13 critical questions for Apple heading into 2016

Apple has a lot on its plate going into the new year. Here are the most important questions about the company's prospects for 2016

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Thinkstock (Thinkstock)

Keeping the ball rolling

Apple had a tremendous 2015. Not only did it make more money in 2015 than ever before, it set a new iPhone sales record and managed to introduce a number of new products, with the Apple Watch and the fourth-gen Apple TV being the two most notable examples.

But in the fast-moving world of technology, it’s not so much about what you’ve done, but what you will do in the future. That being the case, there are a number of issues and questions looming over Apple at the moment, and the company in 2016 will be under the spotlight once again.

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Apple

Can iPhone sales stay strong?

Over the last few years, the iPhone has been Apple’s primary revenue generator and is responsible for the vast majority of the company’s billions. In 2016, however, many analysts have said that iPhone sales may decrease for the first time in history. Naturally, iPhone sales can’t keep rising indefinitely, so it will be interesting to see if Apple can keep iPhone sales on the up and up over the next 12 months.

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Apple

Will the Apple Watch go mainstream?

Though Apple has yet to disclose any Apple Watch sales figures, Tim Cook has said that sales have increased each quarter. What’s more, the Apple Watch’s launch has already proven to be more successful than that of both the iPhone and iPod.

Still, the Apple Watch remains a niche product. With the Apple Watch 2 set to be unveiled this coming March, 2016 may be the year that Apple’s wearable makes the leap from interesting tech gadget to a mainstream device that can contribute substantively to Apple’s bottom line.

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Reuters/Mike Segar (Reuters)

Can shares of Apple stock rebound?

As a wildly successful tech company, it’s somewhat preposterous that Apple’s P/E ratio is as low as it is. Then again, the world of Wall Street tends to operate with a “what have you done for me lately” mentality. While shares of Apple reached the $130 range in 2015, the company’s stock price has fallen back down to $106 levels in recent weeks, shedding billions in value in the process. It remains to be seen if Apple can continue to increase in value after a somewhat stagnant 2015 in the stock market. That said, it will also be interesting to see if Apple continues its aggressive share buyback program as a means to keep its EPS afloat and rising.

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Will people start using Apple Pay?

Apple Pay, the digital wallet that many had been anticipating, launched with a whole bunch of fanfare with the iPhone 6. And the iPhone’s Touch ID sensor makes Apple Pay extremely easy and convenient to use. Nonetheless, consumers still don’t seem to be using the service all that much. Perhaps Apple Pay solves a problem that doesn’t really exist, or perhaps it just needs a little bit more time to catch on. Either way, with Apple recently inking an Apple Pay deal in China, 2016 will probably be the year when we find out if Apple Pay is the wave of the future, or if consumers truly don’t mind carrying a wallet around with them at all times.

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Apple

Can Apple turn iPad sales around?

The iPad burst onto the scene a few years back and quickly became a runaway success. Over the last two years, however, sales have been steadily dropping with each passing quarter. While Apple has tried all sorts of things to bolster sales, nothing has managed to work so far. While it’s possible that the iPad Pro might help strengthen overall sales, that remains to be seen. Of course, this isn’t to say that the iPad line is a failure. Indeed, some have speculated that the iPad is simply being cannibalized by larger iPhone models.

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David Orban, Flickr (One-Time Use)

Will Apple's TV subscription service see the light of day?

Due to licensing and bundling issues, Apple reportedly suspended its plans to release a TV subscription service, which it initially intended to release alongside the Apple TV 4. There’s no denying that a lower-cost TV subscription service from Apple would be a great incentive for users to cut the cord. Alas, we’ll have to wait and see if Apple plans to resurrect its live TV plans anytime soon. Truth be told, the odds of this happening don’t seem all that great given that channel owners don’t need Apple as much as Apple needs them, as well as the difficulty of securing favorable licensing terms from content owners looking to maximize their profits.

