With 2018 coming to an end, now is perhaps the time to look back at all the products Apple released this year. This year was a particularly busy one for Apple as it held three events and announced over 10+ products including 3 iPhones.
Some of the products received rave reviews, while others were held back by their software and plagued with issues. This was also the year that Apple finally focused on upgrading other products in its hardware lineup apart from the iPhone with some meaningful hardware aimed at prosumers.
HomePod – February 2018
First announced at WWDC in June 2017, the HomePod was released to the public almost eight months later in February 2018. Apple apologized for the delay in launching HomePod towards the end of 2017 saying it wanted the time to make sure the product is just right. Sadly, Apple’s first smart speaker failed to impress everyone with its smartness. Siri on HomePod is simply not as good as Amazon’s Alexa or Google Assistant and leaves a lot to be desired in terms of the features it offers.
On the other hand, the HomePod absolutely crushes its competition in terms of sound quality, with its performance rivaling $999 Hi-Fi studio monitors. At $349, the HomePod is also out of reach of most consumers who usually tend to buy Amazon Echo Dot or Google Home mini which are priced around $50. Thanks to various holiday season discounts though, we did see the HomePod retailing for a more tempting $249 towards the end of 2018.
Apple has been updating the HomePod OS throughout the year to add new features to it but the smart speaker still lags its competition heavily in this department.
9.7-inch iPad (2018) – March 2018
Announced in late March this year, the sixth-generation 9.7-inch iPad from Apple is aimed at school and college going students. The tablet is essentially a newer version of the 5th gen. iPad sporting faster internals and Apple Pencil support. It retains the same design language, comes with the same 9.7-inch IPS display, Touch ID, and 10-hour battery life. For that slight performance boost, Apple upgraded the chip inside the tablet with its A10 processor.
Coupled with Apple Pencil, the 9.7-inch iPad (2018) was meant to stop the rising popularity of Chromebooks and low-end laptops in the U.S. education system. Looking back, it was not particularly successful in its motive, though it did help a certain niche of creative students who were on a tight budget.
MacBook Pro – July 2018
The year where Apple finally ensured that its MacBook Pro lineup lived up to its ‘pro’ name. With faster Intel ‘Coffee Lake’ chips, Apple bumped the 13-inch MacBook Pro models to a quad-core chip, with the 15-inch models getting bumped to a 6-core processor across the lineup.
The additional cores mean the new MacBook Pro is as much as 50 percent faster in certain scenarios when compared to its predecessor. It now also comes with 32GB RAM, powerful Vega GPU, oodles of speedy storage (4TB), and enhanced security thanks to the company’s T2 chip. Apple even fixed the keyboard reliability issues with its third-generation Butterfly keyboard.
Initially, the new MacBook Pros were plagued with serious overheating issues, though Apple managed to fix it to a great extent with a firmware update. While the models still do throttle, the situation is not as bad as it originally was.
Three new iPhones, Apple Watch Series 4 – Sept/October 2018
Like every year, September was perhaps the busiest month for Apple as it announced four new products. Just like it did in 2017, Apple launched three new iPhones this year as well. This time around though, the company launched two premium iPhones — the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max — and one ‘budget’ iPhone, the iPhone XR.
The iPhone XS is the successor to the iPhone X from last year while the iPhone XS Max is the same as the iPhone XS just stretched out to fit a bigger 6.5-inch display and battery. The iPhone XS and XS Max are modest upgrades over the iPhone X featuring a faster 7nm A12 Bionic chip, slightly faster Face ID, improved OLED display and rear camera with Smart HDR.
As for the budget iPhone XR, it launched later in October. It sports the exact same specs as the iPhone XS, though makes a few compromises in its build and switches to a Liquid Retina LCD display to keep its price down. And despite lacking a secondary telephoto sensor, the iPhone XR features a portrait mode.
Given the modest improvements brought to the table by the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max, its no wonder that they are not doing as well as expected. The iPhone XR which was supposed to do well has also not lived up to analyst expectations.
The highlight of Apple’s September event had to be the Apple Watch Series 4. Featuring an edge-to-edge display, a faster dual-core chipset, and upgraded sensors, the Apple Watch Series 4 was perhaps the most revolutionary product launched by Apple this year. Thanks to new sensors and other technological enhancements, the Apple Watch Series 4 offers some innovative features like fall detection and ECG which no other consumer wearable in the market has offered so far.
Apple did take more than two months to bring the ECG feature to the Apple Watch Series 4 after its launch and it continues to be limited to the U.S. for now. Nonetheless, the feature proved its worth 48 hours after being available as it saved the life of an Apple Watch user.
iPad Pro, Mac mini, MacBook Air (2018) – October 2018
Just over a month after unveiling three new iPhones and the Apple Watch Series 4, Apple went ahead and hosted a media event to unveil a barrage of products including its 2018 iPad Pro lineup and a long overdue refresh to its Mac mini and MacBook Air lineup.
For its 2018 iPad Pro lineup, Apple took inspiration from the iPhone X and reduced the bezels, switched to an edge-to-edge display, and ditched Touch ID for Face ID. The changes give the new iPad Pro lineup a very futuristic look, though the increased price tag also put them out of reach for many. Like previous iPad Pro models before it, the new iPad Pros pack plenty of horsepower, with the 1TB storage variants coming with a massive 6GB RAM.
Apple also gave its ancient Mac mini lineup a prosumer refresh in October 2018. The new Mac mini is targetted at prosumers and advanced user and packs enough horsepower to fulfill their demanding workloads. This includes Intel’s desktop-class Coffee Lake processors, T2 chip for data encryption and HEVC video transcoding, up to 64GB RAM, 2TB storage, and Thunderbolt 3 port for further expansion. The new Mac mini lineup does lack a dedicated GPU but with the Thunderbolt 3 port, users can always plug in an eGPU to boost its graphical performance.
Apple also refreshed its MacBook Air lineup this year. The refreshed MacBook Air now takes design cues from the MacBook Pro lineup and comes with a Retina display with slimmer bezels. It is now also lighter and smaller than before despite offering 10-hours of battery life on a single charge. Despite the upgrade to Intel’s 8th gen Core i5 processor though, the new MacBook Air is only marginally faster than the outgoing model. It is designed primarily to handle day-to-day workloads and not for any intensive prosumer stuff.
Which Apple products launched this year did you buy? Has the experience with them lived up to your expectations?