Each week Ross Rubin contributes Switched On, a column about consumer technology.

DNP Switched On The 2012 Switchies, Part 2

The last Switched On covered some of the major Switchie awards for the year, but there are many other products to recognize:

The "Category's Meow" Award for Best New Category Creation goes to Supermechanical's TWINE, a small blue box that can relay information about its environment via WiFi to a website. Its fellow Kickstarter project Ninja Blocks followed suit with a more proactive two-way link to pick up an Honorable Mention.

The "Mulligans Do" Award for Best Product Revamp goes to the Apple iPod family. After a bit of staidness in the venerable iPod nano, Apple came back with larger screens and slender profiles on both the iPod nano and iPod touch. Honorable mentions go to the Kindle family of e- readers, particularly the Kindle Paperwhite, and the Samsung Galaxy S line of smartphones from Samsung, which took a huge leap forward with the Galaxy S III.

The "Voluminous Praise" Award for Best Compact Audio Product goes to the Beats Pill, which packs surprisingly clear and loud sound throughout its volume range. Honorable Mentions go to the Audyssey wireless AirPlay speakers and Kickstarter project Hidden Radio.

The "To Your Health" Award for Best New Health and Fitness Product goes to the re-released Jawbone Up. Plagued by water leaks in its initial incarnation, the Jawbone Up was redesigned to continue on the company's quest to provide a steady stream of passive contextual background information. This was a year when a number of competitors redesigned their monitors and an Honorable Mention goes to the Fitbit One.

The "Connecting Flight" award for Best New Non-Traditional Connected Device goes to the Livescribe Sky. Livescribe's strategy has taken many twists and turns since the dot-paper writing implement first appeared. The smartpen has shifted from a scrapped app strategy to a low price point and now to the cloud with the Sky, which integrates with Evernote in favor of Livescribe's Desktop app. The signature microphone and OLED display remain as the company has added WiFi. Honorable mention for this award goes to the Philips Hue app-controllable light bulb.

The "Hooray, Display" Award for Best New Monitor goes to the ViewSonic VSD220 Smart Display with Android 4.0. While HP beat ViewSonic to the punch with an announcement about a monitor that integrated the operating system, ViewSonic's was aimed more at the consumer market and offered an optical touch display for functionality even when an attached computer may be turned off.

The "We Value Your Input" Award for Best New User Experience goes to the Nexus 7 for its introduction of Google Now. Google Now recognizes that the best search is the one you don't have to make, proactively providing cards based on your context. Honorable Mention goes to Microsoft for Xbox SmartGlass, which sees the console provider branch out to offer secondary screen support to Android and iOS devices in the name of better navigation and gameplay.

The "Guess We Just Click" Award for Best New Input Peripheral goes to Microsoft for the third year in a row -- this time for the Surface with Windows RT's Type keyboard. While the Touch keyboard got most of the attention (and the bundle), the admittedly pricey Type keyboard delivered an even better input experience with a minimal thickness penalty. Honorable Mentions go to the Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard for iPad, the Brydge+ laptop-style adapter for iPad and the ZAGG Mini 7 keyboard for iPad mini.

The "Set-Top Box That Rocks" Award for Best New TV Add-On goes to the Slingbox 500, the oddly shaped placeshifting device that, along with its smaller sibling, the 350, has returned the pioneering streaming box to retail to face off against the Monsoon Vulkano and Belkin @TV. Honorable Mention goes to Boxee TV, the $99 set-top from Boxee. It's a cloud-based DVR that uploads all over-the-air recordings to the cloud for consumption on a range of platforms.

Finally, the best crowdfunded device project goes to... well... it's not quite finished yet, but its creators urge you to check its updates page for how they have learned many things about the vagaries of manufacturing and how they now have someone permanently in China. Oh, and do update your shipping address.



Ross Rubin is principal analyst at Reticle Research, a research and advisory firm focusing on consumer technology adoption. He shares commentary at Techspressive and on Twitter at @rossrubin.