#Tech news

Apple in 2022: The Six Colors report card – Six Colors – Six Colors

by Jason Snell & Dan Moren
February 6, 2023 11:00 AM PT
It’s time for our annual look back on Apple’s performance during the past year, as seen through the eyes of writers, editors, developers, podcasters, and other people who spend an awful lot of time thinking about Apple.
This is the eighth year that I’ve presented this survey to a hand-selected group. They were prompted with 12 different Apple-related subjects, and asked to rate them on a scale from 1 to 5 and optionally provide text commentary per category. I received 55 replies, with the average results as shown below:
Since I used largely the same survey as in previous years, I was able to track the change in my panel’s consensus opinion on all but one question compared to previous years. The net changes between 2021 and 2022 surveys is displayed below:
Read on for category-by-category grades, trends, and commentary from the panelists.
Apple in 2022: The Six Colors report card is sponsored by Audio Hijack from Rogue Amoeba. With Audio Hijack, you can record any audio on your Mac. Through the end of February, Six Colors readers can save $10 when you purchase with coupon code 6CAHTEN. Learn more and download a free trial today.
Grade: A- (average score: 4.2, median score 4, last year: 4.6)
Coming off the high of the release of Apple Silicon, the Mac has slid back for two consecutive years. There was plenty of praise for the M2 MacBook Air, but the delay to the M2 Mac mini and MacBook Pro—which didn’t get announced until January, when our survey was in the field—definitely led to the Mac taking a hit. Panelists also expressed frustration with the lack of updates to the iMac, the lack of a Mac Pro, and issues with the Studio Display.
James Thomson wrote: “The Mac Studio is fantastic, the Studio Display camera less so. The M2 Air is delightful, the M2 13″ MBP is perplexing. Aside from all that, the Mac Pro didn’t appear, nothing else got updated, and Ventura was a swift step backward in a number of ways, with yet another slightly different layer of window management added.”
Rich Mogull wrote: “Although we are still waiting for a Mac Pro, all the Apple silicon models are home runs. I’m on an M1 Ultra Mac Studio and I haven’t found a task that comes even close to stressing it out.”
John Gruber wrote: “MacOS 13 Ventura is a solid upgrade. The Apple silicon transition continued with another strong year. The MacBook Air is Apple’s most popular and most important Mac, and the M2 models that debuted at WWDC are the best laptops for most people ever made. Thin, light, fast, long-lasting battery life, and they even introduced the midnight colorway — the first truly ‘dark’ laptops from Apple since the last plastic PowerBook G3 all the way back in 2001. The Mac Pro was the one Mac that skipped the M1 generation of chips, but while disappointing, that omission was more than made up for by the addition of the Mac Studio, the ‘small tower for pros’ form factor that Mac users have been clamoring for ever since the discontinuation of the G4 Cube. Apple also finally (no sarcasm intended) introduced the reasonably-priced standalone 5K Studio Display. The built-in webcam is meh at best, but the display itself is wonderful, including the $300 option for “”nano-texture”” anti-glare/anti-reflective glass. This is my ideal display.”
Alex Cox wrote: “It still feels like a Mac Renaissance. With the redesigned MacBook Air, there feels like a ‘default’ to what most consumers want when they get an Apple (or any) laptop. The lack of a Mac Pro update is disappointing, but if the M series of Macs we’ve gotten so far are any indication, it will be worth the wait.”
Robert Carter wrote: “I have owned Macs since 2006 and I am more impressed with my M1 iMac and MacBook Air than I have ever been with any Mac. I am a person who really loves the Mac so that is saying a lot.”
Jessica Dennis wrote: “It’s killing me that there’s nothing wrong with my 2017 13″ MacBook Pro, so I have no excuse to buy a black MacBook Air. I am, however, lobbying my workplace to issue me the 16″ MacBook Pro, even though there is also nothing wrong with my 2020 13″ MacBook Pro. In short, there was a lot to be excited about on the Mac side of the house this year. Bring on the accountants’ tears!”
Casey Liss wrote: “Apple’s transition to Apple Silicon has been better, if a touch slower, than anyone could have imagined. Every single new Mac Apple has shipped has been widely regarded as excellent. The MacBook Pro I bought at the end of 2021, equipped with a M1 Pro, has been amazing. But there is still some of the transition story still left to be told. The Mac Pro is still a big question mark. Personally, I still lament the lack of a 27″ iMac, or potentially even an iMac Pro.”
Christina Warren wrote: “It is unfortunate the M2 Pro/Max machines launched in January 2023, precluding them from being part of the discussion, but I still think this was a very strong year (again) for the Mac. The M2 was a nice iterative update, and with the M1 Ultra on the Apple Studio, we get a look at what Apple will be able to do if it takes on an Apple Silicon Mac Pro. I do have some complaints. The 27″ iMac doesn’t have a replacement in terms of screen size or features. I don’t think a Mac mini or Mac Studio and a display really does the same thing. The Studio Display is a flop. The built-in camera is an abomination and the inability to turn it off is the sort of design decision that the team who made it should be filleted for. I’m excited Samsung is coming out with some 5K display competition this year. My other complaint is that Apple needs to stop having 8GB of RAM as the default for its machines. It is now 2023 and this is unacceptable. I don’t care how fast swap on macOS makes RAM seem, I personally won’t buy a machine with under 32GB of RAM for any reason, but not even having the baseline at 16GB just comes across as stingy. The new MacBook Air is wonderful. But there is absolutely no reason for the 13-inch MacBook Pro to exist. All in all, a great year for the Mac.”
