10 years of the iPhone

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Steve Jobs at Macworld in San Francisco, 2007

This year, Apple Inc. will celebrate the 10th anniversary of their most popular product: the iPhone. They’ve gone from huge innovative success and engraving their name in the industry to major controversy over some of the latest designs. So, is the “best… yet to come”, as Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO, says?

It’s a summery day in California; girls are on the beach, students in the clubs and there’s a whole load of tech nerds lined up outside one of Apple’s impressive buildings, waiting to listen to a Harvard drop-out in a dated turtleneck announce what is, quite possibly, the most influential item ever released in the technology marketplace. The day is 9 January 2007. The day of the announcement of the first-generation iPhone.

“iPhone is a revolutionary and magical product that is literally five years ahead of any other mobile phone” said Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO. “We are all born with the ultimate pointing device, our fingers, and iPhone uses them to create the most revolutionary user interface since the mouse”. Little did he know that he would change the world with this one simple, yet utterly genius, product. It was leagues above anything else. Technology that was deemed beyond science’s capabilities at the time was being put to test on a mobile handset.

The not-so-brilliant alternative to the iPhone first generation: the Nokia 6280

This was back in the day when the good ol’ Blackberry Pearl stood as the nearest worthy competitor, followed by the nostalgic Nokia 6280 that’s probably lying dormant in one of your cupboards, and whose cousin was recently gracefully resurrected.

This first-generation iPhone was a quantum leap. It had what the other companies could only dream of: a 3.5-inch capacitive touch screen, the iPhone exclusive OS, a 2-megapixel camera and these new apps pre-installed that totally blew away any other kind of concept for mobile phones. All of this was neatly compiled into a half-an-inch thick chunky masterpiece which stood forwards as the prizewinner for phone of the year and set the precedent for all future smartphones.

An astonishing 270,000 of these little £550 gems flew off the shelves into the sweaty, eager and patiently waiting hands of tech geeks in just 30 hours. The total sales to date stand at 6.1 million. Post-release it became clear that competitors were caught with their trousers down and it left them scrambling to achieve the same product, ultimately fuelling the ongoing rivalry between Apple and Samsung that we know today.

Winding forwards to 2010, Apple had released another three phones, namely the iPhone 3, 3G and 4. Rather unsurprisingly, the iPhone was still very much at top of its game and arguably the most desired product on the market. With Blackberry releasing the nifty Bold 9800 and Samsung their Galaxy S (touchscreen), Apple began to face more and more competition.

Four generations of the iPhone

The iPhone 4 was less of a bold statement than the first, with just a couple of new features: a little longer battery life than the Galaxy, similar (but smaller) appealing design as the first generation and boasting the ever-growing App Store with (at the time) over 250,000 apps, among them the highly admirable Angry Birds and the addictive Temple Run.

Not so strikingly, this phone didn’t buck the trend and was also a monumental success for Apple. In fact, it was so hard to improve with the technology available that the only answer to the demand was to create a new, sub-edition of the phone: the iPhone 4S. As per tradition, the then CEO and founder Steve Jobs released it in October. In comparison to the iPhone 4 it had a much faster dual-core A5 chip, the ability to capture 1080p HD videos, 8 hours of 3G talk time and the all-new iOS 5 pre-installed.

Yet again, great masses of this new phone vanished within moments of release, with over 60 million units sold in total. With little marketing effort, this fantastic enterprise of Jobs’ had put him in the three comma club. In fact, it had put him nearer to industry rival, and old mate, Bill Gates — Founder of Microsoft. While sales grew, new, and absolutely genius, adaptations were made to successive iPhones. The hotly-awaited iPhone 5 was released in 2012, with the exceptional features of the 5C and 5S sending tremors throughout the world one year later.

The iPhone 5C as advertised in San Francisco, California

Alone, these two devices boasted technology as ground-breaking as that of the initial launch device. By now it had become fashionable for teens to own a device, which helped sales immensely. And, when I talk about waves produced by this launch, these waves weren’t ripples, they were seismic. Shops sold out across most US stores after just one hour of being released. In order to prevent burglaries, police officers were even hired to guard stores overnight.

Once again, Apple took centre stage on the global marketplace; shares soared, profits rose and new products found their way into Apple stores.

Bringing us forward to where we are now, last year under Tim Cook Apple celebrated an absolutely staggering milestone: they had reached one billion iPhone sales. This brought with it a lot of hype over what the next iPhone would be and Apple brought into the world a bit of a shock, albeit not a good one. It was the first iPhone that wasn’t particularly well-received by critics.

The iPhone 7 brought nothing new in terms of design and what ruined it for some were the changes made to the earphones. Apple had bravely introduced wireless and pretty futuristic so-called “Airpods” which replaced conventional earphones, and they weren’t included with the phone as per usual – in fact, they asked people to dig out £159.99 for them. If they didn’t take your fancy then you had to find money for special earphones that plug into the Apple-exclusive charging port, or use a cumbersome adaptor.

Apple’s latest tactical move was forcing people to purchase overpriced Apple products that some people would rather not have. Perhaps they might see where they’ve gone wrong this time and when it comes to the next iPhone this year it really will be “the best”, as promised by Tim Cook.

We will hold you to your words, Tim.