The standards by which Apple operates suggests the company, for lack of a better word, is bulletproof. Or, at least, the company likes to project an image that’s impenetrable, unwavering in its pursuit of perfection. But this year saw the company stumble on numerous occasions, from mildly embarrassing to downright infuriating. It also released arguably the best smartphone of the last decade.
Here’s the best and worst of Apple in 2017.
There hasn’t been a reimagining of the iPhone this big since the iPhone 4. With Touch ID gone, Apple added powerful facial recognition technology, while stretching the screen from edge-to-edge. Navigating the software, meanwhile, feels more effortless thanks to the new gestures, and the screens like absolutely incredible. The iPhone X is pricy, but it truly does feel like the future of the smartphone.
Apple Watch Series 3
Apple’s latest wearable could quietly become one of the company’s most important gadgets. With renewed emphasis and activity tracking and health, the Watch Series 3 is the ultimate wearable—and it doesn’t require a smartphone. The Apple Watch is already the best-selling smart watch on the market, and if Apple plays its cards right, it could go on to become incredibly influential in the health market.
Apple still refuses to change iOS in any meaningful way, but iOS 11 still adds a lot of great new features; it’s especially great on the iPhone X and iPad. Not only does it make the iPad a viable laptop replacement, but it includes ARKit, which is a huge step toward the future of augmented reality. And have you seen the new App Store? It’s positively wonderful. One more thing: Apple’s automatic setup feature is magical and a huge time saver.
The jury’s still out on whether the HomePod is actually good, but we’re excited to see what it has to offer. Featuring Apple’s A8 chip, six-microphone array, and a charming design, the HomePod is a beefy smart home speaker that blends sound and functionality. And thanks to HomePod’s spatial awareness, it’s smart enough to adjust its sound depending on where it’s placed in a room, providing listeners with the best listening experience possible.
Apple listens to the pros
After years without a meaningful update, Apple this year announced it is re-thinking its pro strategy. In addition to an incredibly powerful iMac Pro, which is available now, Apple confirmed engineers are working on a massive Mac Pro update that will be completely modular. We still don’t know what the result will be, or when it will be released, but Apple knows it let down its pro consumers and wants to rectify that. Hopefully, it’s something that won’t disappoint its customers.
The iPad gets better
The iPad Pro is still very much a niche device. But that doesn’t make Apple’s latest release, the 10.5-inch iPad Pro, any less impressive. With a more refined design, powerful guts, and an incredible screen, the device is making a good argument for replacing your computer, especially running iOS 11. Add a keyboard and an Apple Pencil, and you have a very powerful combination that, in a lot of ways, can do more than an ordinary Apple laptop.
Against our better judgement, the iPhone X’s Animoji feature is a blast to use. Who would have thought Animoji karaoke would provide such joy? But thanks to the device’s TrueDepth technology, Animoji is one of Apple’s best innovations, a feature that anyone can delight from. Just hold the iPhone X in front of your face and commence making weird faces. Yes, animated yourself as the poop emoji will never not be funny.
The release of iOS 11 was mostly met with praise from users. But issues quickly started popping up, and as soon as one door was closed, another one opened, to the point where iPhone owners couldn’t use their device. At best, these issues were a daily nuisance; at worst, an oversight gave hackers admin access to your Mac, no password necessary. Mostly, the problems that popped up had us shaking our head in disappointment, wondering how a company with such a pristine reputation could mess up so many times.
If it wasn’t struggling to keep up with iPhone X demand (something that’s now been rectified), the company was outright delaying products. First, Apple delayed the launch of Apple Pay Cash and Messages in iCloud. Then, just weeks ahead of the busy holiday season, the company pushed the HomePod back into early 2018. That’s a huge deal, because it means Amazon and Google can clean house on the smart speaker craze, while even more pressure is on Apple to get the HomePod right.
Before a major iPhone release, we can always expect a steady stream of leaks and rumors. We just don’t expect Apple to be the source of high-profile information. After making the HomePod firmware available, developers dug through the software and uncovered several mentions of an iPhone with no home button. There was even a picture (above). That all but confirmed the iPhone X’s existence, spoiling what was easily Apple’s biggest announcement of the year.
I’m not talking about the HomePod’s squat frame or the ridiculous way to charge the Apple Pencil. I’m talking about some questionable choices made in iOS 11, like the iPhone X’s gesture to invoke Control Center or how Apple’s mobile software handles notifications. At times, Apple’s software can seem so thoughtful and revolutionary. Other times, like a major step backwards. And can we finally move on from the app grid?
iPod nears death
First, it was the iPod Classic. Then, Apple said goodbye to the iPod nano and iPod shuffle. It’s only a matter of time before Apple says goodbye to the iPod for good. To be fair, the iPod’s death is inevitable, what with the iPhone and streaming music services. But not everyone can afford and iPhone, and there’s something to be said about using an old iPod with a click wheel. Maybe that’s just our nostalgia talking.
This one could go both ways, but I put it in the negative column because Apple wasn’t upfront about the practice, instead trying to pretend everything was normal. But after evidence suggested Apple was purposely slowing down old iPhones, the company fessed up. Yes, it was throttling older devices, but it did so in an effort to extend the life of the devices, which could randomly shut down thanks to degrading batteries.
While the purpose of this practice is designed to benefit the consumer, it comes at a cost of performance. So, while Apple’s goal might not be planned obsolescence, it could certainly be construed that way. Which is why customers deserve more transparency from Apple going forward.