Even without redesigns across the hardware lineup, 2011 was a huge year for Apple with its focus on software. This year we saw the introduction of iCloud – Apple’s cloud-services platform, the push of the tablet with the iPad 2, and a look at the future with voice-recognition in the iPhone 4S. We also saw a taste of the iOS-infused future of the Mac desktop with OS X Lion, new United States iPhone carriers (Verizon in January and Sprint in October), faster Macs, and various new software.
Of course, with any series of Apple product launches, there will be leaks. Therefore, with 2011 dwindling down, we thought it would be a great idea to compile our biggest stories in 2011. Apple products are not typically leaked in their entirety, but multiple pieces of information leak at various times, typically giving us a holistic look at the final product by its introduction. Because of that, we are going to separate products in this roundup, and include the individual stories connected to each particular product. Click here to view 9to5Mac’s biggest stories of 2011:
The iPad 2:
Less than a year after the launch of the original iPad, Apple co-founder Steve Jobs took the stage to announce the iPad 2. The thinner, lighter, faster iPad with two cameras was a massive hit this year. The iPad 2 may be one of the most leaked products this year. Perhaps the biggest surprise for the iPad 2 –considering the lack of the white iPhone 4 at the time- was a white frame option for the tablet. We nailed the white option (see image above), along with a hands-on-thanks to iFixYouri iPhone repair -with the iPad 2’s 1024 x 768 display (yes, not Retina) in January 2011. Along the way, we pinpointed two cameras; posted screenshots of the iPad 2 camera app, brought accurate leaked case designs, and pinpointed the back 720P, 1 MP camera. Thanks to iFixYouri iPhone repair, we also reported the strength of the iPad 2’s glass is far superior to the original iPad’s glass. Since the launch of the iPad 2, we also broke the news on a Verizon iPad 2 recall and a major iPad 2 flaw relating to being able to unlock a password-protected iPad 2 with just a Smart Cover (or any magnet).
Over two months before the Wall Street Journal, we reported – to much disbelief – that Sprint has the iPhone in advanced testing within their labs. At the time, we also reported: the Sprint iPhone in testing sported an iPhone 4 design; Apple had Sprint towers on campus for testing; and, the 2011 iPhone would not be 4G.
Apple retail changes:
Even with their leader Ron Johnson announcing his move to J.C Penney in the middle of the year, Apple’s retail division had a strong 2011. This year not only saw top sales figures, but brought out a lot of innovation into the Apple retail market. Earlier in the year we revealed a series of major changes for the Apple Store: no more re-stocking fees, a Personal Setup program for Mac users, iPhone unlocking, and a new Joint Venture program for small business owners. A bit later in the year came Apple Store 2.0.
In an Apple retail move that we coined, we introduced the world to changes like iPad signs (Smart Signs) instead of paper signs in stores, new stores with larger monitors and improved sound systems, a Startup Session section for new stores, and an updated Apple Store app. In addition to that, we managed to obtain a full screenshot gallery of Apple’s new and innovative internal RetailMe iPad app. In recent weeks, we not only reported that Apple had record-breaking Black Friday 2011 sales numbers, but we actually revealed the entire sale itself days before the sale began. Our latest Apple retail related story was revealing all of the internal employee policies.
We reported: Apple was at work on a Photo Stream iOS 5 + iCloud feature, Apple’s OS X Lion Reading List would sync to iOS devices, details on Find My Friends, and broke the news about Apple’s PC-Free initiative, reporting on an Apple + Verizon deal for over-the-air software updates. On our sister site 9to5Google, we reported that although Apple is working on their own Maps technology, iOS 5 would retain a Google Maps backend.
White iPod touch:
When we leaked Apple’s shift from a free iPod to an App Store gift card for the Back to School promo, we predicted minor changes – if any – to the 2011 iPod lineup. Unsurprisingly, Apple did not do much to the iPod touch this year, at least for design and features. They did launch a white version to match the white iPhone and white iPad 2, though. We were able to obtain prototype frames for this white iPod touch, as you can see in the image above.
Changes in the company:
2011 was not only a big year for Apple in terms of products, but was a big year for internal company changes. Months ahead of the iCloud launch, we broke the news that newly appointed Apple CEO Tim Cook had promoted Vice President of Internet Services Eddy Cue to Senior Vice President of Internet Services and Software. Cook described this promotion as a major one for Cue and it surely is. Other executives changes include the ousting of Apple’s VP of Global Security over the lost iPhone 4S in a bar situation earlier in the year, and Apple CFO Peter Oppenheimer stepping in as interim retail chief following the departure of Ron Johnson. On top of that, we confirmed that Apple had acquired 3D mapping firm C3 technologies and plans to use that technology to build its own maps network in a future version of iOS.
The iPhone 4S:
The iPhone 4S is not what people thought they wanted as the follow-up to the iPhone 4 -a product surrounded with controversy- but it is what we got. In April, we broke the news that the essence of the next-generation iPhone would be an A5-based iPhone 4. With that, our sources called this new iPhone an iPhone 4S and told us that game developers were already testing new games against such hardware. The image we posted above is actually the iPhone 4S. Hence the Verizon-iPhone 4-like antenna band structure. We also confirmed this new iPhone to be called iPhone 4S, and that it would launch with the iPhone 4 design thanks to our findings in an iTunes beta. We also leaked that the new iPhone would come in a 64GB capacity; include an 8MP camera (as previously rumored) with a backlit sensor, and would pack world phone Gobi chips.
iPhone 4S Dictation:
Apple’s most important move in 2011 was definitely the debut of their Siri voice-enabled assistant. Everything else Apple announced this year will likely be refreshed in coming years, but Siri is different. Siri is the start of a voice-controlled world, and Apple is ushering those sentiments with their extremely advanced Siri voice assistant technology. 9to5Mac led the leaks of this extremely important Apple innovation starting in July. We reported (with help from Sonny Dickson) that Apple had done significant work on a voice assistant for the next-generation iPhone. Soon after that, we pinpointed the service’s integration with Calendars, Contacts, Mail, and the “Siri” branding. The biggest bombshell, though, relating to Siri, was our actual hands-on with the service. In September, we reported everything about Siri: its user-interface, ease of use, integration with Maps, Mail, Safari, Wolfram-Alpha, Find My Friends, Contacts, Calendar, Reminders, and more. We also interviewed Siri’s co-founder about Apple integrating Siri and he called it a “world-changing event.” It truly is.
- IGg Holster for AT&T / Verizon iPhone 4 w/ $1 credit for $4 + free shipping (9to5toys.com)
- Radio Shack lands the Verizon iPhone 4 on September 15th, just ahead of iPhone 5 (9to5mac.com)
- Whose is the best tablet display: Amazon’s, Barnes & Noble’s or Apple’s? (9to5google.com)