2014 year in review roundtable

2014 is nearly at an end, and what a year it was: New iPhones. New iPads. The 5K Retina Mac. iOS 8. Continuity. OS X Yosemite. Return of the Mac Mini. Tim Cook's Bloomberg piece. A lot's happened in twelve months, which means there's plenty for your iMore staff to reflect on. Here are our thoughts on our favorite tech happenings from 2014, our most reviled moments, the things we wanted but didn't get, and more.

Your favorite thing from 2014?

Peter: Continuity. We've been hearing about the "iOSification" of OS X for years, postulated as this singularity where iOS and OS X would merge into one amorphous thing. That hasn't happened. Instead Apple trumped us by making both of them greater than the sum of the parts through really innovative merging. I get annoyed when it isn't more seamless, but I have to admit that it's magical when it works.

Ally: Hands down the best thing to come out of 2014 is iOS 8. For all the bugs and headaches it's causing now, it'll be worth it in 2015. I'm excited to see what developers create with it this coming year.

Ren: Can I nominate the WWDC '14 keynote as a whole? iOS 8, OS X Yosemite, Continuity, Extensibility, Swift, new developer APIs, HealthKit, HomeKit, Metal… It was incredible to witness. Of all Apple's WWDC announcements, however, Continuity remains my favorite. Not because of what it can do now — though I'm definitely enjoying Handoff and SMS Relay — but because of the shift it signifies for Apple going forward. The right device for the right space. I love that message, and I'm glad to see it perched as the cornerstone of Apple's philosophy going forward.

Runner up: Angela Ahrendts taking the reins of the Apple Store and the Apple Store online, and for being the sole woman on Apple's leadership team. New voices in leadership are important, and more female voices in high-ranking positions at Apple are long overdue.

Rene: I'm tempted to say the new iPhones, or the Apple A8X chipset. But I'm going with Extensibility. The ability for an app to remotely project interface and functionality into the system and other apps is and will continue to be transformative. It's already changed my workflow on iOS. WatchKit uses it. Who knows what will use it next?

Worst thing in 2014?

Peter: Anything colored in gold.

Ally: The iPad mini 3. I was completely disappointed with what Apple did, or rather didn't do, with it. It's last year's model with Touch ID, and that's super disappointing to me. Smaller shouldn't mean less powerful. I really wanted an iPad Air experience in the mini form factor this year, and sadly, I didn't get it.

Ren: Return of the App Store review madness. I thought we'd almost moved past the days of App Store review threatening doom and gloom upon good developers' livelihoods, but iOS 8 and Extensibility opened up another new can of worms. Though the hooplah seems to be dying down now, it was still a terrible precedent to set on the heels of fantastic new developer tools.

Rene: As amazing as iOS 8 and Yosemite are, they exposed cracks in Apple's capabilities. HealthKit and Extensibility needed last-minute fixes — or beyond last minute fixes — to make apps that integrated them work as designed. The delta update for iOS 8.0.1 shipped with a literal show-stopper. And the mid-level of App Store review couldn't get on the same page as the base-level of new SDK functionality. Whether Apple needs more teams to better match the more ambitious schedule, or the enhanced collaboration needs to permeate even more aspects of the company, hopefully 2014's growing pains will inform 2015's roadmap.

Thing you wanted but didn't get in 2014?

Peter: All things considered, the Mac refreshes throughout the year were pretty tepid - nothing more than minor speed bumps, for the most part, which made Apple reconfigure memory and prices to keep Macs appealing. Apple was hamstrung by Intel's development of new processor hardware, which saw delays as Intel switched to a new manufacturing process.

Ally: I really would like to see an updated Apple TV. I really didn't expect one until 2015 but I think I was secretly hoping we would see one in 2014. The software update is great interface wise and changed things up but it came plagued with bugs and has created quite a few headaches for a lot of people. I really would have liked to see Apple pay more attention to the Apple TV this year, even if it was only from a software standpoint.

Ren: An iPad mini refresh worthy of its bigger brother. The iPad mini 3 was a pretty big letdown to those of us who prefer smaller tablets, and though I understand Apple's reasoning for not giving the mini the A8X and the Air's other improvements, it doesn't stop me from wishing the company had figured out a way to make it all work.

