Highs and lows for Apple in 2013

Macs, Maps, Mavericks and Mac Pro money

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It's been an interesting couple of years for Apple. Its 2012 was largely lived in the shadow of Steve Jobs' death, the firm treading water, launching products that Jobs had approved. But by the turn of the year things were getting interesting. iOS chief Scott Forstall was fired, and as 2013 dawned Jonathan Ive was responsible not just for designing Apple's hardware, but for its software too. It's a big job. Was he up to it?

Apple's highs in 2013

1. iPad Air

iPad Air
The modern tablet: Apple invented it, and with the Air it perfected it

Apple doesn't like to compromise, but with the last iPad it had to. There was no way to put a retina display into the iPad and maintain battery life without adding significant bulk and weight. That clearly annoyed Jonathan Ive, and this year's model is massively improved: the bezel is 43% thinner and the device is 28% lighter. The iPad Air is quite simply the best iPad that Apple has ever made.

2. iPad mini 2 with Retina display

iPad mini 2
No longer a poor relation: the retina mini is a more portable iPad Air

The mini is no longer the poor relation of the proper iPad: it's a little pricey, but it's also a little wonder. The iPad mini 2's innards and performance are almost identical to the iPad Air, and it's essentially an Air for people whose top priority is portability.

3. iOS 7

It's the best iOS ever, iOS 7 addresses lots of niggles and bringing the ageing iOS bang up to date. Apple's execution wasn't perfect - more of that in a moment - but the pros massively outweigh the cons.

4. Mac Pro

Mac Pro
The 2013 Mac Pro looks like Darth Vader's dustbin

"Can't innovate any more, my ass." That was Phil Schiller unveiling the long-awaited Mac Pro 2013, a little tower of power that looks like Darth Vader's dustbin and costs roughly the same as a Death Star.

5. Maps

Maps may have been a laughing stock, but today more iOS users rely on it than on Google Maps - which was the whole point of launching it in the first place. One year on it's vastly improved, although the damage to Maps' reputation may take longer to fix.

6. Mavericks

Mavericks
It's a relatively minor update, but with Mavericks Apple made its OS free

Remember when operating systems used to cost money? Mavericks is free, and while some elements are still "pig-ugly", it boasts lots of improvements, and it's free. Did we mention that it's free?

7. iPhone 5S

iPhone 5S
It doesn't look much different, but TouchID and the M7 could be big

The iPhone 5S doesn't look revolutionary, but there are two key bits of tech in it: the TouchID sensor and the M7 co-processor. The former replaces passwords and could well be part of an Apple digital wallet, while the latter is designed to record motion and activity data for the incoming wave of wearable tech - tech such as, say, an iWatch.

Apple's lows in 2013

1. iOS 7

iPhone 5S
It's a bold update, but did Apple throw the baby out with the bathwater?

The iOS 7 roll-out may have broken records, but it broke hearts too. Many people absolutely hated it, its motion effects made some people genuinely ill, and it's attracted deserved criticism over some of its design choices.

2. Apple TV

Still a hobby.

3. iPhone 5C

iPhone 5C
It's hardly a dud, but most iPhone buyers prefer the 5S

"For the colourful," Apple said. "We're queuing for the 5S," said the planet. Various statistics show that the 5C is selling roughly one-third as many handsets as its slightly more expensive sibling. That doesn't mean it's a dud, but it's not a barnstorming success either.

4. iTunes

It may be faster, smarter and easier to use, but that's compared to Captain Bloaty, aka iTunes 10. iTunes 11 may have been tweaked, but it's still iTunes.