2015: The year Apple super-sized its ambitions


Apple year in review 2015
2015 was a great year for Apple -- mostly.
Image: Stephen Smith/Cult of Mac

Cult of Mac's Best of 2015 You could say 2015 was a product-ive year for Apple. The company entered the wearable market with the Apple Watch, released a hugely updated version of the Apple TV streaming box, unveiled the massive iPad Pro (and considerably less massive iPad Mini 4), took on tune-streaming with the Apple Music service, and made its annual update to the iPhone with the 6s and 6s Plus.

We also saw updates to the operating systems that run all those things, as well as a new desktop OS in El Capitan, but it wasn’t all great news. Apple encountered lawsuits, shakeups and investigations by countries and entire federations thereof.

So whether we ultimately decide Cupertino had a good or bad year, at least it was pretty interesting. Relive the ups and downs with this Apple year in review 2015, Cult of Mac-style.

January: Apple ‘Starts Something New,’ and Monster sues Beats

Start Something New
Artist Kahori Maki of Japan demonstrates how she paints using the iPad Pro and Apple Pencil.
Photo: Apple

Apple kicked off the year with Start Something New, an ad campaign featuring art people had created entirely on its devices. The program took over Apple Stores, turning them into galleries of iArt.

Meanwhile, we saw the first Apple-related lawsuit of the year courtesy of cable producer Monster, which alleged that Beats co-founders Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine swindled it out of $100 million due to finagling its 5 percent stake in the company away prior to Apple’s acquisition last year. Monster further charges that Beats used “sham” transactions to hide its role in designing the premium (read: almost criminally overpriced) headphones.

And while $100 million is a lot to most humans, Apple could certainly cover it. That’s just 20 percent of the record-setting $500 million in transactions it posted just from the App Store on January 1. Granted, not all of that money is Apple’s, but the purported 30 percent “Apple Tax” puts its cut at “only” around $150 million.

It wasn’t just the App Store bringing in the dough, either. Apple made its first earnings report of the year on January 27, declaring $74.6 billion in revenue — for a profit of $18 billion — across all of its products and services. Apple also hit it big in China, becoming the top smartphone maker in that country for the first time.

February: Apple might be taking it to the streets

Apple Car concept
Apple car concept art shows what Cupertino might put on the road.
Photo: Aristomenis Tsirbas/Freelancer

February was the first time we had any solid reason to suspect Apple was getting into the automotive business, as mysterious Apple vans appeared in San Francisco and New York to do … something. It may well have been related to Apple Maps, but self-driving cars will always make for more interesting stories than maps do.

It also didn’t hurt the Apple Car rumors to discover that the company was in an intense talent war with electric-car maker Tesla. And while people employable at both companies are certainly capable of making things other than cars, we had to wonder. Especially once employees started blabbing about how awesome Apple’s Tesla-targeted secret projects were.

This month was also when Apple became the first $700 billion company, after its stock hit $122.02, making it the largest corporation ever. And that will buy a lot of cars.

March: Another month, another ad campaign

Apple Watch Alan Dye
People liked it already.
Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

Do you remember a time that we didn’t know about Apple’s “Shot with iPhone” campaign, which captures amazing photos people have taken with their iPhones? Well, it started in March, and while it currently takes a little doing to find the “Shot with iPhone” gallery on Apple’s site, the spirit lives on in our hearts (and also in parody art projects).

In other news, the Apple Watch wouldn’t even be out for another month, but it already started snapping up prizes like the iF Design Gold Award.

“The Apple Watch scores highly for each design detail and is an altogether extraordinary piece of design,” the iF judges said. “For us, it is already an icon.”

Speaking of the wearable, we got our second look at the device, including pricing, features and options, at a special Apple event. We also saw the brand new MacBook, which was awesome, but we were maybe more interested in the Watch because we all wanted one after that big unveiling. Maybe not the $17,000 Apple Watch Edition, but that’s only because we maintain a tenuous grasp on reality.

April: Time for Apple Watch

Apple Watch notifications siri
We’ll take all of them.
Photo: Apple

April was all about the Apple Watch. The company started taking preorders on the 10th, and the actual launch date came a couple weeks later. We were all very excited.

To this day, Apple has been infuriatingly quiet about how many watches it’s sold, but we do know that it only took an hour for Chinese preorders of the super-expensive Edition to fill up. We also got our first look at Apple Music when iOS 8.4 dropped, but we had until June to not be excited about that.

Plus, Apple posted a quarterly revenue of $58 billion. It was a mostly fun time for everybody.

May: Apple clears some space on its mantel

Apple’s focus on accessibility isn’t going unrecognized.
Photo: Apple

Apple scored some trophies in May, including the Helen Keller Award for its VoiceOver accessory feature and some recognition from Greenpeace for its corporate energy policies. The oddly named BrandZ also declared Apple “most valuable brand” on its annual list, beating last year’s winner, Google.

In “funny in retrospect” news, Apple claimed that HomeKit, its home-automation framework, was all set to launch in June. And it kinda did, but then it didn’t have any devices to go with it.

Also, the “Unicode of Death” returned via iMessages to let bad friends remind you that they’re shitty; some characters in a string of apparent gibberish would overload the recipient’s iPhone in its attempts to read it.

June: Beats Pill is literally on fire, WWDC and Apple Music

Beats Pill XL
Have one of these? Take it back to Apple.
Photo: Beats

June started off with a bang as Apple issued a recall for subsidiary Beats’ Pill XL speaker. Why? Because the batteries were starting fires. And that’s a pretty good reason for a recall.

