Apple’s iPhone: 10 years old and only getting started

The future will be better tomorrow

Apple, iPhone, smartphone, Steve Jobs, iPhone is ten, wearables, Internet of things

Ten years ago today Apple CEO, Steve Jobs, announced the iPhone. It didn’t ship for several months and the prototype he used wasn’t perfect, but the device has defined the last ten years of mobile technologies -- and sets the scene for another decade of transformation.

Where are they now?

There were so many people who didn’t understand why Apple shipped a “phone,” and others (Steve Ballmer, maybe) who couldn’t comprehend the change the company ushered in when it did.

Where are they now?

Nokia and Motorola got sold and resold; the Symbian, BlackBerry, Palm, and Windows CE mobile operating systems disappeared.

The big three brands are Apple, Huawei and Samsung. And every smartphone looks like an iPhone: rectangular devices controlled by multi-touch and a sheet of glass.

Apple set the template for ten years of mobile device design and it takes a special class of deluded Kool-Aid drinking “Earth is round” denier to refute this fact.

Smartphone planet

Apple sold 270,000 first-generation iPhones in three hours. It sold 1.39 million in the first year. The company sold 211.88 million iPhones in 2016, down slightly from the 231.22 million sold in 2015.

Throughout this time the company has managed to dominate high-end smartphone sales while setting the design, capability and software templates others chose to follow.

Today almost everybody has a smartphone -- 80 percent of the planet’s population will have one by 2020 and the average American spends two hours or more each day using their device. Eight in ten Americans check their smartphone within 15-minutes of getting up.

These mobile devices have become utterly essential parts of modern life -- we do everything with them, from paying for things in the shops to catching planes, finding restaurants, messaging -- some people even use them to make phone calls, though that is also changing.

The everything engine

When Apple announced the iPhone it called it three breakthrough products in one: "An iPod, a phone and an internet communicator."

It’s only when the apps began to proliferate that we discovered that these devices were the modern equivalent of utterly personalized toolkits that could be configured for almost any need. You can use your iPhone to find a house, check the neighborhood, measure the rooms and make sure your shelves are flat while you put them up once you’ve got the mortgage and arranged the furniture removals. Only last week Apple told us the App Store now offers over 2.2 million apps

“There has been no Apple product with greater impact than the iPhone, for Apple, for the mobile industry, and because of the spread of mobile technology, for the whole technology industry,” said Ian Fogg, director at IHS Technology.

Everything, everywhere

The thing is the iPhone is habitual. It is also mobile and connected. The power of the processor inside these devices is faster than the one inside the current MacBook Air. People speculate Apple will introduce ARM-powered Macs in future, even as Microsoft hatches plans for ARM-powered PCs.

What does this mean?

It means that the computational power squeezed inside the device in your pocket is beginning to exceed that of the Mac on your desk.

As mobile user interfaces improve (think Minority Report) the number of things you can do on a computer that you cannot do on a mobile device will inevitably shrink.

It’s also inevitable that one day this kind of computational power will become wearable.

Everywhere, everything

That’s the next step, of course: highly advanced wearable devices that combine many of the features we use smartphones for, “an iPod, a phone, and a powerful internet communicator.”

Ten years on and we can see that the iPhone set the template for the mobile age -- and put Apple in a great position to surf the next wave of connected everything.

Apple’s commitment to the non-fragmented and secure operating system that drives the iPhone is vital if we’re going to connect essential public utilities to the same networks that drive our VCR or toaster. You don’t want poorly secured operating systems running your power supply, do you?

Meanwhile, of course, it’s not too late to redefine smartphone design all over again as Apple prepares to mark the tenth anniversary of the iPhone in a manner that most fits its DNA: By reinventing the category. “The best is yet to come,” promised Apple CEO, Tim Cook, yesterday. Think about that.

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Copyright © 2017 IDG Communications, Inc.

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