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Inside Apple's 2011: iPod, iPhone & iPad

A new generation of iOS devices

Along with the fourth generation iPod touch (based on the 2010 iPhone 4), Apple left its "other" iOS hardware, the second generation Apple TV, unchanged from last fall. However, both remained big sellers, with the revised Apple TV taking the lead among a crowded field of "connected TV boxes." Last year, Google threatened to take away Apple's "hobby" with its Android-based Google TV platform, but that initiative failed as badly as this year's Android 3.0 Honeycomb tablets, if not worse, and didn't recover at all this year.

Apple TV

Apple started 2011 with the January unveiling of a CDMA-version of iPhone 4 capable of working on the Verizon Wireless network in the US. The launch not only greatly expanded Apple's reachable audience of potential smartphone buyers in the US, but was later also sold through Sprint and other CDMA providers globally.

The company then focused on a dramatic enhancement of its existing, barely year old iPad in March. Steve Jobs introduced the new iPad 2 after noting that Apple had sold 15 million iPads in its first nine months, more than all sales of Microsoft's Tablet PCs across the past decade.

iPad 2 1

Rather than being a minor update, Jobs presented an entirely new, thinner and lighter form factor powered by a dual core A5 processor with up to 9 times the graphics performance and sporting dual cameras capable of FaceTime video conferencing, all while maintaining the same price and battery life. The new iPad 2 also delivered VGA and HDMI 1080p video mirroring and a magnetic Smart Cover.

iPad 2

While pitted against a series of 4G LTE smartphones equipped with dual core processors introduced by competitors early in the year, Apple continued to top the smartphone sales charts with its existing 3G, single core iPhone 4 models throughout 2011, up until the later than usual October release of the iPhone 4S.

The new 4S incorporated the same dual core A5 chip used in iPad 2, as well as the same 1080p video mirroring features. It added an enhanced 1080p video camera with faster startup and video image stabilization and temporal noise reduction, as well as packing both CDMA and GSM/UMTS/14.4 HSDPA mobile network capabilities, making it a global phone model. The new phone also added support for Bluetooth 4.0, joining the 2011 MacBook Air and Mac mini in being able to connect to a new generation of low power devices.

The new model also enabled Apple to differentiate sales of the existing iPhone 4 and iPhone 3GS by price, offering a series of iPhone options ranging from free to $99 to $199-$399 under contract in the US, the first time Apple has offered a free iPhone, and the widest range of iPhone prices ever presented.

Late 2010 iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, iPhone 4S feature comparison

The biggest new feature of iPhone 4S, however, is its Siri voice assistant, a new app that straddles the line between being an integrated part of the iOS interface and being a cloud computing service. The new phone also debuted alongside the release of iOS 5, which Apple broadly made available to existing devices dating back to 2009, the longest support period offered by any modern mobile platform vendor. In fact, Apple's advancements of iOS throughout 2011 are significant enough to warrant their own report Inside Apple's 2011, coming up next.

Inside Apple's 2011: iOS, Apps & iCloud
Inside Apple's 2011: Mac hardware and Mac OS X
Inside Apple's 2011: Steve Jobs' achievements, battles and crises