Apple 2021: This was the best and worst of the year

Content:

January-March: A slow first quarter
April: Fixes Apple Arcade
April: Spring Loaded event
June: Worldwide Developers Conference
September: Apple vs. Epic round 1
California Streaming
October: The Unleashed event

Here is a brief overview of Apple’s eventful 2021, where we also analyze the significance (or lack thereof) of each launch and event.

January-March: A slow first quarter

The first months of 2021 were anything but eventful. Some updates for iOS 14 and Mac OS 11, some new seasons of various series for Apple TV + and a handful of new Apple Arcade games. Much more than that did not happen.

April: Fixes Apple Arcade

In early April, Apple changed the terms of Apple Arcade for the better. Apple added over 30 games, and eased its previous rule that arcade games must be titles that have never been on the App Store before.

Apple Arcade is still not all it can be, but including App Store classics, without ads or in-app purchases, was a big step in the right direction.

Spring Loaded

At the end of April, Apple held its Spring Loaded event, where these products were shown:

Airtag

Apple accessories to find your stuff. SEK 350 for one or SEK 1,195 for four, which is comparable to similar products from Tile. The big advantage is that you do not need any special software. Airtag integrates with Apple’s Find My app and iOS, so any Iphone, Ipad or Mac can find your stuff. Airtags uses bluetooth, but also Ultra Wideband for more accurate localization with Iphones, which have a U1 chip (Iphone 11 and later).

Apple TV 4K (2nd generation)

No one needed a new Apple TV 4K, given the very modest improvements the new model had. But Apple gave the Siri Remote a major overhaul, which was long awaited.

24-inch M1 Imac

The new 24-inch Imac was not the first product with Apple’s new M1 chip. While the Macbook Air, 13-inch Macbook Pro and Mac mini, which were released in 2020 with the M1, retained the old design, the 24-inch Imac got new colors, a slim design, narrower screen edges and a wireless keyboard with Touch ID.

Imac M1

M1 Ipad Pro

The M1 is, for lack of a better description, exactly what we would have expected from an A14X processor if Apple had made one. It was no surprise that Apple released a new Ipad Pro (in both 11 and 12.9-inch sizes) with the M1. In addition to the new faster processor, the 12.9-inch got a “Liquid Retina XDR” screen, a new 12-megapixel front camera with Center Stage and a full 64 gigabytes of working memory.

June: Worldwide Developers Conference

In June, Apple held its Worldwide Developers Conference, where they presented the new operating systems to be released in the fall. Despite persistent rumors at the event, no new hardware products were announced this year. Instead, the focus was on the new version of iOS, Ipad OS, Mac OS and Watch OS.

IOS 15

Like every new iOS version, iOS 15 was full of new features. The biggest news was offline support for Siri, major changes to Safari, Live Text, new sharing features and Messaging features, and Focus.

Perhaps the most controversial part of iOS 15 would not be announced until later. Apple planned to implement a feature (CSAM) that scans images containing child sexual abuse. Although it was designed to protect privacy and security, criticism arose about how the technology could be used in the future. Apple released new parental controls in iOS 15.2, which was not very controversial.

Ipad OS 15

Aside from most of the new tech features found in iOS 15, the iPad OS 15 added a few much-anticipated things: home screen widgets, the app library, and enhancements to make multitasking more useful.

IOS 15

Mac OS 12 Monterey

With Mac OS Monterey (version 12), Apple added many of the sharing features found in iOS and iPad OS 15, such as Shareplay and Live Text. The shortcut app also came to Mac OS. Safari got a major redesign that created controversy with long-time Mac users, but Apple eventually rolled back most of the major changes while adding some useful features like tabs like syncing between devices.

The most exciting feature is Universal Control, where you can use your keyboard / mouse (or trackpad) to move the cursor from your Mac screen to a nearby iPad or other Mac, and literally drag-and-drop content between them. Unfortunately, that feature has been advanced to 2022 and has not yet appeared in any beta version.

Watch OS 8

This year’s Watch OS update was relatively modest compared to before. The Breathe app has expanded to Mindfulness and you can have digital keys in your wallet, several improvements to apps, but there was no major new feature.

