six colors

by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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By Jason Snell

Apple report card: verbatim comments

[From the 2016 Apple Report Card.]

The Mac

Rob Griffiths

No new desktop Macs at all—no Pro, no mini, no iMac. An overpriced toy with an emoji bar hamstrung by a thin-design-at-all-costs 16GB max RAM limit. Death of the perfect 11” Air. In short, a horrid year for the Mac.

Brent Simmons

This is the year Apple produced a book of pictures of Macs instead of great new Macs.

Marco Arment

Zero desktops were updated this year, and the laptop upgrades were moderate, expensive, and controversial. The only better-without-asterisks Mac update this year was the 2016 MacBook.

John Siracusa

The Mac was almost entirely neglected this year. The MacBook Pro received the only major update, and the changes left many potential MacBook Pro buyers unsatisfied. The MacBook got upgraded internals and a new color. Every other Mac was unchanged, including several that haven’t been updated in years. After three years with the same specs and the same price, the Mac Pro is an embarrassment. Apple exiting the standalone display business added insult to injury.

Brett Terpstra

My vote is still out on the MacBook Pro. I don’t own one yet, but I’ve used them and the jury’s still out. I find the touch bar both fascinating and a little frustrating, but the hardware is exciting and it will only take software improvements to make me fall in love with it. I am probably one of very few who will actually miss their hardware escape/function keys.

I think Sierra has been a great step and, despite my concerns early on, I feel like it was nothing but gain all around. Solid performance improvements (filesystem and OS), excellent integration with the rest of the Apple ecosystem, and Siri (or at least the start of an intelligent voice command system) is great.

Fraser Speirs

The Touch Bar MacBook Pro isn’t the computer everybody wanted but I think it’s a computer that will work for the most people in Apple’s ever-larger and more diverse customer base. People harking back to the days when Apple made a computer “just perfect for me” need to also remember that Apple were shipping sub-500k/quarter, not millions.

Kirk McElhearn

Apple seems to have no real strategy for the Mac. Hardware updates are getting further and further apart, and seem more targeted at Apple’s design team than real world users. On the software front, the termination of Sal Soghoian makes me worry for the future of AppleScript, especially within iTunes, where it’s the only way to extend the app. And software reliability on the Mac is iffy at best. To be fair, that was the case last year as well. I’m no longer bullish on the Mac as a viable platform for the long term; I feel that Apple doesn’t want it to be successful any more, and cares too much about the iPhone, iPad, and their book.

Dan Moren

It’s been a tough year for the Mac. From the dearth of updates to the Mac Pro, iMac, and Mac mini, to a somewhat underwhelming revision of macOS in the form of Sierra, 2016 hasn’t had a lot to offer longtime aficionados of Apple’s oldest platform. Late concessions came in the form of revamped MacBook Pros, with the Touch Bar possibly pointing towards one potential future of the Mac, but it still seems like Apple might be floundering when it comes to the its desktop and laptop lines. That’s to be expected with a product line as mature as this one, but it often seems as though the company’s priorities for the Mac may be misaligned with what many of its customers (the ones who haven’t switched to iOS devices) want. The Mac was supposed to be a truck to iOS’s car, but it’s ended up feeling more like an SUV.

Sierra, in particular, has felt solidly underwhelming. The update focused mainly on Siri, which on the Mac has fallen kind of flat. It’s there, and it works just fine, but there’s little reason to use it with the prevalence of other intelligent agents around us these days, whether it be an Amazon Echo or Siri on the iPhone. For better or worse, it does feel like Apple backporting some of its iOS ideas to the Mac, rather than developing Mac ideas fresh.

James Thomson

The optimist in me would like to think that the lack of anything meaningful with the Mac this year - with the exception of the MacBook Pro Touch Bar - means that we’ll see more revolutionary products next year with a new industrial design, and possibly even a new architecture. I’m still hopeful that WWDC will bring a new Mac Pro. The lack of announcements doesn’t necessarily mean that nothing is happening behind the scenes - it feels like the Mac has taken a gap year to go off and find itself. But even just in terms of software, Sierra was an iteration that didn’t really feel noticeably different to El Capitan, and so it’s hard to give them a high score here. The “we know best, so we’re taking away all your ports” attitude of the MBP doesn’t endear them either.

Stephen Hackett

While the new MacBook Pros are pretty good, the state of the desktop Macs has left many Mac pros frustrated and worried.

Josh Centers

The Mac is in sort of a sad state. The Mac mini and Mac Pro seem all but dead. The iMac, while still terrific, was not updated this year. The MacBook Air limbers along in a zombie-like state, neither alive or dead. The 12-inch MacBook has always been an anemic mess, and despite an update this year, that hasn’t changed. Finally, there’s the new MacBook Pro models, which are promising, but don’t seem to suit the needs of many professionals. Even worse, I’ve heard about numerous hardware issues, such as USB devices interferring with Wi-Fi, and USB hard drives causing system crashes.

I’ve now owned a 13-inch 2016 MacBook Pro for a month, and although it’s a well-built machine, my initial complaints remain: Thunderbolt 3 isn’t fully baked, battery life doesn’t live up to Apple’s promises, and it’s an expensive machine for what it is. That being said, I love how light and thin it is and the keyboard.

Casey Liss

I think the community’s angst is overblown. There are some drawbacks to the new machines, and some that should have been updated years ago. However, I think having four omnivorous, daisy-chainable ports on the new MacBook Pro is going to prove to be VERY cool in the coming years.

Rich Mogull

The new MacBook Pros are solid. Sierra is solid. But the lack of updates to the Mac Pro and Mini hurt and basically stall this entire category. Some of this may be a limitation imposed by Intel, but Apple is still ultimately responsible for their product line.

Shawn Blanc

They’re doing things as expected: slow, stead, incremental. Alas, nothing that makes me say “wow, I have to have that!”

Roman Loyola

Apple’s neglect of its desktop lineup overshadows everything else Apple has done with the Mac. macOS Sierra and the Touch Bar MacBook Pro are impressive, without a doubt, but when the Mac mini and Mac Pro (and heck, toss the iMac in there too, as time marches on) have gone years without a major update, and that tells users that Apple isn’t allocating resources to those products. I hope I’m wrong and Apple introduces not just updates but major revamps of each desktop Mac in 2017.

Jeff Carlson

Sierra seems solid, and it’s nice to see Apple working on fundamentals of the OS instead of rushing for new features (does anyone use Siri on the Mac?). But the radio silence about the iMac, Mac Pro, and Mac mini are all mystifying.

Gabe Weatherhead

I’m still on the previous model of rMBP. While I like Sierra well enough, I’m not compelled to upgrade at all and fear for where the Mac is headed as an expensive niche product.

Lex Friedman

The TouchBar is a cool innovation. But the Mac feels stagnant.

I love Siri, I wrote numerous Macworld pieces begging Apple to bring Siri to the Mac, and the implementation strikes me as lame. I can’t quite put my finger on why, but I never use Siri on my Mac even though I know it’s there. This may be a failing of me.

Katie Floyd

It’s been a tough year for the Mac. After years of waiting for the MacBook Pro refresh I picked up a new 13” MacBook Pro and am not thrilled. The keyboard and trackpad are both significant steps backwards in terms of usability and comfort and there are serious questions as to whether these are truly “Pro” level machines. While these are no doubt sleek and sexy machines, it has come at the cost of function. As someone who has always used a higher-end laptop as my primary Mac I feel stuck.

I also found the Sierra update disappointing. It was fairly weak on features (do we really need or want Siri on our Macs) and on several of my machines has compromised stability. While the yearly upgrade cycle seams nice in theory, it seems like I’m not spending 3 months out of the year dealing with minor bugs and incompatibilities.

Federico Viticci

As an iPad-only user, the Touch Bar on the new MacBook Pro is the first Mac-only feature to make me interested in the macOS platform in years.

David Sparks

It’s nice to see some innovation with the Mac on the Touch Bar and I can only imagine how much work went into it. However, it still seems like Apple continues to let the Mac linger with another year with no updates to Mac Pro. More than anything, I’d like to see Apple explain a bit more what they see as the role of the Mac in 2017 and some guidance as to what their plans are for it going forward.

Aleen Simms

It feels like we’re in a bit of a feature lull right now. The bigger trackpad and Touch Bar in the MacBook Pro line is nice, but doesn’t feel like something I really need to upgrade to get. Thinner is great, but the weight reduction also doesn’t feel like a really big deal—this coming from someone who’s been waiting for a lighter computer for a few years now. I think what I really want is a 15” MacBook. I’m more comfortable on a larger screen and am willing to sacrifice some power for extra portability.

Like many, I have concerns about Apple’s priorities for the “Pro” lines. Are they for professionals, who need bigger, faster, stronger computers, or are they using the Pro designation to help consumers feel like they’re getting more bang for their buck?

And what about the iMac and Mac mini? Will those lines get significant updates soon?

Susie Ochs

The Touch Bar on the new MacBook Pro made the Mac more fun to use than it’s been for years.

John Gruber

I wish I could have voted separately on Mac hardware and software. On the software front, I think Sierra is a fine update. I think it’s a little buggier than El Capitan was at this point in the release cycle, but feature-wise it’s a nice year-over-year update. Hardware-wise, 2016 was an awful year for the Mac. The new MacBook is fine, but a minor update over the 2014 model. I like the new MacBook Pros With Touch Bar a lot, but I think they were overdue. The lack of updates to the iMac and Mac mini were a disappointment. And the fact that the Mac Pro hasn’t seen any sort of update in over 1,000 days is downright embarrassing.

Christina Warren

On a software standpoint, I actually think this was a good year for the Mac. The rebranding to macOS Sierra was handled well and Sierra itself, while an iterative release, added some important features, real cloud-integration being one of the the big (and much-needed) moves.

Then we have to get to the hardware. After what felt like 27 years, we finally got a new MacBook Pro. And yet, I can’t help but feel slightly unfulfilled. Putting aside the dongle-hell complaints (which I think will be a hassle now but will basically disappear over time; it’s the sacrifice you make today that won’t be an issue 2 years into your ~4-5 year ownership), the machines themselves, while beautiful, are incredibly expensive. That’s my biggest issue with the new MacBook Pro, both with and without the Touch Bar: Price. Macs will never be as cheap as PCs, but for many years (nearly a decade, in fact), you could make the argument that a similarly specced Mac would cost the same as an equivalent PC. That’s no longer the case. And that will be a problem. When your starting price for a modern HiDPI laptop is $1500, that’s cutting a lot of users out of the equation.

