Is there anything else in the world that is as hotly anticipated as Apple's products? It's hard to think of anything else that is as greatly scrutinised than the company that has defined how we view smartphones and made tablets into a must have device. With consistent updates throughout the year about products it's working on, concept designs from budding designers and artists, and rumour sites go into overdrive once Apple announce a date for one of its events.
There are many reasons why Apple is so successful, but ultimately it boils down to one solid reason: It places simplicity and design as the focus of all its products. But almost twelve months ago when the iPhone 4S was announced, people were wondering if Apple could maintain its amazing growth once co-founder Steve Jobs - who became as iconic as Apple's logo - wasn't around to guide them. Tim Cook took up the reigns and what followed was a very eventful and busy year for the company.
1) Hardware Development
2) Financial Performance
3) iPhone 5 Rumours
4) iOS 6
5) Apple's Advertising
6) Opinion & Analysis
The past 12 months has seen a number of new hardware upgrades and products being released by Apple as it came firing out on all fronts.
The start of Cook's tenure as CEO began with the release of the iPhone 4S. In comparison to previous releases, there wasn't much of a jump between the 4 and 4S, but it did come with improved hardware and the introduction of Siri, which although it has promised to revolutionise how we interact with our smartphones, hasn't really lived up to its promise just yet. It was definitely ahead of its time and future versions of the iPhone will see this technology improve even further.
Fast forward a few months later to June and the company decides to upgrade its MacBook range. Announcing it during WWDC 2012
, both the MacBook Air and Pro got good, but not revolutionary, upgrades. The most noticeable - from a visual perspective - was the inclusion of retina display for the 15-inch MacBook Pro as well as a physical redesign that made them as light as a MacBook Air. The MacBook Air became more powerful as well, but its upgrades weren't as significant as the changes made to the MacBook Pro.Also, it was revealed that there were over 365 million iOS devices, with 80% of them running iOS5. To highlight its community, the company announced that 140 million iMessage users were sending more than one billion messages each day.
The final piece of hardware that has been floating around in recent weeks is the iPad mini. This is the middle ground between the iPhone and iPad, but it can also be seen as a response to Google's Galaxy Nexus 7 and to Amazon's Kindle Fire, both offering cheaper alternatives to the iPad. Not a whole lot of details are known about the device, the only thing is that it's expected to have a 7.85-inch display (the iPad is 9-7 inches in comparison).
Trying to find out more about the device only has you wading through more rumours so as expected, numerous mockups (and fake pictures) have been circulating the web as anticipation builds up. However, the announcement today should shed some light on its features and maybe even provide a date in which it's going to be released.
If Tim Cook is to be measured only in terms of the value that he has returned to investors, then he would be one of the greatest first year CEOs ever. He has increased the share price by over 50% since Steve Jobs passed away, while also adding in a dividend for good measure to help share some of the massive cash resources they have on their books. He has also overseen the spectacular Christmas quarter last year which saw Apple produce 40 Billion in revenue for the first time ever thanks to the launch of the iPhone 4S.
If the analysts are to be believed, his greatest success could be yet to come. The vast majority predicting the price could hit $900 by this time next year. A lot will hinge on the iPhone 5 given that smartphones now account for nearly half of their revenue, but it looks likely that Apple could become the first ever trillion dollar company within the next couple of years if it keeps this up.
Apple is piling up cash much faster than it can spend it. It currently has over $110 billion available and that number looks set to continue rising with each successive quarter. Even when it acquired companies, those have only been in the hundreds of millions and the dividend will eat into its cash reserves, but Apple is incredibly profitable and the cash will continue to grow. What the cash does is it protects Apple from anything bad that happens on the product side of the business.
Even if the latest iPhone was a complete flop (highly unlikely) and Apple starting losing money, it could literally survive for an entire decade without doing much. That might seem like a mute point to many, but it is only 14 years ago that Apple was only a couple of months away from folding because of a lack of cash so it looks like they are playing it safe from here on in.
Rumours always swirl about potential acquisition targets including Twitter and movie studios (to get their content) and although Apple will continue to look at them, its track record shows that it prefers to steer its own course and produce its own products.
This chart below (thanks to ReadWriteWeb) shows just how profitable Apple are compared to one of the other big web tech companies Amazon. Because Apple only plays at the top of the market and knows how to price its products to suit demand, it can extract massive profits. Tim Cook has been able to tighten up the supply chain (his main strength) and deliver ever bigger volume and supply to new markets including China.
Essentially, Apple is now a design and retail company where it's best at both before outsourcing the rest of the manufacturing to China where it can keep costs down. The lean machine can keep as little as five days inventory in shops these days. This means that a new event like the iPhone 5 launch today will see the phone launch all over the world with full supply, all within two weeks of it being announced.
iPhone 5 rumours
Two years. Two whole years and then some. Apple-heads have had the two years, two months and 19 days since the iPhone 4 came out to dream up and concoct as many iterations of the iPhone 5 - which is actually the sixth model as the 4S messed up the naming scheme - as they can come up with, and several items on wish-lists worldwide seem like they have some truth to them.
