Jason Snell wrote a well-rounded retrospective of Apple’s 2018 for Tom’s Guide that is, I think, spot on. The product side was generally positive: the new iPad Pro, MacBook Air, and Mac Mini models are excellent computers. The Series 4 Apple Watch really does seem like a slam-dunk. The iPhone XR is a product with the same processor and modern iPhone design language as the XS, but in a wide range of colours at a lower price.
But it’s not all gold. The iPhone XR may cost less than the XS, but it’s still $50 more expensive than the base model iPhone 8, and $100 more than the base iPhone 7. Price increases were a standard story across the board, too, for the Mac and iPad Pro lines. Make no mistake — these are, indeed, better products, but customers have to spend more for them than previous versions.
Then there’s the lack of updates to the MacBook or iMac, and the conspicuous absence of any mention of the AirPower teased last year for a 2018 release.
As far as software goes, 2018 was, as Snell puts it, a “calm before the storm”:
Speaking of surprise advance product announcements, in June Apple announced that it would provide iOS developers with the ability to move their apps to the Mac… in 2019. It’s a move with huge ramifications, and it’s my top candidate for the Apple story of 2019.
But this announcement was more about providing an explanation for four new apps that Apple brought from iOS to macOS as a proof of concept in macOS Mojave in the fall. I appreciate Apple’s commitment to learning about how to make this transition the hard way, but the apps Apple brought over to the Mac (Home, Voice Recorder, Stocks, and News) just aren’t very good. Apple has plenty of time to rectify this before third-party developers get their hands on this stuff next year, but right now the four object examples of the iOS-to-macOS app transition are mediocre at best and weird and broken at worst.
Then there’s iOS 12, an update that brought some perfectly nice features and provided increased stability and speed for older iPhone models. It’s a great update as far as it goes, but I’m listing it in this collection of Apple’s failures because it utterly ignored the iPad Pro. A month after iOS 12 arrived, the new iPad Pro models arrived to a critical consensus that they were amazing pieces of hardware that were let down by their software. That’s on iOS 12.
After some increased bugginess in recent iOS releases, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by iOS 12’s stability and speed. It feels refreshed on every device I’ve used. However, the iPad still feels like it hasn’t been given the authority to be true to itself. Plenty of progress has been made in iOS more generally, but very few iPad-specific improvements have been made over the last several releases; iOS 9 was the last major version with iPad-focused changes.
One last thing: something that Apple managed to avoid doing in 2018 was to be at the centre of any major controversy. While its peers were stumbling from one dumpster fire to another, the sole scary story in Apple’s year turned out to be a dud.