I also review Windows laptops and it’s hard to explain to a regular user why they should pay hundreds of dollars more for a MacBook Pro that is lower-specced and is using older hardware, when Dell is selling a laptop like the XPS 13, which, much as I hate to say it, is incredibly good. And it’s hard for professionals to justify outlaying such an investment in something that, for whatever reason, feels like it’s using older parts than it should. My dream is that we’ll see a Kaby Lake update in the Spring.

And when it comes to the Touch Bar, I’ve said that it’s sort of gimmicky—and it is! I think it has the potential to offer up some new UI and UX conventions, but it will be up to app developers to make it so. Touch ID, on the other hand, is a TERRIFIC addition.

And then Apple has continued to ignore its desktop space. The Mac Pro is now three years without an upgrade, and it needs it. Thunderbolt 3 would be great on the Mac Pro, as would beefed up graphics cards. The iMac needs less of a refresh, I guess, since it got one last year, but the lack of an upgrade also makes it feel like an also-ran. And I guess we all have to accept facts that the Mac mini is dead.

It doesn’t help that Windows is getting better and that in a world of web browsers and web apps, the advantages of the Mac ecosystem are harder to sell. I still love the Mac. LOVE IT. But I can’t help but feel like the momentum is slowing when it should be speeding up.

John Moltz

Ugh. Well, the new MacBook Pro is nice. And, uh… did I mention the new MacBook Pro? The thing is, Apple needs to make Macs if it wants to sell Macs and for much of their lineup they don’t really “make” them anymore. On a recent podcast, I floated a theory based only on conjecture that the company might discontinue the desktop line completely and only make laptops in the future. I hope that’s not true as I’ve loved my desktop Macs and I believe that it behooves the company to continue making a flagship product even if it doesn’t sell in the numbers the iPhone does.

Adam Engst

Apple clearly isn’t paying that much attention to the Mac, with only one minor update to the 12-inch MacBook and the new MacBook Pro models that shipped late in the year. No new Mac Pro, no new Mac mini, no improvements to the iMac. The laptop line is now utterly confusing, with a hodgepodge of overlapping models of various vintages and industrial designs. There may be good reasons for this, such as lack of chips from Intel or Apple putting its focus on the big-money iPhone business, but that doesn’t mean that it’s good or that we Mac users have to like it.

The Touch Bar could be extremely interesting, but only if it becomes a universal interface across the entire line, which would require it appearing in an external keyboard. Otherwise, it will remain a novelty.

Sierra is fine, but not life-changing. Again, Apple seems to see the Mac as an accessory to the iPhone, so most of the major changes in Sierra are aimed at integrating the Mac into the iPhone user experience as much as possible. Again, that’s not inherently bad, but it doesn’t move the environment forward in any truly significant ways.

Tonya Engst

I’d like to see a line of Mac desktops and laptops with an obvious model in each category for budget-conscious users, mid-level users, and pro users. Apple needs to do some work in this area. Apple also needs to think about what sort of laptop could compete with a Chromebook in an education setting, since they are losing an entire generation of Chromebook-using high schoolers.

The fingerprint sensor on the new MacBook Pros is a wonderful convenience, and with apps like 1Password integrating it, I think a lot of users are going to really like it. The Touch Bar seems like it has a lot of potential, but time will tell whether it turns out to be useful in an important way.

Rene Ritchie

The Mac is heavily constrained by Intel’s constant delays and by how much attention iPhone and other products demand. But that’s an opportunity for Apple to become more creative and tell better stories. And to make sure no Mac, including the Pro and mini, get left behind.

Shahid Kamal Ahmad

The laptop reached a definitive form many years ago. Processors are not getting any faster, only more parallelized. Screen technology is as good as it gets since Retina and the colour gamut is already pretty wide. Beyond tinkering at the edges, until battery technology evolves, there’s very little that Apple, or anyone can do to make laptops substantially better. There are many vectors of minor innovation that Apple could attack, but I’m not convinced they’ve hit all the right marks. The price hike, especially in the UK is also unwelcome. Nevertheless, the MacBook Pro remains the classiest laptop around by a country mile and macOS remains the best operating system for doing complex or compute-intensive work.

Rick LePage

I’m sorry, but the Touch Bar does nothing for me. As someone who’s been living with the iPhone and iPad for years, I want a touch screen. I don’t care that Apple thinks we don’t need it. The Touch Bar, while interesting, seems to be a dressed up version of the F-keys of yesteryear, merged with QuicKeys (the Mac OS 8 version). Interesting in a way, but my focus is on the screen. That’s why I’ve absorbed the ability to touch type over my 58 years on this planet.

The current iMacs are good, and, while I don’t need a new desktop, a lot of friends of mine do, and they’d like more than an aged Mac Pro.

And I would like an 11” Retina MacBook Air with 16GB of RAM, a 1TB SSD, or a 12” MacBook with the same and at least two USB-C ports. I know that’s not going to happen, so I’ll look to either the new Surface Book Pro or the MacBook Pro without the Touch Bar. Or nothing at all.

Dan Frakes

The iMac is still a fantastic computer, but the Mac Pro and Mac mini haven’t seen real updates in years. And I can’t remember a time when it was more difficult to figure out which Apple laptop a non-pro should buy: The Air is the “affordable” model but hasn’t seen a significant update in years (and may never get another one); the 12-inch MacBook is still pricey for what you get, and it’s still waiting for the inevitable “second port” update; and the $1500 2016 MacBook Pro is a solid machine, but it’s relatively pricey and it feels like it exists mainly because the Touch Bar models start at $1800. Meanwhile, $1100 gets you a fantastic Windows laptop like the Dell XPS 13 with solid specs. I think (hope?) Apple will lower prices next year as production costs go down, but right now it feels like a transition year for Apple laptops—and a lost few years for non-iMac desktops.

The iPhone

Brent Simmons

I love my iPhone SE.

Marco Arment

The iPhone SE was unexpectedly great, and the 7 and 7 Plus mostly overcame their seemingly-pointless headphone-jack removal with substantial camera upgrades, small but welcome battery improvements, and surprisingly compelling new black finishes.

Fraser Speirs

The iPhone 7 is an outstanding phone without breaking anything that was great about previous models. The headphone jack has been shown to be a fake issue pushed hard by the tech press for clicks coughthevergecough but in practice it’s not a problem.

I gave 4/5, though, because of the delay to AirPods. I think they really round out the wireless audio story for iPhone 7 and they’re still not here.

Kirk McElhearn

Another minor hardware update to the iPhone that Apple has desperately tried to spin as “magical” (or whatever adjective they’ve been using this year). The smartphone is a mature platform, and is now a commodity. Apple’s sales have dropped, their market share isn’t evolving, and, in spite of them making a shit-ton of money, the wind is no longer in their sales. I would rather see a substantial update to the iPhone every two years rather than a small, incremental change every year. FWIW, I’m using the iPhone SE, because that’s the only one that’s the right size. I also feel that Apple was boneheaded in not having three sizes in the main iPhone product line. They’re shrugging off the tens of millions of users who don’t want a big phone, and that sort of arrogant hubris may cost them if they don’t keep updating the smaller phone.

iOS 10 is flaky, perhaps more so, for me, than any recent version of iOS.

Dan Moren

By the time the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus arrived, it seemed like we already knew most of what was likely to be in them. Everything from the waterproofing to the ersatz Home Button was a given, from the rumor mill. That doesn’t stop the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus from being solid products, but it does lessen the impact of a major new revision—especially one that looks pretty similar to its predecessors.

The relative lack of changes to the iPhone 7 models is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, if it ain’t broke, why fix it? On the other, everybody craves impressive new features and technology that pushes things forward, and it’s hard not to feel a little disappointed by a product that hews so closely to its predecessors, despite how good all of those products are, or how irrational a desire like that might be. Apple’s pushed back hard against the idea that it can’t innovate, and additions like the 7+’s dual cameras Portrait Mode have saved this generation from being entirely ho-hum, but with the iPhone about to hit the ten year mark, it’s hard not to hope for something more major coming down the pike.

And then there’s the transition away from the headphone jack. So far, in the two months that I’ve had an iPhone 7, the lack of the venerable port has been only mildly annoying. I can probably count the number of times I’ve gone to plug my old headphones into it on one hand, especially while I’ve been traveling with a pair of Bluetooth headphones.

Finally, with iOS 10, Apple’s continued to iterate on its mobile OS, adding more features and capabilities. iOS 10, I feel, is a mixed bag. I like the revamp of widgets and the addition of more home automation features, but the fad of iMessage apps already seems to be fading, and I can’t remember having seriously used any of the new third-party Siri options. Maybe those both lay the groundwork for more significant expansions in iOS 11, but right now, they feel somewhat superfluous.

James Thomson

I hadn’t planned on updating to the iPhone 7 this year - it didn’t seem to offer a great deal of improvement over the 6S I had, particularly at the non-Plus size. Unfortunately, a bug that only occurred on the 7 Plus meant that I ended up an involuntary member of the 7 Plus Club. I like the new cameras a lot, but I equally dislike the lack of a headphone socket, and the not-a-button button. I’m not entirely certain I can see the differences with the wide colour display, but that’s probably a failing of my eyes rather than anything else. Each year, the new iPhone has always been the best iPhone, but this year there is an element of compromise there too. iOS is steadily improving, but there wasn’t anything that really stood out in iOS 10 for me. After some initial excitement, I don’t really use the new iMessage features. I don’t think the iPhone is treading water like the Mac is, but it wasn’t exactly a banner year either.

Stephen Hackett

The 7 and 7 Plus continue Apple’s trend of shipping outstanding mobile hardware.

Josh Centers

The SE was a welcome addition, but added nothing new to Apple’s design repertoire. I like my iPhone 7 Plus, but it’s not a great leap over the iPhone 6 — it feels more like an extra “s” update than a new generation. However, I think iOS 10 is the best update since iOS 7; while there isn’t a single stand-out feature, the overall improvements are remarkable.

Casey Liss

Damn my matte black iPhone 7 is slippery.

Rich Mogull

The iPhone 7 is an excellent update and helps gloss over some of the issues (the now-acknowledge battery problem) with the 6s. iOS is also in a very solid place and fixes some of the annoyances of other recent updates.

Shawn Blanc

The new iPhones are awesome with improvements in all the areas that matter.

Roman Loyola

I didn’t get an iPhone7; I usually upgrade every two years and I bought an iPhone 6s Plus, which I love. I seriously thought about getting the 7 Plus because I want the camera. But I was swayed by the rumors that the 2017 iPhone will be a major redesign.