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Apple

Will Apple Car rumors speed up or drive away?

The biggest Apple rumor of 2015 was undoubtedly talk of Apple developing its own electric car. Recent reports have suggested that Apple’s car team features about 1,000 employees. Additionally, some reports have said that Apple may be aiming for a 2019 automotive release. Apple, however, has no problem scratching product initiatives if they don’t “fit,” either from a technical or financial perspective. We saw this play out with the rumored Apple HDTV, and most recently with Apple’s live TV subscription service. In 2016, we’ll probably get a better grasp as to whether or not Apple’s car plans are the real deal, or if it’s nothing more than an exploratory initiative.

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Apple

Will developers embrace Apple TV?

Complete with a Siri-enabled remote, Universal Search, and a dedicated App Store, the new Apple TV is the most exciting set-top box Apple has ever delivered. With the Apple TV featuring support for its own App Store, the door is open for developers to potentially release some game-changing apps for the device, and in turn, help transform the Apple TV into an integral part of the living room experience. While we haven’t seen anything yet, it’s still early in the game. 2016 will help determine if developers can do for the Apple TV what they did for both the iPhone and the iPad.

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Patrick Kenney, IDG News Service

Will 2016 bring us the 4-inch iPhone 6c?

Apple’s new iPhone models are all about offering larger form factors. That’s great for people who prefer a bigger screen, but many individuals still enjoy using the company’s 4-inch form factor. Thankfully, there are rumors suggesting that Apple in early 2016 might introduce an iPhone 6c. According to reports, the iPhone 6c will be a more economical version of the 6s with an A9 processor, a 4-inch form factor, and Apple Pay support. As for 3D Touch? Well, that may remain an iPhone 6s-only feature.

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Blair Hanley Frank, IDG News Service

Can Apple's tremendous growth in China continue?

Apple’s tremendous success in China over the past year has been one of the key drivers of the company’s impressive sales. But now that Apple has seemingly conquered every large market on the planet, some of the more pessimistic analysts have said that Apple’s dominance in China will either peak or decline in 2016. Tim Cook, meanwhile, vehemently disagrees. Whenever asked, Cook points to China’s emerging and voluminous middle class as proof that Apple still has a lot of room to grow in China. Specifically, some estimate that China’s middle class will grow from 300 million to 500 million over the next few years.

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Apple

Can Mac sales avoid the fate of the iPad?

Thanks to a new MacBook and enhanced iMacs, Apple managed to keep its Mac line growing, an impressive feat as the rest of the PC industry continues to decline. In 2016, we’ll see if Apple can continue to keep its Mac line vibrant. What’s more, as the integration between devices continues to increase, it’s not outlandish to assume that Mac sales might increase dramatically over the next 12 months. But as the decline in iPad sales has shown us, nothing in tech is ever a guarantee.

go pro
Messe Berlin IDG News Service

Will Apple make any bold acquisitions in 2016?

Apple has more cash than it knows what to do with, to the tune of more than $200 billion in the bank. Of course, the bulk of that cash is overseas, and Apple is hesitant to bring it back to the United States due to repatriation taxes. Still, with more money in its bank account than one can fathom, it’s always interesting to see if Apple will make any notable acquisitions in 2016. In 2015, Apple acquired 15 companies, most of them small. Recently, there have been rumors that Apple might be on the verge of making a bold acquisition, with GoPro reportedly being one such target.

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Apple

Can the Apple TV become a legit gaming console?

So far, most of the apps on the Apple TV have been games. Still, it’d be quite a stretch to call the Apple TV a legitimate gaming console. For starters, Apple requires that all games make use of the company’s Siri-based controller, which, from personal experience, isn’t necessarily an ideal gaming controller. Beyond that, it remains to be seen if the Apple TV 4 will prove to be the place for console-quality games. While it’s great for casual gaming, the set-top box will arguably have to house “Call of Duty”-quality games if it truly wants to give devices like the PS4 and Xbox One a run for their money.