Let’s face it, it wasn’t Apple’s best year.
As 2016 draws to a close, it’s worth noting just how little came from the world’s most valuable company.
The iPhone, Apple’s flagship product, lost a headphone jack and a few millimeters, but didn’t gain much this year. A waterproof shell and a second camera on the larger version were the rather modest hardware changes that distinguished the iPhone 7 from last year’s models. Meanwhile, Apple’s answer to the missing headphone jack, the AirPods, suffered a very un-Apple-like delay.
The Apple Watch gained GPS and a more waterproof casing, but didn’t get a killer feature that would shift it from a nice accessory to a must-wear.
The iPad was also little-changed, though Apple did bring the features from its giant 12-inch iPad Pro down into a more portable 9.7-inch model.
On the Mac side, Apple’s biggest change was the new MacBook Pro — a design that arguably alienated as many Mac diehards as it attracted. The Touch Bar was a significant hardware innovation, but the decision to include just one kind of port on the machine left many professional users unhappy and scrambling for dongles.
Other models, like the MacBook, saw only the most modest of increases, while the long-unchanged Mac Pro desktop got no update at all.
And just as importantly, Apple didn’t break into any new areas. There was no Apple Car, of course, but also nothing on virtual or augmented reality, nor any meaningful breakthroughs on the health front.
Back in 2014, Apple media chief Eddy Cue talked at Code Conference about just how much Apple had in the works.
“We’ve got the best product pipeline that I’ve seen in my 25 years at Apple,” he said.
Some new products, like Apple Watch, have made their debut, while others appear to be stuck in that pipeline.
Apple shareholders, meanwhile, felt the lack of new hardware too.
Sales and earnings for Apple were down in each of the first three quarters of the year, compared with 2015, although the company has predicted an increase for the fourth quarter.
Apple’s stock price was a bit more of a bright spot. Although it spent part of the year below $100, it has rallied recently and is up 10 percent for the year. Plus, the company has issued dividends.
But if Apple can’t find a way to return to significant growth, it risks becoming a value stock akin to a millennial version of IBM.