Mac Studio hit, Studio display miss, and the iPhone SE - Apple's March 2022 in review
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Apple released the Mac Studio, the new Studio Display, new iPhones, an iPad Air, and live baseball on Apple TV+, but March was overshadowed by war in Ukraine.
Every leaker was adamant that the M2 MacBook Air was the absolute certainty at the start of the month. But you know what Apple is like, the company clearly changed its mind at the last moment.
In case that last sentence wasn't clear, that's sarcasm.
Instead, we got the Mac Studio. Hats off to Apple for keeping that a secret until just a few days before the event, though it must be galling for them that they couldn't keep it quiet until debut.
Curiously, the March 8 "Peek Performance" launch event feels a long time ago now, and it's equally hard to think that we've only had the Mac Studio for a matter of weeks. Or if you weren't fast enough ordering one, that you've now been waiting for a matter of weeks.
That could be because the Mac Studio feels right. It's a vertically stretched-up Mac mini, or a vertically cut down G4 Cube, and it's fair to say that it's been universally well-received.
Mac Studio criticisms
Really the only criticism Apple has received over the Mac Studio is to do with how it's not meant to be opened up. Despite some folks breaking the seal on release day and screeching that "Apple lied" about users not being able to upgrade the storage after purchase, you can't replace the SSD storage.
This hasn't stopped people from continuing to try. There is iFixit, which tears down every new Apple device with the specific intention of discovering how repairable it might be.
But then there are many others who have wrenched open their Mac Studio with the specific intention of getting attention, especially when they prove that actually, yes, you can replace the SSD with a larger one.
It just won't work if you do.
Among the people who have got a Mac Studio in order to do work with it, though, the machine has come in for little but praise. Which is not what you can say about the Studio Display.
From delightful to unusable
Seriously, if you look across all of the reviews of the Apple Studio Display, you will find one to fit every point in the scale from bad to good. There were many that called it delightful, there were some that said it is entirely unusable, there were some across the entire spectrum.
Sometimes that did seem unfair. It's long been routine for people to say they wish Apple would take the 27-inch iMac's gorgeous screen and sell it separately. But now they've done exactly that, few seem all that happy.
That could be to do with the price which, starting at $1,599, is a first-class demonstration of what great value the iMac was.
However, it's also to do with how there is a problem with the Studio Display's webcam. Compared to others from Apple, it's poor, and so much so that the company promised it would fix the issue.
Apple said it would do this through an update, that the core issue is really in software instead of hardware. There was no sign of that update by the end of March, though.
Then there's the iPhone SE and new iPhone 13
There were some signs by the end of March that the new iPhone SE isn't selling as well as predicted. This update brings 5G to the iPhone SE, but is otherwise mild, and the predictions of wild success came from analysts who have since been steadily reducing their sales estimates.
Reportedly, production of the iPhone 13 range has been reduced, too, but somehow that's a seasonal expectation.
Rather than try to fathom out how analysts and leakers work, though, you could also ponder whether Apple deliberately chose to release two different green iPhone 13 models. Or whether they couldn't quite get the paint to match on the iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 Pro.
And then took out any frustration this may have caused by creating the single scariest iPhone ad they've ever done. The new iPhone 13 ad's message is that the phones are now available in green, but the visuals were like the phones were raging mad about it all.
Apart from the color, and from resembling the books eat you in Harry Potter, there was nothing new about the iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 Pro. Apple seems to have hit on a way to perk up demand half way between one iPhone model's release and the next.
Good for them, and if you like green, good for you. It all makes sense, and there was no iPhone release this month that made the buying decision more complicated.
Whereas the new iPad Air 5 did make it harder to fathom out which iPad to buy.
The new iPad Air
There were some rumbles before the end of March, about the build quality of the iPad Air 5. Yet overall, it's been received as possibly the best iPad in the lineup.
It can't touch the 12.9-inch iPad Pro for size or screen quality. And it can't touch the regular iPad for cheapness.
