Earlier in the year I was in the market for a tablet, and the Android fanboy I once was pushed me towards offerings from Acer and Asus. My first was an Asus Transformer which was promptly returned on the first day due to random reboots and a screen which just did not cut it. Next up I bought an Acer Iconia, which for a few month served me well enough. Until one faithful morning it was left on the roof of my car (and in a tear jerking waste of my hard earned money) it was smashed to bits, run over repeatedly by passing cars.
Almost completely demoralized with my tablet experience, I took a leap of faith and bought an iPad 2, and in many ways (my first Apple product since the first gen iPod) just changed everything for me. The smoothness of iOS, the unbelievable app selection, and just the way the iPad feels in your hands; from that point on I was seriously converted. While my iPad has seen it's fair share of knicks and bruises this year, it's brushed aluminum has developed a lovely patina, and I continue to consider it one of the most essential and beautiful devices I have ever owned.
For years I was using spreadsheets to do all my invoicing until a client turned me on to online invoicing and time tracking service Freshbooks. With tools for managing tasks, clients, and features like automatic invoicing, Freshbooks has become a web service I constantly keep open in a browser tab. If you're a freelancer or remote worker who isn't using this already, I don't even know how we ever managed without it.
After my experience with the iPad, it was only a couple of months before I took the plunge on my first Mac, (literally 20 years of PC's under my belt) the Macbook Air. The 13" Air is by far the best computer I've ever owned. Sleek and just powerful enough, I carry it with me everywhere. For a computer so potentially limited in it's specs, I manage to run the Adobe Suite without fail, and do 99.9% of my work as a front end developer and design with it. The build quality, the screen, even just learning to use OSX, my experience moving to the Mac really does not make me miss the days of bulky PC laptops and noisy space consuming desktops.
TextPlus (Android and iOS) By the end of this year, I've managed to completely ween myself off using a cell phone. Why? No smartphone means no ridiculously overpriced carrier contract. Instead I carry around an iPod touch, or my iPad pretty much everywhere, and to keep me texting and receiving the occasional phone call (these are seriously less and less frequent for me) I use TextPlus. Textplus hooks you up with a phone number in the area code of your choosing, for free texting, and the option to buy extremely cheap prepaid minutes (that never expire). While it may not be 100% as reliable as cellular service, the freedom of no contract, and to use whatever device I wan't is well worth the occasional lagged call.
The Nexus 7
As much as I now evangelize Apple, when Google announced the 200$ Nexus 7, I just couldn't resist. There we're things I did miss about Android on a tablet. Niche features like running gaming emulators for some Super Nintendo on the go, and more core features like the generally better experience with Google services like Calendar, and Gmail. I was also really excited to try out Google Now, Google's very intuitive and responsive answer to Siri. In general Android sees new innovations push quite rapidly and so at 200$ the Nexus 7 was the best option to keep me in the loop with the latest and greatest Google has to offer.
Huawei Mobile Hotspot
This year me and my partner moved into our first apartment together, and for the first 6 month's we didn't have home internet. To keep connected with both bought mobile hotspots with unlimited monthly pay as you go plans, and despite the 3G connection somehow we managed most of year before eventually getting broadband. It's a handy little device, which I now use to keep my iPad and iPod touch connected on the go so I never have to worry about wifi.
iPod Touch (5th generation)
As mentioned earlier, I don't carry a phone with me and so to maintain access to all the apps I love to use when I don't feel like carrying my iPad, I turn to my trusty iPod touch. If you forget that it's not a phone, the iPod Touch is pretty much the best mobile on the market. It's thinner than the iPhone, it has a Retina display, the camera is great, and it comes in a range of beautiful colors. While it may not be as affordable as previous generations or an iPhone on contract; for a device which matches the iPhone on so many core specs without being tied to a carrier, it really is the perfect mobile device for my needs.
Before 2012 I hadn't really jumped completely into Evernote, in fact for a while I was using Springpad for note keeping. But this year Evernote has really become a critical app for me. I use it for anything and everything, from writing this article, to organizing to do lists and notes for big development projects. Evernote is just really well designed, and it's ubiquity on every platform makes it a constant companion; it has really become an extension of my brain.
Pixel Ruler by UI Stencils
There are times when I'm mapping out a wireframe or mock up for a project where I really just need to sketch things out on paper. Just recently I ordered a set of pixel rulers and some mobile stencils from UI Stencils to help me whip up more accurate quick mock ups. The ruler is simply a standard aluminum ruler where the standard unit of measurement is the pixel instead of inches or centimeters. I also picked up a very useful stencil set, with standard UI elements like icons and buttons for really rapid mockups of mobile interfaces. It's a really niche product, but it's definitely something I just won't head to a coffee shop without.
Apartment Therapy Tech
Maybe it's a bit self serving, but last on my tech top ten is this site, Apartment Therapy. 2012 was the year I first signed on as a contributor here, and I must say it's been a really exciting journey. There are a lot of tech sites out there, but most focus on a very niche technology consumer. I feel like the mandate of Apartment Therapy Tech is really to explore the way a more general audience integrates technology into our lives. It has been a fantastic experience contributing to that exploration, that always manages to challenge me to consider the intersection between technology and lifestyle. As much as I enjoy writing for Apartment Therapy, I'm also an avid reader. So to my fellow contributor, to the fantastic community of commenters, and to the fascinating and eclectic editorial team, congratulations on an excellent year.
(Images: Sean Rioux)