Runner up: iCloud Photo Library on the Mac. The "iCloud Photos on iOS in 2014, Mac in 2015" plan was a casualty of trying to launch too many things this year, and users suffered for it. iPhoto's in limbo, iCloud Photo Library is hampered by not having full sync, and Photo Stream is stuck trying to bridge the gap. It's not the Apple I know and love.

Rene: iTunes feels like it's being left behind. Shiny new phones, tablets and computers. Great new designs for mobile and desktop. Yet not much has changed for media. It's still running on ancient web technology, still wrapped in a monolithic code base, and seems to benefit not at all from new web technologies like those powering iCloud.com or new native technologies like extensibity and handoff. Maybe Apple was forced to slow down to integrate Beats or to wait for the new Apple TV to be ready. Whatever the reason, iTunes from service to store to apps needs it's turn in the makeover chair. And hopefully it'll be soon.


Peter: I really love my iPhone 6 - it's easily the best iPhone I've ever used. I like the iPhone 6 Plus, but it's actually too much phone for me — just too big to use on a daily basis. I'm truly jealous of iPhone 6 Plus battery life, though.

Ally: I'm still torn on which iPhone I prefer, the iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 Plus. Over the past several weeks, I've been using the Plus on a regular basis and it's growing on me. The battery life is amazing and it's hard to put that aside. However, I'm irritated by it every time I have an outfit on that doesn't accommodate its form factor. Not everyone has pants of holding like Rene.

Ren: I've said it before and I'll say it again — the iPhone 6 is incredible. I've written many words about the camera already this year, and somehow still have things to say about it. It takes excellent pictures, great slo-mo video, and offers smart editing options. But while I love the 6's screen, the form factor sometimes still feels a little too big for me. I've also had incredibly bad luck with my 6's screen, cracking one and scratching both profusely from day-to-day tasks like putting it in pockets and bags. The 6 Plus is far too big for my taste, but I know many people who are thrilled Apple finally ventured into the big-screen space.

Rene: Big year for the iPhone. Big and bigger, actually. Apple took their incredibly popular flagship phone to 4.7- and 5.5-inches. Moreover, with Adaptive UI, they showed the iOS could scale to fit any display size, now and into the future. Hopefully now that we have bigger screens, Apple will figure out how to shrink the surrounding casings. Meanwhile, iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus are absolutely the best iPhones ever. Again.


Peter: The iPad Air 2 is the best looking iPad ever, thanks to new screen manufacturing technology that produces a much clearer image. Add to that Touch ID, Apple Pay and a fast-as-blazes processor and you've got an incredibly powerful tablet that's easy to use and better than ever. Seems odd that Apple basically stalled the evolution of the iPad mini 2 this year, but maybe that's to give it a bit of distance from its big brother.

Ally: I'm happy to finally have Touch ID on my iPad. The iPad Air 2 is also insanely fast at everything it does. The laminated display also creates a much sharper image which is now on par with their iPhone counterparts. Next year, I'd really like to see all of the power of the iPad Air 2 make it to the iPad mini. I was quite disappointed with the lack of attention it got from Apple this year.

Ren: Thank you, iPad Air 2, for making me love the 10-inch iPad again. I didn't think it was possible after I switched to the iPad mini, but your A8X processor, beautiful screen, and lighter-than-ever casing won me over. As I said above, I'm still a little heartbroken about the lack of iPad mini updates this year, but I'm hoping we'll see some A8X action in the mini come 2015.

Rene: The Apple A8X processor in the iPad Air 2 is ridiculous, as is the new laminated Retina display and 2GB of RAM. They're so good I'm hoping Apple has an iOS surprise to better make use of them next year. I'm also hoping, if the rumors of supply constraints were true, Apple can make enough for the iPad mini next year as well.


Peter: I had high hopes for the new Mac mini. I know some people were disappointed by the 2014 refresh because it lacked some of the same options as the previous model, like a quad-core processor option and upgradable RAM. But I still think on balance it's a fantastic little machine for the average user. The 5K iMac is a terrific machine for pro users working with HD content, though I have trouble coming up with a justification for it for most people — the other iMacs are still plenty fast.

