Ten years ago today, on Jan. 9 2007, Apple’s late co-founder and CEO Steve Jobs began his usual keynote speech at the now defunct Macworld conference in San Francisco. As it turned out, his address was not going to be a usual keynote speech after all. Jobs decided to officially reveal what had been rumored in the press for months as part of the event. He stated the company was going to launch its first mobile phone, the iPhone.
A decade later, we live in a world that has been fundamentally changed with the introduction of the first iPhone. At the time, Jobs described it as three devices in one: “A widescreen iPod with touch controls, a revolutionary mobile phone and a breakthrough internet communications device.” While it was definitely all those things, the truth is that the iPhone was much more than the sum of the products Apple managed to smash together. It was a new idea for mobile computing, and it would eventually turn into one of the most influential and game-changing devices ever launched.
The iPhone that eventually went on sale in late June 2007 would take a little while before it became the device many know and love. For one thing, it was very expensive out of the box; Apple sold the 4GB version for $499 and the 8GB model for $599. While the sales were great, Apple decided to cut the price of the 8GB version down to $399 and get rid of the 4GB model completely in September after most people went for the larger storage model. In 2008, the launch of the iPhone 3G also brought about two-year contract pricing for the first time, allowing the device to be available to a much wide audience.
Many people didn’t like the fact that the iPhone in the US was an exclusive to AT&T for its first few years, which lead some owners to “jailbreak” the phone so it could work on other networks. It wasn’t until 2011 until Verizon finally sold its own version of the iPhone. By 2013, it was available for all the major US wireless carriers.
Perhaps the biggest change for the iPhone came in 2008, with the launch of the App Store. Now anyone could create a mobile app and publish it directly to the millions of iPhone owners and make money from it. It single-handedly started the huge mobile app industry that Apple claims generated $20 billion for creators just in 2016.
iPhone shook up the mobile phone industry
The launch of the iPhone shook up the mobile phone industry. Before Apple’s phone, the mobile handset was made for talking, taking low-res pictures and maybe playing a few crude games for the general public. Yes, BlackBerry had smartphones but they were made for the business customer, not for everyone else. The iPhone proved that there was an audience that wanted advanced tech features in a mobile device that could also be easily understood and accessed, thanks to the touchscreen-based iOS.
Neither BlackBerry and Nokia, the two leading mobile phone makers in the industry for business and consumers in 2007, respectively, could not compete with the iPhone. Both companies eventually stopped making their own phones. It also was a blow to Microsoft, who was trying to launch its own Windows Mobile OS. It never really attracted an audience. Even buying Nokia’s smartphone division didn’t help.
On the other hand, Google saw what the future was going to be like and in 2008 it launched the first version of Android. Its OS, which it allowed any smartphone maker to use, became a huge hit, especially for Samsung, who used it to launch its Galaxy line of smartphones that have turned into the single biggest competitor to the iPhone. The Galaxy phones were also accused of design patent infringements by Apple, and the two companies have been in legal battles over those claims for years. In the end, the Android OS, and its ability to be used for devices for any price point imaginable, has dominated the smartphone market.
Even with Android's lead, the iPhone continues to be the single biggest selling smartphone device
Even with Android’s lead, the iPhone continues to be the single biggest selling smartphone device. It has also evolved from a small 3.5-inch device to one that is available in 4.7-inch and 5.5-inch models. CPUs and GPUs have gotten faster, of course, and iOS has evolved as well with UI changes and new features. In 2010, Apple launched the iPad, its iOS tablet that is basically a larger iPhone but without the ability to make cellular calls. Other companies also rushed to make tablets as well, and the iPad’s impact, while not as huge as the iPhone, still continues. In 2015, the third iOS device, the Apple Watch, launched, but the jury is still out on how successful it will be compared to Apple’s first two iOS products.
When Steve Jobs returned to Apple as CEO in 1997, the company was a PC maker. With the launch of the iPod in 2001 and especially with the release of the iPhone in 2007, Apple made the turn to become much more than than. Indeed, of all the products the company has released in its history, the iPhone may be the one that is most remembered for its game changing features that allowed it to turn the world into a mobile computing society. It’s a change that continues to be felt 10 years later and will likely continue many more years to come.