This is the second part in our Year in Review series of posts. The first part can be found here.
April was the month where we finally got our hands on the phones that had been announced during February and March. First, HTC announced that the One would finally be available in Australian stores on April 23. And then, just days later, Samsung announced the official Australian launch date for the Galaxy S 4. By staggering coincidence (yeah, right), that date also happened to be April 23! HTC managed to have the last laugh though – Samsung’s device didn’t actually hit store shelves until the 24th, and when it did it suffered from severe shortage issues
Samsung, clearly not satisfied with having just one new phone on the market, decided to add two more. The Galaxy Mega range – consisting of 5.8” and 6.3” versions – were a bit like the Galaxy Note range, but without a stylus.
Not to be outdone, HTC also looked at expanding their list of new devices, with leaked details surfacing of a phone known as the M4. However, where Samsung went bigger, HTC went smaller with the M4 (which would later be known as the One Mini).
The rumour mill was at it again, this time with news about a possible upgrade to 2012s big success story, the Nexus 7. Details were scarce, but with Google I/O merely a month away, it seemed plausible that the Nexus 7 mk II was on its way. The rumour about Google’s unified messaging system made another appearance in April, this time with the name Google Babel. While some people were arguing over its pronunciation (‘babble’ or ‘bay-bel’?), the rest of us were secretly hoping it would get a name change before launching!
In local news, Google Play Music was finally launched in Australia. This allowed people to buy music through Google’s online music store, as well as upload music to their own “music locker”. For unsigned bands and musicians, the Google Play artist hub provided a platform for them to sell their music directly to fans.
May was about one thing, and one thing only: Google’s I/O developers conference held in San Francisco from the 15th to the 17th. Given that last year’s I/O was when the Nexus 7 was announced, we were all excited to see what 2013’s version of the event would hold. Would we see a new version of the Nexus 7? or maybe a revamped Nexus 4? Actually, we saw neither of those, but Google did finally announce the unified messaging service that had been rumoured for so long. Google Hangouts has turned out to be a fairly useful tool, especially now that SMS has been integrated. Among the other announcements were Google’s subscription-based streaming service Google Music All Access, and Google Play Games, a platform that enabled leaderboards, achievements and cross device sync of game progress.
While there were no Nexus devices announced at I/O, Google did announce some hardware of sorts, with the Samsung Galaxy S 4 with ‘Nexus User Experience’. This version of Samsung’s flagship ran a completely vanilla version of Android, something that people had been crying out for for years. It didn’t take HTC long to follow suit either, with the ‘Nexus User Experience’ version of the One announced a couple of weeks later. Unfortunately for us though, both devices were only available in the US.
Aside from I/O, there wasn’t much else going on in May. Sony announced the Xperia ZR, a rugged, more waterproof version of the Xperia Z, Samsung continued its push to release all the phones in all the sizes with the confirmation of the Galaxy S 4 Mini, and Motorola finally officially announced the much-hyped X-Phone.
Notable Reviews in May
Samsung Galaxy S 4
June was all about announcements. New phones, new tablets, you name it, June was full of them. Samsung led the way with the announcement of the Galaxy Tab 3 range of tablets. The followed this up a few days later with the Galaxy S 4 Active, a ruggedised, waterproof version of their flagship phone. As if that wasn’t enough, they went on to announce the lower-end Galaxy Ace 3 and the Galaxy S 4 Zoom, a phone that also functions as a compact camera. To top it all off, they then announced the Galaxy NX, the first interchangeable lens camera with 4G/LTE and running Android.
Not to be outdone, Sony announced the mid-range Xperia M at the start of the month, then followed it up a couple of weeks later with the really-really-ridiculously-big Xperia Z Ultra. Alongside the 6.4-inch monster, Sony also launched the Smartwatch 2, a device that syncs with your Android device via Bluetooth and acts as a second screen, allowing you to perform a whole bunch of different actions without looking at your phone. Other notable announcements for June included the HTC Butterfly S, Huawei Ascend P6, and LG’s ‘Optimus L Series 2’ range of phones, which includes the confusingly named ‘LG Optimus L2 – II’.
On the local front, Vodafone switched on their 4G LTE network in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide, Newcastle and Wollongong. This meant that all major carriers in Australia now have LTE networks.
Keep an eye out for the next part of our Year in Review series over the next couple of days!
How did 2013 rate for you? Any big disappointments? Any pleasant surprises? Let us know in the comments!