Gabe Weatherhead

As always, the latest iPhone is the best iPhone. But I really do love my 7 Plus. It’s far more powerful than I need. Force Touch is fantastic. iOS is finally feeling like a stable OS I can depend on.

Lex Friedman

The iPhone 7 Plus is the best iPhone I’ve ever owned. That’s not surprising. But I’ve done other iPhone upgrades where it mostly felt, “”eh…””

This one is a revelation. It’s so fast, so powerful, and the camera is drool-inducing.

Katie Floyd

This feels like a “”meh”” year for the iPhone, especially for those of us who are 4.7”” owners. We got a nice camera upgrade, things got a little faster and Apple reinvented black. The feature I’m probably most excited about is water resistance. On the negative side, while the removal of the headphone jack isn’t as dire as everyone predicted, it does come with new dongles, charging hassles and the purchase of bluetooth accessories.

I upgraded because my previous phone was an iPhone 6 and because of my contract cycle it made sense. But I’m not blown away. So, meh.

Federico Viticci

While the lack of headphone jack and limitations with dongles and Lightning will be annoyances in the short term, Apple is pushing for a wireless future where everything will likely be okay. AirPods should have been ready earlier, though.

Aleen Simms

I’ve had some weird bugs with iOS updates, one of which caused me to blow through tens of gigabytes of data in a few hours. The iPhone 7 feels more like an iteration on the 6/6S, although the camera on my iPhone 7 Plus is great! This year’s leather cases are much better than those for the 6S line (I can press the metal volume and sleep/wake buttons, whereas I had to jam my fingernail into the previous case and still pray it would work). I adore the Jet Black finish!

I have a few friends who have switched to Android devices because they feel like Apple isn’t innovating; this might be a dangerous perception over time.

Susie Ochs

Getting rid of the headphone jack and then not shipping the AirPods is beyond annoying.

John Gruber

Excellent hardware and software updates.

Christina Warren

It’s been a big year for iPhone. First, we got the iPhone SE, which is a phone I never expected Apple to make, but I think is a good phone for them to make, especially in markets like India.

But the biggest iPhone news didn’t come from Apple, it came from Samsung. The Galaxy Note 7 was a terrific phone and for the first time since the Galaxy S3, had real potential to steal sales way from the iPhone. And then it literally blew up in Samsung’s faces.

The fact that the halted shipments and initial recall happened just as Apple was unveiling the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus is hugely valuable to Apple because it meant that the iPhone’s greatest competition was literally taken out before it ever had a chance to affect sales.

As for the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus themselves, we knew the features ahead of time, and I think that helped lessen the sting of no new redesign and the loss of the headphone jack. As for the death of the headphone jack, I’ll say what I was saying before the phone even launched: for most people it’s a total non-issue. You use the headphones that come with your phone. And the included adaptor and Bluetooth make up the rest.

The phones themselves, iterative upgrades or not, are terrific. The camera on the iPhone 7 Plus is the best smartphone camera I’ve ever used. The speed is fantastic and I’ve even gotten used to the new home button.

As for iOS 10, it’s good! I like a lot of the refinements made to the first-party apps and the new Messages features are fun.

All of this said, we definitely need this major redesign to happen next year. People expect it and want it. And Apple can’t count on its biggest competition blowing up upon itself two years in a row.

John Moltz

The iPhone 7 is a solid device, if not breathtaking in a new design (it did fix my pet peeve, the antenna lines that were stolen from Deep Space 9 PADDs). But my favorite iPhone in years, the SE, came out this year. This was pretty much exactly what I wanted: Smaller form factor with decent battery life (if iOS 10 seemed to have mucked with that a bit) and newer internals. More like this, please.

Adam Engst

The iPhone 7 and 7 Plus are well-done, although it would have been nice if Apple had adjusted the industrial design to avoid the problem of having the Sleep/Wake button on the opposite side of the case from the volume buttons, since it’s still far too easy to sleep the iPhone when all you mean to do is change the volume—you tend to apply hand pressure on both sides of the phone equally.

The iPhone SE was also a welcome addition earlier in 2016, though it’s a little too bad that it doesn’t support 3D Touch or the improved Touch ID sensor from the iPhone 6s.

iOS 10 is a solid update, and Apple did a good job rethinking some of the awkward parts of the user experience. The Widget screen is welcome, interactive notifications work well, and 3D Touch has spread throughout the interface and become far more useful.

Tonya Engst

The iPhone SE was a nice nod to those who prefer a smaller model. I wasn’t especially wowed by Apple’s new hardware this year, but that may be more do to fatigue with so many iPhones to keep track of, new and old, than with Apple’s latest releases.

Rene Ritchie

Phones have matured and that makes keeping them exciting a huge challenge. Turning them into platforms for photography, home automation, health and fitness is smart, and that’s just what Apple’s doing.

Shahid Kamal Ahmad

Smartphones are as good and as slim as they need to get and that goes for the iPhone as much as it does any other smartphone. Every change to the format now is limited by the battery, so it’s no surprise to see that the biggest innovation in the latest batch of iPhones was simply to remove the headphone jack. Oh and you can get it in Jet Black.

Rick LePage

The iPhone at this point in its lifecycle seems to me to be at nearly peak saturation, if not past peak. I’m still seeing a lot of iPhones out there, but I’m also seeing a lot more Android devices, Galaxy 7 nonsense notwithstanding. (The Pixel looks very nice, in the short time I’ve gotten to play with one.)

It’s not because Apple doesn’t keep innovating, but much like the iPod, which we knew would show decline (we knew this well before the iPhone debuted) once everyone had one. This year’s models of iPhone were good updates; again, the folks who have them love them, but a lot of people (including me) are content with older models. I’ll spend my money elsewhere.

Dan Frakes

The iPhone 7 Plus running iOS 10 is the best phone I’ve used in terms of features, performance, and reliability. Some people have complained that it didn’t get a new design, but I like the current design, and what’s inside is significantly better than last year. (Optical zoom and the waterproof design have proven to be far more useful than I expected.) Of the controversial features, I like the new Home button — though iOS 10’s unlock and Siri-activation procedures still frustrate me — and I’m not too bothered by the lack of a headphone jack, as I use Bluetooth headphones most of the time.

The iPad

Rob Griffiths (No vote)

I don’t really follow the iPad at all. I bought a 9.7” Pro, and it’s fine, but to me, it will always be an accessory device.

Brent Simmons

As a developer, I see the iPad as a lost platform, which is heartbreaking.

Marco Arment

Not much happened with the iPad in 2016, but the one significant change — the release of the 9.7-inch iPad Pro — was absolutely stellar, providing a huge upgrade with no downsides to the mainstream iPad that’s ideal for nearly everyone.

Fraser Speirs

Hardware-wise, iPad is in that weird transition phase where some devices have features that others don’t.

For iOS admins working in enterprise or education, 2016 was a huge year for iOS - iOS 9.3, that is. I had a wish-list of sysadmin requests for iOS and almost every single one was delivered in iOS 9.3, Apple School Manager and Apple Classroom. It’s important not to forget what a milestone 9.3 was, even given my next comment.

iOS 10.0 was a disappointment to iPad users in that it didn’t bring any significant new productivity features or tweaks. Some, such as a redesign of the multitasking secondary app picker are desperately needed.

Kirk McElhearn

I guess I’m a bit more positive about the iPad, because at least Apple is honest, and doesn’t try to pretend that it’s the greatest thing ever any more. It’s a solid device, and the latest iPad Pro (I have the 9.7” model) works very well. No complaints, other than the increasingly flaky iOS.

Dan Moren

The 9.7-inch iPad Pro is, by all accounts, the best 9.7-inch iPad that Apple’s ever made. That may be the case, but I’ve stuck with my iPad Air 2, which I feel is a pretty solid competitor to the Pro. The Pro is a modest update on the past few years’ models, but it doesn’t strike me as doing much to push the needle.

A bigger disappointment is the lack of any significant updates on the iPad software front. iOS 9 really focused in on this, finally upping the game on multitasking, but iOS 10 seems to have mainly left the iPad alone. Whether that’s simply because iOS 9 was deemed “”good enough”” or because Apple is waiting to roll out more significant enhancements in a future update, well, I guess we’ll wait and see.

James Thomson

I’m struggling a bit to say much about the iPad. Did anything happen? That’s unfair - the iPad Pro 9.7 did bring a new screen, and pro features, but there was nothing there that made me want to actually replace my Air 2. Again, some of that’s on me - I find that the iPad is falling down between the metaphorical cushions of my larger iPhone and my MacBook Pro, and I’m only really using it for comic reading and musical instrument apps these days. The iPad didn’t really see many changes in iOS either - it inherited the core new features from the phone, but there was very little if anything that was iPad specific.

Stephen Hackett

iPad hardware continues to shine, but Apple needs to get back to improving iOS for power users.

Casey Liss

I’d like to see some other tech get onto the iPad faster. Specifically, the new TouchID, and perhaps even Force Touch.

Rich Mogull

I’m a huge fan of the iPad Pro series. While I’d like to see drag and drop and better file management it has been good enough that I no longer need a laptop for most of my work travel (I flew 70K miles this past year). It’s hard to ask for an update to the larger iPad since I haven’t noticed ANY performance issues. It’s even enabled entirely new ways of working for me… when I’m with clients the larger screen and Apple Pencil have replaced whiteboarding.

Shawn Blanc

After not upgrading my iPad in many years, the new iPad Pro and accompanying accessories have me excited to dive back in. My next MacBook will be an iPad Pro. Though, at this point in the cycle, I’m waiting until the next iPad update.

Jeff Carlson

The iPad finally went pro, and not just in name. Now, Apple needs to do a better job of translating that into reasons people need one. Still seems like a gray area.

Gabe Weatherhead

I think the iPad Pro is great but you asked about 2016 which has been a dud for me. They’ve completely under valued the Pencil as a new device. Their vision for it seems pedestrian and boring. I had hoped for Force Touch in the Pro series in 2016 but it still feels like a not quite complete device at the end of this year.

Lex Friedman

I love the iPad.

Katie Floyd

The iPad still feels very much like a product in transition. The line-up is confusing and fragmented and rumors are Apple is adding even more sizes in the future. The iPad has made significant hardware advances the last year with the iPad Pro, but the software feels like it hasn’t caught up yet.

Federico Viticci

I would have given this a 4 if the 12.9-inch iPad Pro had been updated this year, too. Apple had little to show for iPad users in iOS 10, and while the 9.7-inch iPad Pro is loved by many people I know, I don’t use it, and I still think the bigger Pro is better suited for work. The delay in releasing international layouts for the Smart Keyboard is another point not in Apple’s favor.

