2015 was an interesting year for Apple, to say the least. While the company sold more iPhones than ever before, and delivered record-breaking profits in the process, Apple in 2015 was seemingly a company in transition, endlessly on the prowl for the next big thing.
Over the last 12 months, Apple released a number of new products and services that had many proclaiming that the company had lost its innovative edge. Nilay Patel of The Verge, for instance, went so far as to categorize Apple’s 2015 as a “year in beta.”
And truthfully, it’s hard to disagree.
Without question, Apple knows how to keep busy. In 2015, we saw the release of new Macs, new iPhone models, the rollout of Apple Music, welcome updates to both iOS and OS X, a brand new Apple TV, a gargantuan iPad Pro, and of course, an entirely new product category with the introduction of the Apple Watch.
That’s all well and good, but save for the iPhone, most of the services and products Apple released in 2015 seemed to fall short of the company’s traditional bar for excellence. Though Tim Cook loves to talk about “delighting” customers, Apple in 2015 seemed to be the cause of more frustration and confusion than delight. Take the Apple TV for example. It’s a solid product, but it’s not yet a device deserving of the “it just works” label.
To this point, Patel writes:
But I can’t get over the feeling that the Apple TV was rushed to market in radically different form after Apple’s attempts to launch a “skinny bundle” streaming TV service fell through. Siri didn’t work with Music when it arrived; the iPhone remote app hadn’t been updated to work with the new device. (Both are fixed now.) Simple problems, like having to repeatedly re-enter the same cable company login and password to multiple streaming apps, aren’t solved. The Siri touch remote can be finicky and strange, and a traditional D-pad works better for the core streaming TV features.
Unfortunately, the minor yet impactful shortcomings of the Apple TV is arguably reflective of the company’s entire 2015.
Turning now to software, we finally saw Apple’s big play in the music space with Apple Music get off the ground this year. Though Apple’s new streaming service may be building up its user base, there’s no getting around the fact that the service, at launch, was absolutely plagued by numerous bugs, a confusing and inconsistent UI, and a decidedly frustrating user experience. Even basic functions, like adding songs to playlists, seemed to only work about 40% of the time. While Apple managed to patch up some of these software shortcomings in the months that followed, the company built its fortune on products that “just work” right out of the box.
Which brings us to the Apple Watch, a device admittedly brimming with potential but still not quite the hit product some analysts envisioned. To be fair, the Apple Watch is still a product in its infancy with tremendous amounts of room to grow and time to realize its full potential. In fact, early Apple Watch sales eclipsed early sales of both the iPod and the iPhone. Nonetheless, and as Patel points out, it seems that Apple was hoping that third-party developers would magically come up with a killer app to truly elevate the wearable into a must-have device. That obviously hasn’t happened yet.
In fact, much of Apple’s 2016 will focus on enhancing and improving upon the products and services launched in 2015. From making sure Apple Music works consistently to fleshing out the feature-set of the Apple Watch 2, Apple next year will be judged not only for what new products and services it comes out with, but by whether or not its existing products can soon live up to the “it just works” standard of excellence upon which the company’s fortune was built.