There’s simply no denying that 2008 was a good year for Apple. Sales of just about everything were up, and market share went up too, but the real gems for the company were the iPhone 3G and its accompanying App Store. Our top stories about Apple this year definitely reflect that — as yes, all of the top ones were about the iPhone or the App Store
This list is mostly based on popularity, but in some cases there were multiple stories on a topic, so we included others in the list.
At one time, Motorola’s RAZR was the most popular phone in the United States — by far. But times have changed, and that device (which yes, I still have but don’t use) looks laughably old compared to devices like any BlackBerry, the G1, and yes, the iPhone. That last device was the first one to displace the RAZR as the top selling mobile phone for U.S. consumers after 12 consecutive quarters of RAZR dominance.
CNET’s iPhone Atlas blog ran a report that made it sound as if the iPhone 2.2 software was a complete disaster — the problem was that no one seemed to agree with them. Of their 17 comments at the time, 15 reported no problems whatsoever. Dozens more reported similarly untroubled devices in our comments and on sites like Digg. This was pure hyperbole.
I’m addicted to Google Reader, so when Google launched a version that was designed specifically for the iPhone, I was in heaven. This was before the iPhone 3G, so it was all browser-based, but it worked so well that it still actually is browser-based, and I still use it daily.
The App Store, in my opinion, was the best thing Apple did in 2008. After the launch of the first iPhone in 2007, Apple tried to make third-party developers create apps that would only work in the device’s Safari web browser, but only a handful made really good ones. When Apple opened up its main screen to native third party apps however, development exploded.
While so many people were worried about the “true” cost of the iPhone after Apple announced the price of the iPhone 3G would only be $199, I was surprised that more people weren’t outraged about the real rip-off being pulled by AT&T — its text message add-on plan. Previously, with the original iPhone you at least got 200 text messages for free along with your “unlimited” data plan, but they killed those free messages with the iPhone 3G. Now those same 200 message costs you an extra $5 a month — which is a joke. It’s such a small amount of data, and it costs the carriers basically no more to send a lot versus a little.
This story is interesting, because AT&T did indicate just prior to the iPhone 3G launch that it would eventually make the device available without signing a contract. But six months after the launch, that still hasn’t happened. At the time, the company said it would be $599 for the 8GB version and $699 for the 16GB version with no contract, but by the time AT&T allows for the no-contract purchases (if they ever do), we may well only have 16GB and 32GB versions of the phone. Other countries are selling the device without contracts already; hurry up America.
The iPhone software 2.0, which launched with the iPhone 3G hardware, was very buggy to start with. While the 2.1 update fixed many of the issues, the 2.2 update really solidified the experience. It also brought a bunch of new cool features like Google Street View. But the next updates will hopefully include more things that people want — like copy and paste for the love of God!
Games on the iPhone were huge — it’s the largest category in the App Store. While not everyone was convinced early on that the iPhone could be a legitimate gaming platform, big time developers — like EA making games like SimCity and Namco making I Love Katamari — for the iPhone proved it’s a new gaming force. They also proved you could actually sell games for more than $0.99. The best game though has to be Ngmoco’s Rolando [iTunes Link], which was developed just for the iPhone.
Let me repeat myself: Games on the iPhone were huge this year. Even VentureBeat’s own Dean Takahashi, who was skeptical of gaming on the device early on, got on board after trying out some of the games. As he wrote, “But Apple realizes that the iPhone 3G is an outstanding game platform, thanks to the multi-touch display, great sound, good graphics, and the accelerometer-based tilt feature. Nintendo’s DS handheld doesn’t have tilt or multi-touch, and its graphics and sound aren’t outstanding.”
While some might find it inappropriate (pun intended) that this was one of our top Apple stories, I find it very appropriate. It shows not only that the App Store a huge success for all types of developers, but that Apple made the right call in making the app approval process less strict. These fart apps may be crass and silly, but as the saying goes, “the customer is always right.” And sales of this particular farting app, iFart Mobile, actually exploded even further in the days that followed.