David Sparks

Having used an iPad as a laptop replacement for several months, it feels like the hardware is there but the software still lags behind. iOS limitations with simple things, like saving multiple files, needs to be addressed for the platform to move forward.

Aleen Simms

Swift Playgrounds is amazing. While it is similar to other tools that teach other languages, I think Learn to Code is a great resource for people who want to get started with app development. As an App Camp for Girls organizer, I’m really excited to let our teams of young developers get their hands on some iPads to see what they come up with!

Christina Warren

I bought the iPad Pro 9.7 as soon as it was announced to replace my aging iPad Air. I love it and it’s my favorite iPad to date. But if I’m honest, I still use the same way I used my Air. I have the Apple Pencil, which I like, but I almost never use it with a keyboard.

For me, the iPad Pro cannot replace my Mac (sorry Federico!), but I do acknowledge that the software gaps are getting smaller. And for plenty of users, I bet an iPad Pro would be a perfect Mac or cheaper Windows substitute.

But what holds me back from giving the iPad a higher score is the fact that a year after the big iPad Pro launch, I’m still not seeing a huge software commitment from Apple. iOS 10 was almost totally optimized for iPhone, despite improvements that could have been made to the iPad.

And when it comes to building iPad Pro apps, the fact that developers still can’t target only the iPad Pro, to me, is a huge mistake, because it keeps them from charging what those apps should cost.

I see the iPad Pro in a weird zone, similar to the Mac, where Apple clearly cares about the product, but not enough to make it truly spectacular.

John Moltz

It’s great there is a 9.7-inch iPad but Apple didn’t make huge strides with the iPad this year. Since the company started offering huge phones, it’s somewhat natural that their tablets should take a hit in sales as many people probably wondered why they’d need both. Still, it’s hard to see how the company turns this category around in a major way.

Adam Engst

Unit sales are down, revenues are down, and the only new iPad we saw in 2016 was the 9.7-inch iPad Pro. Nice though that is, it compares oddly with the 12.9-inch model, beating it in some areas and losing in others.

More to the point, after the first few years of excitement, the shine seems to be coming off the iPad. It’s no less useful than it was initially, of course, and new apps continue to give it more capabilities. But at least for those who are coming to it from the Mac, it doesn’t feel as though Apple has followed through on the iPad’s promise by driving its evolution more quickly. It’s possible that sales have slowed because even older iPads satisfy the lightweight email, Web browsing, and messaging needs that account for the bulk of most people’s usage.

Rene Ritchie

iPad is still growing into the next generation of computer but while Apple is finding its groove with technology like Apple Pencil and Smart Keyboard Case, they’re still not telling a compelling story.

Shahid Kamal Ahmad

The tablet hit its perfect form some years ago. The most important innovations are TouchID and the True Tone display. They’re not game changers, but the beauty of the iPad remains its ability to gradually remove the barriers between users and the digital world.

Rick LePage

I really did think that the iPad Pro 9.7 was a truly good product — after flirting with the big guy, I went right to the 9.7, and haven’t looked back. I think that Apple’s going to continue to struggle with the iPad, because it’s not a product that people have to update their old one even every couple of years. I have friends who are still running iPads bought in 2011 and 2012, and they work just fine for what they want to do with them, which is use the Web and send email, mostly.

Dan Frakes

I use the 9.7-inch iPad Pro for two to three hours every day — it’s fantastic. I’m still hoping iOS updates bring more features that would let me ditch my laptop altogether (and I’m hoping Google dramatically improves its iPad apps — Docs and Sheets are unusable for serious work), but these days, my Macs are my “work hours” machines and my iPad is almost everything else.

Apple Watch

Rob Griffiths

Nice improvements in the ‘2’ series, and nice to see them keep the ‘1’ around with the new CPU.

Brent Simmons

I stopped wearing my watch because it’s just too uncomfortable to have this bulky thing on my wrist, and because I don’t have to jiggle an old-fashioned watch just to show me the time.

Marco Arment

watchOS 3 is a strong improvement, but there’s still a lot to do. The new Series 1 and Series 2 hardware is incrementally better, but I expected more hardware progress after the first 18 months.

Fraser Speirs

watchOS 3 essentially delivered a whole new watch. It’s really made a huge difference, even to generation-1 hardware. There are still some things I’d like to see changed - audio control from the watch is now too fiddly, for example - but overall their willingness to fundamentally rethink the OS deserves a 5/5.

Kirk McElhearn

I have one, I wear it daily, and I use it for two things: to check the time, and to get notifications. It’s overpriced, and even though Apple refocused the product with rev 2, it still doesn’t do all the things they say it does. Using apps is better than with the first version, but it’s still not worth bothering when I have my iPhone handy. I occasionally check the temperature, or check to see what my next calendar event is, but for the most part I use a face that only shows the time. For notifications, however, it’s great. I keep my iPhone set to silent all the time, so having the watch buzz is a very good thing.

Dan Moren

It’s a testament to 2016 as a weird year when the Apple Watch is one of the bright spots in the company’s line-up. After suffering from some serious shortcomings in its 2015 debut, Apple took a decidedly un-Apple-like response of heeding the complaints from its consumers and moving to correct them. With watchOS 2 and watchOS 3, Apple has moved to actively improve the product, and each subsequent release has made the wearable a more integral part of my life, for sure. Though I’ve worn my Apple Watch almost every day since it came out, it wasn’t until watchOS 3 that I felt like I was really getting out of it what Apple had pitched with the original version, and part of that was that Apple actually dialed back its goals, rather than the “everything and the kitchen sink” approach it went with when it announced the Watch.

Add into that a solid update with Watch series 2 (and the somewhat bizarre backdoor update to the original Watch), and I think that the Watch will continue to develop into a solid product for Apple, even if it never reaches the heights of the iPhone or iPad.

James Thomson

The new watches seem nice, if again, iterations on what came last year. watchOS 3 was one of the brighter points of the OS updates this year however with more obvious changes than the rest of them put together. It did seem that a lot of thinking had been done on how to improve the experience generally. But, am I using watch apps any more than I was before? No. And, from a developer perspective, WatchKit is still very limited in comparison to the underlying UIKit that the Apple watch apps get to use directly.

Stephen Hackett

Apart from long lead times on shipping, Series 2 and watchOS 3 have really breathed new life into the platform.

Josh Centers

While I still think it’s a superfluous product, the Apple Watch wins the “most improved” award. watchOS 3 makes the original Apple Watch usable, and I hear that the new models are even faster.

Casey Liss

Really great improvements this year. Not enough to make me want to upgrade my OG one, but that’s a compliment too: watchOS 3 is fantastic.

Rich Mogull

The Apple Watch Series 2 is my day to day watch and resolves (with watchOS3) the issues I had with previous versions. the battery life is surprisingly long. On the downside, as a fitness enthusiast it is nearly unusable compared to dedicated fitness watches. The heart rate monitoring isn’t very accurate. Also, the watch desperately needs podcast support.

The new app support also resolves a lot of the previous issues but the app ecosystem itself is still pretty weak.

Roman Loyola (No vote)

I haven’t used the Series 2 and I don’t feel compelled to do so. I’m ambivalent about my Apple Watch. I’m not really a watch wearer, and I feel like I have to use an Apple Watch because of my job.

Gabe Weatherhead

The latest watchOS is what should have been the initial watchOS. The performance is great. It’s responsive. The controls seem just right now.

Lex Friedman

I like my Watch, but I don’t love it. Watch OS 3 is better than what came before, but not miles better. I never use apps on my Watch. That’s a disappointment to me.

Katie Floyd

The Apple Watch is still in early days and I’m not sure Apple or Developers know what to do with the platform. It really feels as though Apple bit off far more than it could chew with the original Apple Watch and watchOS 1. With Series 2 and watchOS 3 it feels like Apple is starting to figure things out. (Remember it was three generations before the iPod became really successful).

Especially with all the holiday deals on the Apple Watch Series 1 this holiday season, it feels like things could be starting to take off.

Federico Viticci

The Series 2 improves upon the worst aspects of the original Apple Watch’s hardware, and watchOS 3 reimagines several UI paradigms that weren’t working for how people have actually been using the Watch. Solid updates all around.

Aleen Simms

I mostly use my original series Apple Watch to check the temperature outside throughout the day and to track my steps with the Pedometer++ complication. If my watch broke tomorrow, I doubt I’d replace it; I’d miss Nightstand mode more than anything else.

Okay, that’s not true. I’d also miss changing Minnie Mouse’s outfit to match what I’m wearing every day.

John Gruber

The Apple Watch Series 2 hardware is a solid year-over-year improvement. I particularly like the significant boost to display brightness. The original Apple Watch display was unreadable for me in bright sunlight. But what really made 2016 an excellent year for Apple Watch is watchOS 3. I would have given Apple a 4/5 for Apple Watch even if they had released no new hardware but still released watchOS 3. The OS now makes much more sense conceptually, makes everything feel much faster, and is focused on the things Apple Watch does best: notifications and fitness tracking.

Christina Warren

Pivoting from fashion to health and fitness was an incredibly smart move for the Apple Watch Series 2. And the Apple Watch Series 2 is great. It’s fast, waterproof, has built-in GPS.

But I won’t upgrade my OG Series 1 (that is slower than the Series 1 for sale now) to a Series 2, and I don’t see many other OG Apple Watch users doing so either. Eighteen months after Apple Watch, I think it’s fair to say the wearables market has shifted and is definitely not as many analysts thought it would be.

We can all quibble over sales, but the fact that Apple has never released sales data, to me, says that they would be embarrassed by the stats—even if the sales data aligns with their own internal projections—and that is what it is.

The software update to the Apple Watch was solid and made the experience a lot better, but a lot of my friends—and this includes Apple fanbois and girls —stopped wearing the watch before the software update.

I still wear mine every day, but I use very few features.

As I said, pivoting to health and fitness is clearly the way to go, but that also makes this a much more niche-filled product.

The challenges facing Apple Watch aren’t unique to Apple—everyone else in wearables is facing this stuff too—but Apple is going to get judged harsher because it is the biggest tech company in the world. And Series 2’s improvements (which are good!) alone aren’t enough.

John Moltz

iOS 3 has really turned the Watch from a “rough around the edges” product into something that makes sense. Not only is it simply better at what it does, it’s more fun, too. The second generation Watch is a solid update as well and the company has refined its focus to a core set of features that sell a better defined story around the device.

