Highs and lows for Apple in 2012

19th Dec 2012 | 12:45

Highs and lows for Apple in 2012

Another year of ups and downs for Apple, from the iPhone 5 to iOS Maps

Apple used to be the underdog, but of late it's spent time flirting with being the biggest company in the world by market cap (depending on the price of petrol - Exxon's its closest rival at any given time).

Because of this, Apple continues to be a company people love to love (if they use its products) but also love to hate (if they don't use its products… and sometimes if they do).

2012 was the first year Apple was without its charismatic and forward-thinking founder Steve Jobs, and many pundits fired up their bonehead-o-meters and predicted nothing but doom and gloom.

Instead, we got the iPhone 5, iPad mini, and the bloke Apple bafflingly hired from Dixons got fired.

But there were lows to match the highs; not least Apple's disastrous iOS Maps app, and the realisation from onlookers that although the company is angered by plagiarism, Apple itself isn't against the odd bit of pilfering.

Apple's highs of 2012

1. iPhone 5

The iPhone 4S was great, but underwhelmed people who apparently didn't understand something can be new without changing shape.

No problems with the iPhone 5. Taller! Thinner! Faster! Better! Of course, a few doomsayers said it wouldn't sell. Predictably, they were very wrong indeed.

iPhone 5

2. iPad mini

The worst-kept secret in tech arrived in October 2012.

It wasn't the first smallish tablet, and the display is closer to the one on the original iPad than the Retina models. However, those who've used an iPad mini mostly say it's surprised them: the device is light, fast and every bit as good as its larger siblings.

3. Retina displays

High-res displays on smartphones are one thing, but the iPad 3 wowed with its 9.7-inch Retina display.

Apple then took things further later in 2012, giving its MacBook Pro line the most beautiful displays imaginable; they come at a price and complicate Apple's line-up a touch more than we'd like, but they look gorgeous and are the new benchmark everyone must beat.

4. Growth and profits

If you've been around the block a few times, you'll remember Apple earnings calls used to be depressing affairs.

By contrast, the term 'record' is now used an awful lot. Apple in 2012 grew fast and was hugely profitable, which is a high in anyone's book.

5. A pile of new iPods

At Apple's September 2012 event, the iPad mini was expected, but new iPods showed Apple could still keep secrets.

The iPod touch got major upgrades (redesigned case; new camera; faster chip; better screen) and even the nano found itself back in favour, with a sleek new design and revised iOS-like interface.

New iPod

6. Optical drives are go

And by 'go', we mean 'gone - as in 'outta here'.

The Mac Pro and the old MacBook Pro are now the only shipping Macs with optical drives. Good riddance. The fewer moving parts, the better; and, let's face it, someone needs to drive this kind of thing, or we'd all be using floppy discs.

7. Social integration

On the face of it, Apple welding Twitter and Facebook functionality to iOS and OS X doesn't seem like a big deal; but we're listing it as a high as recognition, more than anything, that Apple's realised it sucks at social. It also shot Ping. Hurrah!

8. Sir Jony Ive and chums

Ive has a major hand in all Apple's hardware, and 2012 was a great year for him: new iPads, new iPods, the iPhone 5, new iMacs and MacBook Pros. Oh, and he got a knighthood.

It's understandable, then, that Apple CEO Tim Cook now has Ive in control of all Apple human interface teams.


9. Bye bye, Dixons guy

When John Browett was hired by Apple to take over from Ron Johnson as the guy to run Apple's retail stores, Brits uttered a collective BWUH? This was the Dixons guy!

Six months later: boom - he was outta there. Not a high for Browett, but definitely one for Apple, given Browett's mistakes. It also showed Cook would put things right when needed.

10. Education inroads

Our final high is Apple's renewed focus on education.

iTunes U continues to improve, as does iBooks Author, which got a major upgrade in October 2012. Kids are the future, and if Apple can help get them there with more enthusiasm for education, that can only be a good thing.

Apple's lows of 2012

1. iOS Maps

Each year, Apple has a tech disaster that pundits desperately weld 'gate' to. This year: mapgate.

Having ditched Google data, Apple rolled its own solution. The result: bendy architecture and data occasionally so inaccurate police said it could kill.

But, hey, at least you got free turn-by-turn! Although the Google Maps app now does this too...

iOS 6 Maps

2. The new iPad

We don't mean the new new iPad (a.k.a. the iPad with Retina display/iPad 4), but the new iPad (a.k.a. the iPad 3).

To some, it looked interim at the time, and it became the first iPad to not last a year, punted out of the line-up after six months to make way for a faster successor. Tough luck if you bought one in spring 2012.

3. Lawsuits everywhere

We suspect for every engineer working at Apple there must be several hundred lawyers, if ongoing lawsuits are anything to go by.

To be fair to Apple, it's been the industry's R&D department too often, but even if Apple's sometimes in the right, legal action's never anything but a low.

4. Crazy stock swings

Given how profitable Apple is, its gargantuan cash reserves, and that people clamour for whatever device the company releases, 2012's stock swings were barmy.

AAPL crashed several times, and although it will probably end the year up on 2011, constant worry from an investment standpoint is troubling. (Note: we could say something nasty at this point about analysts regularly getting things wrong and in part causing said crashes, but we won't.)

5. Missing launch windows

iTunes 11: it'll be out in October! Or November! And that new iMac? Pre-order soon, and we'll get it to you, uh, sometime!

Given that Apple's now run by Tim 'clockwork' Cook, that launch-window screw-ups have occurred at all is a nasty surprise and really isn't very 'Apple'.

The competition would be delighted it if wasn't busy being far worse.

6. Increasingly buggy software

Long time Apple users are wondering if Apple's 2012 software slogan is 'fire and forget'.

A lot of software seems almost abandoned, with former iWork and iLife apps becoming increasingly sluggish.

Even new products like Game Center and iTunes 11 are surprisingly buggy coming from a company that prides itself on detail and polish.

7. Web service problems

Apple's never gotten the hang of web services, and 2012 found the company flailing.

Regular outages for iCloud, iTunes Match, the App Store and more caused untold problems for users.

Things didn't get 'MobileMe bad', but Apple hardly covered itself in glory online.

Web problems

8. Losing Scott Forstall

We hear Forstall was a pain to work with and liked welding textures to iOS and OS X apps.

And, yes, Tim Cook's new system of organising Apple's senior staff could pay dividends. But it's worth remembering that Forstall was much of the brains behind iOS and the system having third-party apps.

He will be missed.

9. Send in the clones

This one's not Apple's fault, but a low for the company this year has been the continuation of rivals cloning its products; not least the MacBook Air.

No, it's not 'obvious' a laptop should look exactly like that - think of your own ideas!

10. Apple pilfering

Of course, Apple comes off as a touch hypocritical when it nicks designs itself, as per the Swiss national rail company's clock, which was more or less copied verbatim for the iPad Clock app.

Apple reportedly subsequently coughed up a cool £13 million for a license. That's an expensive clock-up.

Apple iPhone iPad iPod iOS
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