The 10 Biggest Apple News Stories Of 2018

New iPhones and Macs, enterprise partnerships and several major controversies were among the year's top Apple stories.


The Year In Apple News

2018 was filled with ups and downs for Cupertino, Calif.-based tech titan Apple—and it's ending on a bit of a down note as the company copes with a slowdown in demand for the iPhone. It was an often-contentious year overall, with the company facing controversy around its handling of iPhone throttling and threats by President Donald Trump of slapping major tariffs on its products. On the brighter side, 2018 saw Apple revive some of its long-neglected Macs--the MacBook Air and Mac Mini--while also refreshing its entire iPad lineup.

What follows are the 10 biggest Apple news stories of 2018.

10. Keyboard Woes

Following an uproar from users and three lawsuits, Apple launched a keyboard service program in June for problematic MacBook Pro and MacBook laptop keyboards. The redesigned MacBook Pro in 2016 introduced a "butterfly" keyboard mechanism that aims to provide "more responsive and comfortable typing," Apple said at the time. However, in truth the keyboard is "defective" and "prone to fail," according to a lawsuit filed in May by the firm Girard Gibbs on behalf of two MacBook Pro owners. Two other lawsuits followed, while a petition seeking a recall over the keyboard issues saw major traction. Troublesome keyboard behaviors cited by Apple include letters or characters repeating unexpectedly; letters or characters failing to appear; and keys that are "sticky" or "do not respond in a consistent manner."

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9. China Hack Report

In October, a Bloomberg Businessweek story claimed that Chinese spies had infiltrated servers used by companies including Apple. According to Bloomberg, the Supermicro servers were implanted with microchips that were intended to steal sensitive data for China. Apple responded with a series of uncharacteristically strong denials, including letters to the House and Senate commerce committees, along with a call for a retraction by Apple CEO Tim Cook. "There is no truth in their story about Apple," Cook told BuzzFeed, saying that Bloomberg should do the "right thing and retract it." Prior to this, Apple had never publicly demanded that a news outlet retract a story, BuzzFeed said. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security released a statement showing support for Apple in the matter. Bloomberg has said it stands by the story.

8. New iPads

Apple upped its iPad game in 2018 with the introduction of major refreshes to the 9.7-inch slate iPad and the two iPad Pro models. For the 9.7-inch iPad, the highlight was the introduction of support for the Apple Pencil for the first time. The refreshed iPad Pro launched with a new display size of 11 inches (replacing the 10.5-inch model) along with an updated 12.9-inch version with slimmer bezels. The iPad Pro also followed the lead of the iPhone by eliminating Touch ID fingerprint recognition and the home button, in favor of Face ID facial recognition and iPhone-like navigation. All of the new iPads got a major performance boost with updated processors; the iPad Pro, in particular, gained speed with the new A12X Bionic processor for 90-percent faster multi-core performance.

7. Trump Steps Up Pressure On Apple

President Donald Trump added to the growing uncertainty around Apple's iPhone business in November when he told the Wall Street Journal he was considering a 10-percent tariff on products including the iPhone. Final assembly of Apple products, including the iPhone, is carried out in China. While meant to signal to Chinese leaders that Trump is willing to expand tariffs in the ongoing trade war, the comment also served to increase Trump’s pressure on Apple to manufacture products in the U.S. In September, Trump tweeted that "Apple prices may increase because of the massive Tariffs we may be imposing on China."

"But there is an easy solution where there would be ZERO tax, and indeed a tax incentive. Make your products in the United States instead of China," Trump tweeted. "Start building new plants now. Exciting!" Apple has said that the tariffs would raise the cost of doing business in the U.S., increase prices of its products for consumers and give a boost to foreign competitors.

6. Mac Refreshes

As Apple turned much of its focus to the iPhone in recent years, the Mac took a backseat. But Mac fans have had a lot to be happy about in 2018, particularly with the major updates to the MacBook Air and Mac Mini, two long-neglected members of the Mac family. In October, Apple announced a full redesign for its MacBook Air--featuring a high-res Retina display, faster performance, Touch ID fingerprint recognition, portability improvements and USB-C connectivity. Meanwhile, the Mac Mini received a massive performance boost with up to six-core processors and up to 64 GB of RAM, along with up to 2 TB of storage.

5. Privacy Wars

Among the strongest critics of Facebook in the wake of this year's Cambridge Analytica scandal was Apple CEO Tim Cook (pictured), who called the Facebook policies that allowed the user data leak an "invasion of privacy." After being asked what Cook would do if he were in the position of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Cook responded, "I wouldn't be in this situation." Cook, who has also criticized the user data policies of Google, expanded on his views during a data privacy conference in October, when he levied biting criticism against tech industry players that are putting "profits over privacy." Cook has a track record of advocating for privacy and has placed a major emphasis on protecting Apple customer data—ranging from a commitment to not making money from customer data, to refusing to help law enforcement agencies with unlocking iPhones. But when it comes to the data policies of other industry players, Cook argued that "we shouldn't sugarcoat the consequences."