Federico Viticci wrote: “In 2022, I rediscovered the pleasure of working with macOS and having the freedom to install any app I want without judgement or limitations. Ultimately, there are two reasons why I can’t fully embrace Macs and, in particular, MacBooks as my main computing devices: I like convertible computers (like iPads) too much, and Macs don’t have a touchscreen. My question for 2023 and beyond is: can Macs become iPads sooner than iPads can become as capable as Macs? Rumors are unclear at this point, but it sounds like we’re entering a transitional phase that’s going to last a few years. For now, I can’t use a Mac full-time because I don’t want to be always be forced into using a laptop.”
Lex Friedman wrote: “My 2022 MacBook Air M2 with 24GB of RAM is the greatest Mac I’ve ever owned, and it’s not even close. The only debate I had was whether I wanted the M1 MacBook Pro or the M2 Air. I am pleased with my decision. Apple silicon is great.”
Philip Michaels wrote: “I think Apple’s ongoing transition to Apple silicon is proceeding nicely and putting Apple in a good place, even if some of the recent releases were more iterative than innovative.”
Glenn Fleishman wrote: “It’s very hard to fault Apple for anyone in a year they shipped the Mac Studio and M2-series chips. The Mac Studio has received an appropriately hearty welcome for folks in the consumer to professional range who wanted or needed the oomph. The overall line-up appears well populated, if aging just slightly. The Mac Pro has missed its promised window in 2022, but it’s more remarkable that Apple continues to upgrade and ship things on any kind of schedule. They’ve likely done better than any other consumer and professional electronics company, particularly with lockdowns and COVID raging in China. In a regular year, I might have given them a lower grade, but for this year, I feel like they’ve exceeded themselves.”
Charles Arthur wrote: “Almost perfect. The Mac Studio is a huge leap forward, as is (comparatively) the M2 Air —and the Pro and mini versions of the M2 were only a couple of weeks off making it perfect. Sure, the Mac Pro hasn’t happened, but that’s more like the sprinkles on top of the sundae: optional.”
Myke Hurley wrote: “I know that people have machines that they are looking for Apple to still revise with Apple Silicon, I know that macOS Ventura has some pretty weird decisions, but in my opinion 2022 is one of the best years for the Mac in modern memory. The new MacBook Air is my favorite Mac of all time. It’s the perfect balance of what I want from a laptop, with ultimate portability and with way more power than I realistically need. It’s an almost impossible combination. As well as this, they launched a brand new Mac model this year! The Mac Studio is a great machine for those that want it. And the Studio Display (even with its faults), is the best monitor for me.”
Paul Kafasis wrote: “The M2 Air is a great machine – I’m typing on one now, and I love it. It may be my favorite laptop since the 11″ Airs. The continued speed bumps on nearly all machines are welcome. Where is a larger iMac? I’d like to see it. The Mac Studio was somewhat surprising and unexpected. The lack of a Mac Pro means Apple whiffed on their two year transition, but it doesn’t bother me much.”
Brett Terpstra wrote: “The Mac Studio is the machine I’ve been waiting years for. I’ve long been a fan of the Mac mini, which is a great machine for its price point. But the Studio I got this year blows my last mini out of the water is is an amazing bang for the buck.”
Andrew Laurence wrote: “Together, the Mac Studio and Studio Display are overdue breaths of fresh air. A function-first desktop computer, and a monitor that’s worthwhile for normal humans. After several years of incremental chaos, Ventura has been a mostly-peaceful upgrade experience.”
Eric Slivka wrote: “The MacBook Air saved the day for Apple on the Mac side in 2022 with a fantastic redesign and a nice set of feature upgrades. The Mac Studio is another appreciated addition that we’d heard whispers of in the form of a ‘smaller Mac Pro’ or a ‘bigger Mac mini’, but which was great to see come to fruition in its actual form with the speedy M1 Ultra chip option. But beyond those two products, Apple really seemed to drop the ball as Apple’s announced two-year transition window for Apple silicon has passed. No update for the iMac was also a disappointment.”
John Siracusa wrote: “I’m not dinging Apple for failing to ‘complete the transition’ to Apple Silicon in 2022. COVID continues to complicate the supply of… nearly everything. But the continued lack of a larger-than-24-inch iMac combined with the inability to transition all the existing plain-old-M1 Macs to the M2 means the Mac line lacks the luster of last year’s M1-powered supergroup. In fact, the strength of the M1 is one of the things propping up the Mac line in 2022. (That, and the less-than-shocking gains the M2 provides over the M1.) The new Studio Display was a pleasant surprise, in keeping with recent customer-pleasing changes like the return of the SD card slot and HDMI port to the MacBook Pros. Unfortunately, Apple tripped at the finish line by including a subpar camera—and by charging $400 for a height-adjustable stand and $300 for a matte screen. In early 2023, third-party displays from Samsung and Dell are already learning from Apple’s mistakes, at least in terms of bundled features and technology. Still, full points for finally filling this gap in the Mac lineup.”
David Sparks wrote: “I am still completely smitten with Apple Silicon Macs. The new M2 MacBook Air just continues the streak. Hopefully, Apple sticks the landing on the Apple Silicon transition with the new Mac Pro release. I, do, however, wish that the M2 Mac mini models had shipped in 2022.”
Brent Simmons wrote: “Macs these days are truly amazing. I would like to see the quality of macOS and Apple’s Mac apps live up to the machines they’re running on.”
