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.
SEPTEMBER - smartphones, smartwatches and smart games
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 (S$248).
OCTOBER - Flexy-time
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.