We’ve just finished 2012, and what a year it was.
We’ve rounded up the best of everything that happened last year in education, technology, people, companies, and places.
Apple subtlety redesigned the iPhone 4S and made the iPhone 5 taller and thinner.
Despite a huge Apple Maps debacle, easily scratched cases, and other hiccups, the iPhone 5 sold 5 million units in the first three days of release. Even today, the phone is so popular that it's tough to find one in stores.
Price: Starts at $199
The iPad Mini received a lot less hype than other Apple products that came out this year, but it's still one of the most innovative gadgets of 2012.
After Apple announced the Mini's existence in late October, everyone fell in love. In fact, Apple bloggers are calling the Mini 'the real iPad.'
The miniature size made the tablet much portable, and the fact that all of the regular iPad apps ran on the smaller device made people love it even more.
Price: Starts at $329
MoviePass is like Netflix for going to actual theatres. The invitation-only service allows you to see one movie per day. It's one of the best apps of the year.
The service costs about $30 per month, depending on your location, and lets you reserve tickets from your smartphone and load them on a pre-paid card. You then swipe your card at the theatre's kiosk to receive your ticket.
Available for: iPhone (Android expected soon)
Letterpress is the best new iPhone word game around.
Letterpress is a twist on the classic word scramble game and challenges you to protect your letters from your opponent.
The experience is fresh and fun. One complaint some people have: The app uses Apple's sometimes buggy Game centre to match you up with friends.
Available for: iOS
Clear is a very simple, yet elegant to-do list app that will help you stay productive and on task. The app is beautifully designed and it feels satisfying to remove completed tasks with a simple swipe.
Clear made our list of the APP 100: The World's Greatest Apps as the best productivity app.
Notably missing is a feature that lets you back up tasks online so you can access them on your computer or other mobile device. But that's not necessarily the point with Clear. The app aims to keep things as simple as possible.
Dark Sky is the first app that actually tells us when it is going to rain down to the minute. In addition to being beautifully designed, Dark Sky is disrupting the weather app market by letting you view the future and past weather too. It made our list of the APP 100: The World's Greatest Apps.
We love Dark Sky's design, ease of use, and prediction ability. The same technology that powers Dark Sky's predictions also allows it to make a perfectly smooth radar animation.
Hipmunk makes travelling easier. It made our list of the APP 100: The World's Greatest Apps, as the best travel app.
The app helps you find the cheapest flight or hotel by displaying a clever interactive chart. It also makes booking easier. Once you've found the right flight, simply book it from your mobile device, email it to someone else, or finish booking on your desktop.
Available on: Android and iOS
By winning the coveted Motor Trend Car of the Year award, Elon Musk's Model S showed the world that electric cars can compete with any other vehicle on the road.
It's high-tech, comfortable, powerful, and silent. And its burnouts are as good as those from any muscle car.
The Model S costs between $58,570 and $107,350 (though prices are going up). It's currently on sale, but Tesla has already taken orders for more cars than it can produce, so there's quite a wait list.
Marissa Mayer took the tech world by storm this year when she become the CEO of Yahoo in July--that's why she made our list of the Most Impressive People In 2012.
In addition to her role as Yahoo CEO, Mayer also serves on the board of Walmart and is an active angel investor.
In October, Mayer and her husband Zachary Bogue had a baby boy. She says she disclosed her pregnancy to Yahoo's headhunter when contacted about the CEO position, and the company expressed no issue with it. She decided not to take a full maternity leave, instead returning to work to make a bigger, better Yahoo.
Mayer proves that it is entirely possible to have a successful career and family at the same time.
Click here to see more about Marissa Mayer's phenomenal year >
Just over a year ago, the eurozone seemed to be on the verge of collapse. Yields were soaring everywhere, even in 'core' countries like France, not to mention Spain and Italy, where things were plunging rapidly.
Everybody knew that the ultimate backstop had to come from the European Central Bank, the only entity in Europe with an unlimited amount of money. But there was a problem: The ECB's mandate is limited, and there's a strong influence from the Germans, who are very opposed to any whiff of printing money and monetizing government debt.
But via two moves, Mario Draghi helped save the project. That's how he earned a spot on our list of the Most Impressive People Of The Year.
Late in 2011, he announced a program whereby all eurozone banks could borrow money cheaply, using all sorts of collateral, for up to three years. This soothed the banking system.
Then over the summer, he made his bombshell announcement. On July 26, with sovereign borrowing costs spiking again, he said the ECB was 'ready to do whatever it takes' to save things. And then he added for emphasis 'it will be enough.'
