There are now more phones on the planet than people and we all spend an inordinate amount of time glued to our screens, but ten years after the launch of the iPhone – how much has Apple’s flagship device impacted our world?
Many of us joked about the Steve Jobs’ “Jesus phone”, but the revolution was real in 2007, the year that separates two periods of technology – before and after iPhone. There were large touchscreen phones on the market before Apple launched the iPhone, but the slick combination of hardware and software meant it created a new category of “smart device”.
Apple managed to bring together the phone, the PDA, the digital camera, the Walkman, and much more into a single device that your mother could use and all your friends wanted to own. The phones that came before were functional, and those of us that grew up with Nokias still have affection for the brand, but they were not beautiful. They were gadgets, not idols. You would never see people queuing around the block for hours to be the first to own a Motorola Pebl.
A big screen with curved corners may not have been revolutionary, despite Apple’s claims, but it allowed Apple to put its software front and centre – and that is where it left its competitors in the dust. Windows CE, the leading mobile OS for PDAs and (almost)smart phones could not compete.
Apple had learned from its success with the iPod, and in iOS had created a truly touch-first experience. This was not a desktop OS that had been stripped down for low power devices, this was an OS designed from the ground up to create a smartphone. It was simple, intuitive, and beautiful. iOS was such a paradigm shift in mobile software, that it was easier for Google to create Android from scratch than for Microsoft to completely change its mobile thinking and develop Windows 7 phone.
Smartphones are now so ubiquitous, with base level devices available for under £100, that we take the idea of an easy-to-use pocket-sized touchscreen computer for granted. But just a decade ago the idea of browsing the internet on your phone was a miserable WAP-based experience that few thought would be the future. The iPhone put the real internet in your pocket, and changed the world.
The impact of the device on the broader economy is profound. The iPhone was the reason for the mobile internet explosion, and billion-dollar companies like Twitter, Snapchat, and Uber all owe Apple a great deal. Outside of the microchip and the internet itself, it is difficult to think of an technological invention that has had such an impact on the modern world.
Even after a decade, the iPhone remains the most popular smartphone on the market, and there seems little chance of that changing anytime soon, with online marketplace eBay.co.uk reporting that it has sold an average of nearly an iPhone every second for the last three months.
It’s time to call it – 2010-2017 has been the iPhone decade.