It’s the time of year to take stock of the past 12 months. It’s been a big year in tech, with plenty of business news. But what changes hit the industry this year? Here are five of the top tech trends of 2012:

Smaller tablets: Consumers made it clear that they want a balance portability and functionality. And while smartphones grew to 5 inches or more, the smaller, 7-inch models got their moments in the sun.

Smaller tablets are particularly good for reading and Web browsing, two of the most common tablet uses. They also tend to be much cheaper than larger tablets, opening up the tablet trend to many more consumers. Apple’s new iPad mini was the clincher on the small tablet movement, even coming after Google introduced its Nexus 7.

Bigger tablets also proliferated this year -- Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Google all introduced iPad-sized 9- and 10-inch tablets, setting up a two-front tablet war with the market leader, Apple.

Big data: In 2012, businesses touted more ways to store and analyze the firehose of information that computer users generate every day. Marketers continued to crack big data mines for ways to better target Web users. But the real big data winners from this year were the presidential campaigns.

President Obama’s staff was particularly adept at using the voter information it collected from door-to-door visits to target messages. The campaign also used apps and other tech tools to get out the vote on Election Day.

Payment disruptions: Whether it was seeing farmers market vendors using cellphone card readers or users scanning loyalty cards into their smartphones, there were plenty of signs that the way the average person pays for things is changing in significant ways.

Mobile spending was particularly popular this year, according to security analyst Al Pascual of Javelin Strategy & Research. In an interview with The Washington Post, Pascual said that Android users directly paid online retailers around $2.86 billion through their mobile browsers and paid an additional $ 2.07 billion through apps. Apple iPhone users spent $2.71 billion and $1.81 billion, respectively.

Those figures don’t even include payments processed through systems such as PayPal and its parent company, eBay. In December, eBay announced that it expects to have processed $20 billion in payments through the two services by the end of the year.

Internet governance activism: Tech governance policies really got people fired up this year. The online debate over anti-piracy legislation that started in 2011 carried over, ultimately leading to the defeat of two federal anti-piracy bills that critics worried would damage the architecture of the Internet and hamper free speech. Interest in the open-Internet movement even spurred both Democrats and Republicans to include language that affirmed the right to an open Internet in their party platforms for the election year.

Court battles: Much of the business news in tech came from the courtroom, as companies such as Google, Oracle, Apple, Samsung and HTC battled over intellectual property rights. The most notable case was between Apple and Samsung -- a legal manifestation of the fierce competition between Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android operating systems.

A jury awarded Apple more $1 billion in damages this summer in what was seen as a major win for the Cupertino, Calif., tech giant. In a subsequent hearing, however, a judge denied Apple’s petition to ban sales of Samsung gadgets. The U.S Trademark and Patent Office also struck a late-year blow to Apple, ruling that one of the patents in the case was not valid. That fight will go on in the new year.

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