But otherwise, the iPad Air is such a sweet spot between those other models that it gives you pause. Get it instead of a regular iPad and there are so many aspects that you'll know are worth the cost.
And get the iPad Air instead of the 11-inch iPad Pro and there aren't. Both the iPad Air and iPad Pro now have the M1 processor, and both can use the Magic Keyboard for iPad.
There are differences in storage options, and colors, and you might see a difference in the screens if you put the two iPads close together. Only, one of those differences is that the iPad Air has a 10.9-inch display, where the iPad Pro has an 11-inch one.
It feels as if all of the differences between the new mid-range iPad Air and the top-end iPad Pro are like that. They are different, but not so much that you will definitely mind, or even notice.
So on the one hand, Apple introducing the iPad Air 5 has made it easy to decide to buy that instead of the top end model. And on the other hand, you've got to be wondering what Apple's got planned to differentiate the iPad Pro in future.
Complaints against Apple
The March event also unveiled the addition of baseball or something to Apple TV+. If you're not a sports fan, it was the biggest shrug of the presentation.
If you are a sports fan, it was more complicated. For sports fans with Apple TV+ subscriptions, it's something more to watch.
But it's also keeping those games from other fans who don't have that subscription. Sport used to be this nation uniting spectacle, but it's ever more siloed into different subscription packages.
Speaking of silos, though, Apple did get as much praise as it did criticism for who was on camera during the March event. There shouldn't really have been any reason to notice this, but more than half the presenters, and all of the interviewee developers featured, were women.
That should have been the biggest shrug of the presentation, but it drew attention because of how it suggests Apple is presenting a public image that doesn't match what it does in private. Ex-Apple engineer Cher Scarlett talked about the difference in how women are treated in the company and then said it all best in a tweet that read "video representation is great, but it's not enough."
Most of the other women I knew in engineering teams at Apple were the only women on their teams.— Cher Scarlett (@cherthedev) March 8, 2022
24% of "tech" workers are women. We found >40% of that were sw/hw engineers.
Video representation is great, but it's not enough.#AppleEvent #InternationalWomensDay
Apple's internal teams
There are different reports of how Apple is improving the balance of women in the workplace, though seemingly not improving pay disparities. But the biggest news about Apple's teams was a story that leaked in March concerning the lack of a team behind the "Apple Car."
The story is that this Project Titan team had been all but disbanded in the last few months leading up to March. It's definitely true that various managers, believed to be involved with the project, have been poached by other car companies.
It fits less well with how Porsche apparently had meetings with someone or other at Apple about cars. And it definitely doesn't fit with the long-held prediction that Apple would release a car in 2025.
Although you know what Apple is like, it probably changed its mind.
We do tend to assume that Apple has so much money that it can do anything. But it's true that you cannae change the laws of physics, and often just throwing more money or more resources at a problem is not the solution.
And often a team can get overworked, overstretched. According to some sources, that's going on with the people behind Apple TV+.
As Apple rightly celebrates "CODA" having won a Best Picture Oscar before any other streaming service came very close, so it's claimed that the team is stretched to breaking point. It's claimed that Apple's lawyers don't understand entertainment law, and that has a ring of truth since media contracts are so complex, and presumably so different from ones with iPhone component suppliers.
The same sources, though, say that things are so bad that there is one Apple TV+ show that began streaming before Apple had signed the contracts for it. AppleInsider knows of productions that have got underway in good faith before a contract was finalized, but they shouldn't have.
And there is no production that would deliver the assets for broadcast because they like whoever's on the phone at Apple.
So it's hard to know for sure what media leakers know and are just making up, which actually makes them oddly similar to technology leakers. Maybe entertainment and technology aren't that different after all.
Still, the Oscar win for "CODA" wasn't just great for Apple, wasn't just significant because it was the first streamer win. It was also deserved. Watch "CODA" on Apple TV+ or during its celebratory theatrical release — and also read writer/director Sian Heder's Oscar-winning screenplay.
