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News18 » Tech
7-min read

Year in Review: Apple Held Tradition Close As It Navigated Unchartered Waters

Apple’s market cap is around $1.26 trillion. And that isn’t only because it sold a lot of iPhones.

Vishal Mathur | @vishalmathur85

Updated:December 29, 2019, 10:15 AM IST
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Year in Review: Apple Held Tradition Close As It Navigated Unchartered Waters
Apple’s market cap is around $1.26 trillion. And that isn’t only because it sold a lot of iPhones.

Apple is not all about the iPhone. If ever anyone needed any clarity, 2019 has provided just that. In a rather generous quantity, and beyond doubt. In repeat doses too, just to drill the point home. As we look back at the past 12 months for Apple, it is hard to not appreciate how the company has stuck to convention most of the time. Yet uncharacteristically perhaps, at least as far as the trends of the previous few years are concerned, has also ventured into the unknown. There was a lot on the agenda this year. Services, wearables, software and the hardware, everything needed attention. And while all this was happening, we regularly heard about Apple expanding their retail footprint globally. As well as the environmental initiatives.

The year started strongly for the company with the iPhone XR registering strong sales in the first quarter—something it would do in all quarters subsequently to emerge as the undisputed best-selling smartphone of the year, worldwide. That surely has to be a hit. If anything, it counters the growing belief (often without facts to prove it) that people don’t want to buy iPhones anymore. The fact is, they do. And the lower the price, the wider demographic it can appeal to.

Also Read | Apple iPhone XR Has Been The Best Selling Smartphone Globally Throughout 2019

Apple got the hardware ball rolling early in the year, with the updates to the iPad Air and the iPad Mini. The latter actually getting a new coat of paint and new innards after a long time. Newer specs surely ticked off the performance aspect on the checklist, but these two devices essentially remained the same as their predecessors. Not much changed in the iPad line-up, which now had the iPad Mini, the iPad, the iPad Air and the iPad Pro. Apple wasn’t done with the iPad upgrades though, because later in the year came the 10.2-inch iPad, replacing the 9.7-inch iPad. Newer hardware and more powerful innards are always great, but there is something very un-Apple-like about the fact that within this iPad line-up, there are now two different generations of the Apple Pencil that remain deployed for action, some iPads have the Lightning Port while some have the USB Type-C and that some still have the home button while some don’t.

But all eyes, over the summer, remained on the September announcement for the new software and the new iPhones, particularly after Apple detailed the former at the annual Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC). The iPhone line-up got iOS 13 while the iPads, for the first time, got their own operating system called the iPadOS. That is perhaps the biggest update the entire iPad line-up, past and present, could have received in one go. Better multi-tasking, ability to use external storage, Safari that works like a desktop web browser, a download manager and the new Dark Mode have been designed to bring the iPad experience as close to a full-fledged computing device, as possible. The fact that the iPadOS works with all iPads as far back as the iPad Air 2 (launched in 2014) simply increases its potency.

Also Read | When Apple Says The iPhone, iPad And Mac Are Built For Privacy, They Are Not Kidding

At the same time, iOS 13 was going to be a significant upgrade over iOS 12 and on the agenda were performance improvements that would give a renewed life expectancy to the older iPhones, usher in the era of the Dark Mode, redesigning of Apple’s apps including Messages and Photos, an all-new CarPlay as well as smaller and quicker app update downloads. The rollout wasn’t the smoothest though, and it took a while and bunch of iOS updates for Apple to iron those out. But the performance as well as the frugal battery consumption advantages were immediately apparent, even more so on the newer iPhones.

Then there was the small matter of the macOS Catalina for the Mac computing devices. Apps were redesigned with added functionality, under the hood changes were designed to make it faster even on older Macs and new security protocols were implemented to keep your data safe.

