Apple's iPhone turns 10 in 2017--a look back at the most ground-breaking tech device of our generation, suggests USA TODAY's Jefferson Graham on #TalkingTech.
Steve Jobs at the iPhone launch in January 2007.(Photo: David Paul Morris, Getty Images)
SAN FRANCISCO — Steve Jobs proudly offered one of the first iPhones backstage, beaming as he asked for feedback on Apple's groundbreaking smartphone.
It was a decade ago today, at the Moscone Center here, and Apple's iconic co-founder had a hunch it was about to change computing as we know it. In a sit-down interview with USA TODAY, Jobs made a convincing case, demonstrating how iPhone users could make calls while viewing content on the Web and exchanging e-mail — all at the same time.
"This is a revolutionary product that has the chance to really impact people's lives," Jobs told me, comparing the iPhone to the original Macintosh and iPod. "This is the ultimate digital device."
Jobs unveils long-awaited iPhone - USATODAY.com
Jobs' words proved prophetic.
Analyst Tim Bajarin, who was in the audience that Tuesday morning, was instantly convinced Apple would create a new category in mobile computing. "We had mini computers, desktop computers and now with the iPhone, pocket computers," he recalls. I felt it could be Apple's biggest hit ever."
In the decade since its inception — it was announced in Jan. 9 but did not ship until June 2007 — iPhone redefined the burgeoning smartphone market, kick-started Apple into years of hyper-growth and became the flagship product of the company known for bringing Macintosh to the world. Roughly two-thirds of Apple's revenue comes from iPhone.
Along the way, Apple ushered in the App Store and sold more than 1 billion iPhones, propelling it to a current market value of $628.7 billion.
“iPhone set the standard for mobile computing in its first decade and we are just getting started," Apple CEO Tim Cook said in a statement. "The best is yet to come.”
The rise of iPhone meant the demise of BlackBerry, at one time the leading mobile device, and a reordering of smartphone designs. Samsung was among several vendors to closely hew the iPhone's distinctive design, leading to a years-long legal dispute that ended in the U.S. Supreme Court. (Samsung won.)
“The iPhone completely changed the way businesses connect with their customers. We’ve only scratched the surface in terms of mobile engagement and personalization,” says Localytics CEO Raj Aggarwal, who worked alongside Jobs on the launch of the iPhone.
The FBI also had a keen interest in the phone, and its contents, when it pressed Apple to unlock the iPhone of one of the San Bernardino, Calif., terrorists. Apple declined, sparking a national debate on the security vs. privacy of consumers. (Apple won.)
"The engineering is in the background, so the front end is really easy to use, with just a swipe or a poke of the finger," says Peter Krapp, professor of film & media studies at the University of California, Irvine. “That’s the success of the iPhone and why it’s has been so colonizing over the last decade.”
Not every product is unflappable, however.>
Apple CEO Tim Cook at the iPhone 7 introduction last year. (Photo: Jon Swartz, for USA TODAY)
As the worldwide smartphone market saturated and copycat competition from cheaper models intensified in Asia, iPhone sales slackened the past few quarters, depressing Apple's overall revenue.
Analysts accustomed to blow-out iPhone sales began to scale back their estimates.
Even iPhone, which wowed consumers and corporations with technology such as an all-touch interface; Siri; Touch ID, its fingerprint identity sensor; and dual-lens Portrait photo mode, has been criticized for incremental innovation updates of late.
Indeed, the death of Jobs in October 2011 underscored such sentiment. His passing, for some, symbolized the end of a brilliant decade-long stretch in which Jobs introduced iPod, iPhone and iPad.
But, like Apple and Jobs, iPhone may be in store for a comeback.
Things could change dramatically in September when Apple is expected to unveil the 10th-anniversary iPhone, which could feature a radical redesign and augmented- and virtual-reality features, says Crawford Del Prete, an analyst at market researcher IDC.
"AR and VR would certainly differentiate the iPhone platform to get people excited and jumpstart sales," Del Prete says.
It just might be the kind of evolutionary consumer-electronic blockbuster it was in the beginning.
Just as Jobs predicted 10 years ago today.
Follow USA TODAY San Francisco Bureau Chief Jon Swartz @jswartz on Twitter.
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