sky Sports News and MLB At Bat pretty much cover it. MLB At Bat has been an annual purchase dating back to my iPhone days. Got to get my Baseball fix, and being in the UK, At Bat is even more worth the cost.
- Games: I don't generally game on my phone anymore, the Nexus 7 is perfect for that. The highlights this year have definitely been Beach Buggy Blitz, Rayman: Jungle Run, Sonic CD, and Need for Speed: Most Wanted. Seriously, if you haven't yet played NFS: Most Wanted, you really should. The graphics and touch control system are something special. A special mention also goes to Wind up Knight (a carry over from 2011) and Shine Runner. Two games that have consumed more time than arguably they should have.
And that's about it, I think. It's been a crazy year, and with CES around the corner 2013 is sure to arrive with a bang. Don't forget to join in the fun too by heading into the forums and letting us know what you've been using in 2012.
Happy New Year to everyone!
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