Also Read | Apple iPhone 11 Pro Max Review: More Than Anything Else, The Camera is Truly Pro

Yet, as always, the most exciting launch had to be the iPhone. In fact, three iPhones—the iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max. This was one of the rare instances when a new phone is less expensive than the phone it succeeds—the iPhone 11 was priced lower than the iPhone XR, at least in India, and that had consumers reconsider their next phone purchase preferences. And rightly so too. Under the hood was perhaps the biggest camera upgrade for the iPhone line-up in years, something that has meant that the iPhone 11 and the iPhone 11 Pro end the year as the best cameras on smartphones—all phones considered. The new processor remains by far the most powerful in the smartphone ecosystem and the significantly better battery life that is on offer really ensures that the entire spec sheet gets ticked off without any red marks.

Also Read | Apple AirPods Pro Review: This Pro Will Just Make Rivals Think About Surrender

Yet at the same time, the Apple Watch Series 5 was purely an incremental update, with the addition of a couple of new capabilities such as an always-on display. But for all intents and purposes, this is really no different than the Apple Watch Series 4.

AirPods has to be a definite success story for Apple. Yet again. While the company clubs its sales figures in the “other” category, a lot of third-party data seems to suggest that the AirPods are ruling the wireless earbuds space. Bernstein analyst Toni Sacconaghi, in a note to investors, suggests that Apple sold $6 billion worth of AirPods in 2019. And that is when the AirPods Pro, which arrived November in most countries, have barely had an impact just yet. The biggest update to the AirPods line-up ever, the AirPods Pro bring active noise cancellation, a transparency mode, a new H1 chip that has 10 audio processing cores and handles Hey Siri commands as well as new audio drivers.

Also Read | Apple MacBook Pro 16 Review: A LOT of Power is Just One of The Ingredients

Power was always going to be on the agenda for Apple when the Mac updates were on the radar. The new Mac Pro is the super-fast and super expensive computing device that professionals need. The new Jumanji movie, well, the animations for those were done on a mid-spec Mac Pro. That just tells you how powerful it is. There were the expected updates for the MacBook Pro 13 line-up, while the 12-inch MacBook was discontinued. That made sense, also because the MacBook Air was always expected to take its place. But the MacBook Pro family also got its biggest update in years—the MacBook Pro 15 made way for the MacBook Pro 16. And yet the larger screen sized MacBook Pro isn’t much larger than the one it replaces, in terms of the footprint. The butterfly keyboard is gone and instead we now have the scissor switch mechanism which reminds me of the keyboard on the first-generation MacBook Pro Retina from late 2012. Next year, we will see this keyboard make its way to the MacBook Pro 13 as well as the MacBook Air.

Also Read | An Apple Mac Pro Was Used to Create Animations For The Latest Jumanji Movie

What perhaps remains on the agenda for next year perhaps is a proper design overhaul of the MacBook line-up. And there could even be the scenario where Apple moves away from Intel processors and we instead see Apple’s own chips in Mac computing devices.

Last but not least are services. Apple Music continues to catch up with Spotify, even though there is no free and ad-supported subscription tier like the latter. This year, Apple really pushed the envelope with the Apple TV+ streaming service, the Apple Arcade game subscription service as well as the updated Apple News. The impact of these new services will probably be clearer deeper in 2020, because for instance, the Apple TV+ service is free for a year for anyone who bought a new Apple device recently.

Apple partnering with Goldman Sachs for the Apple Card credit card was the biggest boost Apple Pay could have received. HSBC analyst Nigel Fletcher believes that the Apple Card could clock income of $300 million by the end of the first year, and as much as $1.5 billion by the end of the fifth year.

As we head into 2020, there is expectation that services and “others” category including the AirPods and the Watch will continue to rake in robust numbers for Apple. Services will continue to grow, and the payments segment could have the fastest upward trajectory. But as always, all eyes will be on the hardware updates, particularly the new iPhones.

Also Read | WhatsApp Has New Features For iPhone: First Glimpse of Dark Theme And More

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