Ally: I want a Retina 5K iMac so bad but simply can't justify it. I don't have a retina Mac of any kind yet so the temptation isn't terrible. I'm also glad to see the Mac Mini finally get some love, even though it isn't something that affects me personally. Now if only Apple would release a 5k Cinema Display...

Ren: Refreshes and upgrades for almost every system on the market, and one heck of a new product in the form of the Retina 5K iMac: Anyone who says the Mac is no longer of interest to Apple is crazy. It may not be the company's best-selling product, but the Macintosh line is still firing on all cylinders. Now if only I could convince my wallet to open up a little bit for a new iMac...

Rene: New Mac mini — finally! — and Haswell bumps for the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro, along with increasingly good sales, made 2014 a great year for the Mac. The Retina 5K iMac, however, following on the heels of the new Mac Pro made it a defining one. As much as Apple strives to surprise and delight, they can still shock and awe. Now if Intel could only figure out how to ship Broadwell. And Skylake.

Apple Watch

Peter: I haven't worn a watch in a decade, since I started using a laptop as my regular computer — didn't want to scratch the wrist area. I'm still waiting for Apple or an enterprising third-party developer to convince me I need an Apple Watch. Until then, I look at it as an interesting curiosity.

Ally: I've yet to really get excited about watches. I hate wearing them and haven't in years. I tried the Pebble and after a week it sat on my desk unused until I finally got rid of it. Perhaps the Apple Watch will be different for me, but part of me still feels it'll just be another distraction instead of a useful tool.

Ren: I can still picture Tim Cook's delighted grin when he held up his wrist and revealed the Apple Watch to everyone sitting in the Flint Center — it's the kind of moment you don't forget. We can only speculate on how the watch will or won't change our lives when it arrives next spring, but it's Cook's enthusiasm that makes me hopeful. Personally, I suspect that the watch might actually bring us back to reality from the land of screens — by honing in on notifications and alerts that matter and by keeping us focused on the task at hand, the watch could take out a lot of the extraneous fiddling one does with an iPhone in-between checking a text message or Maps location.

Rene: The Apple Watch will make or break it on convenience for me. If it can handle all those brief but important interactions I do so often — notification, communication, authentication, logging, and remote control — so I don't have to go reaching for my iPhone, then it'll have a place not only on my wrist but in my life.


Peter: iOS 7 was a face lift, but iOS 8 was a major change under the hood, reworking some of the fundamental characteristics of iOS. Where Apple goes from here is anyone's guess, but I'm enjoying the fruits of their labor, even if things aren't exactly working as smoothly as I might have expected.

Ally: iOS 8 is all about under the hood improvements. Just like everyone else, I've experienced the bugs and the pain points. I've also written more troubleshooting guides in the past few months than I have in the past 4 years. However, Apple has never opened up iOS as much as they did with iOS 8. That's exciting. And I can't wait to see what comes of it this year.

Ren: iOS 8 may not have had the flash-bang newness that iOS 7 presented, but it was an incredible release for developers, letting them have access to APIs and system processes they could previously have only dreamed of (or developed for jailbroken phones). Because of iOS 8, we have apps like Manual. Workflow. Clips. Themeboard. Linky. And there's plenty still with which to experiment.

Rene: 2013 was all about iOS interface and, once done, allowed 2014 to become all about iOS functionality. Both were painful, but also signs of the maturity of mobile and the needs of the next 5 years. Now that iOS can span from the watch to the car, and apps can work on their own, in other apps, and on remote displays, there's no telling on what, and where, Apple can take it next.


Peter: Just like every new OS release from Apple, Yosemite has caused some growing pains for new adopters — Wi-Fi reliability is a particular sore point for some of us. Having said that, the new user interface enhancements to Yosemite and the new usability features like Continuity and Handoff make it a remarkable upgrade. Yosemite on its own is great, but on a newer Mac paired with a newer iPhone, it becomes nothing short of spectacular — capable of making and taking phone calls, messaging people who don't use iMessage, and seamlessly transferring data between devices. Yosemite's one of the most important OS X upgrades since OS X was first released, and paves the way for Apple's next decade of Mac innovation.

