Review of the Year: 5 changes at Apple in 2021

Apple, best of Apple in 2021, iPhone 13 mini, iPad mini 2021, Beats, Beats headphones, Tim Cook, Jony Ive Apple

In tech circles, Apple is more than just a tech brand. It is an institution on its own that perfectly balances crowd appeal with out-of-the-box thinking. Although things have changed under the leadership of Tim Cook, the basic philosophy established by the late Steve Jobs remains the same. The company that Wall Street and consumers alike are watching closely, Apple had a successful year despite facing challenges from outside forces, including the pandemic and mounting pressure from regulators. While the world has already begun to speculate on what products to expect from the Cupertino giant next year and beyond, we’ve noticed certain things this year that not only tell us about Apple’s product strategies, but also give a sneak peek into the company’s vision for the future.

Apple, The best of Apple in 2021, iPhone 13 mini, iPad mini 2021, Beats, Beats headphones, Tim Cook, Jony Ive Apple Recently, Apple began to release more “mini” products. (Photo credit: Anuj Bhatia/Indian Express)

Small Appliances World

Someone inside Apple is very interested in “mini” products and wants the company to tackle a niche segment that still wants to use small-factor hardware. The often misunderstood message is that these products are made simply because a cash-rich company like Apple can take risks and care less about business prospects. This is not how Apple works. Designing a product like the iPhone 13 mini is a lot more complicated, because you know that tight space makes it hard to fit a larger battery, yet the priority is providing all-day battery life.

For example, the new iPad mini may look like a mini version of the iPad Air, but the way the mini is designed gives an introduction to a product that could end up being a foldable device in the near future. In their current form, the iPhone 13 mini and iPad mini are both usable devices that are also very experimental in nature. Besides laying the groundwork for new form factors, devices like the iPhone 13 mini and iPad mini give Apple an edge over the competition because its competitors don’t currently sell such devices.

Although Apple has offered small-brand devices in the past as well, this time around it will have a range of products including the HomePod mini and Mac mini catering to a specific use case and users. The idea is to move away from being associated with “affordable” devices even if in some cases the product is a gateway to the Apple ecosystem.

Apple, The best of Apple in 2021, iPhone 13 mini, iPad mini 2021, Beats, Beats headphones, Tim Cook, Jony Ive Apple Apple CEO Tim Cook, left, and chief designer Jonathan Ive look at the Mac Pro in the demo area at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference in San Jose. She left Apple in 2019 (Image Source: AP)

Post-Johnny Eve era

Leaving Apple has been a huge loss for the company, and it will be difficult to replace the famous industrial designer behind many successful products including the iPhone and iPad that have made Cupertino a household name. But Ive’s exit from Apple means the company is now more independent-minded and can design products that are more practical in its approach. The new design philosophy is already appearing in the latest MacBook Pro and it fixes the issues that plagued the previous model.

For example, the new MacBook Pro has an HDMI port which is exactly what photographers wanted in a professional-grade laptop, but my focus on form over function made it impossible to get that feature on last-generation laptops. The new MacBook Pro is thicker and heavier, but it has gained functionality that users will appreciate. Several new products Apple launched throughout the year, including the redesigned Siri remote for the Apple TV and iPhone 13, make it clear that the model has taken a back seat and that functionality is prioritized.

It’s not a sign that from now on Apple will design a product based on what consumers want to see. Apple is still focused on a product that people will buy. The difference is that a product designed in the post-EV era will be more practical and functional but less flashy.

Rise of the Beats by Dre

Until last year, there was speculation that Apple might terminate the Beats lineup and focus entirely on the Apple-branded audio line. Well, that didn’t happen. In fact, Beats as a brand has been getting a real boost lately and Apple has spared no expense in creating all the necessary hype around the new Beats products. If you look at Beats by Dre, the brand has taken the path of collaborating with hip-hop artists and designers who have truly fused the worlds of streetwear, fashion, and technology.

At the beginning of the decade, headphones were seen as fundamentally not cool. Beats, before Apple acquired the brand, tried to weave headphones as part of pop culture. With bold, street-inspired designs that stand out from the crowd and celebrities, Beats products help stand out from the competition, especially the Apple AirPods. The Fragment design collaboration between Hiroshi Fujiwara and Beats has brought back the lost magic the brand needed to thrive in the new world where luxury and streetwear became one.

Over the year, Beats has introduced several new earbuds that are less expensive than Apple’s AirPods but offer a solid alternative. For example, the new Beats Fit Pro has a lot of special features including Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) and even Android support at a lower price than the AirPods Pro. Refocusing on Beats seems like the beginning of things yet to come.

Apple, The best of Apple in 2021, iPhone 13 mini, iPad mini 2021, Beats, Beats headphones, Tim Cook, Jony Ive Apple The iPhone 13 series costs the same as the last generation lineup. (Photo credit: Anuj Bhatia/Indian Express)

No price increase

Apple, since its inception, has built a reputation for charging a premium on its products. Brand loyalty translates to higher product prices, backed by exceptionally well-designed hardware and the temptation of the Apple ecosystem. But during the pandemic, Apple did something unexpected – no increase in prices. The iPhone 13 costs the same as last year’s model, while the iPhone 13 Pro Max also costs similar to last year’s. Cupertino has raised the prices of its popular products over the years, and the iPhone has been the headline.

Experts say the pandemic has prompted Apple not to increase its iPhone prices, but a company in Apple’s stature could raise the price whenever it feels like it. Meanwhile, its competitors have launched premium smartphones at higher prices this year. This leaves us with the question of why Apple hasn’t increased iPhone prices despite facing chip shortages and supply chain issues. Is this because iPhone sales are on the rise and Apple can hit the ground running to keep new users coming, or is Apple waiting for the next generation iPhone and then just going to increase prices? Whatever the reason, prices for the iPhone, Apple Watch, and iPad (with the exception of the new iPad mini) are mostly unchanged this year.

Apple, The best of Apple in 2021, iPhone 13 mini, iPad mini 2021, Beats, Beats headphones, Tim Cook, Jony Ive Apple The program, known as self-service repair, will make parts available for Apple products for purchase starting early next year. (Image credit: Apple)

Walled Garden Opening

Although it’s hard to say cracks appear in Apple’s famous walled garden, Cupertino still controls how it wants to operate its tightly controlled ecosystem on its own terms. Earlier this year, Apple announced its decision to open FaceTime to non-Apple users for the first time. Now, Apple allows Android and Windows users to receive invitations for FaceTime calls. On the surface, it looks like a generous movement suggesting a gear change of some sort but there is one big caveat associated with the feature. Those users, for example, are still unable to initiate FaceTime calls and cannot take advantage of FaceTime’s SharePlay feature. It’s a well-thought-out move that will only encourage non-Apple users to switch to the iPhone in the future.

Apple also said that it will soon allow users to repair their iPhone and Mac by providing replacement parts, tools and manuals. The move was hailed as a major victory for the Right to Reform movement. Apple made this shift for a number of reasons, but in doing so, it became the poster child for the war against products that resisted reform, a smart PR move.


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