Adam Engst

I’m specifically rating Apple’s performance with regard to the Apple Watch, not the Apple Watch itself. That’s because I think Apple did a very good job with refactoring watchOS 3 to provide better performance and improved usability, and the Apple Watch Series 2 responded directly to the primary criticisms in terms of the GPS chip, brighter screen, and increased water resistance. And dropping the price on the Apple Watch Series 1 was welcome, as was eliminating the obscene gold models that cost as much as $17,000.

But, and you knew there had to be a but, the Apple Watch is still largely a solution in search of a problem. It’s a fine smartwatch, and it does what it promises in terms of telling time, putting notifications on your wrist, and (more or less) letting you control Siri. But in the end, it’s not breaking new ground or even really being enough better than other smartwatches and fitness trackers. For instance, even once apps like Strava finally support the GPS chip in the Apple Watch Series 2, the Garmin Forerunner line will still be far better options for runners because the hardware and software is designed for that task.

Tonya Engst

It’s nice to see Apple refining watchOS. It’s annoying when Apple changes the interface on a long-standing application or device that was working just fine, like moving the Sleep/Wake switch on an iPhone, but Apple’s change to the side switch functionality on the Watch, for instance, was a smart adjustment in a relatively new product.

Adding a GPS to the Series 2 Apple Watch was expected and welcome for those of us who work out with fitness trackers, but unless Apple gets serious about letting athletes get their data out of the Apple/Nike universe, serious athletes will not take the watch seriously.

Rene Ritchie

Series 2 brought great new features, partnerships, and styles to Apple Watch. At a time when competing smartwatches are failing, Apple Watch has nailed the wearable companion category.

Shahid Kamal Ahmad

The Apple Watch is the most versatile in its category. The biggest improvement came via watchOS 3, which improves the UX significantly over its predecessor.

Rick LePage

While I wasn’t really impressed with any of the new hardware, what did impress me was how thoughtful the watchOS 3 update was. It turned my somewhat pokey, limited-functionality fitness tracker into something faster and a bit more useful. That’s an Apple I like to see.

Dan Frakes

I wear my Apple Watch every day, all day, and besides using it as a watch, I interact with it dozens of times each day for notifications, smart-home control, music, sports scores, weather, checking my calendar, texting, dictating notes, shopping lists, and even PCalc. That said, the Apple Watch (like smartwatches in general) isn’t yet a must-have gadget. Unlike a smartphone, which has obvious utility, many people still don’t know why you’d want one — the most common questions I get from friends and family are “What’s it good for?” and “Why would I want one?” I think the increased emphasis on fitness is answering those questions for more people in 2016, but it still feels like you have to want to integrate a smartwatch into your life, or force yourself to use one for a few weeks to get why you might want one.

In terms of specific improvements I’d like to see, Apple needs to find a way to keep the most important information visible at all times. I like the “ambient mode” of Android Wear watches that keeps the time/date display on all the time; and at least a few times each day I do the “raise your wrist, didn’t work, put it down and raise it again” dance.

Third-party apps, like everything else, have improved dramatically under watchOS 3, but they’re still on the slow side, and sometimes even apps that have been updated to watchOS 3 have trouble communicating with their iPhone counterparts. But the difference between the overall experience with the original watch and what you get today is like night and day.

Apple TV

Rob Griffiths

No 4K. No Netflix. No Amazon. At least $150 when competition is under $50. Nice software improvements, but late to 4K and missing the boat on streaming services that others support.

Brent Simmons

At least it has Netflix. But my Comcast DVR added Netflix, so maybe I don’t need an Apple TV at all anymore.

Marco Arment

Apple TV has effectively stood still in 2016, despite needing significant attention in UI and remote design, performance, bugs, and reliability. Third-party apps and games have mostly failed to materialize, with Apple making no meaningful changes to address this.

John Siracusa

Apple TV is more expensive and less capable than its competitors. Its strongest remaining selling point is its ability to play media purchased in the iTunes store. Lock-in is not a foundation for customer satisfaction. Also, the remote still sucks.

Brett Terpstra

The Apple TV 4 has been my favorite Apple hardware update, and tvOS updates are quickly smoothing out bugs and improving experience.

Fraser Speirs

I love my Apple TV and it’s our family’s only source of media. However, I don’t think the platform has moved forward as fast as it should have, nor have they worked hard enough to make the marquee apps on the platform be outstanding.

Kirk McElhearn

I haven’t used the Apple TV 4 much since I moved in June. My personal video library is in Plex, and I bought a new TV which has very good apps (Netflix and Amazon). I don’t want to shop on my TV, I don’t play games, so I really only use the Apple TV for my iTunes Store videos, and occasionally to stream music.

Dan Moren

Oh, boy, the Apple TV. Maybe I should just say “ditto everything Joe Steel says.” I like my Apple TV, I really do. When I’m at home, I use it probably every day. But for all of that, it’s remained probably Apple’s most frustrating product, not least of all because it seems to be the one that they care the least about.

Part of that is because of the nature of the Apple TV itself. It doesn’t quite follow the Apple product mold, because no matter how hard Apple tries, it can’t seem to change the fundamental model of people sitting in front of a TV is consumption, not creation. Adding apps to the Apple TV model was a solid idea, but the platform is far more limited than iOS or the Mac when it comes to software. Meanwhile, Apple has shied away from the fundamental purpose of the device—streaming video. The move back in that direction with the TV app is possibly interesting, but so far it seems like far too little; it will be interesting to see how that plays out once Apple’s own original content is ready.

The Apple TV hardware is fine, as far as those things go, though it is expensive compared to its competitors without offering much in the way of advantages. Apple does seem to have a hole in its line-up, in terms of a pure video-streaming device to compete with the Fire Stick, Roku Stick, or Chromecast, but it’s hard to see them going in that path after spending so much time on the “the future of TV is apps.”

James Thomson

The Apple TV remains somewhat underwhelming, and 2016 didn’t bring any significant changes. No new hardware, not that there’s anything particularly wrong with the old box - but I did expect to see a high end 4K/HDR update this year. The new TV app isn’t available in the UK, so that doesn’t get them an extra point from me, although it seems an interesting step. The lack of meaningful apps over a year later is disappointing, and the store itself has not evolved either. I still can’t even link directly to an app on the store, or buy a TV-only app from another device.

Stephen Hackett

The new TV apps builds a foundation, but Apple needs content bricks to build a house.

Josh Centers

I hate to say it, because I wrote a book about it, but the Apple TV is still very “meh.” The new TV app and Single Sign-On are both nice, but are missing support from key players. There aren’t really any stand-out apps for tvOS, the 64 GB model seems pointless, and I’m still waiting on an updated box with 4K support.

Casey Liss

I love my Apple TV, though truth be told it rarely does anything other than play media via Plex or Netflix. That being said, it does a phenomenal job at both.

Rich Mogull

The new Apple TV is still very rough around the edges. In our home it is our primary box (for the kids, we still use the TiVo more). Siri is very wonky- we can almost never find what we want with it, especially as it confuses music and TV when parsing queries. The apps are inconsistent (as you would expect) and while this isn’t completely in Apple’s control, they are still ultimately responsible. One of the worst issues is constantly having to reauthorize our apps, especially the channels for the kids (I’m looking at you NickJr). It’s become a nearly weekly ritual to wreath at least one app.

Gabe Weatherhead

Everything about the Apple TV disappoints me now. From the interface to the lack of creativity with the hardware. It’s nowhere near where I thought it would be by the end of 2016.

Lex Friedman (No vote)

I’m a Roku man.

Katie Floyd

Apple just can’t seem to bring the content deals together to make the Apple TV my primary box. Unfortunately, if you’re a cord cutter (like I am) there’s still not a whole lot of traditional network content accessible on the Apple TV unless you buy it show-by-show through iTunes.

There’s no technical reason why networks can’t offer a la carte programing via in App purchases or subscriptions to Apple TV. They have the pieces; hardware, software and the App development platform. Traditional pay tv services have such a strangle hold on the industry and Apple can’t seem to put the deals in place.

Federico Viticci

I don’t use the Apple TV much, but Apple is doing the right thing in pushing a stronger app platform for it. I still don’t understand why the 64 GB model needs to exist though, and Apple hasn’t motivated the upsell of a higher capacity model at all.

Aleen Simms

The remote is still ridiculous; we’ve mostly abandoned ours. The new Apple TV does seem more stable than previous generations, but I’m largely unimpressed by implementation details (like scrolling forever to find new episodes of shows).

John Gruber

I don’t expect new hardware every year, but I think the content situation needs to improve, and it didn’t in 2016.

Christina Warren

As annoyed that I am with the delays of single sign-on, I still think the Apple TV is just terrific. I have every set-top box on the market and not even the lack of 4K support can stop Apple TV from being my favorite.

Siri search continues to get better (and it was already good) and the big content providers have all shown up over the last year (except for Amazon…which is a bummer). There are even third-party apps that have really delighted my fancy.

I love the Apple TV. I do think if they could lower the price to $100 they would be selling even more—but as it stands, it’s the product I use the most after my iPhone and Mac.

John Moltz

Apple delivered the TV app which, if you have a cable subscription, could be a really nice feature for consolidating your viewing experience. As a cord-cutter, this does nothing for me but the company shipped a few other features that were appreciated. However, I rarely use it to play games, although our household will probably see an increase in that with the addition of Minecraft when that arrives.

Adam Engst

As much as tvOS 10 is a fine update for the fourth-generation Apple TV, the concept of apps in the living room hasn’t really caught on. Sure, you can watch more TV on the Apple TV than you could last year, but when the big new features are a TV app that doesn’t include Netflix and a single sign-on that makes a truly horrific user experience work the way it should have to start, it’s hard to get excited.

Tonya Engst

The fourth-generation Apple TV with the new tvOS makes for a nice media center, and the addition of apps makes it so pretty much anyone can find something interesting to do. The Siri Remote was a disappointment, with its tracking surface being harder to use than the previous remote, and text entry being incredibly frustrating. The Siri Remote should not have been let out of the testing lab.

Rene Ritchie

The U.S. got single sign on and TV.app. The rest of the world is dark mode :)

Shahid Kamal Ahmad

The TV App is hamstrung. The remote is still infuriating. Apple TV exists in its own right as just a portal for iTunes movies and TV shows. Beyond that, there seems to be little reason to have one. I like mine, but if the content was able on other devices, I wouldn’t miss the Apple TV at all.

Rick LePage (No vote)

I remain on the sideline here, with my very old, second-gen Apple TV, muttering and mumbling about the remote, but too blasé to spring for a new one.

