- Apple launched new iPhone, iPad, Mac, and Apple Watch models, with modest improvements over previous designs.
- The iPhone remains one of the last flagship smartphones without 120 Hz refresh rate displays or ultra-high-resolution camera sensors.
- Apple created its own processor for the Mac, foreshadowing its move away from Intel silicon.
- European and US regulators and lawmakers, along with several tech companies, continue to battle Apple over its anti-competitive practices.
- Apple banned Epic Games and its extremely popular Fortnite app from the App Store over its attempt to sell virtual currency outside of the ecosystem.
- Security researchers found several holes in Apple’s armor, including the ability to completely take over any nearby iPhone.
- Apple debuted expensive new wireless headphones known as AirPods Max.
Apple News for 2020
2020 was a busy year for Apple. Despite a pandemic, the company managed to put forth a wide range of new products.
Apple’s latest M1 Macs are the most buzz-worthy news out of Cupertino in 2020. After more than a decade of developing custom silicon for its mobile devices, the company finally began transitioning from Intel chips to its own M1 processor.
New iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch models launched with modest improvements. Despite competitors offering bigger batteries, better screens, and higher-resolution camera sensors, Apple stuck to its guns, with 5G networking being the primary selling point for the iPhone 12 lineup. The new AirPods Max wireless headphones, a luxury offering for die-hard Apple fanatics, start at $550.
Battles over anti-competitive practices pitted Apple against lawmakers, regulators, and third-party developers. Apple’s 30% “tax” on developers, deemed excessive by many, was eventually reduced to 15% for small businesses.
A lot happened with Apple in 2020. Let’s take a look at the top five Apple news stories this year.
#1 – Apple Launches New Macs with M1 Processor
Vertical integration is a crucial strategy for many large corporations. Beyond profitability, depending on an outside company for technology binds two entities to one schedule. For a long time, the Mac’s product development roadmap relied on Intel’s release schedule. Furthermore, Apple didn’t have much input into chip design. With devices using more system-on-chip (SoC) technologies, Intel’s attempt to make one size fit all didn’t work out for Apple.
The new M1 chip, with outstanding single-core performance, is the biggest thing that’s happened to Apple since the iPhone. Although the processor boasts mediocre multi-core specs, focusing on a fast single-core speed benefits the average consumer with a responsive UI.
Apple’s newest M1 Macs feature outstanding battery life due to the chip’s unprecedented efficiency. The M1 is a chip off the old A-series processor. Although using ARM-based processors for computers is nothing new, Apple seems to have hit a home run on its first attempt. Qualcomm and Microsoft teamed up to develop the SQ1 and SQ2 processors for the Surface Pro X. Although this custom-silicon machine debuted before Apple’s newest M1 Macs, its performance was nothing exceptional.
Despite the buzz about Apple’s new M1 Macs, there are some issues. Not all software supports Apple’s new silicon, forcing some apps to run in the Rosetta 2 emulation environment. Although some emulated apps run faster than native apps on Intel chips, many software titles suffer performance issues.
Furthermore, most first-generation Apple technologies are over-priced and somewhat defective. Although the Cupertino company has vast experience developing processors, the new M-series still needs to prove itself. Security researches found issues with Apple’s T2 security chip that software updates cannot remediate. Nonetheless, the T2 is part of the M1’s SoC implementation.
It’s unclear whether Apple fixed the T2’s security issue with its inclusion in the M1 processor. It’s probably best to let the Apple fanatics pay to test these machines out and perhaps wait for the M2 processor.
#2 Apple Combats Growing Anti-Competitive Movement
Big tech is under the microscope these days, as few are pleased with leviathan corporations abusing customers, partners, and competitors. Conservatives dislike what they perceive as unfair censorship. Those on the left, middle, and some on the right also bristle at the largest tech providers’ monopolistic tactics.
Apple’s “walled garden” is under the most scrutiny, as the company refuses to allow iOS and iPadOS users to purchase apps or virtual products outside of the App Store. The battle reached a fever pitch when Apple booted Fortnite developer Epic Games out of the App Store. Once the Apple ecosystem’s darling and a fixture at Apple keynotes, this fallen angel can no longer distribute its games to iOS and iPadOS users.
Epic Games, Tile, Spotify, BaseCamp, the Match Group, and several other tech providers joined forces forming the Coalition for App Fairness. The group seeks to end monopolistic practices of big tech. The hope is that by leveling the playing field, Apple and other companies can’t extort partners and squash competitors. Freeing the market would also encourage innovation without the fear of being “Sherlocked” by Apple.
Members of the US Congress, EU regulators, and other governmental agencies are also moving against big tech. These changes move slowly, often countered by big-money lobbying efforts. Past challenges against Microsoft reveal that little change will occur.
The most likely outcome is modest changes to business practices for the sake of optics. Corporations tell governments what to do, not the other way around, as campaign contributions and lobbying are the lingua franca of modern politics.
It’s difficult to believe Apple can continue to get away with its locked-down ecosystem, but most consumers don’t care. Although savings on apps and in-app purchases are clearly beneficial, none of this can escape Apple’s reality distortion field.
