IT'S BEEN a heck of a year for for the smartphone industry, with high profile legal battles, the apparent impending demise of certain manufacturers (sorry, HTC) and a huge increase in mobile malware, but it's also been one of the most interesting yet in terms of mobile innovation.
Given the innovation we witnessed last year, such as Microsoft's launch of the Windows Phone operating system, quad core processors and the rise of the tablet, it was hard to imagine that such foreward thinking would continue into and throughout 2012. But thankfully it did, proving that mobile innovation hasn't reached its peak yet.
Some might argue that the high-profile patent war between Apple and Samsung, which made headline news across the globe, has threatened to stunt mobile innovation, but the smartphone industry has continued to prove otherwise.
In our opinion, comeback company Nokia has been at the forefront of mobile innovation in 2012.
The launch of the Nokia Pureview 808 in February wowed the technology industry with its 41MP rear-facing camera. With its bulging chassis and ageing Symbian operating system it was no surprise that it was shunned by UK mobiel networks, but it still impressed as the best mobile phone camera to date.
Nokia, clearly aware of the obsolescence of its Symbian operating system, brought its innovative Pureview camera technology to its flagship Windows Phone models later in the year with the Nokia Lumia 920, a phone that showcases additional mobile camera innovation with its City Lens app, Smart Shoot feature and wireless charging.
Speaking of Windows Phone, this year also saw Microsoft launch Windows Phone 8, which coincided with its launch of the Windows 8 operating system and the firm's debut bit of own-branded kit. While some might argue that the latest version of Microsoft's Windows Phone mobile operating system isn't all that innovative, it shows a company looking to do something different - which Microsoft certainly has achieved.
Samsung, typically, continued to innovate too. The firm took the word 'phablet' to a whole new level with the launch of its Samsung Galaxy Note 2 smartphone. While some argued that a 5.5in screen on a smartphone was unnecessary, the Note 2 has continued to prove otherwise, notching up millions of sales around the globe.
It was not just on the hardware front where Samsung impressed throughout 2012. With the best-selling Samsung Galaxy S3, the Korean firm brought out a bunch of brand-new software tricks, things that put Apple to shame. These included Samsung's unique Pop up Play feature that lets you watch a video while within another app, and its NFC S Beam feature.
Another interesting innovation this year has been Intel's foray into the mobile market. The Orange San Diego arrived as the UK's first Intel powered phone back in May, and was followed by the Motorola Razr I in September. In these two phones, Intel has proved it's not all about the number of cores hidden under the hood of your smartphone, as both he San Diego and Razr I offer speeds that rival the quad-core LG Optimus 4X HD.
Apple, on the other hand, is starting to show that it's feeling the strain from the innovation offered by rival manufacturers. For example, while the Iphone 5 certainly impressed us, Apple didn't use the phone as a platform to showcase new technologies. Sure, it made the Retina display a bit bigger and it managed to squeeze improved internals into a slimmed down case, but in terms of innovation, it struggled to match Nokia and Samsung.
Not to mention the Apple Maps saga, which saw the company forced to issue its first-ever apology thanks to the app's shoddy directions and potentially life threatening inaccuracy. Thankfully though, Google brought its Maps app back to IOS - which unsurprisingly topped the Itunes Chart almost immediately.
It's not just hardware that has proved innovative, as 2012 has also signalled a huge shift in the ways we are using these devices.
A report from Ofcom this month has revealed that the UK leads when it comes to usage of mobile data, as punters quickly ditch their ageing laptops for mammoth-screened smartphones and tablet devices.
Olivier Ropars, senior director of mobile at Ebay, has also seen a massive shift. He said, "Our research shows that consumers are now checking their mobiles around 40 times a day, and on Ebay UK, an item is purchased every second through a mobile device.
"Last year we supported $5bn in purchases on mobile devices - and we expect that number to double in 2012, to $10bn."
This increased data usage has no doubt been spurred on, and will no doubt increase, thanks to the eventual arrival of LTE in the UK. EE became the first operator to roll out 4G in the UK back in October, and we got our hands on a 4G device and reported web speeds of around 22Mbit/s, around five times faster than speeds usually reported on 3G devices.
However, EE has been much-criticised, mainly by us, for its 4G LTE tariff pricing, which makes the high-speed connectivity inaccessible to most. Thankfully, with the UK 4G auction now underway, O2, Vodafone and Three will take note, and bring cheaper LTE price plans to the UK in 2013.
That's not all we can expect next year, as with talk of flexible smartphones and octo-core processors, it sounds like we're in for an innovative 2013. µ