The iPhone decade

As you grow older, you appreciate—in truth, you are alarmed by—how quickly time passes.

You measure time by events that seem to return all too quickly—your birthday, anniversary, or annual physical.

Even in that context, it’s hard to believe that the iPhone has been around for 10 years.

I remember watching the replay of Apple’s WWDC keynote speech in 2007, when Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone to a large crowd of developers and tech writers. Jobs had a special gift of hyperbole—referred to as the Reality Distortion Field—and he did not disappoint.

Here was a device that would combine a music player, a web browser, and a phone in an attractive package. It included a “huge” 3.5-inch color display powered by a touch interface.

Honestly, I don’t thing it’s hyperbole to say that, at the time, the iPhone was a revolutionary idea. It was a full-fledged computer, for all intents and purposes, that fit in your pocket.

Jobs wowed us, and he knew it. Although he was quoted as saying on more than one occasion that even he didn’t know how big the iPhone was to become.

Playing the long game

Nostalgia is powerful, but looking back, the first iPhone iteration was really an expensive, under-powered device that would be found wanting in a number of areas.

No matter.

The iPhone surely has morphed into a phenomenon, having gone through multiple iterations, each one more refined, more powerful, and, most times, more aesthetically pleasing.

Myself and many friends have been willing participants in the iPhone parade.

We bought the new model or waited for the “S” version. We willingly installed the latest updates. We downloaded all kinds of apps and games, many to be forgotten along the way.

Playing the long game, Apple, with new iPhone releases, modulated between measured refinements and pushing the envelope.

The iPhone 7 models are good examples of that modulation. They weren’t dramatic improvements over their predecessor iPhone 6s models. And the envelope pushing was mostly on the inside with the world’s fastest mobile processor, the A10.

I currently own the iPhone 7 Plus, the larger-screen version, and it is ideal for so many of the computing tasks I find myself involved in on a daily basis. It’s even made my iPad take a back seat, as I less frequently find the need for a larger screen than the one provided on the 7 Plus.

Competitors followed

With the iPhone, Apple established a growing market for smartphones. Competitors inevitably entered the market. Some did ok, and some fell by the wayside.

Source: Getty Images

The most successful competitor, Samsung, managed sometimes to eclipse the iPhone in feature set, size, style, or some other aspect with their new releases.

But no competitor has been nearly as successful in the high-end smartphone market as Apple.

The Cupertino-based company has garnered the vast majority of smartphone profits over the last 10 years. The iPhone turned Apple into the richest company in the world, with coffers holding over $250 billion.

And the iPhone built an ecosystem of component manufacturers, accessory makers, and service providers that has enriched others as well.

Thoughts along the way

At tech-52, I’ve written about the iPhone on multiple occasions. It’s been a phenomenon that is hard to ignore, and which can be viewed from multiple angles—popularity, technology, financial, industrial, this list goes on.

For example, back in November 2014, I wrote about the remarkably capable iPhone 6:

By noon, I had lost Internet connectivity completely. I called my cable company, Charter Communications, but the best they could do was schedule a service appointment for the next day. Weighing my options, I decided that I would have to get ready and head into the office. Although this would waste 90 minutes of my day, what alternative did I have? But then I remembered that my iPhone 6 … offered a Personal Hotspot feature that … uses your cellular data connection to provide a Wi-Fi hotspot for other devices. The personal hotspot alone was a huge benefit, but I also had a conference call that afternoon. I called in as usual on the iPhone, and connected seamlessly. Nonetheless, the hotspot continued working, and I continued to enjoy Internet connectivity as my conference call unfolded. I received and responded to e-mails, and used Google to look up some information that was being discussed during the call. My usual Internet service provider failed me, but with the iPhone, I didn’t miss a beat.

Later in 2014, I wrote about the iPhone as icon:

What I’m talking about is closer to this definition: “a sign (as a word or graphic symbol) whose form suggests its meaning.” iPhones have become so ubiquitous, so familiar, that they are instantly recognizable even by people who don’t own one—particularly when the home screen and apps are visible.

Everywhere I went, I saw people with iPhones, people ranging from teenagers to grandparents. Many were probably not very technical. But they understood the underlying tenets of the iPhone and needed little training to operate the remarkably intuitive device.

In 2014, I wrote about the iPhone as a photographer’s tool and posted a bunch of the better photos that I took with the iPhone 6. Here’s some of what I wrote:

But can you take great photos with a smartphone camera? The short answer is yes. While smartphone cameras vary in their specifications, most recent smartphones have very good cameras. Add to this onboard editing software with filters and other tools, and one can take extremely nice photos with a smartphone camera…The camera on the iPhone 6 is a very good camera. I won’t argue that it’s the best camera you can get on a smartphone, but it takes beautiful photos in good light and not-so-good light, and is ready at a moment’s notice…I can testify to such nifty features as the focus pixels for fast auto focus, face detection, image stabilization, and exposure control. For me, they really have helped to optimize point-and-shoot functionality.

Finally, last October, I took a first look at the iPhone 7 Plus, which is Apple’s latest model (so far). At that time, I wrote:

The iPhone 7 Plus is a remarkable evolution in the iPhone line, offering improvements in virtually every area of the device. The phone is a little lighter and feels a little sturdier than its predecessor, the iPhone 6S Plus, which I had used for the last year…The stereo sound, improved display, better and faster LTE radio, faster and more fluid performance courtesy of the A10 processor and 3MB of memory, and larger storage capacities add up to a world-class device.

Of course, now, the rumor mill is alive with speculation about the iPhone 8, which will be the 10th Anniversary Edition. Every indication is that iPhone 8 will be outfitted with great technology and will be something special.

The following video shows very realistic images developed from leaked CAD drawings, and should give you some indication of what’s coming.

Me, I’m content to wait for the real thing. Watch this space.