Apple

For putting its finger on the pulse.

Remember when the experts, having peered at the iPhone 4, declared that smartphone design was now set? To paraphrase Steve Jobs, they forgot one more thing: the button.

Apple, by making the one control on the front of its iPhone 5S a fingerprint sensor, has pulled off a neat trick. It provides a glimmer of magic every time a user unlocks her phone with just a light touch. And it helps explain why Apple is estimated to be selling two-and-a-half times as many 5Ss as its candy-colored, less-expensive cousin, the 5C, which doesn't yet have Touch ID, as the futuristic feature is known. And Touch ID makes it even easier for customers to use their Apple ID to download apps and entertainment, which together comprise more than $10 billion in annual sales for the company.

Apple is poised to grow its business around other trends as well. In the last quarter of 2013, its China sales were $8.8 billion, up 29 percent over a year earlier. In January, Apple began selling its iPhones through the country's largest carrier, China Mobile, which has 760 million subscribers. That's more than double the population of the United States, a potential bonanza.

Apple has also quietly begun building its own content delivery network. Previously, the company has relied on outside venders to distribute apps and video and to handle the iCloud service. Having its own network would give Apple more control and pave the way for its long-rumored TV service.

[Illustration by Eduardo Higareda]