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Mask Memojis and 13 of Apple’s Other Coolest Recent Reveals

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When Apple introduced the iPhone over 10 years ago at its 2007 keynote, the product didn’t just revolutionize communication; it also changed consumer culture by making formerly dry product announcements into a form of entertainment anticipated by millions. Since then, CEO Steve Jobs and his successor, Tim Cook, have announced a number of super innovative Apple products at the company’s highly anticipated keynote addresses and special events.

As Apple enthusiasts eagerly await this year’s special event, which will likely take place the second week of September, let’s look back at highlights from the last decade of Apple history — and see how the company has changed the areas it touches.

Last updated: June 24, 2020
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2007: iPhone

At the Jan. 9, 2007, Macworld event, the late Apple CEO Steve Jobs introduced the very first iPhone to the world with the following words: “An iPod, a phone and an internet communicator. Are you getting it? These are not three separate devices, this is one device. And we are calling it iPhone. Today, Apple is going to reinvent the phone.”

Though previous mobile phones included touch capabilities and internet connectivity, Apple killed the stylus and standardized the idea of multitouch controls and on-screen keyboards, bridged the gap between music and phones for the mainstream and made motion-sensing accelerometers a standard smartphone feature — all in an approachable, easy-to-use package.

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2008: The App Store

In his SDK keynote from the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference in 2008, Steve Jobs delivered the biggest shakeup with the announcement of the App Store, which allowed users to seamlessly — and wirelessly — download applications directly to their phones.

Though the announcement of the iPhone 3G wasn’t as earth-shattering as that of the first-generation iPhone, its introduction did help bring Apple’s device into the mainstream by drastically increasing accessibility. First, the phone’s ability to access 3G data networks allowed for internet speeds 2.8 times faster than the original iPhone. Second, it expanded the iPhone’s worldwide availability and dropped the price from the first-gen’s launch rate of $599 to a much more wallet-friendly $199 for the 8GB model. The end result was more smartphones in pockets and purses.

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2009: The S Series

At the 2009 WWDC keynote, the iPhone 3GS — the start of the S series — continued the iPhone’s march toward accessibility while helping grow the phone’s feature set. Launching at $199, the 3GS introduced video capturing and sharing capabilities, as well as voice control features. Apple’s third iPhone more than doubled the speed of loading games and websites, launching the messaging app and viewing attachments.

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2010: iPad

Steve Jobs kicked off 2010 with a January press conference unveiling the long-rumored “Apple tablet” to the world. While the iPad wasn’t the first tablet to hit stores, it was the first designed mainly for a touch interface, and the first that really resonated with the market — Apple sold 300,000 iPads on the device’s first day. The sleek tablet, which would eventually share the iOS operating system with the iPhone, was named the 25th most influential gadget of all time by Time magazine in 2016 — the iPhone was No. 1 on the list.

Despite this historic launch, 2010’s WWDC keynote is mostly remembered as the event at which an Apple software engineer left an iPhone 4 at a Redwood City, California, bar. Tech site Gizmodo eventually purchased the device for a rumored $5,000.

Spoilers or no, the iPhone 4’s official reveal continued to refine the phone you know today. Compared to the 3GS’ 480 x 320 pixel resolution, this iteration boasted a 960 x 640 “Retina” display. The thinnest smartphone to date, it also introduced FaceTime, which helped mobile video calling break into the mainstream.

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2011: Siri

The result of decades of artificial intelligence development, Siri made her public debut at an Apple special event in October 2011. The intelligent assistant capable of context-sensitive voice recognition would eventually inspire tech giants like Google and Amazon to funnel millions into developing their own AI-powered voice assistants.

This year also marked Steve Jobs’ final appearance at an Apple event. He kicked off the yearly WWDC keynote on June 7 and wrapped up with a look at iCloud, Apple’s answer to cloud-based storage services, just 121 days before he passed away. Though the 2011 event focused on Apple’s desktop software, it also introduced some features that you might now take for granted, including reminders that use location based-information to deliver notifications and the ability to completely activate and set up your iPhone without connecting to a computer.

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2012: Facebook Integration

The WWDC keynote in 2012 was all about iOS 6 and focused heavily on improvements to the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro, including the world’s highest-resolution notebook display (2880 x 1800) for the latter. Along with improvements to Siri and the now-standard “do not disturb” feature, the most lasting innovation introduced in 2012 was iOS 6’s full-on Facebook integration. This was the year Facebook “Likes” invaded the App Store, Facebook friends moved to contact lists and social media became a key aspect of smartphone interfaces.

