10 years on, iPhone still needs to change the world

Apple's future isn't written yet, but emerging economies must and will be part of it

Apple, iPhone, iOS, 10 years, smartphone

I doubt you’ll miss every tech reporter in the industry with their “10 years of iPhone” reports this morning, (I wrote my take earlier this week), but while there is no argument the product has changed some parts the world, Apple’s iPhone future still needs to change the rest of it.

The long(er) game

Things really have moved on since June 29, 2007, when Steve Jobs and Laurene Powell Jobs were spotted at an Apple Store watching the huge line of Apple fans desperate to get hold of the new “Jesus Phone.”

Even though the device was only available in the U.S., Apple sold 270,000 of them in the first 30 hours, a highly significant number at its time.

These days, critics say Apple is losing its touch when it sells 78 million iPhones within 13 weeks. It’s all about scale. (It took around three months before Apple sold its first million smartphones, BTW.)

Desperately seeking numbers

It is to seek such scale that Apple seeks fresh pastures.

My readers won’t have missed the company’s intensifying push into enterprise computing, where it is the tool of choice for any serious mobile business professional.

The company’s focus on wearables, services and platform diversification also reflects its determination to maintain that scale.

Where it’s future opportunities really lie is in delivering new technologies (such as AR) across its platforms and in growing its business in the emerging economies of the APAC region, India, China and beyond.

Android’s game to lose

You shouldn’t underestimate the importance of this.

Fresh research from Upstream and conducted by research firm Ovum reveals that just 18 percent of consumers in emerging markets use iOS, compared to 78 percent using Android.

Low-end Android devices are cheap, and while feature-limited, they do deliver some of the connectivity you need in places where fixed line telecoms may not be widely available.

In recent years, it has become clear that many consumers use Android as a low-cost entry point from which to become more familiar with mobile tech, before upgrading to an iOS device.

However, as bandwidth increases (I anticipate some regions will leapfrog 3G altogether to deploy 5G faster than we’ll see it appear in some advanced economies), you’ll see consumers begin to switch to high-end devices, where Apple shines.

This is why Apple's decision to offer lower price and locally made products in India is so important. It understands that it must look to each market’s unique needs.

Different needs

That differentiation is reflected in how people use these devices. While in the U.S. we use our smartphones across broadband, mobile and fixed-line Wi-Fi, in many emerging economies smartphones are the key connected device.

People use them to access education, but also financial services, health and many other social infrastructure resources Apple’s more mature markets take for granted.

This is an opportunity for Apple Pay (as I’ve mentioned before). Think about the implications of the fact that 98 percent of Egyptians don’t have a credit card and choose to use airtime balance on their phone as a currency with which to pay for digital services.

As it enters year 11 for iPhone, Apple seeks to offer unique service propositions that will appeal to the populations of these places, understanding that not every service it provides to these new audiences may be of any interest at all to its core U.S. consumer audience. Apple under Tim Cook is applying itself to the task.

Trust is everything

Ten years on, and Apple has built unchallenged levels of trust and reputation among smartphone users worldwide, consumer and professional. It enjoys industry-leading customer satisfaction across almost every sector it plays in.

To shine across the next 10 years, Apple will need to build and consolidate that trusted reputation and adapt its offer to the unique needs of the emerging markets that will define the next 10 years in tech.

“Digital brands need to adapt their approach to the unique needs of emerging markets consumers through the utilization of the high trust consumers have in mobile operators to deliver digital services,” said Upstream CEO Guy Krief.

And this is why as we look to the next 10 years of iPhone, we must also look to its supporting products (Watch, Mac, AirPods) and services (Apple Pay, media and more), as the ecosystem Apple has created around the core device will in the end become more important than the device itself. This chain of thought leads—inexorably—to a prediction that one day you’ll receive a free iPhone when you sign up to use Apple services. I’m not certain even Apple saw that coming in 2007.

Now about that Apple mobile network …

Has iPhone changed your life? If so, how? Let me know and vote in the poll here.

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