Dan Frakes

Like many other people, I have complaints about the new Apple TV’s remote, and it’s frustrating that some content providers (ahem, Amazon) still aren’t available on it or (ahem, Netflix) don’t work with features like the TV app and voice search. But we use our Apple TV almost every day to watch video, play games, and use apps.

I’d like to see it come down significantly in price: Boxes from Roku, Amazon, and Google don’t have iOS-quality apps, they don’t do AirPlay, and they don’t work as seamlessly with your other Apple gear, but for most people, those features aren’t compelling when you can get something that provides just as much content (and sometimes more), with similar or better specs, for half the price.

Cloud Services

Rob Griffiths (No vote)

I do everything in my power to never use Apple’s cloud services. No Apple Music, no iTunes Match, no iCloud Photo Library, don’t use iCloud Drive, etc. Beyond syncing a few settings, I don’t trust Apple’s cloud implementations at all.

Brent Simmons

Watching the files in my iCloud Drive sync is one way to pass a bunch of time.

Marco Arment

The core services have functioned well, but progress has been slow on obvious potential improvements, especially for Apple Music usability and Photos features on the Mac.

Fraser Speirs

I think iCloud Drive is quietly becoming something that works for a large proportion of Apple’s customer base, even if it doesn’t satisfy the nerds.

Kirk McElhearn

So many problems… I’m pretty much fed up with iCloud. I had a photo library problem, and AppleCare support was useless. It took months to get a support advisor who even wanted to go further with my case - the first two just dropped it and never called me back, when they said they would - and the third ran around in circles asking for logs and data, until I gave up, realizing he had no idea what was happening and didn’t care about resolving my issue.

Dan Moren

So, as problematic as Apple’s cloud services have been in the past, 2016 hasn’t been a particularly bad year for them, with the exception perhaps of the company’s attempt to foist some not fully baked syncing features in Sierra and iOS 10. I’ve had decent luck with iCloud Photo Library and iCloud Music Library (though I’m not an Apple Music user), and iCloud Drive remains about as unimportant to me as it was previously. (I’d be happy to switch from Dropbox if it seemed even half as reliable/feature rich.) No notable improvements from last year, but no significant detractions either.

Oh, the company still overcharges for its cloud plans and should provide enough storage for everybody to back up at least their iOS devices, free of charge. Table stakes.

James Thomson

I have been enjoying the updates to Apple Music, particularly the weekly New Music Mix - I’m pleased enough with it to pay for the whole year up front. I don’t use iCloud Drive or iCloud Photo Library, so I can’t really comment on them.

Casey Liss

The pricing is really holding things back, and the iCloud calendar spam of late is slightly alarming.

Rich Mogull

I almost rated this a 3 but the core services have really improved their reliability this past year. iCloud Drive and Photo Library just work. Even Apple Music has been reliable and usable. My only concern is the increasing privacy concerns. While Apple has been the market leader by a long shot in privacy there are some key opportunities to tighten things down, especially as they face the onslaught of legal issues,

Shawn Blanc

The updates to Apple Music that came with iOS 10 were excellent. The app has gotten much easier to use and discovery of new music has also improved leaps and bounds.

Roman Loyola

The Calendar spam and the initial issues with Sierra Desktop & Documents bring this score down.

Gabe Weatherhead

Let’s give them credit for the fact I know longer have 100 contact duplicates. Notes seems to work. The 2FA for iCloud was a huge disappointment for a company so focused on privacy.

Lex Friedman

LOL

Federico Viticci

It’s difficult to provide a unifying comment on the overall state of Apple services. They still feel too disconnected from each other with varying degrees of success. Apple Music has been working well for me, including its algorithmic features, but it pales in comparison to what Spotify is doing with AI and discovery of new music. iCloud Drive continues to be severely limited to Dropbox and its iOS 10 app update is a joke. iCloud Photo Library has been the fastest and most reliable service in my experience. Overall, I’m skeptical that Apple will be able to deliver the same AI-powered, intelligent services of Google going forward, but it’s not clear if there is actual customer demand for those types of machine learning-based features. They’re getting better at services, perhaps too slowly.

David Sparks

I did an experiment this year to replace Dropbox with iCloud. iCloud was reliable and fast (though not as fast as Dropbox). Ultimately, the reason I went back to Dropbox was because iOS software implementation of iCloud is maddening. It’s interesting to me that the breakdown for Apple’s iCloud was not back end cloud support but software implementation.

Aleen Simms (No vote)

I don’t feel qualified to answer because I still don’t trust them and therefore do not use them.

Christina Warren

Are Apple cloud services finally good? That’s the question I asked myself. The answer is “almost.”

For me, iCloud Drive is still a poor man’s Dropbox, but the integration with Sierra is finally on-point. I’ve read horror stories, but my experience has been quite good. I’ve also found synching across devices with iCloud stuff to be better and faster and more reliable in the past.

Apple Music is better too. I still run into issues where my songs lose the track number and I have to manually change it in iTunes, but as a music service, I think Apple Music is very competitive with Spotify, and far better than Tidal or Amazon Music Unlimited.

iCloud Photo Library works fine—though I think Google Photos is a lot better for most people—but at least it works this year.

John Moltz

It’s an area Apple continues to struggle with but I found the changes to Apple Music to be great and have removed some of my major complaints about the service. Further, integration with Sonos has made a huge difference to me. iCloud Drive has worked pretty well for me and has actually let me easily transfer photos back and forth from my iPhone to my Mac, something I was never able to do reliably with AirDrop. Their storage prices are still too high and the reliability of their services not as good as it should be.

Tonya Engst

Apple has done a lot of things right, like continuing to roll out two-factor authentication and continuing to support and improve their many iCloud-based apps. The many servers and protocols that work, and work well on a daily basis, is something that is easy to take for granted, but it’s impressive if you think about all that’s involved.

They’ve also done some things strangely, like encouraging macOS 10.12 Sierra users to turn on Desktop and Documents syncing right during installation… many people must now have this on but have no idea what they’ve done or why iCloud Drive now is asking them to upgrade their storage space because they’ve put a couple of movies of the grandkids on the Desktop.

My personal peeves are that I’d like to pay for iCloud Drive by the year, not the month, since it is annoying to have to notice that transaction for multiple people in my household twelve times per year. That would be a simple way for Apple to improve my customer satisfaction. Also, for some reason my calendaring system has sprouted four copies of a calendar called Family over the past year. I can explain three of them and need to spend some time merging them. This speaks to the complexity of what Apple is doing and the complexity that many end users do end up dealing with.

Rene Ritchie

Apple is slowly improving on services but as we become more dependent on them, the pace of improvement has to pick up. 5 GB as the free tier is no longer realistic, and more granular controls for those who need them are no longer are necessary given the vast array of data being handled.

Shahid Kamal Ahmad

iCloud is relatively stable and mature, which given where Apple came from on cloud is a big achievement.

Rick LePage

Apple Music does seem to be getting better, and the iCloud Drive stuff is working well for me. The Sierra Docs/Desktop syncing thing doesn’t interest me, largely because I worry about something going wrong (which I understand is unscientific, but Apple’s track record in the Cloud hasn’t been stellar, like some other companies, who I’ve come to trust).

Dan Frakes

The reliability of Apple’s cloud services has never been better, in my experience. That said, Apple charges quite a bit more than other companies for similar amounts of storage (if not features), and it’s crazy that you get only 5GB of free storage to back up your first iOS device, when those devices start at 16GB or 32GB and go up to 256GB…and if you buy more iOS devices, you get no additional storage. And Apple Music/iCloud Music/iTunes Match can still be a confusing mess—my wife’s iCloud Music has never worked correctly, and my kids’ playlists still show up on my devices, even though they’re using different accounts in a family plan.

(If you include iCloud backups of iOS devices, I’d really like to see per-app backup and restore, so you don’t have to wipe your entire device and restore it from scratch just to recover a single app’s data.)

Home Automation/IoT

Rob Griffiths (No vote)

I have no idea what they do in this space beyond the app on my phone.

Brent Simmons (No vote)

This is a thing I don’t want Apple to spend its time on.

Marco Arment

HomeKit offerings continue to trickle out too slowly, and Apple has no answer in sight to the Amazon Echo and Google Home. Apple’s best hope for home automation is that it doesn’t take off, which is a terrible place to be.

Brett Terpstra

My home automation system still requires some hacks to work with Siri, but the integration between disparate protocols that Apple (and 3rd party developers via API) is starting to make it possible to have hardware from different manufacturers integrate as a whole. Walking around and saying “turn on the porch lights” and “is the garage door closed?” has basically been my dream since forever.

Dan Moren

Home automation is something Apple’s been working on for a few years now, and this year finally saw the company move beyond working with third-party developers and produce a home automation system for consumers to use. The Home app rolled out in iOS 10 and it’s pretty good. I appreciate having quick and easy access to many of my smart home devices, both via Control Center and Siri, and I like that the Home app gathers all the—compatible—devices in just one place.

But some places are a little weak. Automation, for example, has pretty limited strictures on what you can do, and it’d be nice if Apple expanded those criteria a bit. I also find the automation sometimes unreliable. My only other complaint is that I wish more devices were HomeKit-compatible—I have a few devices that don’t work with HomeKit, and it’s a bummer that there’s no bridge to bring compatibility to them. I have better luck with the Echo.

James Thomson

Haven’t used any HomeKit stuff, but the news that Apple is getting out of the wireless router market, and disbanded that group, is quite disappointing.

Stephen Hackett

Maybe 2017 will bring more HomeKit devices. Maybe not. Who can tell?

Josh Centers

HomeKit is one thing that I think Apple knocked out of the park this year. The new Home app for iOS 10 is awesome, especially since it lets you control devices from Control Center. I’m now heavily invested in HomeKit technology and recommend it to friends.

Casey Liss

Nothing Apple has done has made me want to get HomeKit devices. I talk about this stuff for a living (sorta) and I still don’t really get what HomeKit is all about. And I grew up in a X10 house.

Rich Mogull

HomeKit is promising, but a year behind where I suspect Apple would like support to be. There is still too much complexity.

Jeff Carlson

Glad to see HomeKit actually become a thing, and I applaud Apple’s stance on IoT security. Still early days, but a promising start.

Gabe Weatherhead

I still prefer apps from third parties.

Lex Friedman

Apple’s home automation is still laughable to me. I’m a little surprised Apple doesn’t make its own overpriced switches and outlets. But I have various smart devices, and not one of them integrates with Apple’s stuff. Meanwhile, my Echo can control just about everything in my damn house.

Katie Floyd

The Internet of things is still a hot mess. I have a smart thermostat, smart plugs, a smart doorbell, smart lights and none of them work well with each other. Amazon has done a much better job of integrating with the Internet of Things and the Echo has become my preferred device for interacting with all my smart home devices.

