Ap­ple’s hits, misses and sur­prises of 2015

We round up the com­pany’s big­gest mo­ments of 2015

iPad&iPhone user - - CONTENTS - Caitlin McGarry

As Ap­ple makes more and more money by sell­ing more and more iPhones, it seems like the com­pany barely has to try to re­main at the top of the heap. And yet 2015 was one of Cu­per­tino’s big­gest years ever in terms of in­no­va­tion, with prod­uct re­freshes al­most across the board (sorry, Mac Pro), a new de­vice cat­e­gory (hey, Ap­ple Watch), and a stream­ing ser­vice to ri­val Spo­tify (Ap­ple Mu­sic).

But the shiny patina of new devices didn’t dis­tract any­one when Ap­ple missed the mark this year, as it some­times does. From the weird stag­gered roll­outs of the Ap­ple Watch in spring and Ap­ple Pen­cil in fall to Ap­ple Mu­sic’s iCloud disas­ter, Ap­ple wasn’t with­out its mis­steps in 2015.

Then there were the head-scratch­ing ru­mours, the in­de­ci­pher­able prod­uct de­ci­sions, and more mo­ments that made us go, “Wait, what?”

Let’s re­cap Ap­ple’s big year.

Record-break­ing iPhone sales

Ap­ple made $32.2 bil­lion by sell­ing 48 mil­lion iPhones in the last quar­ter of 2015, cap­ping off what CEO Tim Cook called Ap­ple’s “most suc­cess­ful year ever.” The com­pany’s rev­enue grew to al­most $234 bil­lion in the fis­cal year, which in­cluded just two days of iPhone 6s and 6s Plus sales. Ap­ple sold 13 mil­lion iPhones dur­ing that launch week­end, and is ex­pect­ing to make be­tween $75.5bn and $77.5bn when it re­ports hol­i­day quar­ter earn­ings at the end of Jan­uary.

The iPhone has been on the mar­ket for eight years, so how does Ap­ple con­tinue to sell so many? It’s thanks in part to China – the Chi­nese con­tinue to buy iPhones in droves, and this time around, the coun­try was one of the lat­est model’s launch day mar­kets.

(Al­most) ev­ery­thing is new

Ap­ple didn’t just put out new iPhones, as it does ev­ery fall. Prac­ti­cally ev­ery prod­uct in the com­pany’s lineup was re­freshed in 2015. We got new Mac­Books, in­clud­ing a 12in gold model, iMacs, the long-awaited 12.9in Pro and a high-pow­ered iPad mini, a com­pletely over­hauled fourth-gen­er­a­tion Ap­ple TV, an en­tirely new prod­uct cat­e­gory with the Ap­ple Watch.

Th­ese hard­ware up­dates weren’t mi­nor ones, like the lack­lus­ter iPad mini 3 re­leased last fall. The

new iPhone’s flag­ship fea­tures in­clude 3D Touch and a re­vamped cam­era; the iPad mini 4 is now as pow­er­ful as an iPad Air 2, the new MacBook is the most por­ta­ble lap­top around; and the Ap­ple TV has a full-fledged App Store and Siri in­te­gra­tion.

This year was huge for Ap­ple hard­ware.

Ap­ple TV’s long-awaited re­boot

The new Ap­ple TV de­serves a sep­a­rate shout-out for be­ing a re­ally, re­ally good set-top box. Ap­ple waited three years to over­haul the TV, and in that time it was left in the dust by ri­vals Roku, Ama­zon Fire TV, and even Google’s Chrome­cast stream­ing stick.

That ended in Novem­ber with the new Ap­ple TV, which has its own App Store and a healthy ros­ter of must-have apps, plus a brand new touch­pad re­mote

with Siri in­te­gra­tion. It can even sup­port games, with the touch­pad re­mote sub­sti­tut­ing for a game con­troller (un­less you want to shell out more for an MFi game con­troller like this one).

