Top Apple stories of 2016

A look back at the top 15 Apple news stories from the past year, including the release of iPhone 7, Apple’s battle with the FBI and a first-time-ever drop in iPhone sales

top apple stories 2016

The biggest Apple stories of 2016

Apple experienced many ups and downs during 2016. While the company pushed out several new products—from the iPhone 7 to the recently released MacBook Pro—it has been over the past 12 months pigeonholed as a company that has lost its ability to innovate.

On top of it all, 2016 marked the first year that Apple experienced a decline in iPhone sales and revenue growth, two data points that only provided more fodder for pundits eager to proclaim that Apple’s best days are behind it.

That non-withstanding, most tech companies would have killed for the type of year Apple had in 2016. Apple may not have had a record-breaking year—both from a product and business perspective—but the company over the past few months has set the stage for what will undoubtedly be an intriguing 2017. With the new year just around the corner and new products already on the horizon, here’s a look back at the top 14 Apple news stories of 2016.

apple stories 2016 iPhone 7

iPhone 7 released

As Apple’s primary revenue driver, we of course have to start with the iPhone 7. Unveiled this past September, the iPhone 7 effectively has the same form factor as the iPhone 6s and the iPhone 6. Still, don’t let the familiar look fool you. The iPhone 7 may not have come packed with a revolutionary new technology or some jaw-dropping new feature, but the device still managed to incorporate many compelling enhancements.

With a new blazing-fast A10 processor, the iPhone 7 is an absolute speed demon, crushing competitors on several key performance metrics in a variety of tests. What’s more, the iPhone 7 delivered improved battery life, an updated Retina HD display, improved water resistance, a much more capable camera and at long last, more storage.

apple stories 2016 iPhone 7

Apple removed the 3.5mm headphone jack

Without question, the most controversial design of the iPhone 7 wasn’t a feature Apple added, but rather a feature Apple removed. Apple released the iPhone 7 without a traditional 3.5mm headphone jack, effectively tossing aside a legacy port that has been used in one form or another for decades.

Understandably, Apple’s decision to remove the headphone jack elicited an avalanche of criticism from critics who were quick to categorize Apple’s design decision as user-unfriendly. As to the rationale behind Apple’s decision, company executives explained that the headphone jack took up so much space that it was beginning to impede some of the other design decisions Apple wanted to implement on the iPhone.

To help alleviate concerns, Apple shipped a free 3.5mm headphone jack to Lightning adapter with every iPhone 7. Now that we’re a good three months removed from the iPhone 7’s release, it’s clear iPhone 7 sales are just as strong as ever. In other words, all of the brouhaha surrounding the iPhone 7’s lack of a headphone jack was, with the benefit of hindsight, way overblown.

apple stories 2016 FBI
Håkan Dahlström, Cliff (modified), Flickr

Apple battles the FBI over device encryption

One of the bigger Apple stories in 2016 centered on device encryption and the FBI’s insistence that Apple create a new version of iOS to help it crack a locked iPhone 5c used by one of the San Bernardino terrorists. With the FBI seeking to force Apple’s hand through the court system, Apple in early February filed a legal response to the FBI’s request, arguing that the agency’s demands would set an extremely dangerous legal precedent. In short, Apple argued that allowing federal agencies to force companies such as Apple to “undermine the basic security and privacy interests” of its own users would be an extremely dangerous slippery slope that would inevitably result in additional demands to “bypass security features.”

Apple and the FBI duked it out both legally and in the court of public opinion for a few good weeks before the FBI ultimately found a software hack via a third-party security company

apple stories 2016 apple car
Motor Trend

Apple Car rumors go up in flames

One of the more intriguing and downright fascinating tech rumors of 2016 centered on Apple’s desire to design, develop and manufacture its own electric vehicle. Throughout 2016, a handful of reports from reputed sources claimed Apple was aiming to release a car sometime in 2019 and 2020.

Lending credence to these reports, Apple over the last 12 months went on an automotive hiring spree, hiring many engineers and auto executives with broad experience across all areas of the automotive development process—from drivetrain engineers to battery experts.

By the time September rolled around, however, the optimism surrounding Apple’s ambitious car efforts began to fade dramatically. About three months ago, the New York Times reported that Apple laid off several employees working on the project and that Apple’s entire automotive initiative was being “rebooted” after engineers there “struggled to make progress.”

As it stands now, Apple is reportedly still interested in the automotive space, but more so in a software capacity as opposed to an automotive manufacturing capacity.

apple stories 2016 MacBook Pro

New MacBook Pro released amid controversy

This past October, after a long wait, Apple finally released a revamped MacBook Pro. Featuring a svelte new design and weighing in at only 3 pounds, the MacBook Pro’s most notable feature is a new user interface tool dubbed the “Touch Bar.” Nestled above the number keys, the Touch Bar is an OLED panel that can dynamically provide users with customized toggles, depending on whatever app they happen to be using.

Interestingly, though, one of the bigger stories surrounding the MacBook Pro was the narrative that Apple was ignoring its user base of developers and creative professionals. Specifically, many people complained that the new MacBook Pro was severely underpowered for its price point, while others lamented the fact that RAM was not expandable beyond 16GB. For what it’s worth, Phil Schiller, senior vice president of worldwide marketing at Apple, said Apple has seen more online orders for the new MacBook Pro than it has for any other Pro notebook it’s ever sold.

apple stories 2016 Apple Watch 2

Apple Watch 2 introduced

Alongside the iPhone 7, Apple introduced the Apple Watch Series 2 during the company’s September media event. While essentially retaining the same form factor as the original Apple Watch, the next-gen version introduced a whole range of improvements, most notably the inclusion of GPS.