Federico Viticci

HomeKit works, but the availability of new devices continues to be scarce and some of them don’t ever make it outside of the US. I like HomeKit’s simplicity and security, but I can accomplish more with competing home automation services and integrations, such as the Amazon Echo, Yonomi, and IFTTT.

David Sparks

I don’t know if I’m more frustrated with Apple for it’s lukewarm support of HomeKit or the entire industry for failing to come up with shared protocols and standards, which sucks for us consumers.

Aleen Simms

I don’t know if the trouble is with our Hue Bulbs or iOS, but most nights there’s an issue turning off our lights. There’s also the trouble of support from manufacturers. Not everything works with HomeKit, and that’s irritating (not Apple’s fault, but irritating).

Christina Warren

The lack of a true HomeKit hub is a huge missed opportunity. Moreover, the number of HomeKit devices is growing, but the rollout has been far slower than it should have been.

Amazon and Google both have smart assistant hubs and Appel not having Siri in a speaker feels like a miss.

The Home app for iOS 10 itself is fine, but we really need a hub.

John Moltz

They introduced the Home app and I have nothing that takes advantage of it and no compelling use case for any of it. I’m not sure why I’m supposed to care about this yet.

Adam Engst

HomeKit has finally gotten some momentum, but I’m hearing complaints from manufacturers about how hard and how expensive it is to get HomeKit approval from Apple.

Rene Ritchie

Last year stories abounded about how HomeKit was late and Apple was being mean to vendors by requiring high level security. This year the IoT became weaponized and, looking back, Apple was absolutely right. It took a while to get started, but HomeKit is now coming into its own.

Shahid Kamal Ahmad

There are still far too few devices that use HomeKit. There might well be potential here, but this just strikes me as a format war without any real purpose. If there really is going to be an Internet of Things, then the format should be invisible.

Dan Frakes

I mentioned last year that I have a slew of smart home stuff, but none of it works with HomeKit. This year, I bought a few HomeKit compatible things just to try it. So now I have a little island of HomeKit stuff and a whole bunch of stuff that’s compatible with Amazon’s Alexa ecosystem. That’s kind of the smart home market in a nutshell right now.

Reliability

Brent Simmons

Things seem to keep working.

Fraser Speirs

Seems fine?

Kirk McElhearn

I haven’t had any major hardware issues in the past year, after my 5K iMac had a logic board replacement just over a year ago. My 12” MacBook has poor battery life, and, like the Photos issue I describe above, AppleCare was useless. Since I only use it at home, I gave up fighting, but if I were on the road, I would have complained.

Dan Moren

My Apple hardware continues to be pretty solid, from my 2011 iMac and 2010 AirPort Extreme (RIP) to my iPhone 7 and Apple Watch. In general, I feel that hardware quality and reliability has been one of Apple’s strongest points.

James Thomson

I haven’t had any hardware problems at all, so I would rate them highly here.

Casey Liss

The hardware is pretty damned solid in my experience. No one in my extended family has had issues.

Rich Mogull

Would have been a 5 but the iPhone 6s battery issue is, I think, bigger than many realize. Since that’s the phone most people used during the year it is still a negative.

Shawn Blanc

Though the only new piece of hardware I bought in 2016 was the iPhone 7, Apple’s gear seems as reliable as ever.

Gabe Weatherhead

I rarely need service but still pay for the insurance if I do. The hardware is beyond reproach in comparison to other manufacturers.

Federico Viticci

Unlike others, I never had any major reliability issues with Apple’s hardware. I just wish batteries would last more, even though I know that’s difficult to achieve. I like the iPhone 7’s hardware a lot.

Aleen Simms

I don’t know if I’m the queen of weird issues, but I get weird problems with my hardware. My current MacBook Pro kernel panics because of Bluetooth and the WiFi disconnects many times a day. I had to get this laptop because my last one shut down randomly and utterly unpredictably.

Susie Ochs

It’s disheartening to read story after story about MacBook Pros having graphics issues, iPhone 6s having battery issues, iPhone 6 Plus “touch bug”—I hope the hardware quality isn’t slipping.

Christina Warren

I’ve had very few hardware problems that weren’t of my own making.

John Moltz

We have two iPhone 7s in the house and both seem to have lived up to Apple’s usual high standards. Neither user has complained at all about the home button (the lack of a headphone jack is another matter for one) and taking the iPhone into the bath is now a thing. The new MacBook Pro may be overpriced but the build quality is great and I personally love the keyboard (if anything, I struggle with unwanted clicks on the large trackpad). The Touch Bar seems a bit rough around the edges, maybe akin to the Watch under watchOS 2, but also very promising. I’m a fan.

Adam Engst

My relatively low rating here is based in large part on the issues that have been experienced by iPhone 6 and 6s users of late. The fact that both the “touch disease” problem and the issue with unexpected shutdowns are afflicting older iPhones suggests to me that Apple isn’t thinking that these devices will be used for more than a year or two at most. Apple’s constant efforts to make its hardware impossible to repair by anyone other than than Apple Authorized Service Provider are also troubling.

Rene Ritchie

There will always be problems so I look to how fast and well companies react to those problems and get fixes out. Apple still measures ten times before cutting once, but they’re getting there. And, hey, no Galaxy-level burnouts.

Shahid Kamal Ahmad

All of my devices work well and that’s all I can ask.

Rick LePage

I believe that this remains one of Apple’s core strengths, even if they don’t talk about it much. I remain amazed to see how good their hardware seems, and how friends who’ve come to Apple from Windows feel as though the hardware is what makes it. (I am very interested to see how Microsoft does with their new hardware and reliability, though.)

Software quality

Rob Griffiths

Nothing earth shattering, and the annual macOS upgrade cycle must die. Not enough there each year to merit a major release.

Brent Simmons

Everything is getting more complex and harder to use, while bugs are easy to find. Example: something changed in Messages on the iPhone, and I had to get help to figure out how to text a photo. This should not be difficult to figure out, but it was.

Marco Arment

Mac, iOS, and watchOS software quality wasn’t perfect this year, but they were pretty good relative to recent years. But tvOS is still rough, with many bugs and performance problems.

Fraser Speirs

I’m not saying everything’s perfect, but Apple has shipped a number of significantly better products this year: iOS 10, Swift Playgrounds and the iWork 3.0 collaboration features are particular stand-outs.

Kirk McElhearn

Everything sucks, but most of it works. There are little niggling issues all the time, and Apple clearly doesn’t care very much about the software.

Dan Moren

iOS 10, tvOS 10, watchOS 3, and macOS Sierra all had their fair share of glitches. Most of them seem to be flaws that were merely overlooked, but put together and it does sometimes feel like death from a thousand tiny cuts. Some of this is fall out from the fact that software has simply gotten more complicated, and some of it is that Apple pushes a very hard development schedule, launching major updates to its platforms every single year. It’d be nice to have the company slow down and focus on quality over those yearly milestones, but it also seems unlikely given the pace of competition in the technology arena.

I’ve found in general that all of my Apple devices have been mostly stable, albeit with occasional flaws. 2016 hasn’t seemed quite as egregious as some more recent years.

James Thomson

Improved in 2016 over a pretty poor 2015. Heading in the right direction at least.

Stephen Hackett

While Apple’s core OSes are stable and secure, I think the company could be doing a lot with first-party apps to make them more appealing.

Casey Liss

Things aren’t as ugly as they were in the past, but I still feel like we’re not in the Snow Leopard glory days.

Rich Mogull

Mixed bag across the platforms, but overall an improvement from the past year or two.

Shawn Blanc

Love the direction things are going on iOS and the Mac. The continued move toward simplicity and the ever-evoking design aesthetic, but as a power user I don’t feel quite so ignored any more.

Gabe Weatherhead

Solid performance but unimaginative. I’m rarely surprised by their functionality.

Lex Friedman

I have been very happy with iOS and Mac OS in terms of stability.

Federico Viticci

Considerably better than years ago thanks to the optimization that went into iOS 9 and iOS 10. Still not perfect, still room to improve, but not as traumatic as iOS 7 and 8 were.

Aleen Simms

There don’t seem to be a lot of non-OS updates to Apple’s software.

Susie Ochs

The operating systems got good updates, but I wasn’t impressed by the new Photos or any of the changes to iTunes. I’ve scaled back my reliance on every Apple app this year except Notes, which I’m actually using more.

Christina Warren

I think the public beta programs are actually working. Getting more updates with substance out faster is a good thing and I’ve sen software and services quality improve in 2016.

John Moltz

While I wouldn’t say all is well with the state of Apple software, I think that with the improvements to Apple Music and watchOS, the company did OK this year. This comes from the perspective of someone who also uses Microsoft products. It may not all be up to Apple’s standards, but it’s still not as bad as at least some of the competition.

Rene Ritchie

People are super annoyed by current problems but forget previous problems, making every year feel like the worst year. I still find a host of frustrating bugs, glitches, and assorted problems, but this year has been milder than most.

Shahid Kamal Ahmad

Surely, Apple can do better than average in this area given that they own the hardware formats?

Rick LePage

I’m giving a lot of threes, not because I’m really blasé about Apple, but more because I think they’re running in place. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it does make me wonder if they’re going to be on the down cycle of innovation and development over the next few years. (see below)

Sierra seems to me to be in that category. Of course I’ll upgrade, but more to stay on top of security stuff, and because it’s free. But is it essential? Are there features I have to have? No.

It (Sierra) doesn’t crash on me, nor does iOS, and that might be a reason why to rank Apple a bit higher in software quality, but quality to me is also polish, and I don’t see that in many places on my Apple devices these days.

Regarding apps, I continue to feel that the apps Apple develops are kind of blah. Pages? Numbers? Will they ever get better? I see few apps from Apple that are designed for the way I want to work, with the features I need, so I’ve ended up back with Microsoft, largely because the things I need to do can be done quicker and easier with their apps than Apple’s. Photos is ok, and if they actually keep at it, it might ultimately be a place I’ll call home, but it’s hard to see that in the next two years.

Developer relations

Rob Griffiths

Review times have improved, but the Mac App Store is a wasteland of games and photo editors. Anything truly useful is ancient, because it cannot be sandboxed. The Mac App Store still doesn’t support most of the cool things (analytics, video in product pages) that the iOS App Store gets. Truly a second (or third or fourth) grade below the iOS store.

Brent Simmons

The Swift team is notably engaging.

Marco Arment

Phil Schiller’s transition to leading the App Store has brought many welcome improvements, but communication is still poor, the Dash situation ended poorly, and search ads have been controversial and alienating for many indie developers.