Ally: Yosemite is very iOS like in many ways and when you factor in Continuity and Handoff, workflows are starting to blend and the lines are blurring. That's a good thing and lets me be more efficient. And surprisingly Yosemite was much less painful of a transition than Mavericks, which had tons of super annoying bugs on launch. If you haven't updated to Yosemite yet, I can't think of a reason why you shouldn't.

Ren: OS X Yosemite didn't break Mail for me, which already meant it was leaps and bounds above Mavericks as a system update. There were still bugs in the system, but by and large, the system was stable, smooth, and — oh yeah — we got Dark Mode (sorta). We can't forget Continuity, either; if you're using it, chances are you're using it often. I love it for quick access to open Safari windows or email switching, and can't wait to see it come to my favorite third-party apps next year.

Rene: I usually wait 9-12 months to update my podcast production Mac to the newest version of OS X. Yosemite looked and felt so much better than Mavericks, however, I updated within a week. It was solid for me through the betas, and continues to delight me well past launch. Now I just need that new Photos app for the Mac, and a new iTunes, and I'll be happy.


Peter: Continuity was the big theme for me this year, and apps that take advantage of it are welcome. One of my favorites on the Mac side was Keypad, an app that lets you dial your iPhone without having to open FaceTime first. On the iPad we now have Pixelmator, which blends effortlessly with its Mac counterpart thanks to Continuity.

Ally: As iOS and OS X evolve, the software we run on them will have to as well. I haven't seen too much of that happen just yet. With the exception of a couple awesome apps such as Pixelmator. I'd like to see more pro tools take advantage of the new capabilities in 2015. Unfortunately I haven't seen anything just yet that has completely wowed me.

Ren: I felt like 2014 was a huge win for users in the software department: iOS 8 gave us newer and more powerful tools while longtime OS X developers released great updates for Yosemite. The App Store market continued to grow, and though we saw quite a few growing pains along with it, we still got some stellar new programs and updates for our devices. My big disappointment of the year was the general lack of Continuity integration from developers who offer both iOS and Mac apps, but I suspect that's more of a resource issue than a lack of interest or motivation; hopefully we'll see more of that next year.

Rene: The big trend for 2014 for me was not that Mac apps kept going iOS, like Pixelmator and Capo, but that iOS apps started going Mac in a bigger way. Deliveries, Notability, Shazam, and more all showed that mobile apps could be so good we'd want them on the desktop too. Add to that technologies that now enable apps like Workflow and Transmit on iOS, and like Ally said earlier, the lines really are starting to blur.


Peter: There's never a shortage of new, innovative devices and accessories to go along with new Macs and new iOS devices. The constellation of gadgets and gear you can get for your new Apple kit is one of the best things about the Apple ownership experience. Having said that, standouts for me this year include Twelve South's HiRise Deluxe, a docking station for iPhone and iPad that's adjustable for devices in cases; the Olloclip for iPhone 6; and Kanex's goofy but still really awesome GoBuddy+, which combines an Apple-approved Lightning sync cable together with a bottle opener.

Ally: I'm not a huge case person but I do like photography accessories. This year my favorite is probably Olloclip. The newly re-designed version functions with both the front and rear-facing cameras for the first time ever. You get 4 lenses in 1 and there's no limit to what you can do with them. And if I had to pick a case, it would definitely be the Apple Leather Case for the iPhone 6 Plus. For some reason, I'm not a huge fan of it on the iPhone 6, which I prefer to rock with no case.

Ren: I don't think I can go a year without talking about the iPad stylus market, so I might as well do it here: We've come a long way from the rubber-nib fingertip-sized styluses of 2010. 2014's styluses have implemented Bluetooth Low Energy in combination with Apple's APIs to create the smallest, most precise pens yet. They're still not as good as a Wacom tablet by your side, but they've improved tenfold since their original incarnations. Special shout-outs to FiftyThree's Pencil, which developed a new spin on the iPad stylus to enhance its already-excellent Paper app, and Adonit's Jot Touch with Pixelpoint technology.

Rene: Thunderbolt peripherals have gone from a trickle to… a steadier trickle. HealthKit and HomeKit accessories are still more theory than practice. In general it felt like we were in a holding pattern when it came to Apple-specific accessories. I love my Hue lights and Sonos speakers, but I'm ready for all the things to work better together.