Phew, 2016 is almost over. And it’s been a rough one. For everyone, including Apple. It wasn’t their best year – from financial letdowns to letting down loyalists. But there were some good moments in there. So let’s do a recap of all the good and bad moments from the past year. And because it’s 2016 and this is what we’ve become, let’s start with the bad.
“Welcome to Dongleland, you’re going to hate it here” might as well have been Apple’s 2016 motto. Between iPhone losing the headphone jack and the MacBook Pros losing every specialized port, we’re all stuck in dongle land. And yes, it’s going to be great when all our accessories are USB-C, but right now it just sucks. Yes someone had to do it. But why now? Didn’t we already have a lot to deal with this year only to pile on some dongles we can’t keep track of.
So Apple removed the headphone jack from the iPhone. It saves space, the wireless is the future, yes. The only thing I had a problem with is how they pitched it and their use of the word “courage”. It just left a bitter taste in my mouth and made Apple sound a bit too egotistical. Any other word would have been fine.
AirPods are finally available now (even though shipping estimates are now around 4 weeks), but Apple botched the launch pretty badly. It was delayed a couple of weeks and then months and then it just didn’t have a release date until it just kind of showed up. It’s clear that Apple was blindsided by this – probably a manufacturing issue they didn’t catch until they went into full-on production mode.
But it kind of screwed their whole wireless future pitch.
Single Sign-on Launch
Single Sign-on is a great concept, one that solves a real problem. Sign in once, with your cable ID and all the apps that require you to enter a cable ID, are logged in automatically. The only problem is its current execution.
Apple just doesn’t support the big cable providers like Verizon or AT&T. And on the apps side as well, the support for major players like ABC and NBC is thin. Then there’s this whole confusing mess where some apps only support this feature on iOS and some only on tvOS.
Apple’s Bottom Line
2016 screwed up Apple’s 13-year streak of year-over-year growth. After April this year, everything started going downhill and the numbers still don’t show a bright future. Apple isn’t doomed but it’s also not growing like crazy anymore.
App Store Ads
Apple isn’t great when it comes to managing and improving the App Store. It’s also not great when it comes to ads. And App Store Ads brought the worst of Apple together in a pretty bad product. Apple’s policies are pretty good but we saw that they weren’t being implemented as well. Pretty malicious things were happening openly.
iPhone 7 Plus’s Portrait Mode
While it might seem like a gimmick sometimes, the depth field effect achieved by iPhone 7 Plus’s two cameras in the Portrait Mode is a game changer. When you frame your subjects just right, the resulting photos are epic. And in general, too, the telephoto lens makes zoomed in photography much better, including when in low light conditions.
watchOS 3 and the Dock
watchOS 3 made me fall in love with the Apple Watch all over again. It focuses on what makes the Apple Watch a great wrist computer and does away with things that didn’t previously work. The entire OS is much faster, smoother. The new Activity watch faces are really cool.
But it’s the new Dock feature that won me over. It keeps 10 apps running in the background so when you tap them, they launch instantly. And this makes apps on Watch actually usable. I like using Apple Watch when working out and this feature is really helpful there.
I buy Apple products because of a simple reason – they have the potential to make you smile. In 2016, it might seem like that Apple is far gone. But Universal Clipboard is here to redeem the Apple that cares.
When you’re running iOS 10 and macOS Sierra, you can copy text from one device, paste it on another and boom it will be there. Whenever I use this feature, to copy phone numbers or some info between my iPhone and Mac is just makes me smile. Apple took a problem that had frustrated us for years and made a really simple and elegant solution.
9.7 Inch iPad Pro
This isn’t the first iPad Pro but this is the iPad Pro for the people. The 9.7 inch iPad Pro brought the best things about the bigger iPad Pro into a package that was the right size for the iPad – easy to carry around, easy to use. The speakers are epic, it’s fast and it supports the Apple Pencil. For a creator, the base 9.7 inch iPad Pro with the Apple Pencil is a great entry point into the creative iOS space.
True Tone Display
The 9.7 inch iPad’s display is my all time favorite and that’s mostly thanks to the True Tone technology. The screen automatically adjusts its color temperature depending on the place you’re in. And it’s so subtle that you don’t realize just how good it is, and how you can’t live without it, until you turn it off. I can’t wait for this technology to come to iPhones and Macs.
Night Shift doesn’t work for everyone, and some just can’t stand it. I’m a big fan. May be it’s a placebo thing. Or may be I like it because it kind of gives me a pass for staring at my iPhone way past the bed time. The yellow tint does make the screen easier on my eyes.
Apple’s Feud with the FBI
Even though this didn’t really go anywhere, Apple clearly came on the top of the San Bernardino case with the FBI. Where FBI essentially wanted Apple to build a backdoor into the iOS operating system. Apple put its foot down, went public and refused to do so. Ultimately, FBI found another way to get into the phone and at least for now, we don’t have a universal backdoor into iOS.
Touch Bar with Touch ID
The jury’s still out on just how useful the Touch Bar is going to be. And we won’t know that for a year or two. But just the fact that Touch Bar, an iOS computer with its own chip, exists at the top row of the keyboard is itself amazing. Plus Touch ID on the Mac is really useful. And I can’t wait for it to trickle down to all new Macs.
The new MacBook Pros
The new MacBook Pros might not be what a lot of people wanted but I’m sure glad they were finally released, even though more than a year overdue. For people who value thinness and lightness, and for people who’ve been using the Mac for more than 3-4 years, this is a great machine.
The early reviews of AirPods are out (read ours here) and they’re mostly positive. But I’m still not calling it a win/loss for Apple before I’ve tried them personally. Because I feel like a sizeable population, including myself, just won’t be able to use them because the shape makes them uncomfortable. And The Verge’s review basically confirmed my suspicion. Ah well, here’s looking forward to BeatsX.
Plus it’s always best to wait for Apple to come up with version 2 of a new product.
Designed by Apple in California
A lot of people lost it over Apple releasing a $300 design book but I’m going to strongly file it in the “meh” category. Yes, it’s absurd but it’s not created for most of us. It’s created for design students, to be placed in university libraries. And design books do cost around $100s and as this is Apple being Apple, I’m sure there’s a way to justify the cost for the actual product.
I have one beef with it though – that there’s no text. It doesn’t tell the stories of the products, doesn’t explain why a decision was made. Just shows us pictures of products.
iOS 10 Smarts
iMessage apps are still mostly gimmicks and fun. Stickers are quite good, though. Siri integrations sometimes work, sometimes they don’t. Overall, iOS 10 became a lot smarter. But it hasn’t really taken the world by storm. I hope that in 2017, Apple either makes them better or developers really embrace these new features.
It Can Only Get Better
Hey, 2016 is done, and there’s nowhere to go but up.
My memory can sometimes be iffy. So if I missed something big, share with us in the comments below.