Apple had its share of much-hyped product releases and headline-grabbing controversies in 2011, but late on Oct. 5, the gadgets and drama were overshadowed by the passing of Cupertino's enigmatic co-founder. Steve Jobs was gone.
The news hit early in the evening on the East Coast, one day after Apple had unveiled its new iPhone 4S. Jobs had battled cancer for years, taking several leaves of absence and even undergoing a liver transplant, but by August 2011, the time had come to say goodbye. Jobs resigned from his post as Apple CEO, handing the reigns over to Tim Cook, and two months later, he passed away surrounded by family.
Upon hearing the news of his death, fans flocked to Apple Stores around the world to pay their respects, and Apple later held a star-studded memorial service at its Cupertino headquarters. His life was chronicled in a Walter Isaacson biography, published about three weeks after his death, but for more, see PCMag's look back at Jobs's life and career.
But Jobs likely would not have wanted his death to overshadow all that his company had accomplished in 2011, though he probably would've been OK with it eclipsing some of the gaffes, like location tracking, iPhone battery drains, and contentious patent battles. Let's take a look back at the good, the bad, and ugly to come out of Cupertino in the last year.
Apple fans spent much of the year waiting for a product that never arrived—the iPhone 5. We got a new iPhone, but it failed to include a totally revamped form factor, larger screen, 4G, or any of the other far-fetched, rumored features that made the rounds in 2011.
Instead, the iPhone 4S arrived looking exactly the same as the iPhone 4 on the outside, but with Siri, a souped-up camera, and dual-core processor inside. Any disappointment over the lack of an iPhone 5-branded device did not hurt sales, though. Apple sold at least 4 million devices in the first few days it was available. The smartphone was also added to two new U.S. carriers—Sprint and C Spire.
Earlier in the year, however, Jobs was still well enough to take the stage and unveil the iPad 2—a thinner, faster version of its predecessor with front- and rear-facing cameras. It went on sale in March, prompting long lines at area Apple Stores. By July, Apple revealed that it sold 9.25 million iPads during the quarter, a 183 percent increase from the year before.
Rivals like RIM and HP have struggled to compete with the iPad. The closest competitor appears to be the Amazon Kindle Fire, but the 7-inch, $199 tablet has really emerged as a low-cost alternative to the iPad rather than a potential iPad killer. Apple execs quipped recently that the Fire might help iPad sales; people will purchase the Fire, realize they want something more powerful, and trade up.
With the new devices, meanwhile, came a revamped operating system: iOS 5. It took a page from other OSes, like Android's notification center and BlackBerry Messenger with iMessage. There was also the launch of iCloud and iTunes Match for on-the-go access to files and music. The company's Mac and iPod lines also got an overhaul, while the next iteration of Mac OS X, Lion, finally hit the desktop.