Brett Terpstra

As a developer, 2016 has been a vastly improved year. App Store reviews are starting to happen for me in hours instead of days or weeks, and communication surrounding any issues has been very helpful without even using up support incidents.

Kirk McElhearn

I’m only commenting here as someone who reports a lot of bugs, mostly about iTunes. Their attitude hasn’t changed much, but it was never very good to those who submit bug reports. I will say that I have gotten a lot of requests for more information, perhaps because I’me the only person - or the first - who reports some of the more obscure bugs, or perhaps because they have my name flagged as someone who knows enough about iTunes that they should pay attention.

Dan Moren

Developer relations have been up and down. This year’s addition of search ads has provoked some contention with developers, for understandable reasons. The company continues to have fraud problems on the App Store, with copycat apps and the like, though it has made attempts to remove many of the most egregious offenders. Obviously there’s only been an increase in how much competition there is on the stores, but that’s largely out of Apple’s control.

Perhaps the biggest issue has been the Mac App Store, which still seems to lag behind its iOS sibling in modernization. Still no support for TestFlight, for example, or app preview videos. And, of course, there’s still no facility for demo versions, which I think hurts the Mac worse than iOS.

Of course, all of that is weighed against the fact that people are still buying apps, probably more than ever before. The broadening of subscription-based options to more apps may help sustain some of those more involved applications, but we’ll have to see how that shakes out.

James Thomson

Actually, pretty good. Review times are now frequently in the 1-2 days range, iTunesConnect actually works. Don’t have any significant complaints. They lose a point for the developer forums which are quite disappointing - it’s very rare to find the answer to a problem there, and the searching and forum software is positively antiquated.

Casey Liss

Apple is getting more and more open, but they still have a long way to go. A lot of the angst about “pro” devices comes from a lack of discussion about what the plans are, in addition to keeping geriatric devices for sale.

Federico Viticci

Also getting better under Phil Schiller as head of the App Store from what I hear, particularly with the faster App Review times. I haven’t heard of any major (or unforeseen) issues with the iMessage App Store - the new big developer change this year.

John Gruber

I think the App Store situation is improving, but still has far to go.

Christina Warren

Apple keeps touting how many apps are in the App Store and how much money is being made, but we’re seeing how hard it continues to be for indie developers to make it work. And that’s a problem.

John Moltz

Developers use Macs. Apple didn’t really deliver the kind of Macs developers want. That’s not good.

Rene Ritchie

The box, it’s still black.

Shahid Kamal Ahmad

Given the astonishing developer base Apple has, it’s astounding that they can pull off support at all. Kudos for a system that has scaled way beyond what anybody expected it to be able to handle.

Rick LePage (No vote)

Does Apple really even have developer relations any more?

Environment/Social

Marco Arment

Tim Cook’s handling of the FBI phone-unlocking controversy was stellar, and may well go down as a highlight of Cook’s tenure as CEO.

Kirk McElhearn

Lots of marketing saying how great they are, but I’m not sure how this translates in the real world. I am suspicious of any company that makes glossy ads about their being the best company ever.

Stephen Hackett

Tim Cook continues to leverage Apple as a force for good in the world, and I think that’s great.

Rich Mogull

One word- Privacy. Apple faced down a massive challenge to our civil rights from the US and other governments and full held their own. This battle isn’t even close to over yet but it’s hard to see their position as anything other than courage at this point. The situation more than moved past them gaining some marginal competitive advantage through better privacy.

Gabe Weatherhead

Apple is still setting the high bar in environmental considerations and human impact. More importantly they didn’t rest on their achievement.

Federico Viticci

No one seems to care about these things as much as Apple. Major respect on all fronts here.

Aleen Simms

They seem to take environmental issues very seriously, but their diversity stats seem to barely be shifting year over year. I’d love to see them implement paid internship and mentorship programs for underrepresented minorities. I know leadership turnover is low, but I hope to see more types of people represented there soon, too.

John Moltz

Apple’s presentations this year were better in terms of diversity. That was nice to see (although the company still has a long way to go in diversity of its upper management).

Adam Engst

I was tremendously impressed by Apple’s willingness to stand up to the FBI with regard to hacking into iPhones; that took guts and Tim Cook did a fine job. In other social and environmental areas, Apple makes great claims, and while there’s no reason to disbelieve them, there’s also no easy way to evaluate them.

Rene Ritchie

Apple keeps saying they’re committed to all the social causes, from environmental impact to diversity and equal opportunity. Some of it, like the big splashy stuff, seems industry leading. The rest will require going supplier to supplier, team to team, to make sure everyone is living up to the ideals.

Final Comments

Rob Griffiths

As an Apple user and someone who makes their living on the Mac, it was a horrid year for Apple. I hope 2017 will be better (new expandable Mac Pro? App Store gets functionality updates and sandbox is optional?), but fear it will be worse—and terminating Sal as a final act of 2016 doesn’t bode well for next year.

Brent Simmons

I’ve been using Apple computers since 1980, since my first Apple II Plus. This is the first year where I feel like Apple is just another company rather than the computer that delighted me through all these decades. Maybe it’s for personal reasons, or because of the election, and I’m just down on everything. Possibly. But it feels like Apple is no longer the company for people who make things.

Fraser Speirs

I think calling out the Everyone Can Code initiative is important. It’s hard to over-state how important it is for iOS that Apple provide some tools for schools to teach ‘coding’ and they’re really putting a lot of effort behind this.

Kirk McElhearn

After 15 years writing about Apple, I’m getting tired of all their bullshit, but at least the reality distortion field is fading. I’m glad to see more mainstream criticism, making Apple pay attention a bit more. I found it interesting how they defended the new MBP, then lowered prices on the adapters and displays. Of course, the displays won’t even be available to buy in quantity before the discounts expire. Apparently the 5K went on sale yesterday, only to sell out the few units they had in minutes.

This is a company that has lost touch with its users. Their focus on the iPhone, as their largest profit center, is important, but they seem to be ignoring everything else for it. They’re harming their reputation with long-time users, they’re killing themselves in the “pro” sector, where Apple used to be the main provider, and even “average” users are starting to question whether it’s worth buying Apple products. I don’t think the company sees the decline in goodwill, which is slowly gnawing away at their reputation. Sure, they sell a lot of iPhone 7s, but I’ve heard from many people who are getting frustrated with Apple.

iPhones will be status symbols for a long time, but when you can get a perfectly good Android phone for $100, I think the tide will start changing, especially as the carrier subsidy model is ending. Apple needs to pay more attention to their entire product line, not just their best-selling product.

Dan Moren

2016 has definitely been a tough year for Apple; in baseball, you’d call something like this a rebuilding year. It feels like a lot of dominos are being set up, but the company isn’t yet ready to knock them all down. Of course it’s hard to tell whether that’s just giving the company the benefit of the doubt given its stellar 30-plus year history. It’s always possible that the company isn’t quite sure where it’s going next, or doesn’t quite have a bead on the next big thing yet. That’s always a challenge for a company like Apple, which doesn’t necessarily excel at breaking new ground so much as it does refining and perfecting device categories. It’s clear that Apple has a lot of irons in the fire going forward, both with its traditional platforms as well as the upcoming markets like AR/VR, wearables, the home, and, of course, the car. If 2017 is to be a capitalization of work done on the down low in 2016, then it seems like the company is well positioned to have an exciting year ahead of it.

James Thomson

2016 wasn’t the best year for Apple. It feels from the outside as if the talent is spread too thin across the existing products, and whatever else is parked in mysterious R&D labs. The one thing that seemed to get a lot of press is literally a coffee table book. I don’t think they’ve lost their way however, and while there may be a lack of motion on the surface, that doesn’t mean that they aren’t paddling away furiously underneath. Hopefully we’ll see some of the fruits of that next year. If ducks bore fruit, anyway.

Casey Liss

Though it seems like many pundits are getting ever-more-perturbed, I think things are in a decent state. Apple can always do better, but the sky isn’t falling. Not yet.

Lex Friedman

I hate to say it, and my love for the iPhone 7 Plus notwithstanding… But Apple felt boring this year. Apple feels boring right now.

Katie Floyd

One of the most concerning trends for Apple in 2016 is their inability to deliver. For a company the size and value of Apple not being able to manage their inventory and timely deliver products is unacceptable and embarrassing. Clearly something has gone very wrong given the drought of Mac updates, the new MacBook Pros have long shipping times and it is inexcusable that the AirPods missed the holiday season.

Perhaps they’ve grown complacent, perhaps it’s bad management, perhaps they just don’t’ care. This is a trend that cannot continue without serious consequences for the company.

Federico Viticci

Pineapple pizza should be illegal. Also, can’t wait to see what’s coming to the iPad line (both hardware and software) next year.

Aleen Simms

I feel like Apple’s currently coasting. They need to either start moving faster or provide some big, exciting new hardware and software features soon or people are going to lose faith.

I also think that my assessment may be unfair—I joined the Apple fan club in 2008, so I’m a newbie by many standards. I started seeing their value and capabilities during a golden age, when it was perhaps easier to move faster and things seemed more innovative.

John Moltz

I’m hoping that this was a rebuilding year for Apple. Some of the lesser products such as the Watch got some nice updates but the company didn’t show the level of esprit de corps for its other products that it has to date. Rumors indicate 2017 with feature a big update to the iPhone but what about the Mac? And what about a new product that will deliver the kind of growth we’re accustomed to seeing from the company by reinventing a market? It’s possible we’re living with a new Apple, one that will still make great products and do really well, but won’t blow the doors off the industry the way it used to. If that’s the case, that’s OK, but then maybe they’d have the time to deliver some new desktop Macs.

Rick LePage

I don’t wish to sound like the cranky old man who thinks Apple’s doomed. I do think that all great companies struggle with who they are over time, and they have periods where it’s hard for them to connect with their audience. I seems as though Apple is in that place right now.

IBM famously has had two or three great runs (and corresponding years as a tech-industry cellar dweller) in my lifetime. Why have they been successful? Because they have been able to figure out how to stay relevant to new (and changing) customer bases.

IBM was never in any danger of going away, just of losing relevance, and that’s what I think is at the core of Apple’s current state. This is a company that has had one of the greatest real boom cycles of any modern company I can think of, and I can’t imagine them being turned into a bit player in any way. I do think, however that Apple needs to figure out how to reconnect with their diverse audiences of today, the ones that they’ve been able to connect with in the past over phones, Macs and music.

Is that negative? Doom and gloomy? I don’t think so.

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