Switched On: The 2013 Switchies, Part Two

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

The last Switched On introduced the 2013 Switchie Awards for TV, PC and gaming products. This time, we'll take a look at the mobile and wearable devices that made their mark in 2013.

The "Great Slate" Award for Best New Large Tablet (nine inches or larger) goes to the iPad Air. As competitors add all manner of keyboards and other accoutrements to differentiate their slates, Apple embraced the minimalism for which it is known with the iPad Air. Is it a content-creation tool? For certain kinds of content, yes. But the Air refines the essence of a pure tablet experience. Honorable Mention goes to the budget-friendly, kickstand-equipped Lenovo Yoga Tablet 10; Lenovo also snagged an Honorable Mention in the convertibles category with the Yoga 11 last year.

The "Great Slate, Smaller Plate" Award for Best New Small Tablet (8.9 inches or smaller) goes to the Amazon Kindle Fire HDX. Amazon paved the way in budget tablets, but the Kindle Fire line always matched its excellent content offerings with solid, if uninspired hardware. That has changed with the Kindle Fire HDX, which brings the online store's strongest content package inside a speedy shell matched with a useful cover stand in the Origami case. Like the Kindle Fire HDX, the iPad mini, an Honorable Mention winner, emerged from the larger iPad's shadow. This year, the iPad mini went from being the poorer, smaller version of its larger sibling to a powerful, if pricey, equal that trades screen size for portability.

The "Make the Call" Award for Best New Smartphone goes to the HTC One. While its features and hardware may no longer be state of the art, the One's exquisite design turned enough heads that Google saw demand to make a pure Google version of it. Honorable Mentions go to the Moto X and LG G2 for, among other things, their clever use of sensors, and the Nokia Lumia 1520 for offering the strongest imaging experience in a 6-inch (or greater) device.

The "Make the Big Call" Award for Best New Large Smartphone (six-plus inches) goes to the Sony Xperia Z Ultra. This grip-busting, 6.4-inch, water-resistant giant among giants includes a scratchproof display and great imaging. Honorable Mention goes to the Nokia Lumia 1520 for refining the strong imaging capabilities of the Lumia 1020 in a large phone.

The "Fun on the Run" Award for Best New Mobile Product goes to the NVIDIA Shield. Enabling consumption of both souped-up Android and PC games (with some serious caveats), the Shield presents a new spin on hand-held gaming on the go or at home.

The "Ready to Pair" Award for Best New Wearables goes to the Fitbit Force. Fitbit has encountered growing competition in both the waist clip and wristband spaces. The Fitbit Force improves upon the earlier Fitbit Flex by adding a small OLED with engaging animations. Honorable Mention for this prize goes to the Pebble smartwatch, which should become more useful in 2014 due to the availability of more apps.

The "Seeing is Believing" Award for Best New Display goes to the Garmin HUD. As car navigation shifts away from dedicated devices, Garmin is catering to smartphones -- at least those running its navigation apps -- with one of the first heads-up displays available for less than $120. That's a small price to pay for less clutter and a taste of the future.

The "By Any Other Name" Award for Best Pun in a Product Name goes to Porkfolio. Crowdsourced (but not crowdfunded) product-development company Quirky partnered with GE to release devices ranging from a remotely controllable version of its signature snaking Power Pivot power strip to a dubious connected egg-age tracker for your refrigerator. Somewhere between the two was an app-connected piggy bank, dubbed Porkfolio, that counts coins and alerts you when it's jostled. Unlike the traditional piggy bank, the porcine coin container is posed lying on its back with its stomach up -- a supine (or perhaps "pork-upine") orientation.

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.