"This is surveillance," he said. "And these stockpiles of personal data serve only to enrich the companies that collect them." Cook said the U.S. needs its own version of the European Union's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) to ensure data privacy for citizens.

4. iPhone Throttling

While Apple may be able to point to a strong record on user privacy, not all of the company's user policies were well received in 2018. Apple spent the early part of the year dealing with fallout from its throttling of the performance on older iPhones. While Apple had previously disclosed that iOS updates included measures to reduce the impact on aging batteries, the company didn't say that the measures could cause noticeable performance reductions for iPhone users. Following an outcry, Cook acknowledged that Apple mis-handled the matter, saying that "maybe we should've been clearer" in disclosing the measures. Apple announced that out-of-warranty iPhone battery replacements would be available this year for $29, down from the normal price of $79. The iPhone throttling measure also appeared in this year's iOS 12.1 update for iPhone X, 8 and 8 Plus, but with the ability for users to toggle off the throttling.

3. Enterprise Push

Apple continued to ramp up its efforts to generate more enterprise business in 2018, including through new and expanded industry partnerships. In November, Apple CFO Luca Maestri pointed to "great progress in the enterprise market" such as an increase in IBM MobileFirst for iOS deals—which provide iOS business apps that leverage both Apple and IBM technologies, and which now has 240 "large" customers. Maestri also pointed to Apple's recent addition of Salesforce to its list of strategic partnerships. The agreement is seeing the two companies team up to give Salesforce and related apps a more-optimal experience on iOS.

This year also saw Apple partner with HP Inc. to bring the iPhone, iPad and Mac lines into HP's Device-as-a-Service offering. There have even been signs that Apple is seeking improved partnerships in the channel. Jim Harryman, founder and CEO of Kinetic Technology Group, a Dallas-based member of the Apple Consultants Network, told CRN "the relationship is strong" between Apple and partners such as his company. "They continue to raise the bar for companies like ours," Harryman said. "They're requiring more and more certifications to maintain that relationship, which I think is good."

2. New iPhones

September saw the debut of three new iPhones--and all of them follow the model that Apple first introduced with the iPhone X: large displays that are nearly edge-to-edge (but include a camera notch); Face ID facial recognition in place of Touch ID fingerprint recognition; and no home button. This time around, however, two of the models feature OLED screens and just one includes LCD. The OLED models consist of the 5.8-inch iPhone XS and the 6.5-inch iPhone XS Max, while the LCD model, the iPhone XR, has a 6.1-inch display.

Key features for the XS models include the speedy new A12 Bionic processor, a new option for up to 512 GB of internal storage, improved water resistance and screen durability, a stainless steel frame, dual rear cameras and the introduction of Dual SIM for enabling two phone numbers on the same phone.

Like with the iPhone X, the new models are not aimed at affordability, with the iPhone XS starting at $999 and the iPhone XS Max starting at $1,099. The iPhone XR has been targeted as the mainstream model in the lineup with a starting price of $749 and a single rear camera, a maximum of 256 GB of storage and an aluminum frame instead of stainless steel.

1. Demand Slows For iPhone

The end of 2018 for Apple has been dominated by growing concerns about the company's iPhone business. While the device continues to generate major revenue growth for Apple, that's mostly come thanks to the higher prices being charged for the OLED models in the lineup--the iPhone X earlier in the year, and the iPhone XS and XS Max in the latter part of 2018. Unit sales of the iPhone, on the other hand, are no longer growing; for Apple's fiscal 2018, which ended Sept. 29, unit sales were flat compared to the year before.

Reasons cited for the slowdown include the general consumer trend toward keeping smartphones longer and the fact that iPhone prices have risen significantly. For instance, the flagship of the 2018 lineup, the iPhone XS Max, starts at $1,099--compared to the $769 starting price of the 2016 flagship, the iPhone 7 Plus. Well-known Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo of TF International Securities has reportedly cut his iPhone shipping estimates for the current quarter by 20 percent, and expects a iPhone unit sales decline of up to 10 percent for Apple's fiscal 2019 overall. Apple has responded by offering special promotions for buying new iPhones--an extremely rare move by the company—and also by saying it will no longer report product unit sales in future quarterly financials. After at one point surpassing a market capitalization of $1 trillion during the year, Apple began a stock price slide in early November amid concerns about the iPhone, ultimately erasing hundreds of millions of dollars from its market cap.