A year we’re certainly going to remember when we reminisce about Apple in years to come. We’ve seen the iPad 2 take the world by storm and the iPhone 4S sell in record numbers, and we’ve been shocked by the death of Apple co-founder and CEO Steve Jobs. Here, we take a look back through the seasons at the rollercoaster that was Apple’s 2011.
For Apple, 2011 didn’t get off to the happiest start, but the company quickly recovered and began heading on the right track.
On 17 January, Apple released a press release stating that then-CEO Steve Jobs was taking indefinite medical leave to focus on his health. Chief operating officer Tim Cook would take over the company’s day-to-day operations, and Apple assured us that Jobs would remain involved in “major strategic decisions”. Although the company’s stock fell in the two days following the announcement, strong Q1 financial results saw this rebound quickly.
On a more positive note, Apple announced on 22 January that the App Store had reached the stunning total of 10 billion app downloads. These were purchased by more than 160 million iPhone, iPod touch and iPad users worldwide.
Gail Davis from Orpington, Kent downloaded the 10 billionth app, Paper Glider, and won a huge iTunes gift card worth $10,000 (about £6,500). She initially suspected that the congratulatory phone call from Eddy Cue, Apple’s then vice-president of iTunes, was a hoax. “I thought it was a prank call,” she admits. “I said, ‘Thank you very much, I’m not interested’ and hung up.”
On 15 February, Apple announced a new subscription service available to publishers of content-based apps such as magazines, newspapers, video and music on the App Store. Publishers could set the price and length of subscriptions. Customers could choose their preferred subscription length with one click and would be charged automatically.
Steve Jobs explained the rationale behind the strategy: “Our philosophy is simple: when Apple brings a new subscriber to the app, Apple earns a 30 per cent share; when the publisher brings an existing or new subscriber to the app, the publisher keeps 100 per cent and Apple earns nothing.”
The company was, however, criticised by developers for tightening its rules regarding in-app content purchases, and also for being vague regarding which apps were affected. They reacted angrily, claiming that Apple’s 30 per cent would make their businesses non-viable. Richard Jones, co-founder of Last.fm, was particularly forthright, claiming: “Apple just f****d over online music subs for the iPhone.”
On 2 March, Apple unveiled the iPad 2. Steve Jobs returned to reveal the new device, along with iOS 4.3. “While others have been scrambling to copy the first-generation iPad, we’re launching iPad 2, which moves the bar far ahead of the competition and will probably cause them to go back to the drawing boards yet again,” Jobs enthused.
The iPad 2 had a “totally different design” from its predecessor, Jobs revealed, boasting that the new device was dramatically faster than the first-gen model, thanks to its dual-core A5 processor. Graphics performance was also hugely improved, although the screen resolution remained the same as the iPad 1. Other changes included the option of white as well as black models, front and rear cameras, a gyroscope and a chassis that was a third thinner than the original.
Enormous queues greeted the launch of the iPad 2
The Smart Cover was also introduced, and Apple launched iPad versions of FaceTime, Photo Booth, iMovie and GarageBand.
Some commentators complained that the iPad 2 wasn’t enough of a departure from its predecessor, but that didn’t dampen enthusiasm for the product among consumers. In the UK on launch day, lines snaked from the entrances of Apple’s stores; the queue at its Regent Street store was 632 people long as the 5pm launch time approached. According to reports, the iPad 2 sold out in the UK within 24 hours of its launch.
On 28 April, the white iPhone 4 arrived. Philip Schiller said: “We appreciate everyone waiting patiently while we’ve worked to get every detail right.” It’s thought manufacturing issues held up the release, which was supposed to launch alongside the black model in July 2010.
No sooner had the white iPhone 4 arrived than it was involved in a row all of its own, with Marketcircle’s Ryan Cash claiming it was slightly thicker than the black model, potentially causing problems with iPhone cases. This was soon forgotten, however, as cases appeared to fit both models.
At the Worldwide Developers Conference in June, Apple previewed iOS 5 and iCloud. “iOS 5 has some great new features, such as Notification Centre, iMessage and Newsstand, and we can’t wait to see what our developers do with its 1,500 new APIs,” said Steve Jobs. “Perhaps iOS 5’s paramount feature is that it’s built to seamlessly work with iCloud in the post-PC revolution that Apple is leading.”
