Apple manages to do more in a year than many companies manage in their entire histories. Some of its achievements are amazing; other decisions make you stare wide-eyed at news, in total bafflement. Here’s what we reckoned were Apple’s highs and lows during 2014.
1. iPhone 6 and 6 Plus
And people say Apple never listens. To be fair, Apple’s always listened to the sound of profits, and those now require larger handsets. So everyone got bigger iPhones and there was much rejoicing, because they were both rather good, even if the iPhone 6 Plus required banana thumbs to use one-handed.
2. 5K iMac
The ‘27-inch iMac with Retina 5K display’ (as Apple’s awkwardly dubbed it) proved to be drop-dead gorgeous, and available starting from a surprisingly reasonable price (for an Apple product). Dell’s management team then presumably threw darts at a photo of Tim Cook, in having to drop its new 5K display’s price, which originally only matched the new iMac.
3. Opening up iOS 8
iOS doesn’t yet match Android in terms of extensibility, but iOS 8 went way beyond iOS 7, with extensions for sharing, actions, keyboards and the Photos app. Power users get new tools; devs get new business opportunities; and everyone finally gets swipey keyboards.
4. Continuity, not convergence
With OS X Yosemite and iOS 8, Apple further integrated its systems. You can fling in-progress documents between devices, and pick up calls on your iMac. But your iMac isn’t pretending to be an iPhone, and your iPad isn’t a laptop in disguise, with a touchscreen superglued on. This is a good thing.
The Good (continued)
5. Apple Watch
Apple Watch is something new and, for Apple, quite daring. It’s not first to market, but then Apple’s never first - it just wants to be best. Apple Watch is also Apple broadening its horizons; rivals have tweaked people’s tech buttons with their own smartwatches, but Apple’s also gunning for the fashion world.
6. Rising Mac sales
For a while, everyone thought the Mac was on borrowed time, but Apple celebrated the Mac’s 30th birthday in 2014, and bucked trends in the PC market with rising sales. This will only continue with the 5K iMac and a likely Retina MacBook Air in the not-too-distant. (Well, we can hope.)
7. Personal privacy
Apple’s quite clearly differentiating itself from another tech giant with its stance on privacy. During 2014, Apple placed emphasis on encrypting user data so even it can’t gain access, and stopping governments and devs alike digging too deep. This might result in odd moments of frustration due to limitations, but it’s an honourable and important stance.
8. Another IBM partnership
This time, it’s not about chips (Sorry, PowerPC fans.), but the enterprise. That’s not really Apple’s thing, but it’s certainly IBM’s. Cue: some really weird buzzword-drenched press releases that felt distinctly un-Apple. But fruits of labours are now showing, with some very smart apps; and if iPad can further cement itself in business, it might thrive rather than stagnate.
The Good (continued)
9. OS X public beta
Usually, we get a raft of rumours just before an Apple OS arrives, but for OS X Yosemite, Apple went public with the beta, collecting data, fixing problems, and giving people a taste of what was to come - probably a wise move, given the radical visual overhaul and subsequent freak-out that iOS 7 caused.
10. Apple Pay
Non-Americans were rightly bemused by the big deal Apple made about how tricky it is to actually pay for things with cards, but Apple Pay *is* important in showing that Apple continues to think different and think big. The system beats clunky rivals for user experience, but only time will tell if retail fiefdoms will be an insurmountable hurdle for Apple.
11. An insanely large cash pile
Apple’s growth has slowed, but it nonetheless continues to have record quarters in terms of income and profits. 2014 saw it buy Beats, among other things, and continue to invest in what if feels matters, such as green energy provision.
12. Tim Cook
We always thought people were idiots for yelling that Cook should stand down as CEO, and 2014 was his year. Apple became Cook’s Apple, with new products and new ways of thinking. Also, props to Cook himself for his shareholder meeting responses (“When we work on making our devices accessible by the blind, I don’t consider the bloody ROI!”), and his level-headed and sincere Businessweek article about his sexuality: “I don’t consider myself an activist, but I realize how much I’ve benefited from the sacrifice of others. So if hearing that the CEO of Apple is gay can help someone struggling to come to terms with who he or she is, or bring comfort to anyone who feels alone, or inspire people to insist on their equality, then it’s worth the trade-off with my own privacy.”