iPhone 5s

James’ favourite bits of 2013

Ah, the end of the year. Things are starting to wind down. The streets are mobbed with Christmas parties. Office workers are unsteadily tottering to bars festooned with Elf ear headbands, non-ironic Santa beards and a sprig of Holly sticky-taped to a ruler. Greg from Biz Dev is already talking about how he got a Hardly Normal gift card for Secret Santa last year that he accidentally let expire! Oh Greg! The silly season! Ho ho ho!

I’m sitting here at home, drinking coffee and watching my inbox slowly fill to capacity with ’24 hour shopping events’. I’m thinking about how I should’ve done more online shopping in late November, safely ensconced within in the All Important International Shipping Window. I’m looking out the window here in Brisbane where the weather lazily oscillates between Stupidly Hot and Stupidly Hot With Rain, and trying to recall specific moments in time during 2013 that stand out. Won’t you join me?

iPhone 5s

iPhone 5s

Let’s go straight to the properly self-indulgent stuff straight away. This year I handed in my ancient, ridiculous, completely obsolete, totally-old-and-busted iPhone 4S and went up-market (but lower case) with the new iPhone 5s. In case you’re wondering, I bought a 32GB Space Grey one, outright. I went from a plan to Telstra Prepaid, because frankly all the carrier plans made the assumption that I am some sort of monocle-touting millionaire, who buys his phone only to step back into his platinum Bentley and scoot off to a charity ball.

So, here’s the question; am I happy?

Well, I’m happy in the sense the upgrade was more or less a non-event for me. I turned in a short, thick, heavy white slab and received a taller, lighter, skinnier grey slab in return. The battery lasts a lot longer. The charging port is conveniently reversible. Also, sometimes it even recognises my fingerprint!

After a few months of use, the standout feature on the iPhone 5s is obviously the camera. It is very, very nice. Like, so nice that I lugged an SLR across the world on my Bali holiday and proceeded to ignore it for two weeks. Didn’t use it once. I was too busy doing slow-mo videos…

Panoramas…

Bail beach in the early morning

Frontbacks…

A couple of frontbacks

Ollo-clipped macro shots…

and VSCOCam restaurant ceilings.

Am I giddy, ecstatic, or otherwise swooning over this phone? Not really. But, I think this is how technology upgrades are meant to be now. Slow, predictable, reliable. Refined.Well… kinda refined. iOS 7 still has a ways to go.

Kindle Paperwhite

Kindle Paperwhite

When I was a kid, I read constantly. Devoured entire shelves of books. In fact, I used to buy books from our school fete, with a cunning two-pronged tactic 1) get in first, and snipe the best books 2) come back last, and take an entire box of remaining books for $2. Ha! Take that, elderly lady behind the register! I’d read anything.

Somewhere along the line in the last few years, I lost that. Now, I probably still read a volume of words roughly equivalent to what I used to (don’t we all, nerds?), it’s all horribly depressing reality! News, blogs, articles pontificating on the [adjective] new feature of [company] that’s a bit like the [verb][noun] of [industry]. But fiction, man! I lost how to read fiction, and the Kindle gave me that back.

(The fact that I actually required a gadget to get that back? Well, I’ll leave that one for the psychoanalysts. It’s a little bit terrible, but a lot true.)

Android & Google

Holy smokes, what happened to Google in 2013? They have been frantically running around all year, like an ant colony that just received word of a rogue picnic basket.

Cast your mind back to the start of this year; we saw the HTC One emerge. The first Android phone that truly challenged the iPhone in terms of high-end build quality at an affordable price. (sssh, Vertu–I said affordable).

We all know it was awkwardly marketed with a bunch of hokey buzzwords (Ultrapixel™, BoomSound™, BlinkFeed™) and unnecessary software slathered on top. It was unavoidable; after all, we were dealing with HTC. The One was much like a delicious chocolate cake, only it was iced with barbecue sauce.

But –to awkwardly extend my cake metaphor– many people politely took their dessert forks, excised the offending sauce and enjoyed the remainder of the cake that wasn’t too hickory smoked.

There was also the Samsung Galaxy S4, which I owned for a few months, and would describe as ‘perfectly adequate’. Huge-screened, backed with a ricketey plastic and suspiciously light. Not good, but not entirely terrible either. Also slathered in Samsung-flavoured BBQ sauce. Ick.

Finally, at the tail end of 2013 we have the sauce-free Nexus 5, which looks like an excellent choice for at the frankly incredibly low price of $399-$449.

Was there a shipping error? Are they dangerously overstocked at Google? Has Sergey gone loco, and is offering mind-shatteringly low prices for a limited time only?

I don’t know, but I like it.

Here’s another area Google has been crushing face; Google apps on iOS. Google Maps for iOS came stomping back into the App Store right at the tail end of 2012, and ushered in a new age of Google-centric native apps. Handsome. Responsive. Not… WebView-y. Search, Gmail, Chrome, Google Drive & YouTube have all been rapidly iterated on, and I would now call them outstanding native experiences.

It’s a testament to Google, and incredibly impressive to watch how they ramped up development, applied the pressure to a variety of Apple’s web services, and watched them self-immolate like a out-of-warranty Xserve.

PC Master Race

PC Gaming

Forget the haters, yo. PC gaming is cool again. Honestly, it has never been a better time to be a PC gamer. A few thoughts:

  • You can get a very fast, very usable desktop PC for under a thousand dollars now
  • Steam and the Humble Bundle offers are practically shoving handfuls of amazing games at you for the price of a cup of coffee
  • Online gaming is free (unlike the new consoles)
  • The back catalogue for PC is completely backward compatible, and extends into infinity
  • The indie game scene on PC is thriving
  • The peripherals are fantastic, and cheap
  • The e-sports scene is great fun to watch
  • Some time in 2014, Steam will invade your living room
  • Also in 2014: Occulus Rift

The best moments in gaming I’ve had this year, I’ve had on PC.

Xbox One? That’s so Xbox Done. PlayStation 4? Don’t be a PlayStation Bore!

Computer games are where it’s at.

Tech + Journalism

Finally, I wanted to acknowledge that there’s some amazing work being done in the field of tech journalism in 2013. I have been much more aware of it this year (what with the site and all), but the local scene has excelled –places like Gizmodo & Kotaku AU, Delimiter, ZDNetAusdroid, Vooks and many, many more. The features on international sites like The Verge, VICE, the Guardian and many others have inspired me, both in writing and in video. From the whole spectrum of topics; local stuff like the NBN, the politics, the gadget reviews and the big international issues like the NSA, Edward Snowden & how tech is shaping our world, tech journalists have shown they can be a powerful force for truth, and for good.

It’s hard to explain, but I feel like 2013 was the year where stories started appearing from a place that I can really relate to. Instead of a journalist peering in, trying to decipher the web from the outside, I now feel more than ever that news is being reported from people who speak the language of the web. People who are familiar and nuanced with their understanding of how the world is bound together by these wider forces. The web isn’t a separate ‘thing’ anymore, it’s a part of culture, a part of news, a part of everything.

Thanks to everyone whose work we’ve read, watched and enjoyed this year. You are much appreciated.

Reckoner had its humble beginnings way back in June of 2013.

Founded by James Croft, along with Peter Wells and Anthony Agius they created what would go on to become one of Australia’s most highly regarded and award winning independent tech blogs.

With its uniquely Australian voice Reckoner is committed to offering a “no-holds-barred” approach to its writing. Beholden to no one but its audience. Reckoner’s goal is to remain completely transparent and honour the trust it’s built with its faithful readership.

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