Everything important that happened in 2014

Everything important that happened in 2014

From cameras in the sky to cameras you can wear on your face, from 3.69 million pixels on your smartphone to 14.7 million pixels on your desktop monitor, 2014 wasn't a year for subtlety and understatement. Apple introduced larger display iPhones, Sony introduced full-frame mirrorless cameras, and everybody from Razer to Microsoft released a wearable device. Plus, a bunch of celebrities shared way more than they ever wanted to on the internet.

If you've been living under a rock for the past year, here's everything you missed in 2014.

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From your pocket to your wrist

2014 saw Apple enter the wearables market when it finally unveiled its long awaited Apple Watch. The square-face smartwatch won't be available until 2015, but will connect with your iOS device and track your health and fitness stats, as well as display notifications, messages and maps.

The Apple Watch's unique feature is its digital crown, which turns like a normal watch crown, but is actually used to zoom and scroll through content on the watch's digital face.

Microsoft also launched its first wearable this year, the Microsoft Band, a fitness tracking band with a 1.4-inch display and no less than ten sensors tracking your calorie intake, heart rate, stress levels and sun exposure among others. The Microsoft Band is also one of the few wearables to be compatible with both Android OS and iOS, as well as its own Windows Phone 8 platform.

LG and Motorola launched the first roundfaced smartwatches in the G Watch R and Motorola Moto 360, while Samsung added to its growing wearables range with the fitness focused Gear Fit and the affordable Gear 2 Neo.

Not everything was found on your wrist though, Sony's new SmartEyeGlass looks to challenge Google Glass with its CMOS image sensor, 3MP camera lens, and a suite of sensors coupled with Sony's unique hologram optics technology for the device's lenses, which offer a transparency of 85 per cent and are just 3 mm thick. Meanwhile, Epson's Moverio BT-200 glasses mix augmented reality with simulated big screen viewing by projecting images and video onto the world around you.

With every major device manufacturer, as well as a number of smaller boutique brands, now all invested in the wearable device market, the battle for space on your body is firmly underway.

Displays better than your eyes can see

In just three years, we've gone from displays with 800 x 480 pixel resolutions as the norm, up to 960 x 540, 1,280 x 720, 1,980 x 1,080 and this year, we saw our first 2,560 x 1,440 Quad HD smartphones. Devices like LG's 5.5-inch G3 boasted a massive 534 pixels per inch count and we may not be stopping there, with Samsung claiming Ultra HD 4K smartphone displays in development that could be available as early as 2015.

But are higher resolution displays worth it? In justifying the 960 x 640 (330ppi) Retina display on the iPhone 4's 3.5-inch display, Apple famously said that the human eye could only resolve about 300 ppi when viewed from 10 inches, the average distance that most users view their phone at. Even when scrutinized up close, it's almost impossible to distinguish pixels once you get to around 480 ppi.

The Rise of Xiaomi

Xiaomi is now the world's third biggest smartphone maker, a remarkable achievement for a company that only began selling smartphones three years ago. Xiaomi's inspiration is plain to see. Its first smartphone and tablet designs looked remarkably similar to Apple's iPhone and iPad, Xiaomi's website closely resembles Apple's website, and Xiaomi CEO, Lei Jun, even dresses like Steve Jobs and finishes his presentations with the words "One more thing…" But Xiaomi's success isn't just from copying Apple. Yes, its products are beautifully designed and well built (if not particularly original in design), but they also cost a fraction of the price of an iPhone.

This year Xiaomi expanded beyond smartphones and tablets, and also launched its own network router, smart TV set top box, cloud storage service, messaging service, power bank and smart fitness band, all of which were well received.

True Octa-core processing power

Not too long ago, dual-core processors were considered advanced. Now, consumers demand at least quad-core performance at the very least, and some devices even have octa-core processors. But nearly all octacore processors actually utilize two quadcore clusters, with one cluster prioritizing performance, and another set of low powered cores prioritizing energy efficiency, an arrangement that ARM calls big.LITTLE. The high-powered and low-powered cores do not generally operate at the same time, so you'll only ever have four cores running simultaneously.

This year however, Taiwanese semiconductor manufacturer Mediatek, launched the MT6595, the world's first SoC capable of true octa-core processing. While it is also based on ARM's big.LITTLE architecture, it is the first chip to utilize Cortex A17 and A7 cores concurrently, which are 100 per cent architecturally compatible, and thus capable of running all eight cores simultaneously. Early benchmark tests showed a massive 30 per cent performance gain on existing high end quad and octa-core SoCs, however it might still be a while until we see the first MT6595 chips appearing in consumer devices.

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