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2011 in review: The year in iOS

Lex Friedman | Dec. 30, 2011
In 2011, as in 2010, iOS received a lot of attention from Apple.

In 2011, as in 2010, iOS received a lot of attention from Apple. Apple introduced significant updates to its flagship iOS devices--the iPad and the iPhone. It added a new buying option to the App Store, perhaps rescuing the magazine industry in the process. It premiered an insanely powerful and brilliantly designed piece of software that proved unequivocally that iOS devices aren't just for consumption. And, of course, the company unveiled a significant upgrade to its touch-based operating system itself. And then a not-so-tiny upstart named Amazon tried to leap into the tablet computing fray, too.

For fans of multitouch, 2011 was a big year. Let's put our fingers on precisely why.

iPad, too

In March, Apple released the sequel to the world's first successful tablet computer. The iPad 2 was acclaimed for what it added: two (admittedly mediocre) cameras, a zippier processor (the dual core, Apple-designed A5 chip), twice the RAM (512MB), and the magnetic appeal of the Smart Cover. But even as it added all those features, the iPad managed to take a couple significant elements away--namely, weight and thickness. The iPad 2 is just two-thirds as thick and 88 percent as heavy as the original.

In the fourth quarter of its fiscal year 2011 alone, Apple sold 11.12 million iPads. The product continues to do a brisk business, dominating the mind and market share for the still-developing tablet market. Of the iPad's sales performance to date, Apple CEO Tim Cook said, "Some people are electing to buy an iPad rather than a Mac... A materially larger number are electing to buy an iPad instead of a Windows-based PC."

Getting Siri-ous: The iPhone 4S

The iPhone 4S became available in October. It scored the same speedy A5 chip that powers the iPad 2, a dramatically upgraded rear-facing camera, and an overhauled dual-band antenna design.

But the feature that got everyone talking was the feature that got everyone talking: Siri. With its still-in-beta voice-powered virtual assistant, the iPhone 4S can handle a multitude of tasks for you, based solely on the verbal instructions you provide it. Despite the fact that Siri was hampered by occasional outages, early 4S adopters loved its power, its sense of humor, and its uncanny ability to understand just what you wanted it to do.

Apple hasn't said when or if Siri will come to the Mac, the iPad, or earlier iPhone models, but ask any iPhone 4S user who has come to depend on Siri for sending texts, setting reminders, and making appointments: The more ubiquitous Siri becomes, the better.

Carrier on, my wayward son

2011 was also the year the Verizon iPhone rumors were finally put to rest; Verizon got the iPhone 4 back in February. With the release of the iPhone 4S, Sprint became the third U.S. carrier, and regional carrier C Spire became the fourth.


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