But June brought something better than the possibility of your house and all of your material possessions being reduced to ash: It brought Apple’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference, where the company invites hard-working people making apps for its devices to come hang out and watch a really long keynote presentation.

This year’s was pretty good, though. Apple showed off the new features coming to iOS 9, El Capitan and watchOS 2, and we got our first look at Apple Music.

The streaming service started its 90-day free trial on June 30, but before that Apple ran into some trouble from Taylor Swift, of all people, who withheld her album, citing Apple’s refusal to pay royalties during the service’s first three months. The company reversed that stance after feeling the heat of Swift justice, and that fixed every problem with Apple Music. Except for all of those other ones unrelated to that.

July: Apple’s a little controlling. Who knew?

Oh, the colors.

In July, Apple asserted its ownership of retail locations and started rolling out the new packaging it designed for third-party accessories. No longer would Apple Store shelves be an eclectic mix of colors and shapes; from here on out, everything will be white and clean and nice. Or else.

Cupertino isn’t completely opposed to colors, however. July also saw the announcement of a near-rainbow of new iPods. They have some other features, too, like the 8-megapixel camera in the new iPod touch, but they do look really nice.

We also learned that the difficulties in the HomeKit rollout were because device manufacturers were having trouble meeting Apple’s security demands. The company also went ahead and dropped Nest smart thermostats from its store shelves, offering its full support to the HomeKit-friendly ecobee3.

And because that wasn’t enough Apple news, it was also time for another super-exciting earnings call full of numbers. It was good news, with $49.6 billion in revenue, but Wall Street wasn’t impressed because it expected Apple to have made $50.61 billion.

Damn, Apple. Step it up.

August: Dooooooooooom

Apple Support
Apple’s scores went from “exemplary” to “really quite good.”
Photo: Apple

August was not a great month for Apple.

Its stock troubles continued as prices fell below $100, down from its all-time high of $133 in February. AAPL didn’t stay there for long — not even until the market closed — but as of this writing, it’s hovering around $108.

Meanwhile, Apple Music lost a key player as senior director Ian Rogers unexpectedly headed out. We still don’t know what happened, but he is now the chief digital officer of luxury brand LVMH.

Finally, a StellaService report showed Apple’s customer-service scores in decline, especially on chat, e-mail and phone wait times and resolution rates.

September: Buy all the things

My father still won’t right-click, how’s he going to use 3D Touch?
Photo: Apple

We didn’t get too far into the month before Apple filled up our holiday lists. On September 9, it hosted an event at which it showed off new Apple Watch colors and bands, the new Apple TV streaming box with Siri functionality, the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus, the 13-inch iPad Pro, and the Apple Pencil stylus and Smart Keyboard that unlock all of the giant tablet’s mysteries.

Apple also announced its clever buyback program, which aims to keep customers buying their gear directly from the company. Because this was truly the year of Apple controlling everything.

The new iPhones hit stores later that month. they did alright, we guess, selling a ridiculous 13 million units in the first weekend. Slightly older Apple stuff also had a good month, with the T3 Awards tapping Apple Watch as its Gadget of the Year. But we still had no idea how many of the damned things Apple had sold. The iPad Air 2 got the nod for Best Tablet.

October: Another gate closes

Every iPhone launch just has to have a controversy.
Photo: Apple

The latest “controversy” that follows basically every Apple product immediately after it launches hit the iPhone 6s in October. “Chipgate” claimed that your new handset’s battery life might be different depending on whether TSMC or Samsung made the A9 processor inside it. The story took a lot of turns, including some drama about a chip-detecting app disappearing from Apple’s online store, but when it was all over, science prevailed and discovered that the chips didn’t really matter. So that was a fun couple of weeks.

Product-wise, Apple introduced three new Magic peripherals: a keyboard and the second versions of both the mouse and trackpad. The fourth-generation Apple TV also hit shelves, boasting its own App Store and Siri functionality via its newly designed remote.

iOS 9.1 finally showed up, too, and it brought every emoji ever with it. And then, because that wasn’t enough stuff for one month, Apple’s quarterly earnings call beat Wall Street’s predictions with $51.5 billion in revenue over the previous few months. Not that the news helped Apple’s stock prices at all.

November: Welcome to your new ‘pad

Your in-bed Netflix binges just doubled in size.

The biggest (good) news for Apple this month came on November 11 with the launch of the iPad Pro. Early adopters had to wait a little longer for the Apple Pencil and Smart Keyboard, but in the meantime, they had a massive, 13-inch tablet to play around with, and we’re sure that kept them busy in the interim.

Less excitingly for Apple, the investigation into its offshore financial holdings continued as the European Union announced it would decide whether the company’s tax breaks were too broken by December 25. That ruling still hasn’t come, however, so we’ll look out for it in the new year.

December: Apple shakes it up

Ugh, just look at it.
Photo: Apple

Apple still had a few more things to release in 2015, like its hideous iPhone battery case and headphones that use the company’s proprietary Lightning connector. The latter product fueled rumors that Apple was planning to do away with the standard headphone jack in the next iPhone, but we’ll have to wait to see what happens.

The company also made some big changes in its roster this month. The most significant: Jeff Williams’ placement as chief operating officer, which could put him next in line for Tim Cook’s job.


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