The iPhone turns ten years this year. Scary, right? For ten years we have been at the mercy of this tiny, handheld device, subject to its battery life and its limited Wi-Fi capabilities. Indeed, this device, and its competitors, have become such a fundamental part of our daily lives that an attempt to live without one is, for many, a near-death sentence. It has become an integral part of our self-expression, an extension of both body and mind.
The Personal Computer was just as much a necessity ten years ago as it is now, but to be able to carry something with the array of features the iPhone offered, in a way that was both stylish and durable, was revolutionary. In an instant, the consumer had been presented with a way to rid themselves of the notepad & pen and the laptop in favour of a device which could also make phone calls. In many ways, its introduction into the market, and into society, was not just a milestone for the world of personal technology, but a cultural milestone as well.
The irony here is that, conceptually, not a lot of this was really that revolutionary. The smartphone been in existence for a good number of years before Apple stepped into the arena. The Motorola A760, for example, had been around since 2003, and BlackBerry had overseen a move into the use of the phone as a multitool years prior. Likewise, the Nokia N-Gage had already attempted to take the gaming market by storm in 2003, albeit with extremely poor results, thanks to its poor design and low quality of games. However, where the iPhone did succeed was in design and in name. Apple had, by that point, already established itself as a brand with an aura of premium quality to it, a juggernaut when it came to its status as a statement of wealth and taste. Combined with a user-friendly, if extremely scratch-friendly, touchscreen, one which was far more user-friendly than other more conventional, or perhaps more original, designs out there, and access to an app store which place usability above all else, and its hard to see how it couldn’t have had a hit on its hands.
‘he irony here is that, conceptually, not a lot of this was really that revolutionary’
Its competitors, meanwhile, were still pumping out crudely hybridised variations. Motorola, for example, had attempted to profit off of a flip- one which which possessed a stylus-controlled touchscreen. As such, the design was seen as unfavourable, and the use of a stylus was, to many, the bane of their very existence. By simplifying the design, and ridding the world of the stylus, Apple were able to market themselves as doing the world a favour.
Likewise, Samsung’s online stores were almost impossible to use, and any and all of my attempts to download ringtones were met with failure, as I struggled to get the website to respond to even the simplest of commands. The Apple’s store was streamlined, simplified to the point where even your most Luddite of friends could use it with ease, and filled with official apps to satisfy all of your needs. The meme of “there’s an app for that” carried with it the idea that the iPhone was a universal tool, an almost deific product which represented the very end of history, for portable technology, at least, any person, any app, any time. Fashion met appliance.
‘The Apple’s store was streamlined, simplified to the point where even your most Luddite of friends could use it with ease’
Following the release, our discourse changed. Other phone manufacturers amped up their game to produce devices similar to the iPhone, marketing themselves as playing above and beyond the strengths of Apple, faster processing speed, more responsive touchscreen, you name it. Likewise, upgradable software, made popular by Sony and Nintendo but consumed in name by Apple, became a battleground for tech giants, with Google’s Android coming to dominate most of the remaining market, albeit after several sluggish years of development.
Of course, the contemporary smartphone market is by no means what it was back in 2007. The Apple iPhone’s latest upgrade, although still an event, is becoming less of an event. Their hold on the crown appears to be a temporary one, with many manufacturers capable of producing phones of similar, if not superior, quality. Still, it would be hard to argue that the current crop would be here if wasn’t for the the 29th June 2007.