It’s been an interesting couple of years for Apple. Its 2012 was largely lived in the shadow of Steve Jobs’ death, the firm treading water, launching products that Jobs had approved. But by the turn of the year things were getting interesting. iOS chief Scott Forstall was fired, and as 2013 dawned Jonathan Ive was responsible not just for designing Apple’s hardware, but for its software too. It’s a big job. Was he up to it?
Apple’s highs in 2013
1. iPad Air
Apple doesn’t like to compromise, but with the last iPad it had to. There was no way to put a retina display into the iPad and maintain battery life without adding significant bulk and weight. That clearly annoyed Jonathan Ive, and this year’s model is massively improved: the bezel is 43% thinner and the device is 28% lighter. The iPad Air is quite simply the best iPad that Apple has ever made.
2. iPad mini 2 with Retina display
The mini is no longer the poor relation of the proper iPad: it’s a little pricey, but it’s also a little wonder. The iPad mini 2’s innards and performance are almost identical to the iPad Air, and it’s essentially an Air for people whose top priority is portability.
3. iOS 7
It’s the best iOS ever, iOS 7 addresses lots of niggles and bringing the ageing iOS bang up to date. Apple’s execution wasn’t perfect – more of that in a moment – but the pros massively outweigh the cons.
4. Mac Pro
"Can’t innovate any more, my ass." That was Phil Schiller unveiling the long-awaited Mac Pro 2013, a little tower of power that looks like Darth Vader’s dustbin and costs roughly the same as a Death Star.
Maps may have been a laughing stock, but today more iOS users rely on it than on Google Maps – which was the whole point of launching it in the first place. One year on it’s vastly improved, although the damage to Maps’ reputation may take longer to fix.
Remember when operating systems used to cost money? Mavericks is free, and while some elements are still "pig-ugly", it boasts lots of improvements, and it’s free. Did we mention that it’s free?
7. iPhone 5S
The iPhone 5S doesn’t look revolutionary, but there are two key bits of tech in it: the TouchID sensor and the M7 co-processor. The former replaces passwords and could well be part of an Apple digital wallet, while the latter is designed to record motion and activity data for the incoming wave of wearable tech – tech such as, say, an iWatch.
Apple’s lows in 2013
1. iOS 7
The iOS 7 roll-out may have broken records, but it broke hearts too. Many people absolutely hated it, its motion effects made some people genuinely ill, and it’s attracted deserved criticism over some of its design choices.
2. Apple TV
Still a hobby.
3. iPhone 5C
"For the colourful," Apple said. "We’re queuing for the 5S," said the planet. Various statistics show that the 5C is selling roughly one-third as many handsets as its slightly more expensive sibling. That doesn’t mean it’s a dud, but it’s not a barnstorming success either.
It may be faster, smarter and easier to use, but that’s compared to Captain Bloaty, aka iTunes 10. iTunes 11 may have been tweaked, but it’s still iTunes.
iCloud could be brilliant, but isn’t – and not just because 5GB of storage is rubbish if you have more than one Apple device. If you want to sync files, Dropbox is much better and more widely supported.
Apple isn’t always great at learning from its mistakes. Remember when it launched Final Cut Pro X and upset everybody because loads of important features were missing? It did it again this year with the latest iWork programs, which are pretty to some and pretty useless for power users. Some missing features will return, eventually.
We want to love Siri, we really do, but the (UK) game show host voice leaves us cold, Siri often loves to do things slowly and its apparent inability to understand us more than half of the time means that Siri’s probably learned a lot of swear words by now. Apple plans to bring Siri to our houses. How about getting it right on our phones first?
8. The Mac Pro’s price
Another year on, and there’s still no sign of the iWatch. Our favourite tech conspiracy theory says the iWatch isn’t real. Apple’s leaked the idea so it can laugh as rivals rush to market with crappy smartwatches.
Apple’s enormous success means that there’s an equally enormous amount of criticism surrounding it. Investors panic if its growth shows signs of slowing, every rival’s product is called an iThing-killer, and anything Apple does is clear evidence that it’s doomed. 2013 was the most doomsaying year since the mid-90s, and we’re sure 2014 will be even worse.
- Check out the best TechRadar features of 2013