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Twenty-twelve was an outstanding year for technology and entertainment. Not only was it a crazy year full of some game-changing new apps, but pretty much all the big players in the industry brought their A-games. Apple and Google both strengthened their hold on the mobile OS world with new iOS and Android offerings, but Microsoft pulled a Hail Mary near year’s end, wowing the world with Windows 8. Perhaps most impressively, however, has been Samsung’s break-out Galaxy SIII and Galaxy Note II smartphones, which have given iPhone a run for their money.

On the entertainment front, no one was bigger than Psy. The bizarre South Korean pop sensation horsey-danced his way to a record 1 billion YouTube views (and counting) with “Gangnam Style.” In TV land there were stellar seasons of Homeland and Game of Thrones, but we still couldn’t keep our eyes off the screen as Walter White’s life continued its downward spiral in Breaking Bad‘s intense fifth season. Meanwhile, Rogers On Demand provided us with all the blockbuster movies we could eat, but blew us away even more with a range of amazing foreign and indie offerings. With that, Connected‘s editors and contributors have looked back on the year and have chosen their top picks for the best tech and entertainment in 2012.

 

The Best Smartphone of 2012

Samsung Galaxy SIII
As a certified gadget geek (I’ve got papers) and long-time tech writer, I’m fortunate to get to play with just about every phone under the sun. The Samsung Galaxy SIII tops my list for 2012 as its a true watershed for smartphones and specifically, for Android. Smart technologies like S Beam, which enables tap sharing between devices, Best Photo which snaps 20 pics in a burst to ensure you always catch the moment and Smart Stay which keeps the screen on as long as you’re looking at it, aren’t just clever marketing. They improve the SIII experience to the point that you wonder how you got by without them before. To say nothing of the SIII’s gorgeous 4.8-inch HD Super AMOLED screen, LTE data speeds that feel more like a wired connection and its top-end tech specs under the hood. 2012 saw a plethora of awesome smartphones. The SIII is the awesomest. – Andrew Moore Crispin (@amcink)

Runners Up
2. iPhone 5
3. HTC One X
4. Nokia Lumia 920
5. Samsung Galaxy Note II

 

Best Tablet of 2012

iPad mini
More portable and affordable than its big brother, Apple’s iPad mini is one of those products you don’t really “get” until you hold it. And hold it you’ll want to do. At 7.9 inches and 0.6 pounds, this smaller and lighter iPad is ideal not just for bookworms who want to read for extended periods of time – as it’s easier on your wrists than a 1.46-pound tablet at nearly 10 inches – but those who want to type messages or notes will also find the onscreen keyboard just the right size for your thumbs compared to an iPhone and iPad. iPad mini’s more compact size and weight means it’s also more ideal for young kids with smaller hands. Sure, the screen isn’t quite as nice as Apple’s Retina display on its full-size iPad, but it’s still quite the looker – not to mention the dual cameras, support for magnetic Smart Covers and the most compelling feature of iPad mini: support for all existing iPad apps (nearly 300,000 in total). Toss in iTunes and iCloud integration and optional 4G/LTE wireless connectivity and it’s easy to see why iPad mini is one of the “must have” gadgets of the year. Good luck putting it down. – Marc Saltzman (@marc_saltzman)

Runners Up
2. iPad with Retina display (4th generation)
3. Ativ Smart PC
4. Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9 LTE\
5. BlackBerry PlayBook 4G LTE

 

Best App of 2012

Instagram 3.0
Instagram’s continued success can be attributed to one main factor: most of us take crappy pictures, but Instagram makes them look awesome. Despite the recent kerfuffle over their privacy policy, 2012 was a huge year for the world’s coolest of all photo sharing/social network apps that has, in the last two years, become the image sharing service of choice. The year saw a lot of big changes for Instagram, including being bought by Facebook for a stupid amount of money, expanding into Android territory and making profiles viewable from a web browser at instagram.com. Then there were the upgrades. Version 3.0 of the app added cool functions like Photo Maps, which allows you to browse through your friends’ geo-tagged photos on a map, and infinite scrolling. One can only wonder what 2013 has in store. – Derek Malcolm (@derekmalcolm)

Runners Up
2. Paper
3. Pinterest
4. Cinemagram
5. Google Drive

 

