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10 Best Tricks, Worst Treats In 2012 Tech

Apple's iPhone 5

Sure, the past two entries had enough Apple bashing to qualify as a cider press, but Apple leaves consumers no choice but to recognize game when it's played by the best.

Dogged by production issues before its release and facing tough competition from the Samsung Galaxy S III in a smartphone world where it's used to standing alone, the iPhone needed a big showing in September. In the end, it gave fans what they wanted: a slimmer build, better screen, improved camera and real, fast 4G capability.

Yes, Google Maps is harder to use and the Maps app that replaced it is a certified disaster, but in the iPhone's world that's a trifle. In the long run, it kept iPhone lovers happy, gave new adopters more reasons to switch and maintained enough momentum to sell 5 million devices in its opening weekend. While there's still an argument to be made about quality and value vs. the upstart Galaxy, the iPhone reasserted itself as the phone to beat.

2013 Audi A5

Yes, it's a car, but the A5's main selling points are its tech details.

Its navigation system displays directions and places of interest using Google Earth's photographic landscaping, finds nearby gas stations and even displays their prices before you arrive. The A5 also allows drivers to sync smartphones via Bluetooth, download MP3s to its hard drive using SD cards or USB drives and play those songs via voice command through its Bang & Olufsen audio system.

Perhaps most impressive are its Drive Select features, including adaptive cruise control that adjusts speed by locating cars through radar and activates blind-spot warning lights when cars are in adjacent lanes. Combined with an amazing clear rearview camera, the Audi's tech package actually aids drivers for their $50,000 instead of just entertaining or comforting them.

Better Google+ Hangouts

When indignant, jaded social media users wonder aloud why they should jump onto Google+ too, Hangouts are the easiest answer. Google+ Hangouts let you video-chat with up to nine other people and have been used to great effect by families, businesses, organizations and even President Barack Obama.

They got a big boost in May, though, when Google+ unveiled a feature that allows users to broadcast live video publicly from a Google+ stream or a YouTube channel or embed it on a website. You can see how many people are watching while it's happening, post it to YouTube or Google+ when it's over and even see it on your iPad after Google finally produced a Google+ app in July.
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