Connection: The Story of iPhone
Initially a luxury item for the wealthy, it’s now ubiquitous used daily by people of all classes throughout the globe.
On January 9th, 2007, a product was unveiled that would change the world. Initially a luxury item for the wealthy, it’s now ubiquitous used daily by people of all classes throughout the globe. It connects everyone everywhere all the time. In fact, life in the 21st century is almost unimaginable without it. The product is the smartphone, and its unstoppable rise began 15 years ago with the introduction of a new kind of communications device — the apple iPhone.
The iPhone wasn’t the first smartphone. In 1992, IBM had introduced the Simon Personal Communicator, a device that incorporated many of the features we’ve come to expect in a modern smartphone. But it required a stylus to use. Ten years later a Canadian company called Research in Motion released the Blackberry, a mobile communication device that provided access to the world wide web and email. But the iPhone was the first piece of hardware to allow people to talk, text, listen to music, watch video, play games, access the web, and send and receive email using one small sleek attractive device. The man behind the creation of this multifaceted wonder was apple’s visionary founder and Chief Executive Officer Steve Jobs.
Jobs was born in San Francisco, California, in 1955. And he and his business partner, Steve Wozniak, founded Apple Computer in 1976. The company released several unsuccessful computers before achieving a breakthrough with the Macintosh in 1984. The Mac was the first mass-produced computer with a graphical user interface, allowing computer operators to point at icons using a mouse rather than having to enter commands using complicated text.
In the 1990s Jobs began a partnership with an English product designer named Johnny Ive. And this partnership would form the greatest industrial design collaboration of the next 20 years. At most computer companies engineering drove design, and the resulting products were just boxes to hold the hardware necessary to make the product work. But Jobs and Ive reversed the formula so that the design of the product came first, and then engineers had to figure out a way to fit the necessary components into that design.
Jobs and Ive began to work on what they secretly called Project Purple in 2005. Eventually they settled on the name iPhone. According to Jobs, the “I” stood for internet, individual, instruct, inform, and inspire. A great innovation of the iPhone was its elimination of the need for a physical keyboard as on the Blackberry. The iPhone screen could display whatever buttons were needed for a particular task — a typewriter keyboard for entering text, a numerical keyboard for entering phone numbers, or a full screen for web pages, videos, or games. Substituting software for hardware in this way, which is now commonplace, was revolutionary at the time.
In order to achieve this elimination of the keyboard Apple had to develop something called multi-touch — a touch screen that could process multiple inputs at one time,
enabling users to control the phone using gestures. Before the iPhone, touch screens were unable to do this. Cell phone screens at the time were made of plastic, but in order to create the multi-touch screen Apple used a special glass developed by Corning called Gorilla Glass that was strong enough to withstand the daily use of phone controlled completely by touch would need. An entire Corning factory in Harrisburg, Kentucky was converted so that it could produce Gorilla Glass just for the iPhone full time.
The hardware of the iPhone now includes not only this touch screen but also a proximity sensor, an ambient light sensor, an accelerometer, a gyroscopic sensor, a magnetometer, a barometer, a fingerprint sensor, and a facial recognition sensor. But when it was first introduced it was the software of the iPhone that truly made it stand above its competitors.
Before the introduction of the iPhone, cell phones were cheap disposable products basically intended to lock users into subscribing to a certain mobile provider’s service. But because Apple maintained complete control over the design and manufacture of their phone, they and not the carrier could dictate the additional functions their phone could offer. The phone came bundled with a set of applications developed by Apple. But in 2008 the company released a software development kit so that third-party developers could create unique applications for the phone. The Apple App store was launched on July 11, 2008, and as of 2017 there were over 2 million apps available for the iPhone, which have been downloaded over 140 billion times and we are calling it iPhone.
Jobs formally introduced the iPhone to the public on January 9, 2007, at the Mac World Convention in San Francisco. Time magazine declared it the invention of the year. At its launch many thought that the phone priced at $500 was too expensive, but the company sold 6.1 million iPhone in its first five quarters of sales, and by 2008 Apple was the third largest mobile phone manufacturer in the world by revenue, surpassed only by Nokia and Samsung. By 2011 apple had sold 100 million iPhone worldwide and on July 27, 2016, Apple announced that they had sold their 1 billionth iPhone. Apple is now the most valuable company on earth with a valuation of over 3 trillion, more than the GDP of 96% of all countries in the world.
The advent of the iPhone created a new world where every individual had access to the internet, everywhere, all the time. The iPhone and its many imitators allow us to communicate, work, play, shop, and share no matter our location. Thanks to the visionary foresight of Steve jobs and the design genius of Johnny Ive, we now live in a world where humans are more connected to information and each other than at any previous time in human history.