September: Apple vs Epic Round 1

The Apple vs. Epic Games ended early this year, with a ruling coming in early September. Referee Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers gave Apple the win. Epic had to pay a $ 6 million fine for violating its App Store agreement.

The court found that Apple engages in anti-competitive behavior and only makes changes when the law forces them to. But in terms of actual changes, Apple was forced to one: to allow apps to include a link during account creation or management to external sites, where the app developer allows you to make payments or subscribe to services.

Epic Games appealed the ruling. Apple asked for a postponement of the implementation of the rule change (which must be in place before the end of 2021), but the court rejected Apple’s appeal and called its request “fundamentally wrong”. Apple appealed that decision to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which granted Apple’s request. Thus, Apple will not have to make any changes until the appeal in the main proceedings has been decided, which may take many years.

September: California Streaming

California Streaming

Iphone 13

Iphone 13 was the star of the show. It was launched in the same four flavors as the iPhone 12 (mini, regular, Pro and Pro Max). The big news was improved battery life, faster processor and improved cameras. But the Iphone 13 Pro and Pro Max got even better cameras, with a new macro function and 120Hz Promotion screens.

The new base model of the iPad got a faster processor (A13) and twice as much storage space as last year’s model, while the front camera was upgraded to Apple’s 12-megapixel ultrawide camera with Center Stage support. However, it has not undergone any significant design or functional changes in several years and is starting to look old.

Ipad mini (6th generation)

It took 2.5 years to get an updated Ipad mini, but the new model is exactly what we have wanted. A fast A15 processor, larger 8.3-inch screen with narrower frames and Touch ID. It’s basically a shrunken Ipad Air, which is exactly what we wanted.

Apple Watch Series 7

Although the Apple Watch Series 7 was announced in September, it was not released until October. This is probably the smallest update of the Apple Watch ever. It has a larger screen, with narrower frames, and slightly brighter. That’s all. The processor is the same, the functions are the same, the price is the same. This is a Series 6 with a larger screen.

October: Unleashed event

Apple's Unleashed event

The M1 computers released in late 2020 were exciting for their speed, but the overall redesign of the 24-inch Imac made Apple enthusiasts hope that the Mac would get even more love. If there were any doubts, they disappeared with “Unleashed”, which gave us the new Macbook Pro.

Macbook Pro with M1 Pro and M1 Max

Everyone knew that the new 14- and 16-inch Macbook Pro was on the way and they still managed to surprise. Apple launched the new advanced versions, M1 Pro and M1 Max, with up to 10 processor cores (eight performance and two efficiency cores) and a massive boost for the graphics processor (Pro has up to 16 graphics cores and Max has a graphics processor with up to 32 kernels). They also dramatically improved memory bandwidth and added a battery that lasts much longer than previous Macbook Pro models. In a nutshell, Apple delivered absolute world-class performance to a fraction of the energy consumption of competing AMD and Intel products.

But that was not all. The new Macbook Pro also gave us back the hdmi port, Magsafe, the sd card slot and added more usb-c ports. And last but not least, they got a wonderful new mini-led display with hdr and Promotion. Yes, they are more expensive, but you get a lot for your money.

Macbook Pro was not the only new product. AirPods finally got an update, with a design similar to Airpods Pro and has almost all its features, except active noise reduction. They look better, sound better and have much better battery life.

Apple plaster

Apple’s new cleaning cloth for SEK 250 became something of a meme. It’s almost absurd. A simple cleaning cloth, nothing else, priced ten times higher than it should be. Of course, it sold out in record time. You still can not get one until the end of January.

Apple really had a good 2021. Admittedly, not all products were in the crosshairs – we can not say that we are particularly happy about the modest improvements in the second generation Apple TV 4k, 9th generation Ipad or Apple Watch Series 7. This year’s star was Mac . The new 24-inch Imac breathed both life and color into a product line that needed new blood. The new Macbook Pro computers showed the potential of Apple’s own processors. And we’ve finally got new Airpods.

Services also had a decent year. It was less about new offerings and more about expanding what Apple already offers. Group training on Fitness +, a cheaper Apple Music option (and more playlists) and more and better Apple Arcade games. Even Apple TV + began to take bigger steps with new programs and movies.

Translated and edited by Petter Ahrnstedt