On this day ten years ago, Apple released the first iPhone. Time sure does fly by!
Many columnists today are reflecting on the iPhone’s world changing impact, including Tyler Cowen:
Ten years after the introduction of Apple Inc.’s iPhone, and the broader category of smartphones, it’s worth stepping back to see what we have learned. As with most major technological innovations, it’s brought a number of collateral surprises about the rest of our world.
First, we’ve learned that, even in this age of bits and bytes, materials innovation still matters. The iPhone is behind the scenes a triumph of mining science, with a wide variety of raw materials and about 34 billion kilograms (75 billion pounds) of mined rock as an input to date, as discussed by Brian Merchant in his new and excellent book “The One Device: The Secret History of the iPhone.” A single iPhone has behind it the production of 34 kilos of gold ore, with 20.5 grams (0.72 ounces) of cyanide used to extract the most valuable parts of the gold.
Especially impressive as a material is the smooth touch-screen, and the user’s ability to make things happen by sliding, swiping, zooming and pinching it — the “multitouch” function. That advance relied upon particular materials, as the screen is chemically strengthened, made scrape-resistant and embedded with sensitive sensors. Multitouch wasn’t new, but Apple understood how to build it into a highly useful product.
For me, the most depressing lesson of the iPhone is that most people don’t care about the quality of their cultural inputs as much as I used to think. They do, however, care greatly about sharing culture with their friends (and strangers), and they value the convenience of consuming their culture, arguably to the point of addiction.
Finally, names can be deceiving. The iPhone isn’t fundamentally a phone, even though Steve Jobs himself thought that phone service was the killer app for the product. Instead, it’s an all-purpose communications device, music player, recorder, camera, map, adviser, software distributor and dating-enabler rolled into one. When Siri gets better it will be a companion too. As iPhones and other smartphones became more widespread, the number of phone calls I received declined. No other device has done more to make the phone less necessary. I’ll get your text or email right away.
Maybe that’s what I like about it most of all.
I’m an Android guy and always have been, but I believe I was the first kid in my school to own an iPod Touch, which is essentially an iPhone without the built-in texting and calling. Apple released it around two months after releasing the iPhone.
Steve Jobs had a vision and he revolutionized the world. He’s the perfect example of how a decisive, purpose-driven individual can impact countless lives. He was a creator and a doer, not a consumer and a dreamer.
Further Reading: If you’re a Wall Street Journal subscriber, check out what it’s like to use the first generation iPhone in 2017.