A look back at the biggest Apple stories of 2013, and what could 2014 bring?

As we enter a New Year, it seems like a good time to reflect on the year that just passed and discuss what might be to come in the year ahead.

2013 was a great year for Apple. Sure, it got off to a slow start with no major product or software launches for the first half of the year, but the rest of the year was littered with huge keynotes, amazing new products and record breaking sales figures.

Here is a retrospective look at some of the biggest Apple stories from the year that was 2013 and what the year to come might mean for Apple.

WWDC

wwdc_2013-580x396At WWDC in June, the big news was iOS 7 and we saw the new software for the first time (at least officially). With the departure of Scott Forstall, former VP of iOS Software Design, and the design reins being handed over to Apple’s hardware designer Jony Ive, we expected a radically different iOS experience. And we were not disappointed. iOS 7 was the biggest change to iOS since iPhone and it was met by almost equal amounts of praise and hate. Regardless, adoption of the software was at almost 80% before the year was up.

iTunes Radio, a so-called Pandora/Spotify-killer, was launched at WWDC too, built directly into the Music app. It has proven popular, with more music being added as deals with record labels are struck.

WWDC also brought advances in Mac OS X, with the launch of OS X 10.9 (Mavericks). The new software was feature-packed, as usual, with improvements to Safari, notifications, split screen, and the addition of features like Maps, iBooks and iCloud Keychain.

Improved MacBook Airs were shown off too and became the first Macs to include the new Haswell processors from Intel. The new ultra thin laptops have faster graphics, faster SSDs and better battery life than previous models. The Mac section of the keynote also teased the new Mac Pro, showing Apple’s commitment to professional users.

Hirings and acquisitions

PAUL DENEVE

A number of high-profile hirings took place in 2013, possibly alluding to Apple’s plans in 2014, with the likes of Paul Deneve and Angela Ahrendts, from fashion brands Yves Saint Laurent and Burberry, respectively, being brought in – Deneve as a vice president working on “special projects” and Ahrendts being handed a role as VP of Retail and Online Stores. Ben Shaffer and Jay Blahnik, who both worked on Nike’s FuelBand, have also been snapped up by the Cupertino tech giant.

Former Hulu exec Pete Distad was brought in to help strike deals with cable companies for Apple TV content as well as reportedly hiring a number of people for its iWatch project, improving Maps and iTunes Radio. Needless to say, Apple has been busy bringing in people with expertise for future endeavours.

Apple has not only been hiring persons with knowledge, they’ve also been acquiring companies in 2013. While this is not unusual for Apple, they buy companies every year for a variety of reasons, some very interesting purchases were made last year.

wifislamIn March 2013, Apple bought WiFiSlam, an indoor mapping company, for $20 million as well as other mapping companies Locationary and HopStop in July, Embark in August, before rounding out the mapping buyouts in December with BroadMap.

Cue, a personal assistant/search engine software company, was bought for $50 million which should improve Apple’s own Siri, among other things.

And PrimeSense, the company behind the original Kinect sensor for Xbox 360, was revealed to have been acquired by Apple in November in a deal worth over $300 million.

All of the above, plus many other acquisitions, may provide hints of Apple’s future plans for both hardware and software but it’s likely that we will not know Apple’s motives until a product or service hits us in the face at a keynote.

Litigation

AppleSamsungRuling_610x426It’s not been all plain-sailing for Apple in 2013. As usual, Apple was involved in a number of legal battles throughout 2013, both trying to protect its  intellectual property and being sued for alleged infringements.

Apple’s long-running battle with Samsung continued, with renewed claims in patent cases, damages retrials, and future dates being set for settlement and (hopefully) final decisions in 2014.

Its not only Samsung that was involved with Apple in 2013, with Google-owned Motorola being denied an injunction against Apple in Germany, and the Rockstar patent holding company, part owned by Apple, taking on Google.

Apple’s legal battles will continue into 2014 and beyond, no doubt.