Brian Mattucci wrote: “I bought the Mac Studio, and have been pretty happy with it. I’ve been generally underwhelmed by Ventura, and I’m quite disappointed that ‘Advanced Data Protection’ leaves out Macs stuck on Monterey. I had to sign out on my MacBook, effectively making the device useless to me even though the hardware still has some life left in it. Stage Manager is… interesting? I feel like I’m fighting Stage Manager most of the time, constantly overriding its insistence on opening each new app on a separate stage. I’m not sure it’s adding much value to my workflow. The Studio Display could have been exciting, but for an expensive monitor it’s had some issues (camera quality, speaker issues) and I would have required an HDMI port for use with consoles at the very least so it wasn’t for me.”
Devindra Hardawar wrote: “It was great to see Apple finally throwing power desktop users a bone with the Mac Studio. I just wish the M2 MacBook Pro models arrived earlier. I genuinely feel bad about recommending the MBP M1 models to people in the fall.”
Rob Griffiths wrote: “On the positive side, the Mac Studio is a great machine, and Apple is seemingly back in the display business. On the negative side, if you want the Mac Studio with an Apple display, it’s quite costly. There was no Apple new Silicon Mac Pro. No new 27” iMac. Ventura isn’t terrible, but it’s still littered with issues that have existed for several major releases. I’d love to see a “bug fix only” release some year. Never going to happen, but I can dream.”
Stephen Hackett wrote: “Apple is entering the third year of its two-year transition to Apple silicon. While the company has been tight-lipped about why it missed its self-announced deadline, the Apple silicon machines that have shipped are all very impressive. The malaise that Mac hardware found itself in in the latter 2010s continues to fade into history. The Mac Studio and Studio Display in particular stand out when thinking about 2022, but the M2 MacBook Air is probably the highlight of the Mac’s year in hardware. On the software front, 2022 brought the first new productivity app from Apple in ages. Freeform isn’t as powerful as some third-party options, but it fits in nicely between the iWork apps and Notes. macOS continues to receive updates that let it keep up with iOS and iPadOS features, even if Stage Manager leaves something to be desired for many of us.”
Dave Hamilton wrote: “Apple Silicon has, of course, been game-changing. I love seeing Apple continually producing more-and-more-powerful Mac models, and I also love that most of us Mac users—myself included—aren’t even coming close to maxing out the power of the M1. But, man, that battery life sure is nice! Unfortunately, macOS Ventura still leaves a LOT to be desired. Ventura remains sluggish, restarts often include painful (and incorrect) permissions requests, and it feels woefully undercooked. I wonder if Apple (and we Apple users) might be best served backing off the pace of expecting a new version of macOS every single year.”
Carolina Milanesi wrote: “With its own silicon, Apple is getting a huge opportunity in business beyond BYOD—something that will offer growth opportunity for a while.”
Shahid Kamal Ahmad wrote: “Performance, battery life, ports and a superb screen on the MacBook Pro — after years in the wilderness, the Mac is where it’s at again. My 14-inch MacBook Pro remains the cornerstone of my entire working life, but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to try the revised MacBook Air M2. I am delighted to report that this might be the best laptop of all time. I can run my entire business on this little beauty, and it can go everywhere with me. Apple’s theme seems to be about achieving the right set of compromises on more devices and the Midnight M2 Miraclebox is the epitome of the art of compromise.”
Benjamin Mayo wrote: “Apple continues to ride Apple Silicon strengths on laptops, launching M2 chip with the flashy new MacBook Air. However, Apple ended 2022 with multiple Intel Macs still on sale, a situation that was clearly not the original plan. Doubts remain as to how exactly high-end desktop Macs will scale to Apple Silicon, namely Mac Pro and a high-end iMac. For instance, the M1 Ultra in Mac Studio is not slow by any means, but it isn’t exactly leaps and bounds ahead of the PC industry. It’s not as impressive a feat as what the M1 achieved for Apple’s laptop line. I’m glad the Studio Display exists, but what they shipped for version one didn’t quite hit the mark.”
Nick Heer wrote: “We still do not know what the M-powered Mac Pro is going to look like, but we got a whole new category in the form of the Mac Studio. The M2 MacBook Air is approaching something like the perfect laptop for most people. Aside from the aforementioned Mac Pro, the only thing in Apple’s lineup that seems incongruous is the continued availability of the 13-inch MacBook Pro. MacOS Ventura’s modest feature updates are both welcome and an indication of the platform’s maturity. I like Stage Manager and have used it more than I thought I would. I wish MacOS were more stable and refined than it feels. There have been years of backsliding, and filing reports in Feedback Assistant often feels as effective as whining into a paper bag. I know there are engineers at Apple who also care deeply about these issues and I wish they were listened to.”
Allison Sheridan wrote: “The hardware continues to excel beyond expectations, and macOS Ventura has some features that might seem small but are really powerful, like Stage Manager and Continuity Camera. I’m forgiving them entirely for not coming out with the Mac Pro on time.”
Josh Centers wrote: “The Mac is actually… good now? At least on the hardware front. In terms of software, my complaint across the board is Apple is too invested in cramming in new features over bug fixes and reliability.”
Shelly Brisbin wrote: “In a year when some were doubtless disappointed that a favorite product wasn’t refreshed, the new (Mac Studio) and improved (MacBook Air) were worthy additions to the lineup, advancing the silicon transition.”
Christine Romero-Chan wrote: “Apple is definitely killing it with the M-series chips, but I’m still wondering when we are going to get a 27-inch iMac replacement with M2 (or M3, etc). The 24-inch is great, but what about those who want an all-in-one with a larger display size and 5K resolution?”
Kirk McElhearn wrote: “I think the Mac lineup is extremely strong this year. The M2 MacBook Air is quickly becoming one of my favorite Macs ever. And the M1 iMac will probably sit on my desk for several years. Some will complain that there is no new Mac Pro, but they are certainly in the minority.”
