2012, the year of the new Apple


So, the first complete year of Apple without Steve Jobs at the helm in the 2000s has drawn to a close, though who knows when his legacy of influence will end behind the scenes. It’s been quite a revolutionary year, though there haven’t been any brand new product lines.

The most notable and widest spread product update is certainly the iPhone, I say widest spread because it is unbelievably popular and even those who aren’t Mac users own them – it’s a fully featured Apple product that the masses are interested in and can afford. For example, I could spend a day without seeing a single Mac, but I’d be hard pressed to walk one block without seeing an iPhone. Anyway, this year’s iPhone update was certainly the biggest physical update we’ve ever seen – it now has a 4″ screen, and it’s ever steadily getting faster, but on the whole it’s the normal amount of new features Apple brings out yearly.

One feature to spread across Apple’s portable range has been the inevitably controversial lightning connector. Another first since 2007, Apple made a change to the connector port on the iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and iPod nano, said by Apple themselves to be “a bold move”. Smaller, reversible, and hopefully a lot less prone to connections issues with fraying cables, it threw the accessory industry up in arms as their 30-pin connector products were nearly made redundant. Apple released a 30-pin connector to lightning port adapter, but really, the height of the new iPhone and iPod touch combined with that adapter just won’t fit in those speaker systems with an enclosed iPhone space. It also seems there are more cases available for the iPhone 4/4S than for the iPhone 5, but I’m hoping that situation will improve over the coming months.

iTunes was updated with a massive visual overhaul, covered in slightly more detail here. My opinions on it are still mixed, as queuing music is fantastic but I do miss the control I had over the way I viewed my music collection.

In the Mac corner, we saw the majority of devices getting thinner and faster, with the new iMac and retina MacBook Pro. We’re still awaiting a retina MacBook Air, but is there really a need? The Mac Pro has been largely overlooked yet again, I can’t remember when I last saw it get an update in a keynote rather than a subtle enhancement. Year by year it does look as if Apple is trying to drop the Mac Pro, but as impressive as the iMac gets each year, you just can’t beat 12 cores and 64GB of RAM, which many media professionals use daily.

Elsewhere there was an update to the Apple TV introducing 1080p output for the same price of $99. Not to forget the iPad mini, a product anticipated almost since the day the original iPad was released. And then there’s the iPad… when Apple announced a fourth generation, I fit into the category of people who asked themselves “but didn’t they just release the third generation?”. Yes, in a move uncharacteristically like Apple, they updated a product within their usual 12 month rotation – perhaps compensating for the iPhone 4 not being updated for nearly a year and a half.

And finally, there’s iOS 6. Making the headlines for all the wrong reasons, Apple released their first version of iOS without Google’s products being an out-of-the-box component because their deal expired. Google released a YouTube app on the App Store fairly promptly, but only recently updated it to support the iPhone 5’s screen size. I’m sure you won’t forget the Maps fiasco, with Apple’s maps being ridiculed and sneered at. Google left Apple users without an alternative until only earlier this month with Google Maps finally making it onto the App Store. I can’t imagine what took them so long to produce it, maybe they chose the path of letting Apple embarrass themselves rather than play the role of the instant hero. Nevertheless, I feel Jobs’ declaration of thermonuclear war on Apple will prevail posthumously.

Oh, one last thing in the Apple headlines – Scott Forstall was forced to leave Apple. With Steve out of the picture, Tim and Jony saw a chance to remove Forstall and his skeuomorphic design tendencies. While the appearance of iOS is getting stale, I personally don’t dislike Notes looking like a legal pad and folders having a cloth background, but clearly others want it gone. It would be interesting if 2013 brings a completely re-designed iOS.

In the ever-busy Apple ‘rumor mill’ we exit the year with a potentially Intel-powered Apple watch, interesting since the latest iPod nano did away with the form factor that made it wearable on the wrist, and the never-faltering suggestion of an actual Apple TV; a screen, not just a box.

