Forget the new Pope or NSA spying, one of the really big trends to happen in 2013 (at least if you're a tech fan) was the leap of tablets from slightly obscure, niche product to mainstream, can't-do-without-one popularity. No matter where you looked, on the train or at the beach, there was always someone reading an ebook or catching up on the latest episode of their favourite soap.
But now that we're all familiar with how tablets can transform an otherwise boring commute or let you surf the web from your sofa, what's next for the tech? As you'd expect, the devices released in 2014 are likely to be more powerful than ever, making the original iPad look positively antiquated, but there are also a few other key trends that are likely to be in people's thinking when they look for a new device in 2014.
The agony of choice – more machines, more platforms
Long gone are the days when if you wanted a tablet, your choices were an Apple iPad or two paracetamol. A whole range of Android devices such as the Galaxy Tab and Google Nexus have entered the market in recent years, while Microsoft's Surface flies the flag for the Windows maker.
And there's likely to be even more choice in 2014 – with Windows 8-based devices in particular growing strongly. Microsoft's flagship product may have had a rocky start, but figures from International Data Corporation (IDC) suggest its market share will more than double in 2014. Computerworld reports, however, that the more limited RT platform – which always felt like a compromise – will be shunned by buyers in favour of the full-fat Windows 8 platform.
Planes, Trains and Automobiles – More 3G/4G connectivity
Sure, you can always play downloaded games or watch videos on the move, but for most tablet owners, you'd have to connect to a Wi-Fi network in order to browse the web or connect to apps like Facebook – unless you shelled out a little extra for a 3G-equipped model. But these are set to become more common in 2014, as IDC predicts the number of tablets with cellular connections is set to jump in the coming years – with the launch of more 4G-enabled devices contributing to this.
What's more, Ofcom has recently announced the development of new satellite-based technology that should be able to provide passengers on boats, plans and more with superfast mobile internet speeds – so you'll be able keep right up to date wherever you may be.
We're gonna need a bigger bag – Sizes on the rise
The range of screen sizes on offer is also set to expand in 2014 – in some cases literally. The next-generation Samsung Galaxy TabPro that was on show recently at Las Vegas' Consumer Electronics Show was a whopping 12.2-inches across – something CNet observed is pushing the limits of convenience for screen sizes. But as Samsung is the brand that pioneered the 'phablet' large-screen smartphone, this shouldn't come as too much of a surprise.
They don't stop there, either. Panasonic was also showing off a 4K tablet device with a 20-inch screen at the event. At more than £3,500 and weighing in at 5.27lbs, it's probably more suited to a living room coffee table than an airline tray table though.
From the classroom to the boardroom – More business and educational use
If your kids keep bothering you to let them have a go on the iPad for games, you might be a little wary – especially considering the spate of stories in the past year of youngsters inadvertently spending hundreds of pounds on in-app purchases. But 2014 is set to see a new range of devices designed specifically for the younger generation.
Hollywood studio Dreamworks demoed its DreamTab at CES, with a selection of kid-friendly branded apps based on favourites like Shrek and Kung Fu Panda – as well as all-important parental controls. At the same event, the One Laptop Per Child project also debuted a pair of rugged tablets designed to withstand inquiring hands, with over 100 educational apps installed.
This could be ideal early preparation for the future, as tablets are also popping up more than ever in the workplace, with IHS iSuppli recently forecasting the bring your own device trend is spreading far beyond the early-adopters of office personnel and remote workers. So whether it's the boardroom or the factory floor, tablets equipped with business apps and strong security protections are sure to be in high demand.