A legal battle, falling earnings, and tougher competition from the smartphone market meant a difficult year for Apple.
Apple started 20-16 off with a legal battle against the FBI, which wanted access to an iPhone used by San Bernardino shooter Syed Farook. The FBI demanded Apple create a tool to unlock the phone, but Apple said no.
Tim Cook addressed the issue during the unveiling of the iPhone SE in March.
“We did not expect to be in this position. In odds with our own government. But we believe strongly that we have a responsibility to help you protect your data. And protect your privacy.”
The FBI eventually dropped the lawsuit against Apple after figuring out a way to unlock the phone without the tech giant’s help. As security and privacy become bigger issues, Apple is trying to differentiate itself from competitors by taking a stronger stance. Look for this to continue into 2017, especially under the new U.S. administration.
Financially, the year has been one of changing fortunes for Apple. Annual sales dropped for the first time since 20-01 as Apple reported several quarters of lower revenue. That’s partly due to people holding on to smartphones for longer and tougher competition in China, where companies are offering high end smartphones at lower prices.
As usual, Apple had a new iPhone and 20-16 was its once-every-two year model refresh. But the reception was a little muted for the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus. Improvements to the new phones include dust and water resistance, a revamped display, stereo speakers, and higher quality cameras. Apple also decided to cut the cord by removing the headphone jack, a move that the company described as “courageous.” Media reports suggest much bigger changes will be coming to the iPhone in 2017, centered around an OLED screen, so some users might be holding out for that.
Apple also refreshed its MacBook Pro flagship laptop this year, something the company hasn’t done since 20-12. The most defining feature of the new MacBook Pro is the OLED Touch bar which replaces the top row of function keys. It responds to gestures and changes based on the software being used to allow for functions such as cropping in Photoshop and creating sound effects in DJing applications. To the relief of many, Apple opted to keep the headphone jack but replaced all of the Pro’s ports with four USB-Type C connectors, which generated some complaints.
But perhaps even more interesting than what was announced this year is what wasn’t announced. I’m talking about rumors that Apple is creating its own version of an autonomous car. The rumors kept on coming during the year, and were seemingly confirmed in December when the tech giant wrote a letter to U.S. regulators asking that they restrain from imposing heavy restrictions on testing of self-driving cars. Currently a number of vehicles can integrate iPhones into their infotainment systems, but it seems that Apple is hungry for more.