Best TV Series of 2012

Breaking Bad
As reliable as gravity and death, each season of Breaking Bad consistently improves upon the previous. Like The Sopranos, The Wire, Dexter and Boardwalk Empire, it’s the morally suspect individuals we admire the most, truly sympathize with, and want to succeed. Whatever the collateral damage; screw the consequences. We root for the criminal meth maker who leaves a trail of death and suffering in his wake, yet this same individual is rooted by a commendable moral code nonetheless, while willingly declaring spiritual bankruptcy. This thrill is highly addictive, and rarely predictable. The series lives on the edge, ditching key characters at their peak, and then rising from the ashes five minutes later. It tests our mettle; are we prepared to swallow the unnecessary murder of an innocent kid on a bike? We’re never immune, it seems. Season 5 proves that Breaking Bad retains the power to shock. This is not just a mid-life crisis. This is ego. – Kendon Polak

Runners Up
2. Boardwalk Empire
3. Dexter
4. Justified
5. Nurse Jackie

 

Best Rogers On Demand Movie of 2012

Beasts of the Southern Wild
For someone who absorbs an inordinate volume of film and television – with a personal and professional interest – Beasts of the Southern Wild stood out from the crowd in 2012 as a beacon of modesty, faith and triumph. Our fight for survival might be as perennial and timeless a theme as unrequited love, but when viewed from the perspective of a six-year-old facing homelessness in a flooded Louisiana bayou, survival means telling yourself stories to keep your spirit afloat, to somehow make sense of your unpredictable and humbling environment. Simultaneously Biblical, futuristic and surprisingly contemporary, Beasts is an apocalyptic tale that’s remarkably gentle, and infinitely accessible for adult and child audiences alike with its charming blend of innocence and universal wisdom. This is not a poor-me, Disneyfied, fingers-down-your-throat job, but a quietly poetic story of interconnectedness, of believing in the importance of one’s own actions. Beasts of the Southern Wild is available at Rogers On Demand until April 18, 2013. – Kendon Polak

Runners Up
2. Melancholia
3. Tyrannosaur
4. We Need to Talk About Kevin
5. Moonrise Kingdom

 

Best Mobile Game of 2012

Walking Dead: The Game (iOS)
Based on the Robert Kirkman-penned comic series (which also inspired AMC’s hit TV show), this brilliantly written, well acted, and deeply immersive adventure game is just as unpredictable and moving as its source material. It’s not so much a test of skill – though there are plenty of moments that require quick reflexes – as it is a series of decisions that test your moral courage. As a beleaguered member of a group of frazzled zombie apocalypse survivors, you have only a second or two to respond to both tense social situations and horrific zombie attacks, and the choices you make echo through the rest of the story. As a guy who plays and writes about literally hundreds of games every year, I’m exposed to all sorts of interactive entertainment experiences, and Walking Dead: The Game is the only game I played in 2012 that had my heart racing in terror one moment and my eyes moist with emotion the next. It’s unforgettable. – Chad Sapieha (@chadsapeiha)

Runners Up
2. Angry Birds Star Wars (iOS, Android, Windows Phone)
3. The Room (iOS)
4. Bastion (iOS)
5. N.O.V.A. 3 (iOS, Android)

 

Best Viral Video of 2012

“Gangnam Style” – Psy
We could have chosen “Gangnam Style” by South Korean rapper Psy for top honours based on how hilarious it is (the dancing is ridiculous to the point of hysterical) or based on how catchy the song is (don’t even try to tell me that “Heeeeeeey, sexy lady” has never been stuck in your head). But at the end of the day, it wins our Top Viral Video of 2012 honours based solely on the insane number of people who have viewed it on YouTube. On December 21st, the video became the first and only video on YouTube to reach 1 billion views – yes, billion – people. That’s even more than the former most-popular video on YouTube, “Baby” by the Beebs (that’s Canadian pop star Justin Beiber, for those of you living under a rock). “Gangnam Style” is the true definition of “viral video.” Unlike Beiber, Psy may end up being a one-hit wonder, but for now, he reigns king of the viral video. – Kim Shiffman (@shiffer)

Runners Up
2. Kony 2012
3. TV news anchor stands up to bully who called her fat
4. Australian prime minister takes down the opposition leader for misogyny and sexism
5. Catch the ice dude

 


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