2011 round-up: mobile
The year began with news that the App Store had hosted its ten billionth download, the milestone reached in just two and a half years with the download by Gail Davis, of Orpington, Kent, of Paper Glider. Apple said 70 per cent of the total had been downloaded in the preceding 12 months, with senior VP of worldwide product marketing Philip Schiller admitting: "The App Store has surpassed our wildest dreams." The following month, app functionality – and Apple's revenue potential – were given a significant boost by the addition of subscriptions, from which Apple takes its usual 30 per cent cut.
In March, iPad 2 was revealed, and the second generation of Apple's tablet was on shelves within ten days. Thirty-three per cent thinner than its predecessor, with a dual-core A5 processor and front and rear cameras, nearly a million iPad 2s were sold in the US on its debut weekend. In the three months to 26 March Apple's net profit rose by over 95 per cent, to $5.99 billion.
By July, App Store downloads had reached 15 billion, Schiller hailing the store as "the most exciting and successful software marketplace the world has ever seen." The company marked the occasion by amending App Store pricing in line with changes in exchange rates, with the cheapest apps on the UK store rising in cost from 59p to 69p. It didn't matter: less than a week later a report claimed that App Store purchases were up 61 per cent year on year. There followed another record financial quarter – profit this time reaching $7.31 billion – and Apple greatly increased its reach by launching the App Store in 33 more countries.
In August, talismanic CEO and co-founder Steve Jobs announced he was stepping down after 15 years for health reasons, his board of directors agreeing with his recommendation that COO Tim Cook should be his replacement. Cook insisted Apple, which he called "the most innovative company in the world," was not going to change, and on October 4 he unveiled iPhone 4S, a revision of the iPhone 4 with the same A5 processor found in iPad 2, and iOS 5.
The following day, Jobs died aged just 56 after losing his long battle with pancreatic cancer. Tributes poured in from across the videogame industry for a man who was famously no big fan of the medium, Sony chairman Howard Stringer saying: "The digital age has lost its leading light." EA's John Riccitiello added: "Steve was one of a kind … the best role model for a leader that aspires to be great." Jobs' passing could have changed everything.
It didn't. The launch of iPhone 4S was the most successful mobile phone launch in history, with four million units sold in a single weekend. Its share price reached a record high. Despite the rise of Android, a report in December found that the App Store is still where the money is: the top 200 apps on the iPhone App Store generate four times the revenue of their Android equivalents.
While Apple's mobile ecosystem is a walled garden, Google's is very much the opposite, and early in 2011 online retailer Amazon launched its own Android download store. The Amazon Appstore drew criticism from the IGDA over its developer terms, and a lawsuit from Apple over its name, but the retailer was just the first big company to take advantage of, and seek to profit from, Android's open nature. And its reach, too: in February Android was named the leading smartphone platform after 33.3 million handsets running the OS were shipped in the final three months of 2010.
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