The year is coming to an end and there’s no doubt that smartphones were perhaps the biggest trend-setters for 2012. In fact, according to this International Data Corporation report, over three times more smartphones were shipped than PCs in Q3 of 2012 alone.

IDC also reported that the global smartphone volume in the fourth quarter of 2012 (4Q12) is expected to reach 224.5 million units, which is shows a 39.5 percent year-over-year growth due primarily to strong consumer demand.

But there were certain phones that got everyone talking in 2012 and we take a look at the best of the lot.

Why have we chosen these phones?

Because when it came to some key areas, such as features, design, consumer popularity, positive reviews, sales numbers and OS, these phones stood out. The list isn’t in any particular order and not all smartphones fulfill each and every single criteria that we looked for.

Samsung Galaxy S III: This device is on the list because it fulfills nearly every criteria. Features, high sales, consumer popularity, the S III is without a doubt the the world’s best selling smartphone. Samsung sold nearly 18 million devices in the third quarter of 2012 alone. In fact, the S III had a strong start from the beginning with the company selling over 30 million Galaxy S III devices within 5 months of its launch.

Samsung launched the Galaxy S III on 3 May. The device has a 4.8-inch screen HD Super AMOLED display screen with a resolution of 1280 x 720 pixels, an 8 megapixel rear camera with flash and a 1.9 megapixel front camera. It also has a quad-core processor with 1 GB RAM and supports NFC (near field communication). To know more about the key features click here.

But it’s not just the sales numbers. According to this study, the S III’s display is way better than even the iPhone 5. And on Google’s Zeitgeist list for 2012, S III was number two on the trends for consumer electronics after iPad 3.

This device has been a hit with smartphone lovers and tech critics alike. Will the S IV offer something new to users? Let’s hope so.

A combination of photos shows the Galaxy S III and the iPhone 5. AFP Photos

Apple iPhone 5: The iPhone 5 was launched on 12 September 2012 amid a frenzy of expectations. Some might say the iPhone 5 was boring and Apple was just playing catch with Samsung smartphones in terms of features. They increased the screen size from 3.5-inches to 4-inches, the processor is a faster A6 dual-core one. It also supports 4G LTE for faster Internet but Apple decided to give NFC a miss, which many felt was a mistake. Rival Samsung’s S III supports NFC for instance. For all the key specs of iPhone 5 click here.

But in terms of design the iPhone 5 will always remain a thing of beauty. For critics,the iPhone 5 with its thinner, slimmer design was superior to Samsung’s plastic-bodied devices. As Walt Mossberg wrote in AllThingsD

Yet unlike many competitors, this isn’t a plastic, insubstantial-feeling device. Although Apple claims it’s the world’s thinnest smartphone – 18 percent thinner than the prior model- the iPhone 5 retains Apple’s trademark, solid-feeling, metal construction, with an aluminum back this time, instead of a glass back. Like many Apple products, it’s gorgeous.

But it wasn’t just the critics who loved the phone. Fans, did line up for this one, with Apple selling over five million iPhone 5 devices in the first weekend of launch itself. iPhone 5 helped Apple regain the number one position in the US market, ( the S III had beaten the iPhone 4S for the first time in the July-August quarter) for the final quarter.

Despite its prohibitive cost, and rise of the Android army, Apple’s iPhone 5 did record good sales numbers. The question is will Apple’s next iPhone set the bar much higher or will just play catch to the Android devices in the market?

Nexus 4:The Nexus 4 is the pure Google phone and perhaps in terms of OS this is one Android device that stands above all. According to thisWiredreview, the Nexus 4 is the best Android phone on the market.

The Vergereview states that the Nexus 4 iseasily the best Android phone on the market right now, and has some of the most powerful software that’s ever been put on a mobile phone.Remember Android is the most popular mobile OS with 75 percent devices worldwide running Google’s software. So yes, when Google launches a pure Google phone, it has to make it to the list of top smartphones for 2012.

Google Nexus 4. Image from Google

The mess-up has perhaps been the manufacturing of this device. Google partnered with LG for this device. And thebotched up the manufacturing of this devicehas resulted in a major shortage for this phone with demand far outstripping the supply. For all the key features of the Nexus 4 clickhere.

It’s been reported that Google is working on itsvery secret smartphone codenamed Xwhich could be launched next year. So will it be the next Nexus? Hopefully Google will manufacture enough of these.

Samsung’s Galaxy Note II: This phablet didn’t get too many positive reviews from critics, but consumers have loved it and that’s why we’re adding it to our list. The 5.5-inch screen device by Samsung saw some new features like a new improved Stylus, AirView, Multi-Window functionality, and Android’s latest OS, Jelly Bean.

The sale of the device was off to a flying start. According to the numbers, Samsung sold nearly 5 million Galaxy Note II devices in just two months of the launch.

Tech critics felt that the phone was bigger, but definitely not the best out there. However, for consumers, the size of the screen didn’t matter and they were okay with carrying a giant phone around.

Nokia Lumia 920: The Nokia Lumia 920 is the device that is being pitched as the alternative to Android and iOS. For Nokia, the former cellphone king, this is the big comeback device. Note, the Lumia 920 is already sold-out in many stores in Europe and America.

In terms of features, Nokia has tried to offer a different look and feel to users. The device supports Wireless charging, is available in many colours (unlike Samsung and Apple devices which have made Black and White devices standard), and offers Windows Phone 8 Operating System. For all the key features, click here.

The reviews have been positive like this Verge review which states, Nokia has given the OS a very good platform with the Lumia 920. The speed and multitasking improvements, connections to Xbox and SkyDrive, and Start Screen experience are all much better.

But the question for Nokia and Microsoft will always be about apps. The quality of the phone won’t be enough and convincing smartphone app developers will also be the key to the success of this device.

Publish date: December 26, 2012 10:30 am| Modified date: December 26, 2012 10:30 am

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