Not long after, he announced the ECB's OMT (outright monetary transactions) scheme, whereby the ECB could buy government debt in unlimited amounts, so long as the country in question was reforming. The way it gets around German objections and stays within the ECB's narrow mandate, is by arguing that it's necessary to depress yields, so that the transmission of stable monetary policy can be achieved. German central bankers don't like it, but Angela Merkel is cool with it, and that's what's key.
The scheme still hasn't been used, but just the fact that it's there has resulted in a huge reduction in borrowing costs for countries like Spain and Italy.
The Eurozone project survives, thanks to Draghi's creative thinking.
Click here to read more about Mario Draghi's great year >
Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner set an aviation milestone on Oct. 14, when he jumped from more than 128,000 feet above Earth and became the first man to break the speed of sound in a free-fall. That's why he made our list of the Most Impressive People In 2012.
The 43-year-old thrill-seeker topped out at 833.9 mph, or mach 1.24, before landing safely on the ground in New Mexico.
The mission, sponsored by Austrian energy drink maker Red Bull, was also a breakthrough for science. It delivered valuable information about an astronaut's chances for survival at extreme altitudes, which is important for future space travel.
Click here to read more about Felix Baumgartner's record-breaking plunge >
Musk's ventures are all about launching humankind into the future with new, more sustainable, environmentally-friendly modes of transportation.
Musk made history when his company Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) became the first private company to dock a spacecraft at the International Space Station in May.
His other company, Tesla Motors, rolled out the Model S car, the world's first premium electric sedan. The Model S was named Car of the Year by three major publications: Automobile Magazine, Yahoo Autos, and Motor Trend magazine.
Rich and brilliant, Musk has been called a real-life Tony Stark.
Click here to see why we think Elon Musk is the businessperson of the year >
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had a remarkable year and is one of the Most Impressive People Of 2012.
She traveled to 42 countries in 2012 alone, responding to crises in Syria, Libya, and North Korea, while navigating America's changing role in the Middle East.
As she winds down her final year as Secretary of State, Clinton leaves the administration immensely more popular than she was when she started. Her approval ratings are the highest of her career, hovering around 70 per cent. She even went viral this year, inspiring the popular Texts From Hillary meme.
While Clinton remains coy about her future political plans, polls shows that she would have a good shot at the White House, should she choose to run again in 2016.
Click here to see photos of Hillary Clinton's incredible year >
Statistician Nate Silver took on pundits across the country when he called Barack Obama a clear favourite in the election.
The New York Times stats guru stuck to his model, calculated from polling data across the country, even after the president's dismal performance in the first debate. Going into Election Night he forecast a near-92 per cent chance Obama would win.
Silver got the last laugh though, nailing all 50 state winners in the presidential race and 32/33 Senate winners.
He also published a best-selling book, The Signal And The Noise.
And that's why he made our list of the Most Impressive People Of 2012.
Click here to read some cool lessons from Nate Silver >
LeBron James, co-captain of the Miami Heat, won his first NBA title in 2012 and solidified his standing as the most dominant basketball player in the world.
He had one of the best statistical seasons in recent NBA history, and led his team to a championship by playing all five positions in the playoffs.
Within a two-month span this year James won an NBA title, an NBA MVP award, and an Olympic gold medal -- something that has only been done before by Michael Jordan. That's why he made our list of the Most Impressive People of 2012.
Click here to read about the fabulous life of LeBron James >
David Einhorn, the founder and president of Greenlight Capital, scored a 2.79 out of 4 on our reputation rating scale for our list of the Clusterstock 50: The Most Respected People On Wall Street.
The hedge fund hot shot is known for publicly shorting Lehman Brothers' stock before the bank's demise and his most recent public shorting has been Green Mountain Coffee Roasters.
At the beginning of this year, Einhorn and his hedge fund were slapped with a fine by the U.K.'s Financial Services Authority for trading stock on inside information. Despite the punishment, the hedge fund manager hosted a conference call with investors and media to share his side of the story.
Einhorn also made Forbes' 'World's Billionaires List,' with an estimated net-worth of $1.1 billion.
Mike Lazerow, Kass Lazerow, and Jeff Ragovin, the co-founders of Buddy Media, took the number one spot on our list of the Silicon Alley 100: The Coolest People In New York Tech This Year.
The Lazerows have had quite the year with one of the biggest New York startup exits in recent years.
