Barely five years ago, nobody really knew what a smartphone was. Now it’s almost impossible to picture going through life without our apps, our games, our GPS, our compass, our planner, or our calendar. Smartphones have been so firmly cemented in our lives that it’s no longer a question of whether or not they’ll still be around in 2013: it’s a question of how many models will be available, and what will they all offer?
2013 should offer lots of variety for smartphones, not to mention attractive pricing. Looking to upgrade? Or, heck, thinking of finally netting your very first unit? Here are the 10 hottest smartphones for 2013.
iPhone 5 – Apple’s latest iteration of the iPhone (for now) is sure to have a solid presence through 2013. It’s lightweight, it’s powerful, and games and apps run beautifully within its attractive aluminum casing. The larger screen also presents a pleasing alternative for anyone who doesn’t want to carry a tablet.
iPhone 5 S – Unsurprisingly, rumors about the iPhone 5 S already abound. Whispers mention wireless charging and improved durability (that aluminum casing on the iPhone 5 is attractive, but dang, it scratches up like nobody’s business).
HTC Windows Phone 8X – Maybe 2013 will be the year you grab a Windows phone. The HTC Windows Phone 8X features a variety of styles in addition to an ultra wide-angle front-mounted camera lens, high definition sound, and tons of customization abilities.
Nokia Lumia 920 – Another smartphone that runs on Windows 8, the Nokia Lumia 920 is durable and handsome. It has external storage options, a 7 megapixel camera that performs well even in dim lighting, and the touch screen is still responsive even if you’re wearing gloves—a big selling point for people living in chilly climates.
Samsung Galaxy Note II – The Samsung combines the multitasking power of a tablet with the portability of a smartphone. Its pressure-sensitive “S Pen” stylus helps you get tasks done with finesse and precision that’s not as easy to pull off with your clunky fingers.
Samsung Galaxy S III – If you’re not interested in iOS, the Samsung Galaxy S III is an extremely popular Android-based alternative thanks to its multitude of features, processing power, and attractive design. It’s currently one of the most popular smartphones on the market, and its momentum should continue through 2013 despite buzz-killing lawsuits.
Google Nexus 4 – Google’s Nexus 4 smartphone is optimized for Google apps and games. Needless to say, if you depend on Google Maps, it’s a valuable little machine. You can purchase the phone unlocked and without a contract directly from Google.
Sony Xperia T – Sony’s Xperia T has been nicknamed/marketed as the “Bond Phone” thanks to Skyfall. It has a 13 megapixel rear camera and offers removable storage options, but it can’t incapacitate a man. We’re going to assume that Bond’s personal phone can.
LG Optimus 4X HD – Although it doesn’t look as sleek as the Samsung Galaxy S III, the LG Optimus 4X HD is nearly as powerful thanks to its quad-core processor. Many providers offer the phone at a bargain rate with a contract.
Motorola RAZR I – The Android-powered Motorola RAZR I isn’t as powerful as some of the phones on this list, but it’s still a solid and dependable piece of hardware that offers vital smartphone features—and throws in plenty of frivolous ones, too. Another good option if you’re looking to get a decent phone without spending a fortune.
It’s safe to say 2012 has been a fruitful year for technology, and it’s not likely that things will slow down through 2013. In fact, 2013 looks to be intense, tech-wise: The industry will likely continue to shift and change, hardware manufacturers will engage in price wars, the competition between tablets will be ferocious, video games will become more portable, and the world will be more connected than ever.
Here are five likely technology trends for 2013.
Video game consoles continue to struggle – There’s still a place for dedicated video game consoles, but they’re going to continue to struggle against the competition thanks to the rising popularity of tablet games. Nintendo’s Wii U took a step in the right direction with its semi-portable tablet controller that lets the player experience games without having to hog the TV, but what do Sony and Microsoft have in store?
Tablets fight for dominance – Tablet computers are gradually replacing PCs and laptops, and computer manufacturers have certainly noticed. 2013 will usher in affordable new models designed to take on the iPad—and each other.
Games continue to move to portable platforms – On the topic of tablets, video games will continue to shift from home consoles to tablets, phones, and dedicated handheld systems. A strengthening game library and increased cross-compatibility with the PlayStation 3 should give the PlayStation Vita a boost, and the Nintendo 3DS will continue to do well with the help of Nintendo’s franchises.
