If you’re a fan of new mobile devices, 2012 did not disappoint. All three major mobile companies (among others) came out with significant updates to both OSes and device hardware. And on top of that, numerous services came along to further bolster those platforms. It was a year of progress at the nuts-and-bolts level.

But not all went smoothly. In August, Apple won its lawsuit against Samsung, getting US$1 billion for patent infringement. In September, Apple dropped Google Maps from iOS 6, partnering instead with TomTom for the new Maps app. But Apple faced much criticism over the new app, which was perceived as being inferior to Google Maps.

Despite that, Apple also introduced iPhone 5 and iOS 6 in September, as well as the iPad mini in October. There are no signs yet that Apple’s continuous pace of hardware and software releases will abate anytime soon.

In June, the new version of Google’s Android OS, Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, was introduced at Google I/O. Perhaps more importantly, Android reached a milestone in October when the Android-based Samsung Galaxy S3 outsold the iPhone 5, marking the first time an Apple smartphone has been outsold.

In October, Microsoft released Windows 8. Normally that’s big news for just the desktop, but the company’s vision for its marquee OS now includes mobile devices. Will 2013 see this concept embraced by developers and consumers alike?

RIM entered the year battered, but it was determined to show it’s not dead yet. In June, it began its worldwide BlackBerry 10 Jam World Tour to introduce new SDKs for developers interested in developing for the upcoming BlackBerry 10 device. So far, it seems to have stopped RIM’s decline.

On the software side, we saw development platforms introduced to help developers create apps for multiple mobile platforms. In May, Anywhere Software and Xamarin introduced Android development tools to allow Visual Studio designers unfamiliar with Java to learn how to create and deploy apps for Android. In September, DevExpress introduced a new tool that lets Visual Studio developers build apps for Android, iPad, iPhone and Windows 8. In October, Icenium, a browser-based integrated cloud environment from Telerik, was introduced to address this growing trend of developers building cross-platform mobile apps using CSS, HTML5 and JavaScript. Other cross-platform mobile development frameworks came from Appcelerator, Infragistics, PhoneGap, RhoMobile and Sencha.

In September, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg declared that Facebook’s biggest mistake was using HTML5 for mobile development. This reignited a still-ongoing debate as to whether or not developers should go native or use HTML5 when building mobile apps. Expect this debate to continue well through 2013.

In June, at IBM’s Innovate 2012, cloud computing’s role in mobile was discussed at length. Mobile Backend-as-a-Service emerged in 2012, which is a cloud-based set of services that provide developers with customizable back ends for mobile app platforms so that developers can focus their time and energy on the apps themselves. Scalability and automatic RESTful API generation are two of the most important features mobile app developers can expect from mobile Backend-as-a-Service.

About Suzanne Kattau