At the start of 2012 the folks at Google were seeing their beloved Android mobile operating system being used on more iPhone clones than we'd care to discuss - near the turn-over to 2013, big manufacturers like Samsung and HTC have made their own hero lines the likes of which Android has never known. What we saw in 2012 was recognition of the model that has worked for Apple extremely well since all the way back in 2007 - a focus on the ecosystem rather than on the individual specifications of any one device. This will continue in a very big way through 2013 with manufacturers holding up a single torch - like the Motorola RAZR brand - to keep themselves lit up brightly.
Motorola will continue to produce devices exclusive to Verizon with the DROID RAZR name attached: this branding has kept them in the limelight for the past couple of years. Samsung will stick with the Galaxy branding (as they have for more than just a couple of years) and will continue to run with the branding (and with the iPhone mocking) through the foreseeable future with both the Samsung Galaxy IV and the Samsung Galaxy Note III. HTC brought the fire in 2012 with their HTC One series (starting with the hero HTC One X) but didn't exactly see the massive sales they'd hoped for - because of this, HTC's strategy for 2013 remains a bit hazy.
LG made two fantastic decisions - or were granted the ability to go through with them, however it ended up going - the first being a team-up with Qualcomm for the Snapdragon S4 Pro quad-core processor for their Optimus G smartphone. While they've not reported extensive numbers for the sales of this machine quite yet, it's clear that the ultimate victory was the modified version of the handset in the Google Nexus 4. This machine has most of the features that the Optimus G does, but rounds its corners and makes its Android perfectly pure with a Google-only vanilla flavoring - this means that LG didn't modify the software for their own, just Google. Because of the feature set and the surprisingly low cost off-contract this device came with (though a T-Mobile version does exist, mind you), it's been a massive hit (or supply blunder, however you want to see it) compared to the rest of the Nexus devices Google has released in its lineup history.
That machine came with Android 4.2 Jelly Bean+, that being an updated version of the same Android revealed earlier this year - that was also code-named Jelly Bean. This version had a collection of new features that included quick-access to basic settings as well as connectivity that didn't even exist yet for most users - wireless projection with Miracast.
In 2013 we'll continue to see the change-over from a specifications race in hardware to a more solid offering in software with brand ecosystems at the heart of the race. Samsung took this battle to heart in 2012 with the Samsung Galaxy S III - see the Chris Davies article by the name of The Galaxy S III is Samsung's Coming of Age to see what this release was all about. More evidence that the Galaxy Note and S lines are doing stellar: the response to flip covers and TecTiles given away by the OEM for free.
Manufacturers aside, Google will be making at least one big unique push to stand out on their own as a force in mobile. Not just as a creator of Android will Google be pushing, but as a service provider for mobile devices. Google has confirmed their once-axed phone service plans already, and we've had Chris Davies' column making it all too clear, as well: "A Google plan to kill carriers with wi-fi is all too believable". Google won't purchase T-Mobile as our good pals at [Android Community] suggest, they'll continue to tie close bonds between themselves and wi-fi hotspot companies - or something to that effect - that'll allow their smartphones to function completely independent of the mobile carriers.
See the column "Smart device specs are over: Long live the Ecosystem!" for a good look at 2013.