When compared to recent Android release, such as the Samsung Galaxy S III, the iPhone, and its screen in particular, looks too small. Supposed prototypes floating around on YouTube show that the iPhone 5 has a much longer, larger and thinner screen, which is sure to get fans excited and see that it can square up to its Android rivals for size. The change has supposedly been enabled by the implementation of new LCD technology, and the iPhone 5 apparently boasts a "touch screen liquid crystal display". In addition to changing the dimensions of the phone, it should also make it light, so win-win.It is also rumoured that the iPhone 5 will finally make the switch to "True 4G" or 4G long-term evolution (LTE). Users will find their mobile internet speed increased along with their data capacity in a move that iPhone users have been crying out for as we move beyond 3G to the next generation.
There are also some stock changes that will affect Apple products beyond the iPhone being touted. For one thing, the size of the charging dock connector will be reduced, according to many sources, which will likely cause Apple users to update their auxiliary accessories, such as charging docks and speaker docs, etc.
Also, images of a newly-designed pair of earbuds mark the first overhaul in Apple earphones in a long, long time. The new earphones, if they are, in fact, the new iPhone earphones, look more spherical with the sound induced from the sides of each bud, though they still look typically Apple.
iOS 6 will be at the very core of the latest iPhone and it will be privy to some of this iteration's most noticeable, welcome developments. There are some big new features included in the update that will surely make the iPhone user experience even more satisfying.
Maps for iOS have been completely re-designed, replacing their Google counterparts, and will now be updated with crowd-sourced, real-time traffic reports as you go. There have also been hints at the genesis of Apple Maps (in the style of Google Maps), which will certainly expand Apple's mapping functions beyond their current abilities.
Turn-by-turn navigation will also feature on the iOS6 maps and your journeys can now be navigated by Siri, which has had its own major overhaul. The voice-activated personal assistant can now launch apps and even tweet for you. If you are in need of a best friend, Siri has also improved its knowledge of restaurants, sports and movies, ensuring that you and your phone can now make mutually-appreciable references and banter at will - you can integrate Siri with Yelp and Rotten Tomatoes for restaurant reviews and reservations and movie times and reviews, respectively.
You can also turn over your Facebook profile to Siri as the world's largest social networking platform is fully integrated with iOS6 in much the same way Twitter was with iOS5. As a result, you can sync your Facebook profile with your iOS6-carrying device so that it has knowledge of your events, contact birthdays, calendar, etc.
Safari has some new features that many will find useful. Offline reading lists can be synced with Reading List in Safari and saved for you to pick up on later; iCloud does much the same thing, allowing you to stop browsing and pick up where you left off later if you close your tabs. Full-screen for web pages is now just a tap away with the landscape feature that is being introduced.
iOS6 for the iPhone will also give you the option of personalising your calls and texts. You will be able to prevent your phone for receiving calls and text notifications if you don't want to be disturbed. You can set yourself reminders to get back to people if you missed their calls, and there's a 'call when you leave' feature that detects when you are about to leave the building so it can get your to fulfill such a task.
These are just some of the 200+ new features that come with the iOS update and Apple users of the iPhone, iPad and even the iTouch are sure to find them fun and useful in equal measure.
If we're talking about Apple's advertising, we could just show you this advert and leave it at that.
That single ad sums up pretty much everything we've come to know and love about the Apple brand and more importantly, the Apple personality. Which is, undoubtedly, Steve Jobs. It's difficult to look at an ad from the Steve Jobs Apple era without seeing his imprint on the final product. You know that an ad, be it print, TV or digital wouldn't have made it out without his final seal of approval and that's what has ensured Apple's ads are always above par. Always with a complete focus on the product, minus the gimmicks.
Which is what sets this ad apart completely. As Ken Segall recalls in his book â€˜Insanely Simple,' this ad wasn't to promote a particular Apple product. There were no features to sell here, no new products to educate the audience on. It was simply a pure embodiment of the Apple way, which was a floundering brand at the time, with a promise of what was to come. And here, it didn't disappoint. In many ways, that's part of the ad's appeal. With hindsight, we can see exactly what Apple has contributed and that the promises of this ad weren't empty but instead, pretty bloody accurate.
Who's the brand?
Of course, this iconic ad is not about the tech, it's not even really about the brand. It's about people as brands. So is this an ad about Apple, or Steve Jobs? That question is perhaps continuing to dog the directors at Apple. We previously looked at the impact on Apple's ads post-Steve Jobs and the results probably speak for themselves. Compare the â€˜Crazy Ones' with this tongue in cheek ad:
A huge step away from focusing on the pure aspect of Apple products, which dilutes the brand values.
Apple is in a very different stage now to when the Crazy Ones ad was released. Back then, it had a job to do to convince people that it was still relevant, still exciting and could set the agenda. Now we know all that is true, so it can afford to have a bit of fun with its advertising, but it could risk taking this too far and ultimately diluting the brand.
Opinion and Analysis
Considering the subject matter, there are numerous sites analysing Apple's fortunes and offering their thoughts about the brand. Here are some of the best:
- Meet Apple's favorite blogger.
- The myth of pinch-to-zoom: how a confused media gave Apple something it doesn't own.
- Predicting the "iPad Mini" internals.
- Five iPhone 5 features Tim Cook will not announce today.
- The rise of third-party services and the fall of Google in iOS.
- Pixel perfect and why the Macbook Pro with Retina Display is a revolution in resolution.
- After iPhone 5, can Tim Cook make Apple his own.
- The bottom line on Apple and YouTube.
- How Steve Jobs created Jobs.
- Ten reasons why Apple wins TV.
- What did the original iPad look like before it was released? Answer: It was massive!
- Will Apple's tacky software design philosophy cause a revolt?