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2013: Touch ID

An Apple special event in October 2013 debuted the affordable and colorful 5c line of entry-level iPhones, along with the iPhone 5s. The latter’s most lasting feature would be its fingerprint-reading Touch ID scanner. No longer would owners need to key in their four-digit passcode.

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2014: Apple Watch

In 2014, both the iPhone 6 and Apple Watch announcements came from a September press event in Cupertino. Though the Apple Watch followed wearables like the Fitbit and Pebble, Apple’s long-awaited entry helped expand the wearable tech market. By the end of 2016, its sales would exceed $2.6 billion and account for 80% of the smartwatch market, according to researchers at Canalys.

 

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2015: Apple Music

According to a 2017 report by Digital Music News and RBC Capital Markets, only 3% of Apple’s installed base uses Apple Music. Though that number seems low — and sources like Forbes famously proclaimed Apple Music dead as early as 2015 — the service is actually more of a sleeper hit; with 28 million paid subscribers, as of February 2019, it’s the second-largest streaming music subscription service behind Spotify.

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2016: iPhone 7

The iPhone 7 takes the title of the “coolest” thing Apple introduced in 2016, but only by default — amid a slew of rumors about huge revisions to both the iPhone and Mac (and even talk of an Apple car), a September event ultimately revealed a relatively minor update in the form of the iPhone 7.

Though the new iPhone release didn’t hurt Apple’s financials — the company posted fourth-quarter revenue of $46.9 billion, largely driven by iPhone sales — most of the press centered around the unpopular choice to ditch the standard headphone jack in favor of consolidating with the charging port.

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2017: Face ID

The iPhone X became the first iPhone to remove the home button and utilize Face ID to unlock the screen. The new Face ID technology could also be used to secure mobile payments with Apple Pay. In addition, the new technology upgraded the user experience by allowing for a number of features only when the owner of the iPhone is looking at the screen, including revealing notification and messages, keeping the screen lit when you’re reading and automatically lowering the volume of an alarm or ringer since the phone knows you’re nearby.

Despite the high price tag of the Face ID-equipped iPhone X — prices started at $999 — the latest Apple phone proved to be wildly popular. Apple sold 77.3 million iPhones over the 2017 holiday season, The Verge reported.

“iPhone X surpassed our expectations and has been our top-selling iPhone every week since it shipped in November,” CEO Tim Cook said, according to The Verge. “We’ve also achieved a significant milestone with our active installed base of devices reaching 1.3 billion in January. That’s an increase of 30% in just two years, which is a testament to the popularity of our products and the loyalty and satisfaction of our customers.”

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2018: iPhone Xs Max

The iPhone Xs and Xs Max were billed as the “most advanced iPhones ever” when they were announced at the 2018 keynote. Both phones featured Super Retina displays, a faster and improved dual-camera system, the first 7-nanometer chip in a smartphone, faster Face ID, wider stereo sound and the introduction of Dual SIM to the iPhone. Additionally, the iPhone Xs Max offered the biggest display and best battery life of any iPhone.

The Xs Max was also Apple’s priciest iPhone yet, giving Apple a hefty profit on every sale. Estimates revealed that it cost roughly $450 to build the 256 GB iPhone Xs Max, which retailed for $1,249 — amounting to a profit margin of roughly 175%, NBC News reported. Even though the Xs retailed for less than the Xs Max, the premium version was outselling the base model by three to four times as of the month following the phones’ release.

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2019: Apple TV+

Apple announced that it was getting into the streaming game with Apple TV+, “the first all-original video subscription service and home for today’s most imaginative storytellers.” The initial lineup of shows boasted plenty of star power, with names like Jason Momoa, Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon slated to appear on the first round of shows premiering on Nov. 1, 2019.

The new service — which costs $4.99 per month — had attracted 33.6 million subscribers as of January. That’s more than Disney+, which had 23.2 million at that time, and Hulu, which had 31.8 million, The Street reported.

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2020: Face Mask Memojis

Although Apple’s big keynote address likely won’t happen until September, the tech giant announced a number of new features at the 2020 Apple Worldwide Developers Conference — a number of which were in direct response to the coronavirus pandemic. This includes Apple Watch’s new feature that encourages proper handwashing, face coverings for Memojis and improvements to messages and FaceTime that will better enable people to communicate when they are physically apart, The Verge reported. The upgrade to messages will enable users to call out specific people in a group chat, and the FaceTime upgrade will allow you to access other apps while remaining on the call with picture-in-picture technology.

Gabrielle Olya contributed to the reporting for this article.