Additionally, the Apple Watch Series 2 is now swim proof and water resistant up to a depth of 50 meters. Taken together, the Apple Watch 2 can at long last be categorized as a bonafide fitness tracker for all types of athletes. Some other Apple Watch Series 2 improvements include a brighter display, a new ceramic band option and a dual core processor that is said to be 50 percent faster than the original. 

While there have been reports that Apple Watch sales have been faltering, Apple CEO Tim Cook recently dismissed such concerns, telling Reuters that sales of the Apple Watch during the week of Black Friday was “greater than any week in the product’s history.”

apple stories 2016 iPhone

iPhone sales decline

Due to lower-than-anticipated demand for the iPhone 6s, 2016 marked the first year in history that Apple experienced a year-over-year decline in iPhone sales. In fact, Apple in 2016 posted a year-over-year decline in iPhone sales in three consecutive quarters. During the company’s September quarter, for example, iPhone sales fell by 13 percent. While the iPhone 7 has helped to a certain extent, many analysts believe Apple won’t see growth in its iPhone lineup until the iPhone 8 is released in September of next year.

apple stories 2016 AirPods

AirPods get announced, then delayed

When Apple introduced the iPhone 7, it also took some time to unveil a brand-new pair of wireless headphones called AirPods. Initially, Apple said AirPods would be begin shipping in late October. As November inched closer, however, Apple released a statement indicating that the launch was being delayed because it needed “a little more time before AirPods are ready for our customers.”

After a two-month delay, the AirPods were available for purchase, but they were in limited supply.

apple stories 2016 10

Apple streamlines its product lineup

In something of a surprise, Apple in 2016 streamlined its already thin product line. In June, Apple discontinued its Thunderbolt Display. While some at the time believed that a 5K replacement might soon be on the way, word spread in late October that Apple was leaving the standalone display business altogether.

Indeed, this helps explain why Apple during its MacBook Pro event was promoting an external monitor from LG. One month later, a report from Bloomberg said Apple was also getting out of the wireless router business and was ceasing new development on the AirPort Express, AirPort Extreme and the AirPort Time capsule. This news was particularly discouraging in light of the fact that Apple’s AirPort products boast the highest levels of customer satisfaction in the wireless router market.

apple stories 2016 11

Apple profits fall for the first time in 15 years

Because the iPhone is Apple’s primary revenue driver, Apple’s decline in iPhone sales led to Apple profits taking a huge hit. In fact, Apple’s fiscal 2016 represented the first time that Apple experienced a year-over-year decline in revenue in 15 years. Specifically, Apple in 2016 posted revenue of $215 billion. While that figure would be astounding for nearly every other company on the planet, it paled in comparison to the $233.7 billion Apple earned during the previous year.

apple stories 2016 iOS 10

Apple releases iOS 10

Originally introduced in June at WWDC, Apple in September released iOS 10. Per usual, the software update was filled with several compelling enhancements, including a revamped Messages app, third-party app integration for Siri, a new lock screen and a much smarter version of the Photos app.

Notably, iOS 10 was by all accounts the most stable version of a first release iOS update that we can remember largely thanks to Apple releasing many beta versions to developers. Also of note is that iOS 10 quickly became Apple’s fastest growing version of iOS in history. Less than a month after its release, nearly 67 percent of all iOS devices had installed iOS 10.

apple stories 2016 maps music

Revamped Maps and Apple Music apps

While technically a part of iOS 10, the revamped versions of Apple Maps and Apple Music are important enough to warrant their own listing.

First up, Apple completely overhauled its Maps app, making the user interface much simpler and far more intuitive to use. While Apple Maps previously had many of the same features as Google Maps, it wasn’t until iOS 10 that Apple Maps began to rival Google Maps from a usability perspective.

Apple Music also received a much-needed revamp in iOS 10. While Apple Music was always functional, the user interface was nothing short of a muddled and counterintuitive mess. In iOS 10, Apple went back to the drawing board and made finding and playing music a much more seamless process. Incidentally, Apple recently revealed that the total number of Apple Music subscribers is now over 20 million.

apple stories 2016 14

iPad and Mac sales decline

Product wise, it was a challenging year for Apple. Not only did the company endure its first annual decline in iPhone sales, but it also saw a marked decline in iPad and Mac sales. During the company’s March quarter, for example, Mac sales fell by 12 percent, representing the second biggest year-over-year decline in nearly 10 years.

On top of that, iPad sales continue to trend downwards. In fact, iPad sales hit a new five-year low during the company’s September quarter, with the company selling 9.26 million units. In stark contrast, Apple during the same quarter in 2012 sold 17 million iPads.

Looking ahead, it will be interesting to see if and when iPad and Mac sales rebound. With the Mac, at least, Apple can be confident that it’s new MacBook Pro will help inject a little bit of life into its somewhat stagnant Mac lineup.

apple stories 2016 Apple Spaceship campus

Apple Spaceship campus takes shape

A few years in the making, Apple’s highly anticipated Spaceship campus finally began to take shape as construction crews made an incredible amount of progress on the futuristic and highly unique structure. As it stands now, it’s anticipated that Apple will officially begin moving employees into its new campus sometime in early 2017.

Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.