How the iPhone changed the world

On 9 januari 2007, Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone on stage at the Macworld conference with the words: “every once in a while, a revolutionary product comes along that changes everything”. Fourteen years later we can only admit that he was right. Why and how did the iPhone change the world?

The first smartphone?

Most people think that the iPhone was revolutionary because it was the first smartphone. The truth is that there were already plenty of other smartphones around at the time. In the last quarter of 2006, before the introduction of the iPhone, 22 million smartphones were sold worldwide. The market leader was Nokia, closely followed by BlackBerry (AppleInsider, 2018).

A lot of doubters

The first iPhone was very different from the iPhones coming out right now. It had a 3.5-inch screen, a 2-megapixel camera and a maximum storage of 16GB. It did not even have an app store, and did not have 3G support, something that some competitors already had (BusinessInsider, 2019). Consequently, it was not crazy that a lot of people did not believe the iPhone was going to be a success. Steve Ballmer, Microsoft CEO at the time, famously said “There’s no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share”. While there was certainly a lot of hype around the product, most people experts thought the iPhone was way too expensive and most competitors laughed at the iPhone (Fortune, 2017).

The great release

On 29 june, the iPhone was finally released for sale at a price of 499 and 599 USD, for devices with 4 and 8 GB storage respectively. The iPhone was sold 1.7 million times in 2017, which was alright but not extremely good (AppleInsider, 2018).While there kept being a lot of critical reviews, everybody agreed on one thing: The iPhone defined a new playing field for the smartphone industry. As a review by David Pogue in The New York Times beautifully puts it: “As it turns out, much of the hype and some of the criticisms are justified. The iPhone is revolutionary; it’s flawed. It’s substance; it’s style. It does things no phone has ever done before; it lacks features found even on the most basic phones.”

Changing the world

The most revolutionary feature in the iPhone was the touchscreen. Almost all the smartphones around at the time did consist of a physical keyboard at the bottom, and a small screen at the top. Apple completely revolutionized the smartphone industry by completely leaving off the physical keyboard and using an on-screen one. While there were some smartphones with touchscreens, these were more of an exception and were only usable with a stylus. Apple not only produced a great functioning screen that was usable with your fingers, it at the same time also introduced multitouch. This was the first time a lot of gestures that are used on every smartphone right now were introduced. For instance: swiping to unlock the phone and pinching to zoom in were both first used on the iPhone (Vox, 2017).

Other features introduced by the iPhone that are widely used right now are automatically switching to landscape mode, built-in YouTube, a mobile internet browser and a glass screen( Vox, 2017) .

In the later versions of the iPhone, Apple continued to push boundaries by introducing unique features, some of them failing, some of them changing smartphones forever. But none of the devices would have such an impact on the world as the original iPhone.

Down below you can watch the video of Jobs announcing the iPhone, a truly groundbreaking event with the perspective we have right now.