The Ap­ple TV isn’t per­fect – al­though it’s got­ten bet­ter af­ter a key soft­ware up­date – and more tvOS apps are des­per­ately needed. Plus, we still have hope that Ap­ple will cut through the red tape and pull off a live TV stream­ing ser­vice that will let us fi­nally cut the cord. But the fourth­gen­er­a­tion TV is bet­ter than ever, and its £129 start­ing price tag isn’t too bad, ei­ther.

Ap­ple wins over Tay­lor Swift

Ap­ple Mu­sic ran into trou­ble be­fore it even launched (and then some more trou­ble after­ward, which we’ll get into later), but the com­pany man­aged to get the world’s big­gest pop star on its side.

Ap­ple was plan­ning to with­hold roy­al­ties dur­ing the free three-month tri­als of­fered to Ap­ple

Mu­sic sub­scribers, and when Tay­lor Swift caught wind of this, she took to Tum­blr to post a gen­tly ad­mon­ish­ing open let­ter to the com­pany. They lis­tened, promis­ing to pay roy­al­ties dur­ing the free tri­als af­ter all, and Swift en­dorsed the ser­vice by of­fer­ing up her 1989 al­bum to stream for the first time, then giv­ing Ap­ple the ex­clu­sive rights to her 1989 World Tour Live doc­u­men­tary, which aired on 20 De­cem­ber. (Ap­ple paid Swift for that plea­sure.) It was a win for all in­volved.

Ap­ple Mu­sic and the scram­bled li­braries

Ap­ple rolled out Ap­ple Mu­sic on desk­tops with iTunes 12.2, bundling its stream­ing li­brary with your iTunes pur­chases with the help of iCloud Mu­sic Li­brary. But when iTunes users en­abled iCloud Mu­sic Li­brary to merge stream­ing tracks with pur­chased ones, they watched iTunes man­gle their ex­ist­ing li­braries.

In some cases, there were mi­nor prob­lems like al­bum art­work gone wrong. In other, more se­ri­ous cir­cum­stances, iTunes wiped or cor­rupted thou­sands of tracks from some li­braries, re­sult­ing in hun­dreds of an­gry Ap­ple sup­port fo­rum com­plaints and one very high-pro­file rant.

Ap­ple Mu­sic man­aged to rack up 15 mil­lion lis­ten­ers in spite of the ruckus, though who knows how many more sub­scribers would’ve stuck around if their li­braries had re­mained in­tact?

Where’s the Ap­ple Pen­cil?

The 12.9in iPad Pro launched in Novem­ber with two com­ple­men­tary ac­ces­sories, the new Smart Key­board and Ap­ple Pen­cil, the com­pany’s first

iPad sty­lus. With­out the sty­lus, the new tablet is just a re­ally, re­ally big iPad. With it, cre­atives have a tool that makes the most of all that screen real es­tate. So when the iPad Pro went on sale and its ac­ces­sories, specif­i­cally the long-awaited Pen­cil, were in short sup­ply, Pro buy­ers were more than a lit­tle un­happy. While the Smart Key­board was also on back or­der, Ap­ple was also sell­ing an ex­cel­lent third­party op­tion, Log­itech’s Cre­ate. Ap­ple Pen­cil has no equiv­a­lent, so its ab­sence was a frus­trat­ing one for Pro users who had to wait weeks to use the gi­ant tablet to its full po­ten­tial.

The strange Ap­ple Watch launch

For its most per­sonal de­vice ever, Ap­ple re­stricted pur­chases to on­line only. Buy­ers couldn’t line up at Ap­ple stores to snag an Ap­ple Watch at the height of

the hype, and some watch mod­els were on back­o­rder for weeks af­ter launch.

Not be­ing able to buy Ap­ple’s lat­est de­vice any­where but on­line at Ap­ple.com was a bit of a shock for buy­ers used to find­ing the lat­est gad­gets in retail stores, too. In fact, as Mac­world colum­nist Ja­son Snell said, the real Ap­ple Watch party didn’t start un­til six months af­ter its re­lease, when Ap­ple fi­nally was able to ful­fil de­mand in launch coun­tries and widened the watch’s avail­abil­ity to in­clude third-party re­tail­ers.

