Another great year of mobile technology has come and gone, and while we saw some of the biggest announcements from a mile away, a few companies still managed to catch us by surprise. No one’s jaw dropped when Apple unveiled the iPhone 5s or when Google launched the Nexus 5, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t an exciting year. So on that note, here’s our five favorite surprises that helped keep tech interesting in 2013:
1) The Moto X Is Great:
When the Moto X was first unveiled plenty of us were more than a little disappointed. Based on a superficial examination of the device, it definitely didn’t live up to the early hype that surrounded Motorola’s first phone developed inside of Google. Since then however, the Moto X has really grown on us. It even earned the title of TechnoBuffalo’s best phone of the year, proving that you really can’t judge a book by its cover. Better yet, Motorola is keeping it up to date on the latest versions of Android.
2) Chromecast Launches for $35:
The Chromecast isn’t a revolutionary device because of what it can do. There were already plenty of cord-cutting options out there before Google unveiled its HDMI dongle, from Roku and Apple TV to pretty much every major gaming console. The Chromecast’s price, however, was another story. At $35 it blew the competition away, quickly becoming the obvious choice for anyone looking for a budget-friendly option. It’s no surprise Google could barely keep the device in stock when it first launched.
3) The Moto G Surprise:
We know Motorola already made our list once with the Moto X, but we have to give credit where credit is due for the Moto G. We’re really not playing favorites when we say that Motorola hit it out of the park not just once but twice this year with a flagship and entry-level smartphones. The Moto G is everything you need in an Android phone without any of the frills, which helps bring the price down to a jaw-dropping $179-off-contract. Try spending that little on an unlocked smartphone anywhere else and you’ll likely end up with a device that’s either two-years-old or just comes with two-year-old components inside.
4) OS X Mavericks Launched For Free
Apple dropped a bombshell when it announced that, unlike previous OS X updates, OS X Mavericks would be available as a free download. The move sent shockwave through the industry, prompting a ranty response from Microsoft and one of the highest adoption rates the company had ever seen. OS X Mavericks itself isn’t much of a change, at least visually, but it could have a huge impact on the how the software business works moving forward. Will Apple follow up with free upgrades in the future? The bar has certainly been set.
5) CyanogenMod Reveals Big Plans
CyanogenMod served up one of the biggest surprises in the mobile world this year, announcing its plans to transition from popular Android ROM to full-fledged competing OS. It wasn’t all smooth sailing when the official CyanogenMod app was swiftly removed from the Play Store at Google’s request, but overall CyanogenMod had a great year, successfully launching the first smartphone to ship with its software pre-installed just days before 2013 came to an end. We can’t wait to see what Cyanogen-creator Steve Kondik and the rest of his team has planned for next year, but we know that the crew has plenty of stuff on its radar, including smart TV and smart car software.