Marco Arment wrote: “Apple-silicon Macs continue to blow us all away, and the M2 MacBook Air was the star of 2022 as the epitome of the era so far: light weight, zero noise, truly all-day battery life, and fast enough for almost anything — even workloads that required a pro-level desktop only a few years ago. macOS took a step back with Ventura’s awful new System Settings app, but the Mac hardware is so unbelievably great that we can look past the software warts this year.”
Adam Engst wrote: “Although it’s difficult to criticize what Apple did with the Mac in 2022, it’s easier to find fault with what the company didn’t do. Apple’s seeming move away from the extremely popular 27-inch iMac with Retina display has dismayed many users who were waiting for a version with Apple silicon. The combination of the Mac Studio and the Studio Display fits the same niche, but at a much higher price point. Plus, although the M1 Ultra Mac Studio is massively powerful, Apple still hasn’t released a Mac Pro with Apple silicon, leaving it as the sole remnant of the Intel era.”
Gabe Weatherhead wrote: “With the M-class processors, Apple has created a new narrative around their laptops. They are computing super stars. As software developers gradually support the M1 better, I’ve seen tremendous speed boosts that should make Intel salivate. The hardware is impeccable. The tolerances on the MacBook Pro are some of the best in the industry, which has resulted in a sleek and powerful device.
Quinn Nelson wrote: “It’s easy to focus on the absence of Mac Pro and/or a lackluster macOS launch, but it’s important to remember how excellent the Mac Studio is—the first novel Mac desktop since the 2005 mini!—and how strong the entirety of the notebook lineup remains. The Mac has never been a better value than it is today.”
Jeff Carlson wrote: “It felt like a transition year for the Mac. After the somewhat unexpected (in performance) release of the M1 chips, the only notable release was the Mac Studio, which was a surprise in how powerful it is. The M2 MacBook Air is great, but despite the new welcome design, still felt like a bump.”
Dan Moren wrote: “The Mac Studio makes me wonder whether Apple really needs a Mac Pro in its lineup. And the end of the year supply chain issues seem to have backed up the higher-end M2 chips, leaving a pretty barren field going into 2023.”
Zac Hall wrote: “Midnight MacBook Air made me care about the M2. Mac Studio and Studio Display are nice to have around too.”
John Moltz wrote: “Apple made solid progress on the Mac by releasing the M2, but it missed its deadline of transitioning the entire lineup by the end of 2022.”
Michael Tsai wrote: “The highlight of the year has to be the Mac Studio, which seems like a success except for the multi-month shipping delays that extended into the fall. Otherwise it was a quiet year for hardware, except that the new MacBook Air gained a welcome 24 GB RAM ceiling. That’s OK since the rest of the hardware lineup is still solid. After many years of waiting, we finally got the Studio Display. As a display, it’s great, albeit pricey, however the camera is extremely disappointing, the audio and USB hub have been unreliable, and the lack of a power button causes a variety of problems. macOS continues to deteriorate in terms of reliability, and in general it seems like Apple has forgotten how to design Mac software. Many apps feel like iOS ports, and the services apps just don’t work very well. Aside from its own efforts, Apple continues to get in the way of third parties making good software. The Mac version of SwiftUI still doesn’t live up to Apple’s pitch.”
Philip Elmer-DeWitt wrote: “Just finished my first full year with a M2 MacBook Pro, which I bought mostly to reward Apple for bringing back MagSafe. In truth, my MacBook Air was good enough for my needs — and not as heavy or as hot.”
Grade: B+ (average score: 3.9, median score 4, last year: 4.0)
Like the Mac, iPhone scores also slid for the second straight year. (Given the smaller updates in the iPhone 13 and 14, that’s not surprising.) Despite expressing some boredom about the iPhone hardware, the panel largely had praise for iOS 16’s Lock Screen improvements and the Dynamic Island, and the iPhone 14 Pro’s always-on display was generally well received. The iPhone mini being discontinued was also a negative. This is tied for the lowest score Apple’s flagship product has ever received in this survey, but it’s still a strong score, all things considered.
Jean MacDonald wrote: “The iPhone 14 Pro camera(s) has been a significant upgrade, and I’ve barely scratched the surface of what I can do. I’ve been upgrading every year on the Apple Payment Plan, and this kind of improvement means I’ll probably continue to do that forever.”
Alex Cox wrote: “I think most people are bored with the iPhone. That’s not to say that the features the iPhone continues to add aren’t spectacular. The Dynamic Island is a great reminder of what Apple can do when it controls both software and hardware. I just wish/hope that Apple sees the iPhone like a laptop: an essential tool we’ll always need that deserves tweaks, but is also looking for the Next Big Thing.”
Devindra Hardawar wrote: “The Dynamic Island seemed like an interesting idea, but it seems like Apple hasn’t really done much with it.”
Philip Michaels wrote: “I’m a big fan of iOS 16 and like the way Apple implemented things like lock screen customization and the always-on display. I’m less impressed with the more deliberate effort to separate the iPhone 14 Pro models from the standard models — great if you like the Pro, less great if you want a more affordable phone. The iPhone SE is a disappointment, and it’s very clear Apple is ceding the midrange market to Samsung and even Google.”
Christine Romero-Chan wrote: “I’m happy to see more customization options in the form of the Lock Screen, but seriously, that’s one of the worst user interface experiences I’ve seen come from Apple. It needs serious fixing. Also, I would love to see more use come out of the Dynamic Island on the iPhone 14 Pro, because right now it’s still pretty limited.”
