- Coming off a week of surprise product-related announcements, Apple was expecting to have a great week to close out March.
- The company held a star-studded event in Cupertino, California, where it unveiled its ambitious TV plans.
- But a handful of not-so-great things also happened to Apple last week.
Last Monday, Apple held a big event at the Steve Jobs Theatre at its headquarters in Cupertino, California, where it unveiled a handful of new premium services: for news and magazines, video games, and TV shows.
Apple’s big event went off without a hitch. Hollywood A-listers like Steven Spielberg and Reese Witherspoon unveiled exclusive new shows for Apple’s TV Plus service, and CEO Tim Cook spent quality time with Oprah Winfrey during and after the event.
But that was just Monday. The rest of the week was not so glamorous for Apple.
Here’s what happened.
MONDAY: The week started off pretty good! Apple unveiled three new premium services at its big event: Arcade, News Plus, and TV Plus.
Lots of celebrities showed up to plug their upcoming shows for Apple TV Plus, including Jennifer Aniston, Jason Momoa, J. J. Abrams, and Kumail Nanjiani. Oprah Winfrey even made an appearance to talk about her two original documentaries coming exclusively to Apple TV Plus.
It was a star-studded event – but Apple didn’t announce a price or even a launch date for Apple TV Plus, making some scratch their heads.
TUESDAY: One day after Apple announced its subscription service for magazines and newspapers, Apple’s News app crashed on both iOS and Mac devices.
TUESDAY: Apple continued its patent fight with Qualcomm, with a judge from the US International Trade Commission ruling that Apple’s iPhones infringed on a Qualcomm patent.
The ruling isn’t final, but the judge recommended an import ban on iPhones that violate the patent – specifically, the iPhone 7 lineup, the iPhone 8 lineup, and iPhone X models that use Intel’s chips – which would prevent them from being sold in the US. A panel of judges would need to approve this ruling before it could move on to a presidential review.
For what it’s worth, Apple was found to have not infringed on a handful of separate Qualcomm patents in a second ruling the ITC handed down on Tuesday.
Apple said in a statement to Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman that Qualcomm was using these patent cases “to distract from having to answer for the real issues, their monopolistic business practices.”
WEDNESDAY: Apple finally issued its first apology to MacBook owners still experiencing keyboard issues.
An Apple representative said in a statement to Business Insider: “We are aware that a small number of users are having issues with their third-generation butterfly keyboard and for that we are sorry. The vast majority of Mac notebook customers are having a positive experience with the new keyboard.”
Owners of Apple’s MacBook laptops – specifically those with butterfly keyboards – have been experiencing issues since Apple redesigned its keyboards to be thinner around 2015. Even after two redesigns of that keyboard, people have complained about persisting issues such as common keys like E and R not registering or over-registering.
FRIDAY: Images thought to be of Apple’s next iPhone leaked online.
Steve Hemmerstoffer, aka “OnLeaks,” released schematics on Twitter of what appear to be the new iPhone coming later this year.
The schematics line up with previous rumours and reports pointing to Apple releasing an iPhone with a three-lens camera system in 2019.
Apple is big on secrecy and does not like leaks; it famously created a crack team of former National Security Agency and FBI agents working around the clock, year-round, to prevent and investigate product leaks.
FRIDAY: News broke that Apple’s lead architect of its custom iOS chips had left the company.
Apple’s A-series chips are one of the distinguishing factors that set Apple’s mobile devices like iPhones and iPads apart from the competition. They’re unique systems-on-a-chip, or SoCs, which handle the computing, graphics, image processing, motion processing, artificial intelligence, and security of the devices.
In other words, they are extremely important.
Gerard Williams III was Apple’s lead designer of these chips, from the A7 chip that powered 2013’s iPhone 5S to the A12X that powers Apple’s latest iPhone XS and XS Max. And on Friday,CNET broke the news that Williams had left the company.
It’s unclear what Williams will do next, but Apple’s custom chips play a big role in Apple’s mobile success. Of course, Apple still has an entire team dedicated to this effort, and losing one person doesn’t necessarily mean anything in terms of short- or long-term change. But it’s likely to miss Williams in more ways than one.
FRIDAY: Apple canceled AirPower, its wireless-charging mat that debuted almost two years ago.
In 2016, people were not happy that Apple abandoned the headphone jack in the new iPhone 7.
In 2017, Apple wanted to make it clear to everyone that it was serious about a truly wireless future. So it did something at its September event that it doesn’t normally do: It unveiled a product that was still in its concept stages and not close to ready.
Apple said the AirPower wireless-charging mat could recognise your iPhone, Apple Watch, and AirPods and charge them accordingly and simultaneously.
Apple said AirPower would be released in 2018, but the entire year passed and we heard nothing from Apple. References to AirPower were quietly removed from Apple’s website in September. The only things we heard were a few reports that said Apple was having engineering issues with AirPower’s thermals (as in, the product was overheating).
AirPower had some signs of life in March. References to AirPower popped up on Apple’s Australian website. Apple released its second-generation AirPods, which showed a picture of the mat on the back of the packaging – and still does – suggesting an imminent AirPower announcement.
But on Friday, Apple dropped the news to TechCrunch: It was cancelling AirPower once and for all, saying it couldn’t live up to Apple’s high bar for quality.
Apple cancelling AirPower was, in many ways, unprecedented and embarrassing. Apple had never announced and shown off a product and then canceled it before its public debut.
Of course, it’s probably for the best that Apple recognised the issue and killed it instead of pouring time and resources into reengineering the mat, which might not have been worth the investment. But it’s not a good look that Apple was fine with unveiling a product that wasn’t close to ready.
But of course, the week wasn’t all bad.
Some good things that happened to Apple last week:
- It shipped the third-generation iPad Air and fifth-generation iPad Mini, which both support the Apple Pencil for the first time.
- It released electrocardiogram functionality for the Apple Watch in Hong Kong and 19 European countries: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the UK.
- Apple Pay expanded into six new countries: Austria, Estonia, Greece, Portugal, Slovakia, and Slovenia.
- CEO Tim Cook rode Apple’s magic elevator with Oprah Winfrey and Steven Spielberg.
Apple also unveiled its most important announcement of 2019 so far: the Apple Card, its answer to the credit card.
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