September iPhone event

iphone 5s vs. 5c

Of course, most of Apple’s successes this year have come from product launches. Rumors, speculation and leaks galore preceded the iPhone event in September. The keynote on September 10th, saw Tim Cook and co. reveal two new iPhones for the first time – the iPhone 5s and the iPhone 5c. The iPhone 5s, the company’s flagship phone, included new features like Touch ID, a 64-bit A7 processor and M7 motion coprocessor, dual LED flash and improved camera optics. The iPhone 5c, dubbed the iPhone “for the colorful,” was launched as a replacement for the iPhone 5 featuring most of the same internals inside a colourful polycarbonate shell.

Apple went on to sell a record-breaking 9 million iPhones on the release weekend and 33.8 million iPhones in its fourth quarter.

iOS 7 was given its release date, September 18th, and Apple’s iWork and iLife suites of applications went free for any new iOS device.

Bigger news for the iPhone came later in the year when Apple struck a deal with China Mobile, the world’s largest carrier, in Decmber to sell the new iPhones in the country in January.

ipad color

October iPad event

Apple split its device launches in 2013, getting the iPhones out of the door in September, before focussing on iPads and other devices at its October 22nd event. Besides, there were a lot of products to introduce!

Apple unveiled two new iPads at its October event – iPad Air and iPad mini with Retina Display. At 7.5mm thin and weighing only one pound, the iPad Air became the thinnest and lightest full-sized iPad Apple has ever made. They didn’t scrimp on features though – the device has the 64-bit A7 chip, 10 hour battery life and an improved camera.

The iPad mini with Retina Display, as the name suggests, was given the Retina treatment for its 7.9-inch screen and packs the same internals as the Air.

At the October event, Tim Cook announced 1 million apps in the App Store catalog, 60 billion cumulative downloads and $13 billion in payouts to developers. Craig Federighi took to the stage to announce that OS X Mavericks, the latest Mac operating system, would be released for free and available on that day. Eddy Cue spoke about the new features in the iLife and iWork apps and that the new versions of the iWork apps would be available for free too with any new Mac purchase.

Mac hardware also got some attention at the jam-packed event, with new Haswell-chip toting Retina MacBook Pros being launched as well as more details about the Mac Pro including a rough idea of pricing and release date. The Mac Pro eventually went on sale on December 19th.

Philanthropy

mac pro REDIn 2013, Apple also took part in some interesting philanthropic endeavours. In May, a coffee with Apple CEO Tim Cook was auctioned by CharityBuzz for The RFK Center for Justice and Human Rights. Incredibly, the auction raised $610,000. That’s one expensive cup of coffee.

Apple’s Senior Vice President of Design Jony Ive took part in a Sotheby’s auction for AIDS charity (PRODUCT)RED by designing some one of a kind items – a stunning Red Mac Pro, solid gold EarPods and exclusive Leica M camera.

Tim Cook wants Apple to be a force for good in the world beyond its products, so expect more of the same in 2014.

2014: The year ahead

Needless to say, 2013 was a pretty good year for Apple. Numerous new products were introduced and sold are still selling like hot cakes, software and app updates were released, record sales figures and a number of hirings and acquisitions were completed that could prove important for years to come.

Cynics will say 2013 was disappointing as no new, revolutionary products were launched in product categories that Apple is not currently involved in but Apple maintained their lead in smartphone, tablet and personal computing markets.

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What is coming in 2014? We can only speculate. iOS 7.1 should be out early next year, bringing some new features with it. We can no doubt expect new iPhone hardware, perhaps a larger screened model, launching as usual in Fall (or maybe in May if rumors prove to be true). iPads will probably be updated, as usual, but in what respect it is unclear. A 12.9 inch iPad device is said to be in the works, potentially replacing the 11-inch MacBook Air. The current crop of iPads are pretty incredible so its hard to see where they could be improved, except for the obvious addition pf Touch ID. Minor updates may be coming to Mac hardware, and rumours of a 4K display to go with that new Mac Pro abound.

Tim Cook has alluded to new product categories for Apple in the future. Could this be the rumored wearable smartwatch the iWatch or a fully-fledged Apple Television set? Who knows. Apple has “big plans” for 2014 and I for one can not wait to see what is in store for the year to come.

What was your favorite Apple product of 2013? What do you think was the most significant event of the year? What are you looking forward to and hoping for in 2014? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter: @TodaysiPhone.

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