Apple in 2022: silicon wins, pipeline problems, and good-enough gadgets
Apple did a lot in 2022, but as we close the ledgers on what still feels like a recovery year for humanity, it’s hard to find anything that had as big an impact as Apple Silicon.
Because Apple’s own chip program now supports 99% of its computers, laptops, tablets and iPhones, it has a huge impact on everything Apple does. The full stack control that Apple enjoys across its product lines – from silicon to components to build and to the software, interfaces and services – is now unmatched.
It’s not just that Apple has achieved its goal of migrating almost all about Apple silicon this year, it’s that the company continues to make unparalleled leaps in mobile performance.
“Yes, Apple Silicon was a big story and remains a big one. All of them semi [conductor] competitors are struggling to match the same power/battery improvements that Apple has in the M1 and M2 chips, and are at least a year behind them, if not more,” said the longtime Apple analyst and Creative Strategies chairman Tim Bajarin said via email.
Unlike Intel, which unveils chips and then waits a few months for its partners to deliver systems around them, Apple has the 5-nanometer process, 20-billion-transistor, 10-core GPU M2 with a new MacBook Air with the new Apple Silicon delivered.
At the same time, Apple was able to unveil the next generation of all the software platforms that would run on its new desktops and laptops (macOS Ventura) and future iPads (iPadOS 16) and iPhones (iOS 16).
This mobile cadence of software and then, three months later, the hardware to support it, is both predictable and efficient.
While the Apple Silicon story generated considerable excitement, the rest of Apple’s 2022 was more of a mixed bag. Granted, Apple’s mixed bag is anyone else’s marquee year.
The new M2 MacBook Air is a perfect example of a product that probably split Apple fans down the middle. The redesigned chassis sheds an iconic design in favor of an ultra-portable device that could be mistaken for someone else’s hardware. To be fair, the industry has gravitated towards Apple’s once signature curved aluminum chassis design, so much so that Apple had to go a different route.
Apple’s iPhone 14 wasn’t the flash redesign some were hoping for, but I still don’t think it got enough credit for the Dynamic Island (only available on the iPhone 14 Pro models). And Emergency SOS via satellite on the entire line is also worth celebrating.
Unfortunately, Apple may have miscalculated again regarding a new iPhone size variant. People seem as excited about the iPhone 14 Plus as they are about the iPhone 13 mini, which is to say, not very much.
The big story from an iPhone perspective, at least for me, was iOS 16 and the updates to focus, notifications, messages, emails and the lock screen. Apple’s decision to tweak core features like the ability to edit messages after you’ve sent them shouldn’t be overlooked. Raise your hand if you’ve already used this feature.
Apple took a similarly cautious approach with the Apple Watch 8, a nimble and still excellent smartwatch overshadowed by the more powerful and beefier Apple Watch Ultra. Is the Ultra a big hit? Too soon to tell, but I bet that’s too much clock for most people.
In many ways, 2022 felt like an in-between year for Apple. Check out the Apple iPad line. The awesomely powerful M2-powered 12.9 iPad Pro, while not doing much on the design side, pushes tablet power into new and uncharted spaces.
Then you have the iPad 10.9, which takes the flagship tablet into new design space but is saddled with an aging (though still decent) CPU and a last-gen Apple Pencil.
I’m also struck by the things Apple didn’t do in 2022. There was still no word or tease about the Apple Car. This cursed project seems no closer to reality than it did five years ago. That won’t stop anyone from writing about it, but mark my words, we won’t know any more about this iCar at the end of 2023 than we do now.
Many of us, including me, thought Apple was teasing its AR glasses when it talked about “Peek Performance” back in the spring. I was wrong. As with so many new category innovations these days, Apple is taking its sweet time. Not everyone is fooled.
“I never expected the AR glasses in 2022, and not sure we’ll even see them in 2023. Talking to the supply chain, there are still real challenges in getting the optics, Bluetooth radios and robust designs in place that the demands and needs of their customers,” Bajarin wrote to me.
This leads me to some of Apple’s biggest challenges in 2022. Tim Cook has mentioned supply chain issues more than once throughout the year and in particular how it could affect iPhone availability. It wasn’t that bad, but with some of the new Covid lockdowns in China, things could get a little worse in the spring.
Bajarin agreed that the supply chain was easily one of Apple’s biggest challenges in 2022.
“That Zero Covid policy of [China’s] President XI was disastrous for them and others. It’s going to take at least two more quarters to get better,” Bajarin wrote.
As the year came to a close, Apple faced some real challenges to its founding App Store principles, with the European Union all but forcing it to accept third-party stores on its devices. The EU could also accelerate Apple’s existing plans to move the iPhone to USB-C. It’s not a huge deal, but I can’t imagine that Apple and CEO Tim Cook like being pushed around.
And lately there’s been a bit of a tit-for-tat with Twitter’s Elon Musk.
Twitter has long been one of the App Store’s most popular apps, but Musk’s stewardship of the brand has been a disaster. He is desperate to make real income and profit through subscriptions, especially for those linked to the new, beleaguered Twitter Blue Verification program.
Of course, Musk should keep all that money and not pay Apple his 30% discount for in-app purchases. Of course, Musk took his complaints about the fee and what he sees as Apple’s App Store monopoly public on Twitter. He even threatened to build his own phone.
Eventually, Cook and Musk met in private and worked things out. But still that skirmish seemed to us. Bajarin said it wasn’t a big deal.
“The Twitter/Musk fight has been more of a nuisance than causing Apple any real problems,” he wrote.
Even with Apple’s stellar service program taking a surprising drop in revenue this year, 2022 was a really good year for Apple. Its growing market share is poised to deliver an even more exciting set of iPhones next year and will surely wow us again with new Apple Silicon (hello, M3) in 2023.