When I started this back in 2010, I had no idea what the coming years would hold. This year I’ve only had 1,800 views, but considering there were only 11 posts excluding this one, that’s not too bad. I will try to get back into reporting every bit of Apple news there is in 2013 rather than just the key pieces, so please stick around for more to come and have a Happy New Year! I won’t be going any time soon, as despite the ever-present lack of a large and loyal reader-base, running this has at least contributed to my writing improving, something which will hopefully be beneficial in a career.

A disappointing Apple event?


I, like many, have been anticipating this event for a while – wondering if Apple was going to make foolish moves with timing, what they were going to release in their traditional Music month, and whether or not the various leaks and rumors were true.

However, I feel a bit dissapointed with the results. I’ll run through the products in order:

iPhone 5:

  • Thinner than my current phone the HTC One S (HTC’s thinnest device), but not as thin as the upcoming Huawei Ascend P1s. Maybe Apple wanted to rush out the iPhone 5 with the ‘thinnest smartphone’ title while it was merely a dubious claim rather than untrue.
  • At long last a wider screen, up from 3.5″ to 4″. However, they didn’t appear to do the smart thing of keeping the aspect ratio the same so as to not annoy developers again (as they had done in the past with the iPad screen size and then retina display). From what it looks, normal iPhone/iPod apps will sit in the centre of the screen. Which, speaking from the point of view of someone with a 4.3″ phone display, which suffers from the lack of a physical menu button, I have to have a significant amount of my screen space wasted for a virtual menu. At least that space is used for something though rather than Apple’s empty space
  • A better camera. Yeah, yeah, another incrementally better camera. Still 8MP, but better low light performance and noise reduction, with some impressive demonstration shots. I challenge anyone with the phone to take photos that looks that good.
  • The design has been updated in that it’s got those previously seen matt bars across it on the back
  • A new power connector – ‘lightning’ (don’t worry, they make a 30-pin to lightning adapter, though I don’t see the practicality of the adapter when it comes to accessories such as speaker systems with an enclosed iPhone area that now won’t be tall enough due to a) the adapter and b) the new height of the iPhone.

iTunes:

  • Rather a Zune-style re-design. I doubt it’ll become more usable or bloated, probably less usable and more bloated
  • The mobile iTunes and App Store apps have been updated to have the currently popular matt black style and a slightly clearer yet bulkier App description page view

iPod Nano:

  • Now looks suspiciously like the Zunes of yesteryear, seems more like a childish micro-iPod touch, with a plethora of gaudy colours to choose from
  • Has a bigger touchscreen and iDevice style home button (but is a circle in a circle instead of a square in a circle)
  • Same lightning connector
  • Defeats the whole point of ‘nano’, a word synonymous with very small. This is no longer very small. Admittedly some past generations of Nano weren’t that small either, but they do enjoy fluctuating between form factor with the Nano… perhaps we’ll see a nano Nano next year…

iPod touch:

  • Thinner than before. What a surprise, I thought they’d make it thicker. Oh, wait, no I didn’t, because that would be un-innovative and unappealing.
  • Has a 5MP camera and looks like it has a flash
  • As usual, not comparable to the current iPhone. Or even the 4S for that matter. Still, an improvement.
  • Aren’t you lucky, they just made the iPod touch as childish as the Nano – you can pick cyan or banana yellow if you really want to!

Earphones:

  • Eventually a new earphone design. Personally, I’ve never had any shape issues with the previous earbuds, but now you can have EarPods. And we all thought iPad was a ridiculous name back in 2010
  • Hopefully the sound quality won’t be as weedy as before and perhaps the cable will last a little longer.

So I don’t know what I was expecting, but I haven’t been particularly excited by this product announcement. Maybe it’s because iOS is not much different to how it was in 2007. After all, I wouldn’t be impressed by a supercomputer if I had to run Windows 98 on it rather than something a bit more up-to-date. An iPhone was inevitable and given that it’s September, new iPods were inevitable along with iTunes. So nothing really exciting, just timely updates. All in all, this video rather sums up the iPhone 5.