Apple in 2023: The Biggest News Stories and Surprises of the Year
2023 was a relatively iterative year for Apple product releases, but there were still many notable announcements and surprises throughout the year. Apple previewed its upcoming Vision Pro headset, the full-sized HomePod made a comeback, the iPhone finally switched to USB-C, leather accessories were discontinued, and much more.
Below, we recap some of the most noteworthy Apple news stories of 2023, in no particular order.
Behold the Vision Pro
After several years of rumors about Apple planning an augmented reality/virtual reality headset, the company officially unveiled the Vision Pro in June. Apple says the headset will be available in the U.S. starting in early 2024, with pricing set at a staggering $3,499.
Vision Pro will allow you to interact with apps as if they are floating in the air. The headset is powered by an all-new operating system called visionOS, and it can be controlled with your eyes and hands. It has an Apple Watch-like Digital Crown for switching between virtual reality and augmented reality, and it is powered by an external battery pack.
Read our Vision Pro roundup for more details about the headset.
The Return of the HomePod
The full-sized HomePod made a comeback this year, as Apple announced a new model in January.
The second-generation HomePod features a virtually identical design as the full-sized model that was discontinued in 2021. However, it has two fewer tweeters and two fewer microphones compared to the original model, and it has an added sensor that can measure temperature and humidity in indoor environments. Many early reviews of the latest HomePod said it has very similar sound quality as the original model.
In the U.S., the HomePod is priced at $299, with white and midnight color options available.
iPhone Goes USB-C — Finally!
It finally happened. After years of hopes and rumors, all iPhone 15 models are equipped with a USB-C port instead of Lightning.
While the USB-C port on iPhones is completely standard, only the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max support USB 3.2 data transfer speeds of up to 10 Gbps. The lower-end iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Plus are limited to USB 2.0 data transfer speeds of up to 480 Mbps, which is equal to Lightning speeds on previous iPhones.
All iPhone 15 models can charge an Apple Watch, AirPods case, and other small accessories connected to the USB-C port, and support DisplayPort for up to 4K HDR video mirroring and video output to an external display or TV.
Apple still sells a handful of devices and accessories with Lightning ports, all of which will likely be updated with USB-C or discontinued in the future.
Green Bubble Dreams
In November, Apple announced that it will support the cross-platform messaging standard RCS in the Messages app on the iPhone starting "later next year." Based on that timeframe, RCS support will likely be added as part of iOS 18.
RCS support should result in the following improvements to the default messaging experience between iPhones and Android devices:
- Higher-resolution photos and videos
- Audio messages
- Typing indicators
- Read receipts
- Wi-Fi messaging between iPhones and Android devices
- Improved group chats, including the ability for iPhone users to leave a conversation that includes Android users
- Improved encryption compared to SMS
These modern features are already available for iPhone-to-iPhone conversations with blue bubbles, via iMessage, and many of the features are also available in third-party messaging apps, such as WhatsApp and Telegram. RCS support on the iPhone will extend the features to green bubbles in the Messages app.
Google had been urging Apple to adopt RCS for a few years.
All the Apple Wallet News
2023 was a big year for the Apple Wallet app on the iPhone, as several new features launched, including the Apple Card savings account, Apple Pay Later financing option, and more. However, it wasn't all good news on this front, as it was reported that the Apple Card's financial partner Goldman Sachs will be out in the next year or so.
During its Halloween-themed "Scary Fast" event in October, Apple announced the M3, M3 Pro, and M3 Max chips for the 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro all at once, rather than holding the Pro and Max chips for a later time.
Apple updated the 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro models with M3 Pro and M3 Max chips, and there is also an entry-level 14-inch MacBook Pro with the standard M3 chip. Other new features for the laptops include a Space Black finish for M3 Pro and M3 Max configurations, and 20% brighter displays for standard content.
Goodbye Leather, Hello FineWoven
As part of its efforts to be environmentally friendly, Apple discontinued all of its leather accessories this year, including iPhone cases, Apple Watch bands, AirTag holders, the MagSafe Wallet, and more. Apple unveiled a new FineWoven material as a replacement for leather, but customers complained about quality issues.
Bloomberg's Jessica Nix referred to FineWoven as Apple's "biggest dud of 2023."
Final Cut Pro for iPad
YouTubers rejoiced this year when Apple expanded its video creation app Final Cut Pro to the iPad. The app was previously only available on the Mac.
Apple says Final Cut Pro for the iPad is optimized for the device's touch-first interface, providing the "ultimate mobile studio for video and music creators." The app is priced at $4.99 per month or $49 per year in the U.S., after a one-month free trial, and it is compatible with iPad models equipped with the M1 chip or newer.
Apple also released its music creation app Logic Pro for the iPad.
Next-Generation CarPlay Teaser
Apple said that the first vehicles with support for its next-generation CarPlay system would be announced in late 2023, and it delivered on that promise with just days to spare. Earlier this month, Aston Martin and Porsche previewed what the next-generation CarPlay experience will look like in some of their upcoming vehicles.
Aston Martin confirmed that it will release its first vehicles with next-generation CarPlay in 2024, but there is no specific timeframe and details remain slim.
Apple first previewed the next-generation CarPlay experience in June 2022, promising deeper integration with the instrument cluster and climate controls, support for multiple displays across the dashboard, a dedicated FM radio app, widgets, and more. The interface can be tailored to each specific vehicle model and automaker's brand identity.
When first unveiling next-generation CarPlay last year, Apple said committed automakers included Acura, Audi, Ford, Honda, Infiniti, Jaguar, Land Rover, Lincoln, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan, Polestar, Porsche, Renault, and Volvo. Beyond the addition of Aston Martin, it's unclear if this list has changed since that initial announcement.
Apple Watch Sales Ban
Earlier this month, Apple paused sales of the Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2 in the U.S. due to a patent dispute with medical tech company Masimo, which has accused Apple of poaching its employees and stealing trade secrets in order to develop the blood oxygen sensing feature available on the Apple Watch Series 6 and newer.
In January, the U.S. International Trade Commission ruled that Apple had infringed on a Masimo patent related to blood oxygen sensing, and it ordered an import and sales ban for Apple Watch models offering the feature. However, Apple appealed the decision in court and was granted a temporary stay, so the ban is lifted for now.