Decade in review: 10 of the biggest stories to impact the Apple ecosystem

iPhone through the decade
iPhone through the decade (Image credit: Rene Ritchie/iMore)

The end of the teens is just around the corner. As we say goodbye to 2019 and hello to 2020, we want to take the time to reminisce about some of the biggest stories to take place in the past 10 years. There were a lot of really big stories, a lot more than 10, but we've narrowed down the list to the ones below for their biggest impact they had on the Apple ecosystem and us, its fans.

Watch Rene Ritchie's incredible Vector video: 10 years of Apple in 10 minutes!

1. Apple employee leaves iPhone 4 prototype at a bar

iPhone 4

iPhone 4 (Image credit: iMore)

It was April 2010. The rumor fervor hadn't even gotten into full-swing, when Gizmodo revealed that it had gotten its hands on the iPhone 4 prototype. The website's parent company, Gawker, had bought it from someone that found it at a bar for $5,000. Oh boy. What a hangover the Apple employee must have had the next day.

What this unfortunate mistake that anyone of us could have made revealed is that number one; There are prototypes of as-yet-unreleased iPhones just roaming around in the wild and if you hang out at San Jose based bars, you might just see one, and number two; Apple does not like it when people leak their secrets (Apple ended up seeking damages from both the seller and Gizmodo).

So, if you ever do come across a lost iPhone prototype, just walk away. It's not worth it.

2. Antennagate

iPhone 5 antenna

iPhone 5 antenna (Image credit: iMore)

2010 was a big year for Apple controversies. When the above-mentioned iPhone 4 did finally launch in the fall of 2010, it came with a caveat; if you held the iPhone in a certain way, it'd lose the signal (Apple released a statement explaining how to hold it correctly). Dubbed "Antennagate", Apple received quite a bit of flack, not only for the signal issue of the hardware itself, but also its handling of the message. Eventually, Apple would offer free iPhone cases to anyone facing the issue.

3. Steve Jobs passes away at age 56

Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs (Image credit: iMore)

On October 5, 2011, the tech world was rocked by the announcement that Apple's founder, CEO, and face of the company passed away. Just 11 days before the release of the next-generation iPhone, the iPhone 4s, we took a moment of silence for one of the most famous CEOs the world had ever known.

Though we lost Jobs nine years ago, his presence still surrounds us and his influence is evident on everything Apple releases. Some will say that "Apple isn't the same without Steve Jobs," or, "Steve Jobs would never have let this happen," but I disagree. Many people at Apple cut their teeth with Jobs at the helm and the strict culture of personal perfection still permeates the company. Jobs influenced, not just what Apple made, but how Apple made it, and no matter how long it's been since he walked through the corporate doors, his push to deliver perfection remains a voice in the back of everyone's head at Apple.

4. The Patent Wars

Galaxy S5 vs iPhone 5s

Galaxy S5 vs iPhone 5s (Image credit: iMore)

Literally nearly a decade-long battle between Apple and Samsung began in 2011 and really didn't settle down until 2018. What started with one company accusing the other of patent infringement snowballed into a schoolyard argument about who copied whom and how much is owed. Originally, Apple was awarded $1 billion in damages, but this was back in 2012. After a plethora of countersuits, retrials, and appeals, the number dropped to $539 million in 2018.

Throughout this lengthy trial, Samsung also sued Apple for patent infringement, Apple sued Samsung for additional patent infringements, and lots of companies sued lots of other companies for various patent infringement claims.

The patent wars can be considered the story (or stories) of the decade, but it's really the story (or stories) of all-time because they never seem to end.

5. Apple accused of antitrust ebook pricing

iBooks on iPhone

iBooks on iPhone (Image credit: iMore)

Dominating much of 2012 was the investigation from the Department of Justice into Apple, HarperCollins, MacMillian, Penguin, Barnes & Nobel, and Amazon's alleged collaboration on book pricing. This antitrust lawsuit dragged ebook publishers, as well as Apple's former CEO Steve Jobs, through the mud and ultimately ended in a somewhat aggressive ruling against Apple and the other named publishers in the lawsuit.

Defendants in the lawsuit were assigned an outside "minder" who would keep tabs on company goings-on, which was a thorn in the side of Apple and its secretive culture. Apple was ultimately told to reimburse affected consumers to the tune of $450 million dollars.

6. Apple buys Beats

Beats Solo Pro

Beats Solo Pro (Image credit: iMore)

One of Apple's most talked-about acquisitions of the past decade is its $3 billion purchase of Beats Electronics, which encompassed the headphone hardware department, as well as the recently-launched Beats Music. Beats Music would quickly be integrated into Apple Music within the year, but the Beats headphone line is still a popular brand today, with new releases proving to be some of the most popular headphones on the market.

What's even more memorable about the acquisition of Beats Electronics, however, is what happened earlier that month.

In a late-night Facebook post, Dr. Dre and Tyrese Gibson pretty much let the cat out of the bag prematurely, hinting to a very big change in finance coming soon with Dre referring to himself as the "first billionaire hip-hop artist," and Gibson saying, "They need to update that Forbes list." This could have been a dealbreaker for Beats and Apple. Thank goodness nothing came of it. We should have some kind of anti-drunk socialing lock feature on our phones.

