iPhone after ten years: Defining the 21st Century?

Posted on by Mike Evans

Ten years ago today the first iPhone went on sale in the USA. It had been introduced in January of 2007 by Steve Jobs but was not received with universal acclaim, despite the hallmark Jobsian hyperbole. This first iteration was clunky, it worked only on 2G networks (when 3G was almost universal in Europe) and lacked basic features we now take for granted, most notably cut and paste. Surprisingly, from our 2017 perspective, the big hurdle the iPhone faced was the lack of a physical keyboard. Blackberry with its trademark keyboard was then riding high and had the business community sewn up. It was a given that a phone without a keyboard could not succeed. 

iPhone No.1 — imperfect, clunky, slow. But it created a revolution in personal communications

Despite having drunk the Cupertino Kool-Aid a couple of years before — and being in full fanboy mode — I was not impressed. I liked the concept but I was not prepared to go back to slowcoach 2G after experiencing 3G on my Palm Treo. I sat on the fence until the following June, 2008, when the altogether more compelling iPhone 3G was announced. 

The rest, as they say, is history. I have no doubt that the iPhone is the most significant mass-market product of the still youthful 21st Century. It ushered in the smartphone age and our relationship with gadgets in general has changed fundamentally. 

To mark the occasion, Asymco has highlighted the story so far — the 1.16 billion iPhones sold in ten years, the one trillion of revenues that the phone will have generated within the next eighteen months (currently it stands at $743 bn). These are massive figures. As Asymco says:

“The iPhone is the best selling product ever, making Apple perhaps the best business ever. Because of the iPhone, Apple has managed to survive to a relatively old age. Not only did it build a device base well over 1 billion it engendered loyalty and satisfaction described only by superlatives.”

For me, the purchase of my first iPhone 3G was a defining moment. Almost within hours it had become indispensable. It was so much more usable (and much more secure) than my previous HP/Compaq or Palm Treo PDAs (personal digital assistants). The making of the iPhone, though, was the later App Store and Apple's reliable and unobtrusive cloud services. For the first time, everything was in sync without running clunky bridge applications and relying on local backups. 

The 2017 iPhone is stronger than ever and the advance of the smartphone shows no sign of slowing. Kirk Burgess on Twitter defined the iPhone as “the Model T of our time” and who could argue? While the smartphone will evolve and, without doubt, be replaced by a completely different communications technology, it already has its place in history. 

Do you agree that the iPhone is the most significant electronic product of the century so far? What would you select in its place?