Apple finally enabled users to use the volume buttons on their iPhone to take photos with iOS 5, and the company also unveiled PC Free, a feature of iOS 5 that means you no longer need a computer to own an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch.
iCloud, Apple’s wireless data sync service, was also revealed at the conference. “Today it is a real hassle and very frustrating to keep all your important information and content up to date across all of your devices,” Steve Jobs told the attendees.
“But iCloud does that for you. All of this happens automatically and wirelessly, and because it’s integrated into our apps you don’t even need to think about it – it all just works.”
After the introduction of the iCloud service, potential users scratched beneath the service’s silver lining to uncover potential concerns about security and availability. MobileMe subscribers were angry about the demise of their service – displaced by iCloud – and it was reported that there would be no iTunes in the cloud for UK users in 2011.
On 7 July, Apple announced that the number of apps downloaded from the App Store had now passed 15 billion, downloaded by more than 200 million iPhone, iPad and iPod touch users worldwide.
On 24 August, Apple’s board of directors made the announcement that Steve Jobs had resigned as chief executive officer. The board named Tim Cook, previously Apple’s chief operating officer, as the company’s new CEO. Jobs was elected as chairman of the board.
“Steve’s extraordinary vision and leadership saved Apple and guided it to its position as the world’s most innovative and valuable technology company,” explained Art Levinson, chairman of Genentech, on behalf of Apple’s board. “Steve has made countless contributions to Apple’s success, and he has attracted and inspires Apple’s immensely creative employees and world-class executive team.”
Levinson added that the board had complete confidence in Cook, and that he was the right choice as Apple’s next CEO. “Tim’s 13 years of service to Apple have been marked by outstanding performance,” he said, “and he has demonstrated remarkable talent and sound judgement in everything he does.”
The state of Jobs’ health was unclear at this point.
In a letter to Apple employees he suggested his role would be reduced further in the future.
Cook was no stranger to the spotlight. His handling of CEO duties when Jobs took medical leave was in fact the third time he had overseen the company. He was also interim CEO in 2004, when Jobs had surgery for pancreatic cancer, and then again in 2009, when he had a liver transplant.
On 4 October, Apple held a ‘Let’s Talk iPhone’ event, where it unveiled the iPhone 4S, together with upgrades to its range of iPods.
The 4S, which Apple described as “the most amazing iPhone yet” was equipped with a dual-core A5 chip, a new camera, and Siri, the voice activated personal assistant. It had almost the same casing and design as its predecessor, but internally it saw some major improvements.
Apple's staff and fans gathered in San Francisco to celebrate Steve Jobs’ life and mourn his passing
Despite failing to win over many pundits, bloggers and early adopters, the iPhone 4S went on to be a huge success. Apple announced that pre-orders topped one million in a day, surpassing the previous record of 600,000 held by the iPhone 4. The company later announced it had sold four million iPhone 4S units in the first three days following its release on October 14.
Tragically, Steve Jobs died the day after the iPhone 4S was announced. A statement issued by Apple’s board of directors read: “We are deeply saddened to announce that Steve Jobs has passed away today.
“Steve’s brilliance, passion and energy were the source of countless innovations that enrich and improve all of our lives. The world is immeasurably better because of Steve.”
Jobs was survived by his wife, Laurene Powell Jobs, and four children. According to a statement released by Jobs’ family, he died peacefully surrounded by his loved ones.
On 12 October, iOS 5 was made available as a free update for all iOS users. Part of the update was iCloud. “iCloud is the easiest way to manage your content,” explained Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice-president of Internet Software and Services.
“You don’t have to think about syncing your devices, because it happens automatically.”
In November, Apple released iOS 5.0.1 in an attempt to fix battery life problems reported by iPhone users – many had remarked that iOS 5 resulted in a decrease in battery life. However, some users reported that the update hadn’t solved the problem.
It’s been an eventful year for Apple, full of highs and lows. But what does next year hold for the company?