Myke Hurley wrote: “The 14 line wasn’t particularly exciting, but they executed what they needed to. I am a big fan of the always-on display and Dynamic Island in the Pro Max. That’s enough for me to say it was a great year for the iPhone.”
David Sparks wrote: “It was a good year for the iPhone Pro. I dig this year’s camera upgrade and the Dynamic Island landed with me. It just makes me want Apple to put even more delight into its operating systems.”
Allison Sheridan wrote: “Nothing to complain about on iPhone, but moving year to year on the phones provides only tiny changes in capability and power.”
Glenn Fleishman wrote: “Close to ideal in a hard year. The iPhone 14 Pro is definitely the best iPhone I’ve ever owned and it has particular features, like the 48MP raw mode for shooting, that are just outstanding and even a little mind-boggling. Apple didn’t hit every mark, and I think the confusion over whether a modern SE or newer iPhone mini should appear… well, I feel like they don’t totally get the audience for smaller devices.”
John Gruber wrote: “Not a groundbreaking year for iPhone, but it’s neither possible nor desirable to break new ground every year. iOS is 15 years old and it’s appropriate for Apple to treat it as a mature platform, because that’s what it is. iOS 16 is a solid upgrade, with much of Apple’s efforts seemingly directed at polish and reliability. Both technically and conceptually, iOS has a solid foundation. It’s a shame that the Mini was dropped from the iPhone 14 lineup. But big-ass phones are more popular than elegant small ones, so the addition of the iPhone 14 Plus—Apple’s first non-Pro 6.7-inch iPhone—is a net win. My biggest gripe about the iPhone 14 Pro models remains their use of polished stainless steel for the sides. It feels slippery at times, and steel is so much heavier than aluminum (or, cough, titanium). I bought a 14 Pro because of the camera system and other Pro-exclusive features, but I’d prefer those features in an iPhone that feels like and weighs as little as the non-pro iPhone 14. The Dynamic Island is a wonderfully inventive design: useful, attractive, fun.”
Steven Aquino wrote: “I’m a staunch serial upgrader when it comes to the new iPhone every year—for journalism’s sake, sure, but also because the iPhone is the lifeblood of my digital being. I love my 14 Pro Max, but hoping Apple is more committed to improving the Dynamic Island than they were 3D Touch or the Touch Bar.”
Charles Arthur wrote: “Nothing very special? It’s the iPhone, the chips reportedly didn’t quite hit the mark that it wanted but most people didn’t notice, iOS is fine, the supertanker sails on.”
Zac Hall wrote: “Effectively having 2x and 3x zoom on iPhone 14 Pro is my favorite new thing this year.”
Aleen Simms wrote: “I love the whimsy and functionality the Dynamic Island brings to iPhone.”
Michael E. Cohen wrote: “I love my new 14 Pro, but, honestly, it’s more phone than I need.”
Gabe Weatherhead wrote: “It’s still an iPhone. While it remains one of the best mobile phones, I’m not sure there is the spark that lures in new users or convinces an existing user to upgrade. I’m finding less incremental value in upgrades and this year was a tiny improvement to my day-to-day life.”
Kirk McElhearn wrote: “As always, there was a little change to the iPhone 14, with the exception of the very big change of the 48 MP sensor for the iPhone 14 Pro. This makes the iPhone a true competitor for “real” cameras. I am extremely impressed of the quality of photos that this iPhone can take, compared to previous models. Especially when shooting in raw.”
Eric Slivka wrote: “iPhone updates have largely been iterative for a number of years now, but there were some nice updates in 2022, particularly on the Pro side with the always-on display, the clever Dynamic Island (which has yet to see its potential tapped), and a 48-megapixel camera. The non-Pro phones were more of a status quo update. The new iPhone SE was a welcome upgrade for those people who still prefer Touch ID and a budget price tag. It’s not for everyone, but those whose previous SE or iPhone 7/8 devices were getting long in the tooth, they’ve now got a few more years of familiarity in their pockets.”
Dave Hamilton wrote: “I’m not overly impressed with the iPhones 14 this year. I have one, of course, but the functional delta between the 14 and the 13 is a bit undercooked. Mostly, I’m upset that the iPhone mini has not survived. Based upon the very anecdotal vocal minority from which I hear, I think an iPhone mini Pro would’ve turned a LOT of people on to that model, and may have saved the size for those of us who really prefer a true one-handed iPhone.”
John Moltz wrote: “No iPhone 14 mini. Boo. Otherwise the updates are fine, if not exceptional.”
Federico Viticci wrote: “As part of my yearly theme for 2023, I’ve been playing around with Android lately. I purchased a Google Pixel 7, used it for a couple of weeks, and returned it. The degree of focus and refinement Apple puts on the iPhone platform is vastly superior compared to the Mac and iPad (not a surprise, given how much money the iPhone makes them). I love my iPhone 14 Pro Max and how the iOS 16 UI is optimized for it. The Dynamic Island is Apple at its best: instead of trying to hide an even larger sensor cutout, they outright embraced it, turning it into an innovative interface element that combines hardware and software to achieve the unique interplay of distinct components Apple is well known for. The always-on display has been a success for me too, allowing me to more easily keep an eye on music playback and incoming notifications in a way that wasn’t possible before. The one aspect of the iPhone experience I’m still not fully convinced by is photography. More specifically, how iOS processes the images captured by the iPhone’s camera. For the past few years, iPhone photos have had that particular iPhone “look” that often feels kind of boring and muted, and I’d like Apple to improve this aspect of the experience. On balance, and especially after having tried Android again, it’s apparent to me that it doesn’t get any better than iOS and iPhone when it comes to Apple’s focus, design ethos, and innovation on mobile devices. This is where Apple never drops the ball.”