Price wars – What happens when hardware manufacturers are desperate to get your attention in a market that’s humming with activity? Sales. Lots of them. Keep your eyes open for slashed prices on smartphones, tablets, and games—particularly downloadable games on the App Store, Xbox Live Arcade, the PlayStation Network, and Nintendo’s networks.
More free Wi-Fi access at retail – Need to get out of the house, but not quite ready to detach yourself from the content feeding tube? No problem. More and more retail spaces, particularly restaurants and cafes, should have you covered with free Wi-Fi access. McDonalds and Starbucks already want you to hang out and surf over a latte—or a hamburger.
For more 2013 business trends, take a look at Gartner Inc’s 2013 trends.
A smarter way to play: Video games industry analysis, reviews & insight.
It’s remarkable how quickly smartphone and tablet games shot up into mainstream relevancy. Specifically, games for iOS (Apple’s iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad) are holding their own in the video game market alongside consoles and handheld gaming systems like the Nintendo 3DS and PlayStation Vita.
But iOS games are downloadable. Can they still make a good gift? Sure! A $25 iTunes card can buy tons of great games, especially since iOS games tend to go on sale frequently. Just hand over a card, plus this list of 2012’s top ten iOS games (or you can memorize it).
Rayman Jungle Run – Rayman Jungle Run is currently one of 2012’s top-rated iOS games, and for good reason. This endless runner/platforming hybrid challenges you to tear across tons of levels at top speed while still keeping an eye out for enemies, pits, and secrets. It looks great, too. Good luck.
Angry Birds Star Wars – This is the iOS game you are looking for. Angry Birds Star Wars puts Rovio’s famous fowl into the robes of various Jedi and Rebels. On the other side are the ever-nefarious Pigs, serving the Empire’s whims like the scum that they are. In the end, the battle between Good and Evil comes down to a lot of flinging, flying, and screaming—more or less what you’d expect from an Angry Bird game.
Symphonica – Symphonica is a different kind of rhythm game that lets you sample what it’s like to be a concert conductor. Unfortunately, your orchestra is on the verge of collapse and you need to build it up. It’s like the movie Mr Holland’s Opus, but with more cute anime-style visuals.
Punch Quest – Punch Quest is a retro-style arcade beat-em-up that knows how to have fun. Use your fists to break your way through walls of enemies, or just take the easy way out by hopping on a dinosaur that shoots lasers from its mouth.
Need for Speed: Most Wanted – Most Wanted is a bit pricey for an iOS game (currently, the normal asking price is $6.99 USD), but what you get in exchange is a racing game that’s pretty darn close to a full console experience. Need for Speed: Most Wanted looks good, moves smoothly, and lets you race, race, race with over 35 customizable cars.
Girls Like Robots – Adult Swim’s Girls Like Robot is one of the cutest, most unique puzzle apps you can nab for iOS. You’re in charge of seating arrangements, and you need to make everyone happy if you want to advance to the next level. Remember: Girls like robots, but they don’t like nerds. Nerds like robots, but man, they can’t stand each other. Ready to get to work?
Arc Squadron – If you miss Nintendo’s Star Fox space-shooter series, Arc Squadron might help fill that fox-shaped gap in your heart. Fly, blast your way through asteroids, bomb enemies into oblivion—and, of course, perform barrel rolls to your heart’s content.
Bad Piggies – Okay, okay—maybe the Pigs from Angry Birds have their own reasons for being bad. Hunger is a strong motivator, after all. In Bad Piggies, you take the role of the Pigs and build all kinds of crazy contraptions in hopes of stealing the Birds’ eggs. Can’t make an omelette without breaking a few bones, right?
Splice: Tree of Life – Splice is an artistic puzzle game that demonstrates iOS titles don’t just have to feature mindless tapping. Your goal is to re-arrange strands of DNA via splicing until you morph into a target structure. It’s original, it’s addictive, and the soundtrack is very, very pretty. Beware though: Splice only works on the iPad.
Chrono Trigger – Chrono Trigger was released for iOS at the tail-end of 2011, but for the love of all space and time, don’t deny yourself the chance to play this wonderful classic RPG by Square-Enix. Originally released for the SNES in 1995, Chrono Trigger is still one of the most beloved games of all time. Its iOS re-release demonstrates that its story, characters, and time-ripping mechanics have all held up very well.