Mal­ware hits iOS App Store

2015 will be re­mem­bered as the year mal­ware fi­nally pen­e­trated the iOS App Store, prov­ing that Ap­ple’s walled gar­den isn’t im­per­vi­ous to in­fec­tion. Be­fore this year, you mainly had to worry about mal­ware on jail­bro­ken devices, be­cause Ap­ple’s App Store ap­proval process is no­to­ri­ously tough. But this year, the iOS App Store was hit twice with mal­ware scares, both times in China. Apps in­fected with mal­ware man­aged to by­pass the com­pany’s se­cu­rity safe­guards by us­ing a mod­i­fied, sketchy ver­sion of Xcode, the code used to write apps for

iOS, OS X, watchOS, and tvOS. De­vel­op­ers in China down­loaded XcodeGhost, an in­fected ver­sion of the code, from Chi­nese servers be­cause the process was faster. Then those apps dis­trib­uted the mal­ware af­ter gain­ing en­try to the App Store. YiSpecter, an­other mal­ware strain, popped up just weeks later, also in China, but was less se­vere than XcodeGhost.

XcodeGhost didn’t have a huge im­pact on apps, but it proved that some­times de­vel­op­ers will take short­cuts that Ap­ple didn’t fore­see, jeop­ar­diz­ing the safety of your devices in the process. The go­ing rate for hack­ing iOS is $1 mil­lion, so Ap­ple’s soft­ware is still in­cred­i­bly se­cure, but the

scares this year prove it’s not per­fect.

The new MacBook

Ap­ple’s lithe 12in MacBook com­bines tech­nolo­gies that aren’t yet stan­dard, but could be one day. The Force Touch track­pad, su­per thin key­board with re­duced key travel, and lone USB-C port make the new MacBook a truly nextgen­er­a­tion lap­top, which is awe­some in the­ory. In re­al­ity, the key­board isn’t the eas­i­est to type on, and the USB-C con­nec­tor makes the new MacBook in­com­pat­i­ble with

ba­si­cally ev­ery other de­vice you own. It’s frus­trat­ing for now, be­cause the USB-C ecosys­tem is still so small. That will change in the fu­ture, but peo­ple who drop £1,049 on the 12in MacBook will face strug­gles that buy­ers of other MacBook mod­els don’t, at least for awhile longer.

The Ap­ple Car ru­mours

This one is a head-scratcher for sure. Ear­lier in 2015, ru­mours be­gan to swirl that Ap­ple was re­cruit­ing a slew of car ex­perts to join the com­pany. At the same time, Ap­ple CEO Tim Cook and de­sign chief Jony Ive be­gan hint­ing in press in­ter­views that the au­to­mo­bile space was an in­ter­est­ing one. Of course, Ap­ple hasn’t come out and said, “Hey, world, we’re build­ing an elec­tric car.” But all signs point to a se­cret auto pro­ject in the works at 1 In­fi­nite Loop.

Let’s re­view the ev­i­dence: Ap­ple has hired not just car ex­perts, but spe­cial­ists in deep learn­ing and ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence. It’s un­clear if Ap­ple is ex­plor­ing an elec­tric car or a self-driv­ing one, but over the sum­mer, doc­u­ments re­vealed that Ap­ple was on the hunt for a pri­vate fa­cil­ity to test some­thing – pre­sum­ably a car, since that fa­cil­ity is a for­mer naval sta­tion where other self-driv­ing ve­hi­cles have been tested. Then in Au­gust, Ap­ple ex­ecs met with Cal­i­for­nia Depart­ment of Mo­tor Ve­hi­cles reps to dis­cuss the state’s self-driv­ing ve­hi­cle reg­u­la­tions.

Ap­ple has been in­ter­ested in cars for some time – that’s why the com­pany de­vel­oped CarPlay, which puts the iPhone ex­pe­ri­ence in your car’s dash­board. We wouldn’t be sur­prised if Ive de­signed the coolest car on the block – we’re just not ex­pect­ing it any­time soon.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.