Nick Heer wrote: “iOS is a mature operating system, so it’s notable to see Apple completely redo core features like the Lock Screen. It is still identifiable as an iPhone Lock Screen, of course, but Apple leaned into users’ customization, and I appreciate that. There are lots of great little changes in iOS 16 like improvements to Focus modes and editing in Messages. But there is still a disappointing feeling of fragility.”
Michael Tsai wrote: “iPhone hardware and iOS seem to be in decent shape. I usually upgrade my phone every two years, but I skipped this one because there was no new iPhone mini, and the regular iPhone 14 got a relatively minor update. The Dynamic Island is interesting. Lock Screen customization is welcome but awkward and limited. The camera seems to be slipping a bit versus the competition, and photos sometimes look too processed and fake.”
Casey Liss wrote: “Things with the iPhone were very good this year. The Dynamic Island is classic Apple: instead of a hole punch and a potential eyesore, Apple worked within the constraints to come up with something that is seriously delightful. I still wish the tap and long-press gestures were reversed. However, even with this paper cut, I still love the Dynamic Island. Beyond the obviously useful things like timers, podcasts, or music, It’s also excellent for following sports games, as well as when flying. I do wish the non-Pro phones still got the new processors, instead of last year’s leftovers, but this is a reasonable place to draw the line. I much prefer this over the Max (née Plus) phones getting the good cameras, and the human-sized phones not. I’m a little underwhelmed with the new camera. Perhaps it’s user error, but I don’t feel like my photos with my 14 Pro are noticeably improved over the 13 Pro. Though I do quite like having the 2× ‘lens’.”
Jessica Dennis wrote: “I wish I hadn’t traded in my iPhone 13 Mini for the iPhone 14 Pro. It was small and pink and my new phone is not better enough that I don’t miss that. I was lured by the apparent coolness of the Dynamic Island, but in practice, it’s just not that amazing. Cool demo aside, I don’t feel like there was any really super compelling reason for folks with a 13 series phone of any stripe to upgrade this year — although I do actually like the dark purple.”
Brian Mattucci wrote: “The Dynamic Island was exciting at first, but I think that wore off quickly. I like the Lock Screen changes in iOS 16 and changes to the Focus feature, and while I like my iPhone 14 Pro Max, I feel like the non-Pro iPhone 14 models are some of the most disappointing iPhones ever, at least for anyone with an iPhone 13.”
Christina Warren wrote: “The iPhone lineup this year, like every year, is good. I’m no longer wowed by the iPhone the way I once was, but that also doesn’t matter. The iPhone remains the best phone available. RIP to the iPhone mini, a phone I know plenty loved, but as someone with genuinely small hands (child like is a better descriptor), the size was still too large to use one-handed so I’ve gone all in on the big phone life. The cameras continue to improve and at this point, Apple is so far ahead of the competition when it comes to chip prowess in mobile devices that it doesn’t even need to try anymore. As for iOS 16, this release cycle seemed to go better than in the past. I love the new update offering E2EE for iCloud—fantastic move. And the new Home Screen stuff is really fun. The Dynamic Island is a bit of a gimmick but also can be genuinely useful. I did turn off the always-on mode for my phone immediately. I don’t need that, but it’s nice to see Apple match what Android and even Nokia have done for forever.”
James Thomson wrote: “The Dynamic Island is the smartest bit of symbiotic software and hardware design I’ve seen Apple do in years. The options for home screen customization are a lot more than I expected I’d get, and still a lot less than I wanted. Phone hardware is boringly excellent, and the new safety features could genuinely save lives.”
Paul Kafasis wrote: “I’m saddened by the loss of the iPhone Mini. I still (still!) want a smaller phone, but with the best possible camera. Apple never made that, and thus I never bought it, but my purchase of larger phones doesn’t mean it’s what I actually want. The 14 Pro is very nice. The Dynamic Island needs work though, and ultimately was overhyped and isn’t so hot to me.”
Lex Friedman wrote: “I really like the iPhone 14 Pro. It’s a minor upgrade over the iPhone 13 Pro. But man, my screen is scratched to hell. To hell, I say. I don’t use a case but haven’t used a case in three phones. This is the most scratch-prone iPhone screen for me in some time.”
Cherlynn Low wrote: “The iPhone 14 Pro got me to finally ditch a Pixel as my main and switch to Apple. Enough said.”
Benjamin Mayo wrote: “iPhone 14 was a bit of a bust, except for the Plus bringing a bigger screen to a more accessible price point — a greatly welcomed change. Dynamic Island showcased classic Apple care in attention to detail, with plenty of room to expand its utility down the road. I liked the colorful default Always-On Display; it was both distinctive and technically impressive. The camera was a little bit of a let-down. You can get some great shots out of the iPhone 14 Pro, but it requires shooting RAW and doing manual edits after the fact. The ‘point and shoot’ camera quality does not feel like it benefitted much from the new lens; it feels like the software is not fulfilling the potential of the hardware.”
Adam Engst wrote: “Perhaps this falls into the category of beating a dead horse, but it’s disappointing that Apple moved away from the form factor used for the iPhone 13 mini. Presumably, total sales volume doesn’t support the small form factor, but there are still plenty of people who want it. Pick up an old iPhone 5 these days and you’ll be amazed at how small it feels in your hand and pocket.”
