In terms of product launches, 2019 was a relatively great year for Apple. The company focused on its pro users and managed to win them over despite not really launching anything innovative or breakthrough. Overall though, how was 2019 for Apple? Let’s talk a look at what the company did in our year-end review.
Apple Makes Its Presence Felt at CES 2019 Despite Not Attending The Trade Show
Apple has never taken part in the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) which takes place at Las Vegas at the beginning of every year. This year, despite not taking part in the trade show, Apple made its presence felt by putting up a “What happens on your iPhone, stays on your iPhone” billboard near the Las Vegas Convention Center.
This was a brilliant marketing move from Apple as it highlighted how the iPhone is more secure than Android devices. Apple ended up putting up similar billboards in other popular cities and areas across the world throughout the year. The move, however, would end up backfiring for the company just a few weeks later.
FaceTime Eavesdropping Bug Discovered
Apple’s privacy jibe on Android OEMs backfired just a few weeks later when a major Group FaceTime eavesdropping bug was discovered. The bug allowed one to hear the audio of the other party even before they picked up the call.
The bug led Apple to disable Group FaceTime for around a week as it worked on a fix.
The iPad mini Finally Got a Refresh
In March, four years after the iPad mini 4 was released, Apple got around to releasing its successor — the iPad mini 5. While the tablet had the same display size and design, its internals and specs were thoroughly updated. This included the switch to a Retina Display, a more powerful A12 Bionic chip inside the hood, more storage, and an upgraded camera.
All these improvements, however, came at a price with the price of the iPad mini 5 starting at $399 — up from $249 of the iPad mini 4.
Apple also announced the 10.5-inch iPad Air which sits between the iPad Pro and the regular iPad lineup. It was meant for people who wanted a tablet more powerful than the regular iPad but were not willing to extend their budget for an iPad Pro.
New Apple Services, 2nd Gen. AirPods Go Official
In its March event, Apple also officially announced its streaming service — the Apple TV+. However, the launch event was short on important details like pricing and release date, with Apple only highlighting some of its original content coming to the platform.
Alongside Apple TV+, the Apple Card and Apple News+ subscription service were also announced. Of all the three services, the Apple News+ was the first to launch and it met with a relatively lukewarm response. As for Apple Card, it stood out because of its ease of use and the minimalistic design of the card itself which was made of Titanium.
Apple also announced the 2nd gen. AirPods with lower latency and 50% improved battery life at the event. These improvements were made possible thanks to its new H1 chip.
MacBook Pro Gets More Powerful
Apple dropped a major spec-bump refresh of the 13-inch and 15-inch MacBook Pro towards the middle of the year and right before WWDC 2019.
The refresh saw Apple offer an 8-core processor on the 15-inch MacBook Pro for even more power and performance. The 13-inch MacBook Pro also saw a major refresh that saw it gaining the Touch Bar, Touch ID, a quad-core processor, and a more reliable Butterfly keyboard.
WWDC 2019 – Mac Pro and iOS 13 Take Center Stage
In the first week of June, Apple held its yearly developer conference — the Worldwide Developer Conference. The company announced iOS 13, macOS 10.15 Catalina, watchOS 6, tvOS 13, and a surprise announcement in the form of iPadOS 13.
While iOS 13 and macOS Catalina were a relatively big update and added a number of new features, Apple branching out iPadOS from iOS signaled that it is finally ready to address that the fact that the same flavor of iOS cannot work on both phones and tablets.
Despite being a software-centric event though, Apple previewed the new 2019 Mac Pro and Pro Display XDR at the event and they easily stole the show. Both devices were mocked for their high price but pro users were happy because Apple was finally going to give them what they had wanted all these years.
Another Privacy Lapse from Apple, Siri to Blame This Time
In late-July, a whistleblower revealed how Apple’s Siri grading program was a major breach of privacy as it allowed third-party contractors to listen to confidential user information. This included their private medical information, drug deals, business deals, and more. Worse, the recordings were accompanied with relevant data that could be used to pinpoint their location, contact details, and app data.