Apple hosted the screenplay online during the run-up to the Oscar judging, though it has since removed it. You can still find it on multiple script sites and Hollywood business publications, however, including Deadline.
Apple TV+ was announced in March 2019 and it took a long time for it to have any kind of a hit. Just as AppleInsider said early on, though, it only takes a streamer or a network to have one truly big hit and then everything else changes.
By March 2022, Apple TV+ is no longer just the home to "Ted Lasso," it is replete with strong and successful shows. Also deliciously, disturbingly creepy ones — take a look at the LinkedIn page for the fictitious Lumon Industries in "Severance."
If entertainment and technology are not so different, then technology and litigation are now practically synonyms.
Some of it was familiar, as March 31, 2022, was the deadline for Apple supporters to file briefs to the court overseeing the Epic Games vs Apple appeal. Things will probably go quiet on that appeal now until a hearing some time in 2023.
Other legal issues were starting to become familiar. With the US seemingly inching closer to requiring Apple to allow third-party App Stores, the company wrote to the Senate Judiciary to explain its position.
As ever, that position is that to allow sideloading of apps onto iPhones is to effectively switch off all of the security that users have come to expect. "There is ample evidence showing third-party app stores are a key malware vector on platforms which support such stores," said Apple.
It's hard to argue against that, but plenty of people are trying. Most significantly, the European Union is.
The EU's Digital Markets Act, which in part would require third-party app stores, passed a key stage in March 2022. There are more steps to come before it can become law, but the EU antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager, insists that it will happen by October 2022.
With the sheer scale of the proposals, that seems optimistic.
Apple and Russia
Russia's invasion of Ukraine is still happening as this story goes live for the first time on April 1, 2022, and it's hardly as if anyone is getting used to it. At the start of the month it felt possible that Apple might even ditch a launch event. Launching new hardware while there's a war on seemed uncertain.
As it was, Apple carried on the event almost as normal — with the only nod to the situation being Tim Cook dressing in Ukraine colors.
Away from the event, more happened. Apple halted all online sales in Russia — and, at least temporarily, the third-party stores selling Apple gear the region closed up shop. It was still possible to buy Apple hardware, but at greatly inflated prices.
And it was also possible to destroy Apple hardware. One Russian man filmed himself and his son smashing an iPad so old that it probably didn't work any more.
It was meant to show America that Russia doesn't need nice things, and as a cutting statement went, it made a point. Because shards from the smashed iPad sliced into the man's finger.
March ended as it began
Quite clearly more serious than actual war, was the ping-pong style battle that went on between analysts in March 2022. You could lose track of who was saying what, since their positions seemed to change all the time anyway, but Apple is definitely not going to release any devices with mini LED technology in 2022. Or it definitely is.
Or maybe it definitely will introduce new models of existing devices with mini LED. Or it won't.
One of these positions will turn out to be right and one won't.
But naturally it won't be that any analyst was in any way mistaken. It will be that Apple changed its mind at the last minute.
2022 in review
- Apple's got $3 trillion, Intel says it's got an M1 killer, and Spotify has problems - January 2022 in review
- Ukraine invasion, App Store Changes, and retail openings - Apple's February 2022 in review
- iPhone Self Repair Program, Twitter, Studio Display webcam 'fix' - April 2022 in review
- Mac delays, iPod's demise, and Musk hesitates over Twitter - Apple's May 2022 in review
- WWDC, iPhone's anniversary, and USB-C is taking over - Apple's June 2022 in review
- MacBook Air ships, Apple Arcade loses games, and Chris Evans' iPhone - July 2022 in review
- The iPhone 14 event looms, roaming AirTags, and crime - Apple's August 2022 in review
- iPhone 14, Apple Watch Ultra, AirPods Pro and more - Apple's September 2022 in review
- More controversies than iPhones — November 2022 in review