The iPhone at 10: The top 10 ways it changed the world forever
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past year, you’ve likely been unable to get away from chatter about the 10th anniversary of the iPhone this month. There’s also plenty of speculation about the revolutionary new features of that milestone device. Here’s a bold prediction: the final announcement is going to be anticlimactic. Why? Partly because there’s a spy a day leaking new information. But mostly because Apple and its smartphone competitors have driven expectations to impossible-to-reach heights through their revolutionary innovations over the past 10 years. With that in mind, here’s one person’s review of the top 10 ways the iPhone has changed the world. Feel free to share anything you think should be included in the comments section.
- It’s the network, stupid. As much as the very first iPhone wowed consumers with what was in their hands, it also finally got them to understand the power of the network. Who remembers the consternation that that device only operated on EDGE (2.5G), because Apple determined that 3G networks—which had been in development for the previous five years—were not sufficiently ubiquitous to provide a consistent quality of experience? Or that lay persons began to speak in terms of Gs for the first time? Or that carriers put their 3G plans into overdrive, and the following year the next iPhone was actually christened 3G?
- The ecosystem approach. First came the App Store, which put the iPhone at the center of a whole new universe, opening up possibilities beyond the historically walled garden, and launching entire businesses. Then came linkage between users, making them parts of each other’s ecosystems in ways that made our devices increasingly indispensable.
- The iPhonization of everything. As consumers experienced the intuitive simplicity of functions on their smartphones, they subconsciously started to expect a similar ease of use from other everyday technologies. Why can’t I just touch the screen? Why can’t I just access my stuff from anywhere? Why can’t I just issue voice commands to my car? And as the number of users rose into the billions, this collective movement has driven seismic changes in technology development across industries.
- Location, location, location. As a parent, Find My iPhone—which maps the locations of all devices under my account—has been a boon many times over. Maps apps continue to get ever more sophisticated. And everyone in one way or another benefits from location services that are made so intuitive that we sometimes don’t even know we’re using them.
- Entertainment on the go. The iPhone evolved from the iPod, with a pit stop at the Motorola ROKR—Apple’s first, failed foray into phones that convinced Steve Jobs that the company had to invent a device on its own terms. And how far that legacy has come. From music to movies, on-device or streaming, smartphones are displacing dedicated players because we’re able to experience entertainment anywhere we want.
- Lights, camera, action! As much as smartphones enable us to consume entertainment, their media production features are even more impressive. There’s a good chance you first had a 4K video camera in your bag or pocket even though you didn’t have a 4K screen to take advantage of it! Apple certainly kicked off an arms race for the best still and video cameras that could fit in the palm of your hand.
- Social media. The nearly effortless process of creating and uploading quality, shareable content has contributed to the rise of social media in our society. Think of what life would be like today if we were tethered to our desktop computers to post to Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat or Twitter. And of course, it’s a virtuous circle as growth and creativity in social media usage drive improvements in successive generations of smartphones.
- Next-generation authentication. If you think about how many services you use that require passwords … that should all be different … and should be changed every so often … you can quickly understand how outmoded traditional authentication methods have become. In contrast, Apple’s Touch ID and competitors’ innovations have shown the way forward. Clunky, leaky first tries have already given way to quicker, more secure versions. And with facial recognition on the way, expect another step change.
- AI-powered assistants. While Siri might have been the first high-profile assistant, it’s been matched and in some cases outpaced by Alexa, Cortana, Google Assistant and others. Although assistants will help experienced smartphone users in incremental ways, their impact on a whole new segment of consumers will be groundbreaking. Billions of people who can’t read or write are now able to use connected devices and cross the digital divide.
- My phone is my life. One of the subtlest yet most pervasive changes in society since the dawn of the iPhone is how integral our smartphones are to our daily lives. Sure, not everyone owns an iPhone, but I’d say that every major smartphone manufacturer follows beats started by Apple, once they saw what was possible. Beyond pure connectivity, smartphones have facilitated extraordinary personalization—through many of the features described above. And as simple as it sounds, hands-down the most revolutionary feature of my smartphone is the Calendar app—it was the first calendar view that allowed me to integrate work, personal and individual family members’ schedules, regardless of source, in a single view so I could finally get on top of my life!