Buddy Media is Mike Lazerow's fourth startup, and it is his most successful. Salesforce acquired the company the husband-wife team created with Ragovin for$689 million in June.
Co-founders of Slate PR Stephen Huvane and Simon Halls took the number one spot on our list of the Most Powerful Publicists In Hollywood.
Simon Halls, whose longtime partner is 'White Collar' star Matt Bomer, has played a central role in promoting gay visibility within the entertainment industry.
Together, they rep Hollywood's top actors and filmmakers. They have a long list of notable clients, including Jennifer Aniston, Neil Patrick Harris, Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford, Kirsten Dunst, Anne Hathaway, Johnny Depp, Channing Tatum, Ryan Murphy, Ridley Scott, Jude Law, Matthew Broderick, Annette Bening, Frances McDormand, Sam Mendes, Nathan Lane, Ang Lee, Brett Ratner, Gore Verbinski and Tom Ford.
Ben Rattray, the CEO of Change.org, took the number one spot on our list of the Sexiest CEOs Alive!
Rattray founded Change.org, a website that strives to promote social change through petitions, in 2007. His company has made such an impact that Rattray made the 2012 Time 100 list of the world's most influential people.
Change.org has become 'one of the most influential channels for activism in the country,' according to the Washington Post and has become so successful that it's now profitable.
The 32-year-old CEO maintains a modest lifestyle, however, living with three roommates and driving a 1996 Toyota Camry, according to SF Gate.
Tom Brady, quarterback for the New England Patriots, took the number one spot on our list of the Sexiest Athletes Alive!
The 32-year-old athlete is the definition of sexy. He's one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, he's married to a supermodel, and he looks good no matter how ridiculous he's dressed. Brady is also the face of men's UGGs and has done a little modelling himself.
Amy Vale, the VP of Global Research and Strategic Communications at Mojiva, took the number one spot on our list of the 50 Sexiest Advertising Executives Alive.
Vale began her career in Australia but now works at Mojiva, a mobile advertising company which specialises in mobile strategy.
First place on our list of The 25 Best Small Companies To Work For is Ruby Receptionists.
Ruby Receptionists, a virtual receptionist company based in Portland, has a 'fostering happiness' philosophy where employees get funding for art classes, book clubs and yoga sessions.
'We have long been creating a unique and rewarding workplace culture that deserves recognition,' said Jill Nelson, founder and CEO of the company, told Akhtar. 'We all come to work each day with a real passion and purpose for the work we do -- and, more importantly, for the people we work with.'
Source: Great Place to Work
Zappos takes a hard-earned place on our list of The 20 Most Inspiring Companies Of 2012.
The online shoe and apparel retailer has played a big part in jumpstarting the economy of Las Vegas. Zappos's CEO Tony Hsieh has been widely covered this year for his Downtown Project, which aims to revitalize downtown Las Vegas, starting with the relocation of Zappos's headquarters from Henderson, Nev., to Las Vegas in the Old City Hall building.
Hsieh is investing $350 million of his own money into this project. Many Zappos employees and friends of Hsieh have also taken a personal interest in the project, bringing new life to the city.
The Walt Disney Company made the #1 spot on our list of The Most Profitable Media Companies this year, at $2 billion.*
In June, Disney reported its largest quarterly earnings in the history of the company, up $1.66 billion from the past year with growth in all of its segments--media, film, parks and resorts--save its Interactive department which received a staff cut amid restructuring at the beginning of September.
*Reporting numbers are from Disney's fiscal third-quarter. SNL marked as such as its the second calendar quarter. Disney's actual Q2 still places it in first with $1.2 billion in net income.
Upworthy secured a spot on our list of The 22 Best New Startups that launched this year.
CEO Eli Pariser launched his startup Upworthy in March 2012 with $4 million in funding. The media company operates with an expert team of content curators. Its concept is simple: it finds pre-existing morsels of interesting, overlooked information on the web and spins it in a way that's compelling to the masses.
UpWorthy is the only known media company to accumulate 8.7 million monthly unique visitors within seven months of launching, making it the fastest growing media company ever.
A lot of great information gets overlooked because people fail to find the most important part of a story. UpWorthy tries to bring the best part of a story to light.
Pizza Brain made our list of The Coolest New Businesses In Philadelphia this year.
The nation's first pizza museum, Pizza Brain was started by Brian Dwyer, a pizza lover with such a large collection of pizza paraphernalia that he was able to fill a whole store--and it's now America's first pizza museum. Located in the Fishtown neighbourhood, Pizza Brain officially has the world's largest collection of pizza memorabilia, according to the Guinness Book of World Records.
