The “Apple is doomed!” crowd must be feeling pretty tired by now; Apple’s had yet another record-breaking year, hoovering up most of the smartphone industry’s profits and selling ever more Macs.
But while Apple had a great 2015 in many ways, not everything went its way. Here are Apple’s highs and lows for 2015.
High: Money, money, money
By various estimates Apple made between 87% and 92% of all the profits in the smartphone industry this year. While Android firms compete with razor-thin profit margins, Apple makes stacks of cash on every smartphone it sells. The iPhone remains the engine room of Apple, and it’s the most significant product Apple currently offers: it accounts for more than 60% of Apple sales.
The iPad Pro shipped with a bug that crashed it when you connected a charger. iOS 9 had various bugs affecting email, iMessage, notifications and mobile data. The initial launch of El Capitan had more bugs than an episode of I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here! And some third party apps struggled to even run on watchOS when it first launched.
Some bugs are inevitable, of course, but Apple software is beginning to develop the same reputation for reliability as the Windows of old.
High: More Macs
The PC business is a pretty miserable business to be in these days, with most firms selling PCs with microscopic margins and some, like Toshiba, deciding that the PC business isn’t a business they want to be in any more. The most recent research from industry analysts Gartner says that worldwide PC shipments dropped 7.7% in the third quarter of 2015 compared to the previous year.
Guess who’s the exception? In the most recent financial quarter Apple sales grew yet again, with Mac sales up 1.5% globally and US shipments up 7.3% over the previous year. With average selling prices of around $1,258 per Mac compared to $129 for an Atom-powered PC or $399 to $499 for mid-range PCs, those Macs are generating a disproportionately large amount of money.
Low: Slow iPads
It turns out that iPads have more in common with PCs than they do with phones, in terms of replacement at least: while we’re all quick to rush for the newest smartphone, we tend not to replace iPads anywhere near as quickly. That, and the growing numbers of us using big-screened devices such as the iPhone 6 Plus and 6S Plus, means that iPad sales are slowing significantly.
They’re still doing huge numbers and it’s hardly a sign that Apple is doomed, but it shows that not everything can have the stratospheric success of the iPhone.
High: Apple Watch
It may be flawed – more of that in a moment – but the Apple Watch is doing awfully well for what some people will tell you is a “flop”: with an estimated 7 million watches shipped between its launch and early November and big numbers expected over Christmas, the Watch is already a multi-billion dollar business. That’s more than every other smartwatch’s sales combined. According to analysts at Canalys, the next best-selling watches come from Samsung with 300,000 shipments and Pebble with 200,000.
Low: Apple Watch
We have a love/hate relationship with the Watch: it’s a beautiful, very clever and potentially very useful device, but it’s also hopelessly unreliable. Despite watchOS 2.0’s improvements third party apps often refuse to run, Siri often ignores us and sometimes we have to tap the screen multiple times just to wake it up. The third version will be fantastic, we’re sure, but all too often the Watch just lets us down.
High: The iPad Pro
It may be too pricey for most, but the iPad Pro is an important product: it’s taking the iPad into serious work, whether that’s in creative industries with the Apple Pencil or in the enterprise as part of Apple’s partnership with IBM. It’s also a sign of what’s coming: the A9X processor in the iPad Pro might not rival a recent Core i5 or Core i7, but it’s faster than the chip in the most recent MacBook. With desktop-class performance coming from Apple’s own silicon, Intel-free Macs are clearly a case of when, not if.
Low: The Hump
Are the doom-mongers so desperate that they’ll seize on a crappy battery case to prove that Apple is in trouble? Oh yeah – but they have a point. Apple’s new Smart Battery Case is part of a wider trend that suggests Apple doesn’t always think things through. The Magic Mouse 2 has its charging socket on the bottom, so you can’t use it while charging.
The Apple Pencil sticks out of the iPad Pro to charge, which looks ugly and precarious. Apple Music’s UI is awful. Then again, the Apple of old brought out white elephants such as the iPod Hi-Fi and the fantastically uncomfortable hockey puck mouse, so maybe we’re just looking at Apple’s history through rose-tinted spectacles.
The world’s biggest economy is a huge revenue generator for Apple, and it plans to build on its existing successes by launching Apple Pay in China in 2016. China is already Apple’s second largest market (the US is the largest), but its market share is still relatively small – so even though the Chinese economy appears to be slowing, there’s still an enormous opportunity to grow market share and profits.
Low: Apple Music
If Apple Music was a beautiful, but under-used, country spa retreat, it would have been knocked down for an out of town shopping mall by now. The UI of Apple Music is fantastically confusing – we can’t be the only ones who’ll pick a song and then spend ten minutes trying to work out how to find the rest of the album – and the artist social network Connect is like a ghost town. Music boss Jimmy Iovine’s daft, sexist comments about women finding it hard to find music didn’t help either. And don’t get us started on iTunes.