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How Apple got its polish back in 2014

The tech giant bounced back from a less-than-impressive 2013, introducing the blockbuster iPhone 6 and making its biggest-ever acquisition.

Apple CEO Tim Cook shows off a new iPhone and the Apple Watch during a media event in September. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

It's been a very good year for Apple.

The company got its swagger back thanks to a record-setting iPhone launch, a surging stock price and a bold -- and surprising -- $3 billion purchase of headphone maker Beats, its biggest acquisition ever. And, of course, there was the debut of the Apple Watch, that new product CEO Tim Cook had long promised.

It was a far cry from 2013, when the Cupertino, Calif., company suffered from a slumping stock and concerns that its best days were behind it. For now, uncertainty over Cook's stewardship has quieted and he's shown he can be more than just a strong operations leader, as he was under the late CEO Steve Jobs.

Highlighting Apple's recent wins, a spokesperson provided several of the company's enviable statistics. The new iPhone 6 hit a record number of orders in its first 30 days, the Mac desktop and laptop line reached its highest US market share ever in the latest quarter, and the iPad tablet series sold 237 million units over four years -- making it the fastest-growing Apple product ever, the rep said.

All this good news shouldn't suggest everything went swimmingly for Apple this year. Just before its big iPhone 6 launch in September, Apple faced tough criticism after several celebrities' nude photos were stolen from their iCloud accounts and disseminated online. In addition, Apple's supplier of synthetic sapphire unexpectedly filed for bankruptcy in October -- potentially costing Apple hundreds of millions of dollars in investments. In court papers, the supplier, GT Advanced Technologies, bad-mouthed Apple as overbearing and pushing it into a lopsided partnership.

Here are Apple highlights from 2014:

-- CNET's Shara Tibken contributed to this story and slideshow.