Pizza Brain is also a pizzeria, and a really good one at that.
SpotHero made our list of The Coolest New Businesses In Chicago earlier this year.
SpotHero is an app that allows people to find and reserve parking spots in Chicago, which can be--well, difficult. SpotHero allows users to view rates, get deals and reserve spots wherever they might be headed in Chicago. Users can just flash their phone at a partner garage and park.
The app also takes some of the agitation out of parking at giant events.
This bacon-themed food truck made our list of The Coolest New Businesses In San Francisco this year.
Bacon Bacon is a bacon-centric food truck. Their food is available on wheels, but also at their brick-and-mortar restaurant. And both serve--yep, you guessed it--all things bacon.
The Bacon Bacon Truck rolls around town distributing six bacon-friendly sandwiches, including a pork meatball banh mi and grilled cheese, as well as french fries and root beer.
Bacon Bacon also sells a bacon bouquet and chocolate-covered bacon.
Story made our list of The 50 Coolest New Businesses In America In 2012.
Story is a permanent pop-up retail shop in Chelsea. Formerly known as A Startup Store, the vendors tell their stories through the products they sell. For example, last February the theme was 'love,' bringing vendors selling non-traditional Valentine's Day items such as glittered Toms shoes and Jambox speakers, plus an in-store photo booth.
The Chelsea shop's frequently changing exhibits and merchandise are meant to provoke and inspire.
Qatar Airways steals the show as The World's Best Airline with awards such as Best Airline Staff Service in the Middle East (#1) Best Economy Class Airline (#2).
The Qatari airline serves a 10-course meal for first class passengers. At their premium terminal in Doha, passengers can enjoy deep tissue massages, facials, and jacuzzi access.
It doesn't hurt that Qatar Airways also just bought a Dreamliner, featuring ample reclining space and windows that can change colours. The bathroom even has a window. Think about it...
Virgin America was the number one best airline in America this year on our list of The 10 Best Airlines In The U.S.
Each year, Airfarewatchdog compiles a list of the best airlines, factoring in things such as cancellation rates, mishandled baggage, and consumer satisfaction.
Virgin America came out as the favourite this year, with a score of 74 in customer satisfaction and 86.9 per cent of flights arriving on-time.
'It's probably no surprise that Virgin America and JetBlue top the list, although other rankings may elicit some raised eyebrows,' said CEO George Hobica. 'Virgin is stylish, flies new planes, has Wi-Fi and power ports at every seat, and great customer service. JetBlue is famous for its extra legroom and not overbooking flights.'
Vienna, Austria took first place in our list of The 10 Cities That Offer The Best Quality Of Life.
Vienna's livability is pretty legendary. It's topped multiple rankings as one of the world's best cities, including the U.N.'s list of most prosperous cities.
The Austrian capital has great universities, lots of park space, and a rich tradition of culture.
Source: Mercer Quality Of Living Survey
Puning, China, was the top contender for our list of The 31 Fastest-Growing Cities On The Planet.
In 1990, the total population in Puning was 76,000. 20 years later--and perhaps in spite of the one child per family rule--the population soared to 911,000.
By 2025, experts predict that the population in Puning, China will reach 1,255,000, which would put the rate of growth from 1990 to 2025 at an astounding 1,551.3 per cent.
Miami, Fla., was ranked the city with the most attractive people on our list of The 10 U.S. Cities With The Most Attractive People.
The legendary party and beach culture of Miami helped catapult it to the top of this year's rankings. The city is home to hot celebrities like Dwayne Wade, Gloria Estefan, and Shakira.
Miami is also home to the University of Miami, which took 13th place in terms of the college with the most attractive women, according to College Prowler.
With a population of 113,383, Denton, Tex., secured the #1 spot on our list of The 10 Best Small Towns In America.
Denton placed first overall in a dominant fashion: it also was voted the friendliest town, the most fun town, the fourth-best town for food, and the ninth-most patriotic town in the country.
Denton, near Interstate 35, has a trendy yet diverse arts and live music scene, a handful of colleges -- University of North Texas, Texas Women's University, and North Central Texas College -- and some impressive local horse farms where visitors can tour and ride.
Ithaca, N.Y., was number one on our list of The Best College Towns In America, with a population of 101,620 and a student concentration of 296.3 per 1,000 people.
