Apple’s top stories of 2012

Apple’s top stories of 2012
Apple’s top stories of 2012

Apple’s 2012 has been eventful, to say the least, with several high-profile legal battles, a disappointing mobile app release, a series of high-level firings and a probe into potential human rights violations. In typical Apple fashion, the company managed to endure all of that while releasing and selling a slew of new devices. Here’s a recap of a rollercoaster year for Apple.

RELATED: Apple vs. The World: Apple’s definitive legal battles 

Apple's iPhone: The untold story

Apple gives Google the boot
Apple gives Google the boot

The introduction of iOS 6 marked a fundamental shift in Apple's relationship with the search giant, as Apple kicked two Google web properties off of the prime piece of real estate that is the iOS home screen. Google Maps and YouTube, two applications available in every version since the original iOS, now do not come standard.

Apple's soaring Market Cap
Apple's soaring Market Cap

Though Apple shares have been struggling as of late, 2012 saw the company’s shares soar to new all-time highs and set market cap records in the process. At its peak, Apple stock reached $705 a share in September 2012.

Settlement with HTC
Credit: Pawel Kopczynski / Reuters
Settlement with HTC

In November 2012, Apple and HTC finally put an end to their patent dispute after a few years of litigation across a number a jurisdictions. Note that HTC was the first company Apple went after in its ongoing fight against Android. The specific settlement terms remain confidential.

Apple's iOS 6 Maps app
Apple's iOS 6 Maps app

With the release of iOS 6, Google Maps was pushed aside to make room for Apple's homegrown mapping effort. Unfortunately, things did not go as planned. The app was criticized for inaccurate data and a less than stellar user experience. Things were so bad that Tim Cook ultimately penned an apology letter to Apple customers over the "frustration" Apple's Maps app caused.

Scott Forstall given the axe
Scott Forstall given the axe

Apple this fall announced that Scott Forstall will be leaving Apple in 2013. Forstall had been with the company for nearly 15 years and was a key figure in the development of iOS, but was reportedly a divisive figure who was hard to work with. Rumors claim his refusal to sign Apple's apology letter in regards to the iOS Maps fiasco is what sealed his fate.

Richard Williamson also given the axe
Richard Williamson also given the axe

Also related to the iOS 6 Maps app fallout, Apple ‘s senior vice president of internet software and services Eddy Cue reportedly fired Williamson in late November. Williamson had previously headed up the Maps team. Bloomberg reported that Cue fired Williamson without a replacement in line.

The John Browett experiment
The John Browett experiment

After a long search for a replacement for Ron Johnson, Apple hired John Browett to head up Apple's fleet of successful retail stores. The Browett experiment, however, lasted only six months before he was shown the door. Browett first ran into trouble when, in an effort to save money, he reduced the number of employees working within Apple retail stores.

iPad Mini
iPad Mini

Responding to the success of competitors’ smaller-sized tablets, Apple in late October announced the newest addition to the iPad lineup - the 7.9-inch iPad Mini. Sporting a $329 price tag, the iPad Mini was a tad more expensive than expected, but is still likely to sell like hotcakes this holiday shopping season.

Apple and Samsung jury verdict

This summer, a jury found that a number of Samsung products infringed upon a slew of iPhone patents and awarded Apple $1.05 billion in damages in the process. Samsung is currently appealing the ruling as the two companies remain engaged in legal battles across the globe.

Tech argument: Samsung vs. Apple

iPhone and iPad prototypes
iPhone and iPad prototypes

One of the benefits of the Apple/Samsung trial was that it gave us a look behind the secretive curtain that shrouds Apple's research and development arm. To that end, the trial allowed the public, for the first time, to feast their eyes upon iPhone and iPad prototypes that Apple had kept under lock and key since the mid-2000s.

RELATED: Apple's early iPhone prototypes

Apple and China
Credit: Bobby Yip / Reuters
Apple and China

The working conditions of employees who manufacture Apple products at Foxconn factories in China went under the microscope in early 2012. Specifically, the New York Times ran an expose on working conditions at plants owned by Apple's manufacturing partners, highlighting worker abuse and less than stellar working conditions.

Mike Daisy Fraud
Mike Daisy Fraud

Mike Daisy gleaned a lot of publicity and money earlier this year with sensational details in his report for This American Life of life at factories where Apple products are manufactured. It turns out, however, that he fabricated some of the information in order to sensationalize his story. Don't believe everything ya read, folks.

Apple responds on the China issue
Credit: Reuters
Apple responds on the China issue

Rising to the challenge, Apple in 2012 opened its supply chain to independent evaluations by the Fair Labor Association. Tim Cook promised not to turn a blind eye to working conditions abroad and stressed that Apple is addressing and responding to such issues daily.

Apple dividend and stock buyback
Apple dividend and stock buyback

With over $100 billion in the bank, Apple's cash hoard has long been the topic of speculation. This March, Apple announced a quarterly dividend of $2.65 a share to be accompanied by a stock buyback program worth $10 billion altogether.

iPhone 5 release
iPhone 5 release

With a larger screen and upgraded internals, the iPhone 5 was arguably the most anticipated iPhone release since the original. Not surprisingly, iPhone pre-orders broke records with Apple processing 2 million pre-orders in just 24 hours. It took weeks before Apple was finally able to get supply to keep pace with demand.

New iMacs
New iMacs

Apple in October refreshed the iMac with a new display (with reduced reflection), a faster processor, more powerful graphics, and a new storage option dubbed Fusion Drive. The new iMac is 40% smaller than its predecessor and has an edge that measures just 5mm in thickness. Note, however, that Apple's new iMacs do away with the optical drive, undoubtedly a sign of things to come.

iTunes 11
iTunes 11

In late 2012, Apple released iTunes 11, a long-awaited revamp of iTunes. iTunes 11 comes with a completely new user interface and navigation options that are more intuitive. ITunes 11 is also much snappier, offers better iCloud integration, and the new Mini Player options are also nice.

New EarPods
New EarPods

Given that Apple's old-school and now iconic white headphones have been standard for years, it was a welcome surprise to have Apple introduce the much more comfortable EarPods that not only fit better than their predecessor, but also deliver better sound quality. This was an update that was a long time coming.

Apple vs Proview in iPad dispute
Apple vs Proview in iPad dispute

Throughout much of 2012, Apple was engaged in a trademark dispute with Proview, a Chinese-based company that claimed it owned the right to the iPad trademark in mainland China. The two companies ultimately agreed to a settlement amount of $60 million. Proview had initially demanded upwards of $1.6 billion and threatened to seek a ban on iPad exports from China.

New iPads
New iPads

Apple in 2012 released two brand new iPads: the third-generation iPad in March and a fourth-generation later in the year. The third-gen iPad came with a Retina Display, an A5x processor, LTE support and better cameras. A few months later it introduced the iPad 4th generation, which was essentially a hardware refresh for the device.

Apple and Malware
Apple and Malware

In mid-2012, Apple had to deal with something Mac users aren't typically accustomed to - malware. The Flashback Trojan reportedly infected more than 600,000 mac users (about 1% of the Mac user base), prompting Apple to release an update to remove the most common variants of the Flashback malware from users' systems. (See Dockster malware targets Apple computers.)

New iPod lineup
New iPod lineup

In 2012, Apple unveiled its most significant iPod refresh in quite some time. The iPod Touch saw a massive update as it was given the same large screen as the iPhone 5. It also happens to be the thinnest and lightest iPod Touch yet. Apple also introduced the thinnest iPod Nano to date, giving it a larger screen - it effectively looks like a miniaturized iPhone, home button and all.