#3 Google Project Zero Researcher Ian Beer “Pwns” iPhones
Apple’s security and privacy promises fell short when Google Project Zero researcher Ian Beer discovered a massive iOS vulnerability. Using a laptop, a Raspberry Pi, and stock WiFi adapters, Beer could hijack any iPhone within proximity.
Using a buffer-overflow attack against Apple’s proprietary mesh network technology, Google’s security researcher injected objects into memory, eventually taking control of devices. Beer was able to access data and even shut down iPhones within proximity.
Although Apple patched the vulnerability in iOS 13.5, the flaw demonstrates how virtually any device can be compromised. Ian Beer was just one intelligent man focused on a task for six months. State-sponsored hacking groups can likely compromise any device with enough effort. As Ian Beer stated:
“The takeaway from this project should not be: no one will spend six months of their life just to hack my phone, I’m fine.
Instead, it should be: one person, working alone in their bedroom, was able to build a capability which would allow them to seriously compromise iPhone users they’d come into close contact with.”
#4 iPhone 12 Debuts Without 120 Hz Displays
Your smartphone’s display is central to its user experience. Beyond visual feedback, smartphone displays allow users to interact with software applications directly. Tech companies like Samsung and OnePlus began offering brilliant AMOLED displays with fast 120 Hz refresh rates back in late 2017.
2020, years after the first smartphones with 120 Hz displays debuted, Apple still has yet to incorporate the technology into the iPhone. The iPad Pro is the only Apple device featuring a 120 Hz display, and the company brands this feature as if it invented the technology.
The newest iPhone 12 models still employ OLED displays. Although these use less energy than AMOLED screens, they don’t support high refresh rates. It’s likely that Apple could not order enough AMOLED displays to meet demand and thus settled for OLED technology. The iPhone 12 also features slightly less battery capacity than its predecessor, making AMOLED a non-starter.
#5 iPhone 12 World’s Best Selling 5G Smartphone (in October 2020)
As 2020 comes to a close, a cluster of seemingly exaggerated success stories claim the iPhone 12 is the best selling 5G phone in the world. The news hinges on data from Counterpoint, an analytics firm, showing that the iPhone 12 accounted for 24% of 5G smartphone sales in October 2020.
For some reason, this single month of sales, long after competitors’ 5G smartphones debuted, became a success story. Corporate tech news publications produced glowing reports of iPhone 12 success, with very little substance to back it up.
How many iPhone 12 units has Apple sold? This number is impossible to ascertain, as Apple won’t disclose it. We may discover this figure in a future quarterly report. For now, we’re in the dark.
The first Android smartphone with 5G technology launched way back in April of 2019. That’s a year and a half before Apple’s first 5G smartphone debuted. In tech years, that’s an eternity.
Of course, Apple outsold other 5G smartphones in October 2020. The iPhone 12 was just released, and the usual Apple fanatics ate it up. Android users already purchased 5G phones months ago. I bought my OnePlus 8 Pro 5G phone back in September of 2020. The popular Android phone launched in February 2020, with 5G capabilities and a solid recommendation from Consumer Reports.
There’s a long tradition of analytics firms serving the interests of tech corporations. By constraining dates or using shipments or surveys instead of real numbers of sold units, they’re able to fabricate success. Apple needs victory right now, as dwindling iPhone sales hurt its bottom line.
According to Wikipedia, in 2020, Samsung sold 193.3 million smartphones, with Apple selling a little more than half at 106.4 million units. These figures are only based on the first three quarters, as 2020 is not yet over. There’s little doubt that Apple sold 24% of smartphones in October 2020. The iPhone always sells well shortly after its release. This is also why Samsung, Oppo/OnePlus, Huawei, and other competitors sold so few phones in late 2020. Their new 5G phones debuted months ago. Android users have enjoyed 5G for well over a year, but it’s new territory for the iPhone.
2021 Looks Bright for Apple
Although Apple doesn’t make the best smartphones or computers, many have joined its ecosystem. Apple products’ interoperability, constrained by mutually exclusive features, encourages the purchase of all of its products. Furthermore, Apple’s branding remains strong. It can develop inferior products that have the same appeal as Air Jordan sneakers or De Beers diamonds.
Clever marketing and public relations help fabricate demand for Apple products.
Apple does make some impressive products. In time, its M-series Macintoshes will be a formidable force in the desktop and laptop computer markets. We’re already seeing them touted as supercomputers, which is far from the truth. Much of the software run on a new Mac with Apple silicon must run in a sort of emulated compatibility mode.
Rumors of a new Apple TV launching in 2021 may have some merit. It’s about time for a refresh of Apple’s least favorite product. Rumors claim Apple will equip the TV device with either an A12 or A14 processor. Given past Apple TV refreshes, the A12 seems more likely. The new Apple TV may be positioned as a gaming console to drive Apple Arcade subscriptions. Appledystopia expects the new Apple TV to be about as successful as past versions.
2021 will bring new iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch models. Governments, consumer groups and software developers will continue to attack Apple’s hegemony. We’ll likely see new security vulnerabilities; hopefully, none will be severe or exploited.
Overall, 2021 looks slightly different from 2020. Perhaps Apple will finally put better displays and batteries in the iPhone? If not, Android remains an excellent option for those who want the highest-quality flagship smartphones.