Located in upstate New York, Ithaca is home to Cornell University and Ithaca College.
College students on tight budgets will appreciate the low cost of living in Ithaca, where they can get a two-bedroom apartment for an average of $950/month. Ithaca also has an earning potential of $33,632.
The new London Bridge Tower, also known as 'The Shard' made our list of The Coolest New Buildings Of The Year.
A product of architectural firm the Renzo Piano Building Workshop, The Shard is so named for the eight glass shards that define the shape and appearance of the tower, according to the Renzo Piano website, and opened in July 2012 in London. The 1,016-foot-tall building houses offices, restaurants, the Shangri-La hotel, and residential apartments.
The tower created a lot of buzz and controversy when it opened, garnering negative reactions from Londoners and critics who claimed that the building did not fit in to the city skyline. One critic even dubbed it 'Voldemort's new digs.'
Singita Grumeti Reserves, in Tanzania, was named The Best Hotel In The World by Travel + Leisure for the second year in a row, with a score of 98.24 out of 100.
The hotel, which is made up of two lodges and a tent camp, offers unparalleled luxury in the thick of the wild. It is located on the migratory route traversed annually by more than a million wildebeest, providing guests with incredible photo opportunities from their bedroom windows.
Despite its remote location, Singita's guests are treated to five-star service, accommodations, and cuisine.
The Peninsula Shanghai was named The Best Hotel For Business travellers by Travel + Leisure, with a score of 97.78 out of 100.
It was also one of the only hotels in China to make it into the magazine's 'Top 5 Hotels for Business Worldwide 2012' list.
Seven other Peninsula Hotels -- including Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Bangkok, Beijing, Hong Kong, and Tokyo -- were also highly rated in their respective 'Best Business Hotels' city listings, all finishing in the top three.
But due to its gorgeous lobby, sophisticated restaurants, and sleek meeting rooms, The Peninsula Shanghai stood a head above the rest.
The Osprey at Beaver Creek, which received a score of 94.75 out of 100 on Travel + Leisure, was named #1 on the list of The 20 Best Resorts In America.
The Osprey, a luxurious ski resort in the heart of Colorado, offers comforts and amenities unmatched by most other resorts. In addition to the elegant, tapas-style dining room of the Osprey Lounge, The Osprey offers guests a heated outdoor pool with poolside bar, après heated deck, hot tub, and heated underground valet parking.
The slope-side resort prides itself on being 'North America's closest ski-in/ski-out lodging to a chair lift.'
Stanford University scored a 4.45 out of 5 on Business Insider's rating, taking the number one spot on our list of the World's Best Business Schools. In 2011, Stanford's Graduate School of Business (GSB) was number 2 on our list.
Commenters raved about GSB, touting the school's 'amazing culture, intimate, responsive network and world-class faculty.'
'Stanford is an incredibly inspiring place to learn,' one commenter wrote. 'They push their students to be the best they can be and accept an incredibly diverse group of students from all backgrounds and disciplines.'
'When you graduate from Stanford GSB you know precisely who you are, as well as who you are not,' wrote another commenter. 'That pays more dividends professionally and personally than all the other assets combined.'
Cal Tech scored a 4.65 out of 5 on Business Insider's rating, taking the top spot on our list of the World's Best Engineering Schools.
Top companies like Google, Intel, Microsoft, and Oracle recruit from the Pasadena school.
RISD took the top spot on our list of the World's Best Design Schools, with 85.1 per cent of respondents saying that the program is valuable.
The school, which is located in Providence, Rhode Island, is famous for having two out of three Airbnb cofounders as graduates.
Harvard scored a 4.38 out of 5 on Business Insider's rating, taking the number one spot on our list of the Best Law Schools In America.
The school has lots of notable alumni, including U.S. President Barack Obama and Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court John Roberts.
'From time to time, magazines try to seek publicity by rating some law school other than Harvard as No. 1,' one commenter wrote. 'Take a look at the Supreme Court. Regardless of all the noise, Harvard Law School is the gold standard. All the rest is fluff. There are many very good law schools. Among the best are Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Cornell, Michigan, Virginia, Stanford - not necessarily in that order but after Harvard, who cares about order?'
MIT scored a 4.50 out of 5 on Business Insider's rating, taking the number one spot on our list of the Best Colleges In America.
This is the third year in a row that MIT has held the top spot on our list. The top-tier school, located in Cambridge, Mass., ranked high in other college ratings too, taking the #11 spot in Forbes and the #5 spot in US News' National Universities ranking.
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