By Chris Bundy

This year has seen a handful of products and projects that will make our lives as students better. Granted, some items on this list may be more helpful than others in the future, but they all appeal in some important way to the student lifestyle.

1. Motorola Atrix from AT&T. The Motorola Atrix came out at the start of 2011, but has created a new type of smartphone. Not only was it the first dual-core smartphone, the first AT&T “4G” phone or AT&T’s first Android flagship, but it came with a killer feature: It had the ability to be coupled with a laptop shell and provide life to it. Basically, Motorola brought a full desktop experience that was powered by a phone.

Later on in the year, Ubuntu arrived, which was similar to the Atrix in that it offered a full desktop operating system inside a phone. Of course, to use this feature, a person had to pay $300 for the dock (shell) and a $45 4-gigabyte tethering plan, but it presented a revolutionary idea. In years to come, people will point back to this device as the beginning of the merger between the desktop/laptop experience and mobile phones. The idea of this phone received such high praise that Motorola announced it would make a variety of products for a range of price points that would utilize this ability to connect to a laptop dock.

In 2011 alone, we have seen devices utilizing the desktop/phone combination idea: Atrix 2, Droid Bionic, Droid Razr, and the Photon 4G. Price points of these devices range from $49 to $300 on two-year contract. The price of the dock has dropped to about $250. What this means for students is that you can always be connected with your computer, whether you have it with you or not. Prices still need to drop and more features need to be added on to make the base product more, well, productive, but the idea has been planted for future devices.

2. Amazon Kindle can now be purchased for as low as $80. Bringing the price of the Kindle down makes it an affordable option for college students. This highly popular device is what will bring publishers to release more textbooks in e-print form. In the e-print form, textbooks are significantly cheaper than their hard-back brethren.

Also, e-print can allow students to purchase updated versions more easily. Instead of having to restock bookstores with the latest editions and re-purchasing teacher’s editions, publishers could simply just release updates to the e-book. The adoption of this device and its platform will make college more affordable for all of us and offer a better experience at the same time.

3. The Asus Transformer Prime, which has yet to be released, but is scheduled to be launched in December. The predecessor to this device was the Asus Transformer, which brought together a marriage of netbook and tablet in April this year. But before the first anniversary of this marriage, Asus has already brought another version to market, this time for another set of reasons: quad-core processor, 10-hour battery life and laptop-class performance. With this kind of power, versatility and mobility, it will allow college students to work from anywhere and in any position. Couple this with the idea of the Atrix, it brings the ability to work and learn in any place you wish and at any time the moment strikes you.

4. The iCloud and true auto-save. This year, Apple brought iCloud to market, which allows users to sync all their devices access information downloaded or saved on another device. This idea of syncing to the iCloud allows students to worry less about losing a paper or project because it is “auto-magically” saved to the cloud. Granted, this only works right now if you have an iPhone/iPad/Mac, but it provides the rest of the computer users something to look forward to because the competition will soon bring those features to their customers.

5. The release of the Kindle Fire was also a hallmark for students. Not only is it affordable—it only costs $199—but it also gives owners access to the Kindle Store, Amazon Appstore for Android, Cloud Music Player, Cloud Storage and Instant Videos, providing users access to tons of free content from the get-go.

6. The new Chromebook line from Google is also revolutionary for students. What is so great about this brand new, unpolished line of laptops? The cost to universities and students. For $20 per month, anyone can have a laptop. The cost also covers a three-year hardware warranty and all Google productivity software. For students on a shoestring budget who need a laptop, this is most affordable alternative outside of going to the library and borrowing a laptop for a brief period of time. The best part is that all information will be stored in the “cloud,” so it won’t always be necessary to have one’s laptop to access information. Also, for the time being, Chromebooks are virus-free. Of course, once something gets a large enough user base, virus makers target it (i.e. Windows, Macintosh and Android).

7. The Ultrabook from Intel provides students with a resource that improves upon the handy, but low-powered netbooks. Intel announced that Ultrabooks will be smaller than the average laptop, but much more powerful, with a better set of features and sturdy build quality.

Many more technological advances could have been added to this list, but these are the ones that could revolutionize the way we as students give and receive information, which may possibly make our lives easier. Hopefully, 2012 will make just as big of a technological impact as 2011.