Best Year Ever: The Top Success Stories of 2012

From business to technology to sports, these 10 things shaped your world in 2012.

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This year wasn't all politics and pop culture. A number of athletes, apps, and businesses thrived in 2012, changing the way we live and helping us make 2012 a little more enjoyable. So as the curtain closes on the year, let's look back at 10 things that rose to the top in 2012.

ANDROID

The new Samsung Galaxy Note II sits on display during a launch event on Oct. 24, 2012, in New York. (Jason DeCrow/AP)

For the past two years, tech giants Apple and Google have been battling for supremacy over the global smart phone market share. History may look back on 2012 as the year Google took over the world with the help of many, many Galaxies.

Despite all of the fanfare over Apple's iPhone 5 in September, Android's market share skyrocketed, reaching 75 percent of all smart phones in the third quarter of 2012. The Android operating system captured this by running on a wide range of phones, including Samsung's wildly popular Galaxy line. While Apple and Google are neck-and-neck for market share in the U.S., Google has a near monopoly elsewhere, including some estimates that say Android holds a 90 percent market share in China.

INSTAGRAM

And what fun is your smart phone if you aren't taking pictures with it? After being available only to iPhone users since its launch in 2011, Instagram unveiled an Android app in April, with its overly blurred and saturated filters allowing nearly everyone with a smartphone to share photos of everything from election results to ridiculous cat photos.

Shortly after hitting the 30 million user mark in April, Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg bought the service for a whopping $1 billion. Not wanting to feel left out on all the riches, young people flaunting their wealth on the service morphed into one of the Internet's favorite blogs.

Instagram's popularity continued through the year, with Thanksgiving seeing 10 million photos shared—the most the service has ever seen. The amount of photos shared on that holiday doubled the total number of photos uploaded since the app's launch. That's a lot of sepia-toned turkeys.

MICHAEL PHELPS

Michael Phelps leaves the pool after competing in the Men's 4x100m Medley Relay Final on Day 8 of the London 2012 Olympic Games on August 4, 2012. (Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

You know you are having a good year when you announce to your competitors that you are going to take it easy, and still come away from the Olympics as the most decorated athlete in the history of the event.

Phelps won six medals in all during the London games, including four gold. By the conclusion of the games, Phelps' career totals tallied 22 medals, with 18 of them being gold. To put Phelps' record in perspective, that gold medal mark is twice that of the person directly behind him on the list. A fitting statistic, considering how often he left the rest of the swimming world in his wake.

JEREMY LIN

At the beginning of 2012, Jeremy Lin was barely making it in the NBA, known for his Harvard degree more than anything he has done on a professional basketball court. But with the New York Knicks stumbling through their season despite a roster full of all-star talent, Lin was put into a game on Jan. 25, coming off the bench to lead the Knicks with a career-high 25 points in a win over the New Jersey Nets. The performance gave birth to the phrase "Linsanity."

Lin would go on to score 28 points in his first career start, drop 38 points on the Los Angeles Lakers in front of a raucous Madison Square Garden crowd, and can a game-winning three-pointer against the Toronto Raptors, sending NBA fans across the globe into a frenzy.

Lin's public notoriety skyrocketed in February when he landed on the cover Time Magazine and appeared on Sports Illustrated's cover in back-to-back weeks. Madison Square Garden, the publicly traded company that owns the Knicks, saw its stock soar to a 70-year high during Lin's run. Asian markets fought over the rights to air Knicks games that featured the Taiwanese-American.

Unfortunately for Knicks fans, Lin left New York over the summer, signing a new contract with the Houston Rockets. Despite getting off to sluggish start in 2012-13 season, Lin recently showed a flash of what Knicks fans loved so much about him. Lin tied his career-high 38 points in a win against the San Antonio Spurs.

FELIX BAUMGARTNER