Stephen Hackett wrote: “The iPhone 14 Pro’s Dynamic Island is the biggest UI change to come to iOS since the iPhone X ditched the home button back in 2017. Having quick access to media controls, sports scores, weather and more, from anywhere in the system, makes the iPhone feel more useful and alive, somehow. The iPhone’s take on the always-on display was decidedly whimsical, with Apple keeping a user’s wallpaper on the display all the time. But when iOS 16.2 added a toggle to disable the always-on wallpaper, I flipped the switch and went to the all-black background. Speaking of Lock Screen widgets… I love this feature, but would like to see Apple add more flexibility in terms of layout and design. As inventive as the iPhone 14 Pro is, the regular iPhone 14 is a bit of a swing and a miss. And hopefully this is the last crop of iPhones with Lighting. USB-C is here to stay, and I don’t even mind if Apple claims faster file transfers for things like 4K ProRes video are the reason for the switch.”
Philip Elmer-DeWitt wrote: “iOS still works for me, but I’m a frog that’s been slowly parboiled. I fear for anyone coming fresh to an operating system so deeply honeycombed with hidden operations.”
Marco Arment wrote: “The iPhone 14 family is great, and iOS 16 is mature and stable with lots of great user features and developer APIs. Both iOS and the iPhone have gotten fairly boring, but in very good ways: they rarely have widespread bugs or issues, and just quietly keep working for us all day, every day, in the vast array of wildly varying tasks and circumstances in which we ask them to perform.”
Quinn Nelson wrote: “This has been one of the few years where software has surpassed hardware. The iPhone 14 is by no means a bad phone, but the real star of 2022 is iOS 16.”
Rich Mogull wrote: “While I can’t say there was anything super-exciting this year, the camera improvements in the Pro were more noticeable than I expected. And as a former mountain-rescue and ski-patroller (and current disaster response paramedic) the idea of widespread satellite emergency beacons is super compelling. I may not be ready to ditch my Garmin, but for the average adventurer (or person driving outside cell coverage) this is game changing for safety.”
Josh Centers wrote: “The iPhone feels stagnant, and new features feel increasingly irrelevant and even complicate what was once a simple experience.”
John Siracusa wrote: “The iPhone continues to be a great product, but it is now ever-so-slightly overdue for a refresh to address the closest things it has to weaknesses. It’s time for the camera bump to be… rethought, if not reduced. What used to be a cluster of lenses tucked into the corner of the phone now takes up the majority of the width of the device and prevents it from laying flat when set down on a surface. The Dynamic Island makes some pretty good lemonade out of the lemons of the front-facing sensor array. The whimsy of the Dynamic Island is appreciated, but its features with the most practical benefit would work just as well on a true all-screen iPhone—and would spare us a baby black hole at the top of our devices. Someday.”
Shahid Kamal Ahmad wrote: “With unmatched power and stellar camera performance, the iPhone remains solid, but it’s beginning to feel heavy and dare I say it, unexciting.”
Carolina Milanesi wrote: “Good solid year, with a few features that set the iPhone apart like satellite and Dynamic Island.”
Dan Moren wrote: “Months later, I find myself thinking the iPhone 14 line was a pretty meh update. The Pro’s Dynamic Island feels like it could be revolutionary, but it’s still not widely adopted and probably won’t be until it spreads through the entire line-up. iPhone updates are feeling increasingly incremental, which makes me wonder if there are any big surprises left for the smartphone market?”
Grade: C (average score: 3.0, median score 3, last year: 3.7)
The iPad took a precipitous fall to its lowest score in the history of this survey. There was some praise for the iPad 10th generation, but even that product got dinged for its confusing Apple Pencil story—and the fact that its new features make the rest of the product line feel antiquated. A treading-water update for the iPad Pro and the rough introduction of Stage Manager seem to be the biggest culprits in the bad mood of our panelists.
Myke Hurley wrote: “Apple had one job to do with the iPad Pro and they couldn’t get it done. They’ve left the lineup incredibly confusing with the new iPad. But that does look like a great device for those that need it.”
John Gruber wrote: “I’d have scored this lower if not for the solid improvements to the consumer-level iPad hardware in 2022. It’s great that the 10th-gen no-adjective iPad starts at just $450 and brings that model into the modern ‘all-screen/no home-button’ design era. I can’t help but believe that if not for COVID and two years of work-from-home and severe travel restrictions between the U.S. and China, that we’d have seen a design refresh for the iPads Pro in 2022. It feels like just another sign that among Apple’s three personal computing platforms, iPad comes last in terms of attention. Stage Manager on the iPad isn’t appealing and feels half-baked conceptually. The iPad experience offered much more clarity — which I found satisfying, if at times frustrating — in the early 2010s, when it was just a big iPhone. Conceptually I find advanced usage of iPadOS to be muddled.”
Jessica Dennis wrote: “It seems like the iPad Pro is inching closer to being a computer with some serious software limitations. I guess. I’m all about the iPad Mini, and it didn’t get an update this calendar year.”
Shahid Kamal Ahmad wrote: “The hardware continues to improve, but iPadOS is a bit of a mixed bag. I’d love to see more pro-level apps on the iPad. While I wait for those, the iPad mini remains my favourite of the bunch.”
Marco Arment wrote: “The iPad story seems lost, erratically delivering multitasking features every few years such as Stage Manager that are too confusing for novices yet too limited for power users.”
Kirk McElhearn wrote: “The iPad seems to have stagnated in the past couple of years, but there was a solid line up from the iPad pro models down to the less expensive models. The iPad Pro models are still expensive, however, but I don’t imagine that will change.”
Aleen Simms wrote: “The iPad product line is more robust than it’s ever been, but none of the models fits my needs well.”
Alex Cox wrote: “People who are more passionate about the iPad have better words to convey the dismay and frustration most of us feel—but I will say I sold off my M1 iPad Pro. I have an iPad mini I love, yet I realize I’m using it more like my phone because I LIKE my phone way more than I liked my iPad Pro the past few years.”
