From the success of Passbook to the gloom of Maps, and the dings on the new iPhone and confused iPad updates, Apple has had a mixed year, but will have learned some lessons for 2013.
The Booby Prize
Apple had a funny year in 2012, with the Maps app problems overshadowing hardware, but in technology terms, the real ugliness came with the release of the iPad 3 back in March. It suffered from several issues, the Apple A5X processor couldn't drive the retina display successfully for hi-res games, the unit got hot and long battery charging was an issue.
So Apple's plans for gaming domination soon wilted and it took the emergency and surprise arrival of the iPad 4 in November to rescue Apple's growing army of game developers. Even that came with the new Lightning connector, which while a worthy upgrade, was handled with a rather brusque attitude (and pricey adaptors) by Apple, that once again did little to help the company's image.
While gamers might be a minority of iPad owners, the shift from one top-end very expensive device to an almost identical one (the A6 processor inside is a big improvement, but not yet perfect for the current crop of high-end iOS titles), would end up annoying customers and losing Apple a lot of love.
The Mini Prize
The iPad Mini is demonstrably a great-selling product and helped Apple to round out its offering and compete with Amazon, Google and others. But, as with the larger iPad, it doesn't take much imagination to realise that a better one will be coming along pretty soon, possibly with a retina-display and the usual bump in specifications. The fact that it arrived alongside the stealth iPad 4 also risked causing further confusion for buyers.
Sure, users don't have to rush out and buy a new iPad every generation, but sowing confusion among them is never a good thing and many of us expect new models next spring, so what's a gadget-head to do? While these issues are only big news to a minority of users, they dented people's perception of Apple being able to offer value for upgraders.
While Apple's new iPhone is selling like hot cakes wherever it launches, there's a feeling that, again, this device isn't all it could be. A great processor and design are running an ageing OS on a peculiarly tall (or wide) screen. Apple's desire to different to the others (or perhaps limitations of the UI design) might have pushed it into a corner on this one, and hopefully the iPhone 5S or 6 will offer more than an extra row of icons and lots of app updating to do for developers.
Apple's Star of 2012
Beyond the hardware, Apple seemed to be doing really well on the operating system front as iOS 6 raced into view. It seemed clear from the outset that Passbook would become a pretty big deal, something seemingly confirmed in a recent Wired article and the feature (and growing family of apps) has bags of potential and could navigate Apple around the whole NFC infrastructure issue.
But somehow, the relatively simple act of replacing one set of maps information with another proved too much for the mighty Apple. The back story and fallout from the Maps app issue has been well discussed and the fixes are on the way. Without those issue, iOS 6 would have been more warmly welcomed, and hopefully more people will see Passbook as the true star in 2012 as more apps appear.