Dear Mr. Jobs:
January 9, 10 years ago at the Macworld convention in San Francisco, you changed the world. You said that “Every once in a while, a revolutionary product comes along that changes everything,” and the iPhone changed everything. Bill Gates had made the digital world personal, hence the personal computer, but you made it universal and mobile.
That first iPhone introduced the classic grid-of-icons layout, the now-ubiquitous single home button and a multitouch screen in place of the PC keyboard. Mere mobile phones that kept the keyboard were left in the dust (along with those very tiny people who could type on it). Remember BlackBerry? BlackBerry ruled the mobile phone market, to the extent that its nickname was Crackberry. The U.S. government even tried to prevent a BlackBerry shutdown, arguing that BlackBerries were essential to running the federal government. Huge companies, with much larger in market capitalization than Apple’s, such as Nokia, lost most of their market share. Gone in a swipe!
Ten years before the United States electorally swiped right, the iPhone introduced the concept of swiping right to turn on. Thanks to this feature and the App Store, countless couples have met by swiping right on services like Tinder. In a time long, long ago, the ubiquitous electronic sound was the dial tone. Today, the ubiquitous electronic sound is the iPhone unlocking. When we first heard that sound, it had a vaguely familiar ring to it. It seemed to evoke a more mechanical past. And in fact, the designer of the slide-to-unlock, Freddy Anzures, took the sound from a recording he had made in high school of his high school book locker opening and unlocking. High school experiences influence us in many ways (see Lynyrd Skynyrd).
The App Store first appeared in 2008, and that iPhone included GPS navigation. By 2010, the iPhone had acquired retina display and a front-facing camera for making FaceTime video calls. And by 2011, with the introduction of Siri, the iPhone developed its capacity to talk back to us. No longer were phones devices that one merely talked into; now they could talk back. The day after the iPhone acquired its artificial intelligence-driven ability to talk to us, you left this analog, carbon-based world for a more digital existence.
The iPhone digital revolution continued. In the old analog days, innovation in the telephone world meant we went from rotary dials to touchtone, from short cords to 30-foot extensions, and from black phones to the Princess. Not so with the iPhone. 2012 saw a major redesign which included a larger 4-inch display and the new Lightning connector. The next year brought us a cheaper version with a polycarbonate shell, the colorful iPhone 5C. That year also brought us the new Apple fingerprint-recognition system and a more powerful operating system.
In mathematics, “i” stands for an imaginary number, but there was nothing imaginary about the changes to the iPhone in 2014. Those changes included going big, with a 4.6-inch, and, later, a 5.5-inch display, new support for mobile payments, and a much-improved camera system. The next year brought improvements that included 3-D touch and live photos. This past year introduced a dual-camera system, making the device water-resistant, dropping the mechanical home button in favor of a fully digital replacement, and finally removing the headphone jack. We will have to wait half a year for the iPhone 8.
It sure beats waiting two years for a Princess telephone. But the iPhone is how we make voice and FaceTime calls. It is how we share streaming video and music, how we use social media, how we play games, how we get directions, how we pay for things, how we surf the web, do our email, manage our contacts and calendars, watch TV and sports. We even manage our fitness and health with it. It has truly revolutionized our world.
The iPhone has also revolutionized Apple (no longer “Computer”) Inc., which is now by market capitalization the largest company in the world. Over 1 billion iPhone units have been sold worldwide. Siri answers 1 billion requests a week. We view our smartphones 150 times a day according to Jane Brody. The iPhone, 10 years old, has become the most essential device in our lives. If you doubt that, try dealing with the sense of panic you feel when you can’t find your iPhone or have to ask someone else to call you so you can, hopefully, find your phone.
In the next 10 years, the artificial intelligence-driven Siri, using “deep learning,” may become smarter than we are, especially so in even-numbered years. We will know that is the case when we catch Siri talking to Alexa. Last month, Princess Leia left to rejoin the Rebel Alliance. She took an iPhone with her.
And so congratulations on the 10-year anniversary, and may digital anniversaries continue.
Vance K. Opperman
Vance K. Opperman (email@example.com) is owner and CEO of MSP Communications, which publishes Twin Cities Business.