James Thomson wrote: “Even if I hadn’t spent the majority of the summer working on support for an iPadOS feature that turned out to be underwhelming, I would still be down on the iPad this year. Again we didn’t see the pro apps that justified the powerful hardware, and Stage Manager was equal parts constrained and confusing. Did the iPad Pros get updated this year? I genuinely had to look it up. The new entry-level iPad is at least interesting, but the Pencil situation is a mess.”
Shelly Brisbin wrote: “It’s a little hard to suss out the iPad line as it currently stands, given the new iPad Air an older iPad Pros. But that seems like a minor issue when compared to the iPad multitasking situation. Stage Manager was late, and confusing when it finally arrived.”
Robert Carter wrote: “I think the iPad models are a bit confusing. My wife, however, does love her new iPad Air.”
Michael E. Cohen wrote: “Lots of new and interesting tech, but the iPad has become such a moving target in terms of both capability and interface that the new ones include an extra helping of confusion.”
John Siracusa wrote: “It’s hard to tell if the iPad line suffered from supply constraints or underinvestment in 2022. The new no-suffix iPad includes a lot of new thinking from Apple, including a repositioned camera and a new key layout and keyboard attachment method. But the use of the (very) old Apple Pencil design is galling, even if it is technically explicable. It’s Apple’s job to solve these design challenges, not our job to live with them. And then there’s the iPad Pro line, which didn’t benefit from any of the “new thinking” from its cheaper sibling. If Apple can’t justify the expense required to update the features of the iPad Pro as frequently as the lower-end models, then at least try to synchronize the rollout of the biggest changes to hit the whole line at the same time. As a bonus, doing so might have given Apple more time to figure out the Pencil situation and avoid shipping another awkward dongle.”
Zac Hall wrote: “Conceptually, Stage Manager doesn’t do it for me. M2 iPad Pros exist, but that’s about all I can say for “new” Pro models.”
Casey Liss wrote: “While I’m as perplexed and overwhelmed by the iPad lineup as anyone, I do think that the iPad hardware is mostly quite impressive. I just wish Apple had a clearer story in damned near every capacity: Fewer models, and/or a clearer delineation between them. More powerful software, which doesn’t stand in my way in both expected and unexpected ways. And consistency between the models—I so desperately wish my brand-new M2 iPad Pro had a landscape-mounted camera. Although I’m using and enjoying my iPad Pro more than I have in a while, I can’t deny that the iPad story is messy at best, and lost at sea at worst.”
Joe Macirowski wrote: “The years when the best features aren’t all available on any one device at any price point at all are not fun for would-be buyers or the people likely reading this article who are consulted for Apple related buying advice by their friends, family, and coworkers.”
David Sparks wrote: “The iPad is fine. That is, and continues to be, the problem.”
John Moltz wrote: “The iPads are all individually great devices and I continue to be impressed by the value exhibited in the base iPad model. However, it’s a confusing lineup with a lot of overlap.”
Christina Warren wrote: “The new iPad feels like the right device for its audience. However, the increase in price and the fact that it still uses the first generation Apple Pencil is ridiculous. I’m glad it has USB-C, but that makes charging the old pencil that much harder. Total fail. It’s software where I get so frustrated. Four years in, iPadOS doesn’t feel any more finished or ready for ‘real’ work the same way macOS is. I know you can. I know people do. But it’s not good enough. Especially not when it costs the same as a MacBook Air or 13″ MacBook Pro once a keyboard is priced in. The iPad suffers, I think, because it has no competition of any kind. Only at the very low end or in niches like E-Ink does iPad have anyone else even selling tablets. And honestly, I think it hurts the overall product.”
Jeff Carlson wrote: “This is getting to be an old record. Hardware great, software still lacking. Stage Manager seems like a nifty idea only partially implemented (and I’ve since turned it off on my 11-inch iPad Pro).”
Charles Arthur wrote: “This would have been higher but for all the madness of the “works with a Pencil, no not THAT Pencil the other Pencil, also not THAT keyboard, the other keyboard” in the latest round of releases. We still seem to be waiting for some big breakthrough – OLED? – that will take the whole thing forward again.”
Michael Tsai wrote: “As always, the software seems to be letting down the hardware. iPadOS continues to feel limited. Stage Manager seems half-baked, and its system requirements are too steep.”
Benjamin Mayo wrote: “I have not been an iPad user for several years, and 2022 didn’t change that. Even ignoring all of the Stage Manager bugs that shipped, Apple hasn’t come close to a great multitasking design for a primarily touch-oriented UI environment. If Apple wants people like me to take the iPad seriously, it needs to get far closer to the productivity of a Mac experience. And the state of Stage Manager, even today following several OS updates, doesn’t inspire confidence that will ever happen.”
Nick Heer wrote: “The current lineup of iPads and accessories is confusing, but I do not think that was the biggest frustration with iPads for 2022. No, the greatest disappointment has been the rocky launch of iPadOS 16. When Stage Manager was announced, it felt like an appropriate evolution in the iPad story: a bigger, better multitasking experience that took advantage of the most powerful iPads for the most demanding users. Instead, its rollout has been a catastrophe. What was supposed to be an amazing year for iPad Pro users turned into something of a dud. Hopefully it will get fixed in 2023.”
Eric Slivka wrote: “The 10th-generation iPad was the big winner this year with its complete redesign, although it unfortunately comes with a significantly higher price tag that will come back down over time. The M2 iPad Pro models aren’t much more than a minor spec bump as Apple awaits a bigger splash with a rumored transition to OLED, while the iPad