New iPads! New iPhones! Yet another ‘gate’! Here’s how Apple fared over the past 12 months
It’s hard to know what constitutes a good year for Apple these days. The company churns out amazing, revolutionary hardware with alarming regularity, and yet doomsayers seem to think Apple’s never more than months from disaster. This despite Apple’s exec team presumably feeling like Monty Brewster much of the time, so big and rapidly growing is the company’s cash pile.
Still, there were plenty of moments that stood out, and we’re outlining our ten favorites here. We’ve of course covered some of the obvious hits, but are also taking the opportunity to delve into some obscure Apple-related nuggets you may have missed.
Best new mobile device: iPad Pro
The revamped iPad Pro feels like the iPad Apple wanted to create from day one: all screen; unencumbered by buttons; insanely powerful. Naturally, it’s also eye-wateringly expensive compared to the standard iPad; but if you’ve the cash, and want the best tablet ever made, the iPad Pro is it.
Most reassuring security event: Forbes’ 3D printed heads
Any security system can be broken. The trick is to make doing so almost impossible. That’s the idea behind biometrics – but ever since fingerprints and face-scanning found their way into phones, people have tried to crack them.
Forbes decided to test a bunch of smartphones that unlock using facial recognition, primarily by using a 3D print of someone’s head. The one phone that they couldn’t open with their chilling decapitated visage? Apple’s iPhone, of course.
Best iOS accessory: Apple Pencil
The iOS ecosystem continues to thrive, offering all manner of cases, hubs, chargers, headphones, and add-ons. Need a games controller? Grab a Nimbus. A keen guitarist? There’s an adapter for that. But this year, Apple gets the nod for its redesigned Pencil.
The old Pencil was flawed. Having to charge it via the iPad’s Lightning port was ridiculous. The cap was easily lost. Now, the Pencil clamps on to your iPad Pro with magnets, auto-pairs and charges, and has a wonderfully elegant double-tap mechanism to switch tools in apps.
Skinflint moment of the year: the dongle decision maker
It’s probably just as well we don’t have any real awards to dish out, because we don’t know precisely who this one would go to. Anyway, we’d like to brand 2018’s biggest skinflint whoever demanded Apple remove useful dongles from iOS device boxes.
Apple’s having a blast removing headphone ports – and in the case of the iPad Pro, even swapping Lightning for USB-C. Of course, Apple will happily sell you an adapter, but when you’re spending a grand on hardware, there should be one in the box.
Smartest iOS feature: Screen Time
Yes, we know: we’re championing a feature that on the surface is about using your devices less. But really, Screen Time is about using your iPhone and iPad more mindfully.
Given permission, Screen Time tracks your usage. It then enables you to check in and see how you’re doing, perhaps unearthing a surprise Instagram addiction, or making you feel smug for spending 95 percent of your time in productivity apps.
Either way, it’s an excellent addition to help you manage device usage.
Best – or worst – photography quirk: skingate
How the accusations flew when the iPhone XS appeared to smooth people’s skin in selfies. “It’s a beauty filter,” people cried – which, depending on how old you were, was the best or worst thing possible.
Halide’s developer dug deeper, and found Apple’s camera system was aggressively reducing noise from portraits. Apple subsequently removed the problem in iOS 12.1, the release notes dryly stating: “Fixes an issue where the sharpest reference frame was not always selected in front-facing photos for iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, and iPhone XR”.
Loveliest inclusivity moment: accessibility emoji
The way emoji are exploding, it’s only a matter of time before everything we read comprises pictures rather than letters. (Perhaps the ancient Egyptians had it right after all.) Anyway, if such an age arrives, it needs to be inclusive.
Well done, then, Apple for pushing hard to add mixed-race couples to the Emoji standard, and also various kinds of wheelchairs, and even a probing cane.
Nastiest cut for gamers: Infinity Blade
When it arrived in 2010, Infinity Blade marked a milestone in iOS gaming. Although the swipe-based sword-fighting echoed Fruit Ninja, the visuals look like they’d been beamed in from a console. It was all you could do to check someone hadn’t shoved an Xbox inside your iPhone.
However, Epic Games – presumably gorging on Fortnite revenue – abruptly killed the entire series in December 2018. Not a happy Christmas for people who enjoyed getting a bit stabby in iOS’s first properly console-like gaming universe.
Best new Mac: MacBook Air
It’s easy to forget that Apple doesn’t just make mobile devices, although the company’s erratic Mac release schedule is partly to blame. This year, the Mac mini, MacBook Pro and MacBook Air were all revamped, with the last of those being the most exciting.
Finally, the Mac Steve Jobs once pulled from a manilla envelope – to audible gasps from the event’s audience – gains a Retina display, and plenty of other buffs that makes it a leading laptop again, rather than an also-ran.
Biggest evil genius moment missed: Apple being worth $1 trillion
In August, Apple shares rose over $207, meaning the company was valued at over $1 trillion – marking a first in any industry. CEO Tim Cook disappointingly decided against going on camera while stroking a cat, gurning menacingly, and repeatedly yelling MWAHAHAHAHA!
Instead, he sent his team a memo about the “significant milestone”, and thanked Apple staff for their collective achievement. He always was a sensible one.