7. Bendgate


Bendgate (Image credit: iMore)

Apple's first entry into the larger phone form factor started with the 4.7-inch and 5.5-inch iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. This ultra-thin aluminum body had some issues with durability. Early in its release, customers were complaining of having issues with their iPhone 6 Plus bending from being in their pockets. Thanks to a wildly popular "iPhone 6 Plus Bend Test" video from Unbox Therapy, the issue, which Apple claimed was only reported by nine people, blew up across the internet and dubbed "Bendgate." Apple even had to let reporters into its testing facility to prove that the iPhone goes through rigorous testing before hitting the store shelves.

When all the dust settled, the final verdict was that all phones, especially thin metal phones, will bend if you put enough pressure on them. No one has complained about a bending phone since, and there are four more generations of this same model.

8. Apple Watch saves lives

Apple Watch heart beat

Apple Watch heart beat (Image credit: iMore)

The first Apple watch came with a heart rate monitor, which most of us use to keep track of our fitness goals. Because it can constantly track your heart beats, it can also identify if your heart isn't acting like it should, like if your heart starts beating faster, even though you're sitting at your desk. By the time the fourth-generation Apple Watch came around in 2018, Apple added an ECG monitor and fall detection. Though there had been a lot of stories of people claiming the Apple Watch saved their lives, it was the fourth-generation Apple Watch that flooded the internet with lifesaving stories.

We've heard of young people getting early detection of heart problems thanks to the Apple Watch's ECG monitor, people being rescued from near death after a hard fall thanks to Fall Detection, and lost adventurers being found by emergency services thanks to Apple's SOS feature.

If there's ever been a justification for spending money on tech, it's hands-down, the lifesaving features of the Apple Watch. Car accidents, otherwise-undetectable heart problems, lost family, the Apple Watch could save your life or the life of someone you love.

9. The butterfly key effect

MacBook Pro keyboard

MacBook Pro keyboard (Image credit: Rene Ritchie/iMore)

Apple introduced the butterfly keyboard mechanism in 2015 with the 12-inch MacBook, but it was in 2016, with the launch of the MacBook Pro, that the real story begins. It started with a handful of tech journalists mentioning that certain keys either stopped working or double-typing. Apple support staff would blame dust or crumbs getting under the keys and recommended turning your laptop upside-down and spraying it with canned air. The stories escalated as bigger names in the tech journalist industry began reporting having similar issues and similar responses from Apple support. Yours truly types on a 2016 MacBook Pro and fell victim to the double-type issue about two years in.

Eventually, Apple would launch a keyboard repair service, which covers all Mac laptops with a butterfly keyboard mechanism, even if they're outside their AppleCare warranty.

Though Apple would continue to update the butterfly mechanism, improving reliability and protecting the fragile system from invading dust and crumbs. The damage, however, had been done. Even though the number of reported keyboard problems dropped off by the third-generation butterfly mechanism, our trust in it was gone. No one wanted a MacBook Pro with a butterfly keyboard.

This past fall, Apple launched a new MacBook Pro with a 16-inch display, a heck of a lot of better internals, and a brand new keyboard mechanism that incorporates the old scissor-switch mechanism that everyone longed for for years.

For Apple's sake, 2020 will say goodbye to the controversy surrounding Apple's not-so-revolutionary keyboard that plagued the company for half a decade.

10. Tim Cook: Proud to be gay (2014)

Tim Cook

Tim Cook (Image credit: iMore)

On October 30, 2014, Apple CEO Tim Cook wrote an essay for Bloomberg, in which he clarified on record his sexual orientation.

While I have never denied my sexuality, I haven't publicly acknowledged it either, until now. So let me be clear: I'm proud to be gay, and I consider being gay among the greatest gifts God has given me.

Though a person's sexual identity is not, in and of itself, news, what makes Cook's open letter in Bloomberg so important is its potential effect on the world. Apple is one of the most closely-watched organizations around the world and its CEO is scrutinized in everything the company does. Being in the spotlight so much would make anyone want to shy away from exposing their personal life, but Cook stood up to announce to the world that there is nothing to hide from.

I don't consider myself an activist, but I realize how much I've benefited from the sacrifice of others. So if hearing that the CEO of Apple is gay can help someone struggling to come to terms with who he or she is, or bring comfort to anyone who feels alone, or inspire people to insist on their equality, then it's worth the trade-off with my own privacy.

Apple's commitment to being diverse and championing human rights is a role model for other companies. If the biggest tech company in the world shows an example of how it's done, it's much easier for everyone else to get on board.

And now its time to say goodbye

As 2019 wraps up and we say goodbye to the teens, we look to 2020 and the years to come to lead us to new technological advancements and help us better understand our human nature. We must also remember the past, not only to avoid making the same mistakes but also to help inform our future.

What are some of the biggest stories of the past decade you can remember? Any stories that changed your personal life?

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Decade in Review




Lory Gil

Lory is a renaissance woman, writing news, reviews, and how-to guides for iMore. She also fancies herself a bit of a rock star in her town and spends too much time reading comic books.  If she's not typing away at her keyboard, you can probably find her at Disneyland or watching Star Wars (or both).