For a company that valued privacy, this was a major breach as it was discovered that Apple was automatically sending parts of recorded Siri conversations of its users to third-party contractors for grading. The company was not explicitly taking permission of users for this.
Apple Card Goes Live
The Apple Card went live for all iPhone customers in the United States in August. Apple partnered with Goldman Sachs for the Apple Card and was approving applications in almost real-time for its credit card. Apart from its ease of use, the highlight of the card was its Daily Cashback feature in which customers were offered up to 3% cashback on their selected transactions.
iPhone 11 Pro, Apple Watch Series 5 Announced
September marked the announcement of the iPhone 11 Pro, iPhone 11, and the Apple Watch Series 5. The iPhone 11 Pro delivered everything that pro users wanted — a great display, battery life, performance, and camera. The improvement in battery life and camera was particularly notable since Apple was lagging behind its competition in these departments.
The iPhone 11 also got some meaningful upgrades, with the slightly lower price tag acting as an icing on the cake.
The Apple Watch Series 5 was a relatively low-key refresh with Apple only adding an always-on display to it. Apple also launched the 7th gen. iPad, though the only update it got was the screen size getting bumped to 10.2-inch.
Buggy iOS 13 Release
The iOS 13 release turned out to be a buggy one and Apple had to roll out multiple software updates in a quick span to fix all the issues. After the relatively muted iOS 12 update in 2018, the iOS 13 update was a big one packing some major new features. However, it looked like the company’s engineers struggled to get the features ready in time as Apple had to delay some features while others were buggy.
The buggy release of iOS 13 saw Apple roll out software updates in quick succession for all devices. At one point, the company had rolled out three software updates to fix bugs within a couple of weeks.
AirPods Pro Finally Arrive
In late-October, Apple finally gave its AirPods customers what they have wanted for a very long time — a pro version of the wireless earbuds with ANC and improved sound quality. The $249 AirPods Pro offers a sweat-resistance design, active noise cancellation, and a unique design with excellent sound quality.
Apple TV+ Release Meets with Lukewarm Response
The Apple TV+ streaming service went live in early November. Priced at $4.99/month, Apple also offered a free yearly subscription of the service for new iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, and Mac users.
With only a handful of shows at launch and none of them receiving overwhelmingly positive reviews, the Apple TV+ launch largely fizzled within days of its release. The launch of Disney+ a couple of weeks later did not help much either.
The 16-inch MacBook Pro Arrives
In November, Apple again surprised its pro users with the 16-inch MacBook Pro. Featuring a bigger display, a more powerful GPU, and more storage, the 16-inch MacBook Pro was a major upgrade over the 15-inch MacBook Pro which was refreshed just a few months ago. Even better, all these improvements came at the same price as the outgoing 15-inch MacBook Pro.
Apple redesigned the thermal profile of the 16-inch MacBook Pro for better heat dissipation. This allowed the new MacBook Pro to perform better under full load compared to previous models. The company also used a 100Wh battery on the machine for a staggering 11 hours of web-browsing battery life. All these improvements did mean that Apple had to make the 16-inch MacBook Pro thicker and heavier than the outgoing model but that did not seem to matter as pro users loved it.
Oh, and Apple also fixed the dreaded Butterfly keyboard by going back to its scissor-mechanism based keyboard albeit with a few improvements.
Mac Pro Goes on Sale
Another month, another pro release from Apple. The Mac Pro went on sale in the second week of December. The maxed-out version of the machine was priced a wallet-busting $54,000, but it was meant for out-and-out pro users and they were happy spending that much money for a machine that offered plenty of innovative new features.
Apart from an insane amount of horsepower, the 2019 Mac Pro also offered a modular design and a clear upgrade path with plenty of expansion slots which is very unlike Apple.
I feel 2019 marked the beginning of an Apple that pays attention to its pro customers. The three ‘pro’ product launches from the company towards the end of the year easily stole the show for me. The focus on pro customers means that other Apple products are also bound to improve with time as the company pays better heed to what its customers want.
On the flip side, the two major privacy lapses and a buggy iOS 13 release highlights that Apple still needs to work on improving its approach towards software releases.
What are your thoughts on Apple’s performance in 2019? How do you think the company can improve further in 2020?