Top 11 hottest and quirkiest Apple stories of January

Steve Jobs takes medical leave, Verizon to sell iPhone, Screwgate strikes, iPhone 5 and iPad 2 rumors swirl

Apple (NASDAQ – AAPL)  kicked off 2011 with a series of highs and lows: The company announced it had shattered sales records, joined forces with Verizon and opened a new app store, but it also said CEO Steve Jobs was taking a medical leave and found itself embroiled in a slew of new lawsuits and controversies.

Apple (NASDAQ – AAPL)  kicked off 2011 with a series of highs and lows: The company reported that the iPhone and iPad fueled record sales, joined forces with Verizon and opened a new app store, but it also said CEO Steve Jobs was taking a medical leave and found itself embroiled in a slew of new lawsuits and controversies.

ODE TO JOBS: Apple's greatest hits under Steve Jobs 

Here's a rundown of the 11 hottest and/or quirkiest Apple moments from January:

Alarming start to the year: Apple iPhone users whose smartphones run iOS4 reported that their alarms weren't going off to start the year.  Apparently this wasn't just people with New Year's Eve hangovers not quite getting their stories straight: Apple acknowledged the problem, though said the glitch was affecting only one-time alarms, so recommended that customers set recurring alarms as a workaround.

Yet another app store. The Apple Mac App Store debuted and got off to a rousing start, hitting the 1 million download mark in the first 24 hours.  The store, which became available as part of Mac OS X 10.6.6 (a.k.a.,Snow Leopard), leverages the iTunes app buying system that users are already so familiar with using for their iPhones and iPods, though requires a new app for access. The store opening didn't go without hitches, including a vulnerability that allowed for piracy.  Meanwhile, Apple cranked up the hype machine to celebrate the 10 billionth app downloaded from its longer running App Store

Steve Jobs refocuses on health. Apple has plenty of exciting plans for 2011, including the anticipated iPhone 5 and iPad 2, but Apple CEO Steve Jobs has something more important to attend to: his health. Jobs – he of the measly $1 annual salary  -- announced on Jan. 17 that he'd be taking a medical leave and that COO Tim Cook would take over as interim CEO.  Cook almost immediately got to shift the focus about Apple back to the company itself, announcing record first quarter revenue approaching $27 billion. 

The Verizon rumors were true!  No doubt sick of all the AT&T network complaints by iPhone customers (The Daily Show's Jon Stewart called the AT&T-only iPhone era "our long national nightmare"), Apple formally joined forces with Verizon, which begins selling the popular iPhone 4 smartphone in February.   While Verizon's network very well might prove to be more satisfactory to iPhone users, it remains unclear how long they'll need to wait to get an iPhone that will work on Verizon's 4G LTE network: it'll be 3G CDMA for now.

iPhone smuggling. An Israeli woman in her 60's was nabbed at a Tel Aviv airport for attempting to smuggle 44 iPhone 4s – which can fetch a pretty shekel -- into the country.  A body scanner spotted the smartphones hidden under her clothes after security personnel noticed her acting suspiciously. To take such a risk of arrest, you'd think she would have waited until the white iPhones become available. 

iPhone hits the big screen.   Park Chan-Wook Park Chan-Wook, whose movies "Oldboy" and "Thirst" have been critically acclaimed, has shot his latest picture – "Night Fishing" – via iPhones. The movie took "80 people, 10 days, and about $133,000 to make," according to a PC World account.   Those attending screenings of the movie will still be requested to turn off their cell phones before it starts, however.

Screwing around with the iPhone. Sneaky, sneaky, sneaky. Or so says iFixit, a website that specializes in taking part electronics gear and putting it back together, about an apparent "diabolical plan" by Apple to switch the screws on iPhone and other mobile products in an effort to keep users from messing with the innards.  One upside: The Screwgate story gave the press an endless source of great headlines.

Lemme sue Apple! Lemme sue Apple! The target on Apple's big back  was fired at by legal arrows from challengers small and large.  A California-based iPhone 4 user filed suit claiming Apple knows about a flaw in the glass screen of the smartphone but continues to sell them anyway without any warning.  Another suit alleges Apple violates customer privacy by sharing information it collects from iPhone, iPad and other devices with advertisers.  Separately, a judge sided with Apple and RIM in Eastman Kodak's patent claim against the two concerning camera-phone image previews. 

Securing Apple. Apple has reportedly bolstered its focus on security by hiring a Geekonomics expert named David Rice as its global security chief. There's a growing concern in enterprises about the security and management of Apple devices working their way into corporate networks. But naturally, Apple has been mum on this hiring. It's security related after all.

Apple innovates. Apple cracked the list of the top 50 U.S. patent winners.  Apple still has a lot of work to do to catch IBM, though, which has been the patent leader for 18 straight years.

iPhone 5, iPad 2, where are you? Speculation about what Apple has planned next for its smartphone and tablet computer lines heated up. We contributed to that with this slideshow of iPhoneys as visualized by Apple enthusiasts. Separately, Kevin Rose, the founder of social media site Digg, generated buzz when he urged people to hold off on iPad purchases because the iPad 2 is just around the corner.  Nearly every day seems to bring another feature/function rumor about the iPad 2

Bob Brown owns a modest iPod Nano. Follow him on Twitter,  StumbleUpon and Facebook 

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