Tech events that defined 2013 - Pt. 3

The final chapter of some of the stories — big, small and just plain odd — that shaped the world of gadgets and tech in 2013

After the summer faded, and the shock of the Snowden revelations lessened, the tech and gadget industries prepared themselves for what they considered something far more important than trifling Big Brother-style government surveillance: winter sales.

Thus the news cycle was predictably dominated by Apple’s new iPads and iPhones, the Nexus 5, and a bewildering array of supermarkets attempting to release their own tablets. We swear, by the time we write this column next year, you’ll probably get a free tablet taped to every issue of your kid’s comics.

Still, that all pales in comparison to the heartwarming story of Roar the Lion, and the equally great tale of Orlando the guide dog and the campaign to keep him with his master.

Catch up with 100 tech events that defined 2013 part 1 and part 2

SEPTEMBER - smartphones, smartwatches and smart games

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In media news, Netflix made history when House of Cards won an Emmy — the first show from a non-TV network to do so — and Grand Theft Auto V arrived to accusations of misogyny and over-the-top violence. Carolyn Petit’s 9/10 review that briefly mentioned this subsequently ended up with countless angry posts about her supposed ‘man-hating agenda’, which made sane people think maybe she had a point. Naturally, the game sold millions of copies anyway.

Otherwise, September was a month of devices, and something of an iOS vs Android smackdown. First up, the new Samsung Galaxy Note 3 landed with a blistering spec sheet including quad-core innards, 3GB of RAM and a better-than-ever S Pen stylus. And then the iPhones arrived: the super shiny iPhone 5s, boasting a fingerprint scanner, and the colourful iPhone 5c, with a plastic shell.

Analysts decided immediately that Apple was doomed and this would finally be when the iPhone keeled over; then when the extremely expensive iPhone 5s sold like hot cakes and the only somewhat expensive iPhone 5c merely sold moderately well, that was somehow a bad thing for Apple too. In fact, the big issues for the company were software-based.

Apple’s motion to intervene on behalf of developers to battle patent troll Lodsys was thrown out by a Texas judge. And elsewhere, in a story broken by Stuff.tv, iOS 7’s motion effects were triggering vertigo and nausea symptoms in users. 

Over in Android land, Samsung announced wearable wrist device Galaxy Gear, presumably aiming to head off an Apple iWatch at the pass, but instead heading off sanity, given that the device was awful. Similarly bafflingly, Android 4.4 was named KitKat, oblivious to various Nestlé scandals that would suggest it’s not the best brand to tie your operating system to. Fortunately, Tesco of all companies did something smart with Android in September, releasing the affordable seven-inch tablet, Hudl. There was a hint of the press grading on a curve, but there’s no denying it’s a great bit of kit for £119 (RM644).

OCTOBER - Flexy-time

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Facebook continued to make people assume its acceptable use policy was being written on the fly by an inebriated monkey smashing a keyboard with a mallet. It lifted a ban on decapitation videos, and argued they were fine with warnings and if people were condemning them. Presumably deafened by the constant sound of jaws hitting floors, the company relented a couple of days later and blathered something about taking a “holistic look at the context” surrounding images and videos, and removing content that “celebrates violence”.

In other news, curves were definitely back in, with Samsung announcing the Galaxy Round ahead of LG's reveal of the G Flex - two huge phones with curved displays, looking ot pioneer the way for a slew of curvy, flexible gadgets over the next few years.

Online, Disney and Adobe both attempted to wrest ‘boneheaded online company of the month’ from Facebook. Disney decided to pull content from iTunes in the Cloud, denying people access to movies they’d paid for (a trick it would later repeat in December with Amazon, making us feel we didn’t go far enough in arguing online services can’t replace your shiny discs, and Adobe confirmed “at least” 38 million online accounts had been compromised. The number later climbed to 150 million, placing further strain on the creative giant’s cloud-only ambitions. 

The iOS vs Android battle continued. Google’s Nexus 5 ramped up the power and offered a great screen, although its battery life left a little to be desired. Over in Cupertino, Apple offered the svelte iPad Air and a revamped iPad mini that boasted a high-res display. Despite the increasing prevalence of tablets, some people reportedly still had issues with them, with LA teachers freaking out when kids had the audacity to use school-supplied iPads for — horrors! — browsing the internet.

More after the break...

NOVEMBER - PS4 vs Xbox One

The best and worst of the internet occurred as winter’s chill rolled in. The UK Conservative party attempted to eradicate its web history, removing speeches and news stories in what appeared to be a desperate rewrite of history. Search engines were blocked from keeping records of past pledges, one of which ironically outlined the need to be accountable and transparent online. The flip-side: Batkid. The web rallied to give five-year-old cancer survivor Miles Scott a day to remember. Make-A-Wish and countless volunteers turned San Francisco into Gotham City, tasking the teeny superhero with rescuing a damsel in distress and capturing a motley crew of colourful villains.

100 tech events that defined 2013 - Part 3

As the PS4 launched, London’s OXO Tower gained familiar PlayStation symbols, while the country readied itself for Doctor Who’s 50th anniversary. A Google Doodle whetted the appetite, with an isometric 8-bit-style maze game, and then the episode itself merrily broke records, becoming the world’s largest simulcast, and generating a colossal 1.3 million iPlayer requests in the 24 hours after first broadcast.

We imagine November was a month in which quite a few people wish they had the Doctor’s TARDIS, but none more so than James Howells. He threw away a computer hard drive with 7,500 bitcoins he’d mined when the going was easy; the value of the drive buried under a metre or more of Welsh landfill was estimated at £4.6 million.

The month also marked the beginning of easing in-flight rules regarding electronic device usage. Airlines scrambled to say they would now allow gate-to-gate use of devices in airplane mode, and tentatively predicted in-flight mobile calls in the near future. At that point, we’ll probably all want in on that TARDIS — or to borrow a Dalek to exterminate anyone yelling into a device while sharing a flying tin can with dozens of miffed onlookers.

DECEMBER - It's party time!

With December being a month for warmth, happiness and general fuzzy feelings, we figure it's the best time to relaunch 226 pages of great Stuff in Singapore. Not forgetting, our readers who cast  20,000 votes to determine their gadgets of the year. And it's never too early to party at Stuff.

So, on to the warm and fuzzy — and there was plenty of that this December. After a certain online retailer fired some stupid on to the internet about drone-based deliveries, Waterstones introduced its charming Ornithological Waterstones Landing Service (OWLS); through social networking, a girl’s treasured lost toy found its way home; and homeless man Leo Grand’s app, Trees for Cards was released.

The one that really got to us, though, was the story of Cecil Williams and Orlando. Williams is blind, and Orlando is his guide dog who heroically saved his owner’s life as he fell on to the tracks at a subway platform. With Orlando now 11 years old, he was due to retire and leave his master, who’d get a replacement younger guide. Indiana Law student Grant Kirsh decided otherwise, and began an Indiegogo campaign, which raised tens of thousands of dollars, thereby ensuring Williams and Orlando will now not be parted; the pair can instead look forward to a very happy new year together.

Don't miss the biggest tech events that defined 2013 part 1 and part 2!

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