As ever, Apple’s spent a year being roundly criticised and dismissed, despite regularly shipping new hardware and software that rivals would kill for.
But occasionally Apple also has the propensity to baffle, making decisions that result in you staring at a screen in disbelief.
Here’s where we reckon Apple shone and messed up during 2015.
1. iPhone 6s and 6s Plus
The ‘s’ release iPhones are often dismissed as ‘more of the same’, and 2015 was no exception. Pundits stamped their feet at the sheer hell of Apple sticking with the same case design for two years running. But inside the new iPhone 6s and 6s Plus is more power than you can shake a stick at; and after warnings from people who don’t know what they’re talking about that this time iPhone sales would stall, they very much continued to do the opposite.
2. iPad Pro
Almost the size of two iPad Airs side-by-side, we have it on good authority that ‘iPad Pro’ is actually short for ‘iPad Probably a lot bigger than you were expecting’. Again, some people sniffily dismissed it as ‘just a bigger iPad’. Creative types weren’t listening: they were too busy glued to the new tablet and Apple Pencil, creating works of art.
3. Apple Watch
It’s imperfect, many of the apps are rubbish, and its battery life can leave a bit to be desired, but Apple Watch nonetheless sneaks its way into Apple’s 2015 hit list. Massively outselling rivals, Apple’s wearable has tons of potential and scope, and even today can be a boon to productivity when in the right hands (or, rather, on the right wrists).
It’s the least powerful of Apple’s notebooks, only has one USB port (and that’s USB-C), and using its keyboard feels like tapping on glass. But five minutes with the MacBook and most are smitten. It looks great, is absurdly thin and light, and has a gorgeous display. If the drawbacks make you want to boot Tim Cook out of a window, perhaps this notebook just isn’t for you.
5. Apple Music
As usual when Apple enters a new market — in this case, streaming audio — rivals were full of bluster. And while Apple didn’t hit a home run, Apple Music went surprisingly close to toppling Spotify at the first attempt. Integration with an existing music collection works nicely, and the ‘For You’ feed frequently serves up interesting new things to listen to. Assuming Apple iterates quickly, it’s the music service to watch in 2016.
6. Apple TV
Everything changed for Apple’s little black box in 2015. The latest iteration of the Apple TV isn’t quite so little, but packs some serious punch. More or less a headless iPhone 6, the new device also boasts an App Store, meaning you no longer have to wait for Apple to periodically add a load of apps and then realise they’re all for channels you never watch. Now, you choose what goes on the box.
7. Magic Keyboard
We probably shouldn’t get excited by a keyboard — especially one that’s broadly similar to the previous iteration, only more expensive. But an hour with the Magic Keyboard and we didn’t want to give it back. There’s no hint of key wobble, and its lower profile is superb. That it charges using Lightning is a boon, too.
8. The new iPod touch
2015 saw ‘iPod’ unceremoniously removed from the Apple website’s nav bar, but the iPod touch nonetheless got a really smart update. The new model has an A8 chip, 8MP camera, and weighs a ridiculously light 88g. The only bad thing was it again making us pine for a smaller iPhone.
9. Opening up a bit
Apple’s never going to fully embrace openness, but there are signs Apple’s willing to be flexible where it matters. iOS now enables developers to hook into the likes of Spotlight, public betas are commonplace, PR’s become a bit warmer, and Apple’s open-sourced Swift and ResearchKit; speaking of which…
Not so much a highlight from Apple’s 2015 as Apple’s entire history, ResearchKit is technology that has the potential to improve millions of people’s lives. The system frees medical testing from the confines of hospitals, potentially engaging with and assisting many more people. Given its open-source nature, the seeming lack of interest from the Android platform has been disappointing, but November finally saw some developments there too.
11. Helping devices live longer
Mobile devices aren’t cheap, and so it’s great to see Apple continuing to support older iPhones, iPods and iPads with iOS 9. Sure, not every new feature is supported on every device, but at least you don’t have to dump your iPhone 4s, iPad mini, iPad 2 or 5th-gen iPod touch just yet.