2013 was another magical, amazing, revolutionary year for Apple – at least according to Cupertino. However, even for those of us beyond the reality distortion field, Apple's efforts in 2013 weren't too shabby – from a complete overhaul of iOS to a more recent deal that could dramatically extend the company’s presence in China.
There were some rough patches, of course. Apple's stock price took a major tumble last year, dropping from $700 (£425) in September 2012 to less than $400 (£240) by June 2013, prompting discussion about whether Tim Cook should step down as CEO. The stock price has rebounded a bit now, and it’s currently sitting at $550 (£330), with folks looking forward to Tim Cook’s promised "big things" in 2014.
But will we have to wait until the second half of this year for something new as was the case in 2013? It was largely quiet in Cupertino for the first half of 2013, save for a 128GB iPad. In fact, it wasn’t until June's Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) that we got our first glimpse of what Apple was working on, from a redesigned "flat" iOS 7 to OS X Mavericks and the Mac Pro.
Apple's iOS 7 was "the biggest change to iOS since the iPhone," Cook said during his WWDC keynote. Flat was the name of the game, along with colourful icons, and an operating system that seemed to move with you. Users finally got to check it out in mid-September, when iOS 7 landed on early iPhones ahead of the iPhone 5S and 5C launches. Despite some battery drain issues and those who were duped by a waterproof scam, it was largely well-received.
As usual, rumours about the new iPhones made the rounds for months, with some speculating that Apple would finally embrace the larger "phablet" form factor. When the iPhone 5S landed in the autumn of 2013, however, it was largely unchanged from the outside, save for the new Touch ID-enhanced home button, while the iPhone 5C arrived in an array of Lumia-like colours.
There was a lot of discussion about whether the iPhone 5C was going to be a low-cost smartphone that helped Apple break into emerging markets. However, with its Sim-free price starting at £469, it isn’t exactly a budget device. Cook later said that Apple "never" envisioned the 5C to be a low-cost iPhone, and he added that those who wanted to save cash could instead pick up the iPhone 4S. Most buyers flocked to the iPhone 5S, anyway, particularly the new gold version.
In April 2013 over in America, T-Mobile became the last major US carrier to land the iPhone, while just last week, Apple finally secured a big deal with China Mobile.
Of course, Apple also revealed the new Mac Pro last year, with pre-orders going live two weeks back – although you won’t get your Mac Pro until February 2014.
Fighting the good fight
While Apple would surely prefer any news about the company to focus on its product releases, Cupertino did make headlines due to other issues in 2013, particularly its legal battles.
There were a number of inquiries into its warranty policy around the globe, for example, most recently in Australia. Execs like Cook were also on Capitol Hill in May to defend Apple's tax strategy, while Cupertino gave up its fight to stop Amazon, Microsoft, and others from using the term "app store."
It did not give up, however, on its patent war against Samsung. Apple was dealt a setback early in the year when a California judge dropped $450 million (£270 million) from a $1.05 billion (£650 million) August 2012 settlement, and ordered a new trial on certain aspects of the case. Ultimately, a jury awarded Apple $290 million (£175 million) of the $450 million (£270 million), or about $900 million (£550 million) in total, but Samsung is appealing (again) and both sides will meet in the same court in 2014 for a totally separate case.
Meanwhile, in a coup for Apple, the White House agreed to overturn a ban on iPhones and iPads imposed by the International Trade Commission, and later declined to extend the same courtesy to Samsung.
Apple was not so lucky when it came to the DOJ's eBook price-fixing case. Cupertino was found guilty of colluding with publishers to raise eBook prices and take down Amazon, charges that Apple vehemently denies. All the publishers settled with the feds before trial, but Apple soldiered on, and continues to insist that it did nothing wrong, even in the face of a court-appointed monitor.
Now we can look forward to what Cupertino will unveil in 2014 – and given that Tim Cook has said that he finds wearables intriguing, we might just get that iWatch yet.