8 ways Steve Jobs changed the cellphone world 10 years before the iPhone X
On Jan. 9, 2007, Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple Computer, took to the stage at Macworld and told the audience: “We’re gonna make some history together today.” It may have been the most accurate statement he ever made.
The shockwaves from the introduction of the iPhone during that keynote not only redefined Apple, it upended the telecommunications industry, which was just starting to get used to the idea of mobile phones as a primary communications device.
Few entrepreneurial innovators like Jobs come along in a generation. The former Atari game designer started Apple Computer with high school chum Steve Wozniak in his family’s garage in 1976, funding it by the sale of his Volkswagen bus and Wozniak selling his beloved scientific calculator. The rest is history.
Jobs and Wozniak are credited with revolutionizing the computer industry by democratizing technology and making machines smaller, cheaper and easy to use for consumers. The iPhone was a fulfillment of many people’s wishlists for their phones — and it had a few features they didn’t realize they wanted as well. And with the looming rollout of the iPhone 8 and iPhone X, Apple is still looking to change paradigms, as it now fights to distinguish itself from an industry it helped create. Here are some of the biggest, lasting changes for which Jobs’ vision of a smartphone is responsible.
Carriers beefed up their networks
Before the iPhone, people were more interested in voice communications than data reliability. But as data delivery became more and more critical — and customers began to value reliability as much as price — telecom companies AT T, Verizon and Sprint had to invest billions in digital operations. Today those one-time telecom giants are communications and content companies, and data coverage is the chief selling point of many of them in their marketing efforts.
Keyboards faded away
The pre-iPhone days were ruled by Blackberry, the Canadian mobile phone maker, and no one at the time could have imagined a smartphone without a physical keyboard. Today you’d be hard-pressed to find one. It’s the ultimate victory for Jobs’ minimalist style.
“They all have these keyboards that are there whether you need them or not,” said Jobs in 2007. “And they all have these control buttons that are fixed in plastic and are the same for every application. Well, every application wants a slightly different user interface, a slightly optimized set of buttons, just for it. And what happens if you think of a great idea six months from now? You can’t run around and add a button to these things. They’re already shipped.”
People s viewing habits shifted
Jobs probably wasn’t thinking the iPhone would disrupt the television industry in quite the way it did. After all, Apple TV was introduced the same day as the iPhone. But media consumption on mobile devices has skyrocketed. By 2019, forecasts Zenith, the average person will spend 122 minutes on their mobile devices watching videos. That’s just shy of the estimated 164 minutes that will be spent watching TV.
Point-and-shoot cameras became (largely) obsolete
Jobs began his assault on the camera industry by adding cameras to the iPod, but phones are a greater part of people’s day-to-day lives, and the focus soon shifted to bigger and better cameras on the iPhone. Market research firm KeyPoint Intelligence predicts consumers will take 1.2 trillion digital photos worldwide this year, 100 billion more than were taken in 2016. it predicts 85 percent of those will be taken with a smartphone.
Sales of digital cameras, meanwhile, have declined sharply from 121.5 million in 2010 to an estimated 13 million in the first half of 2016, according to the Camera and Imaging Products Association.
Touchscreens became standard
Pinching and zooming are standard practice today, but at the time of the iPhone’s introduction, actions like that were foreign to many people. And some thought Jobs had pushed too far by rejecting tools like the stylus.
“We’re gonna use the best pointing device in the world,” said Jobs. “We’re gonna use a pointing device that we’re all born with — we’re born with 10 of them. We’re gonna use our fingers. We’re gonna touch this with our fingers. And we have invented a new technology, called multitouch, which is phenomenal. It works like magic. You don’t need a stylus. . You can do multifinger gestures on it. And boy, have we patented it.”
While Apple did eventually come out with a stylus (long after Jobs’ death), fingers are the primary method in which we interact with our phones.
Mobile gaming became a viable industry
The gaming industry never really knew what to do with mobile phones before the iPhone. Ports of games like Pac-Man sold fairly well, because the phone’s inputs supported that simplistic game play. But efforts to make a dent, with phones like Nokia’s N-gage, fell flat.
Revenues from mobile games in 2006 hit $2.9 billion, according to Gartner. Last year DFC Intelligence reported that mobile-gaming revenues topped those of PC and console systems for the first time ever, with revenues of $32 billion.
The internet became portable
While earlier smartphones had web-browsing capabilities, it was a suboptimal experience. If you wanted to explore the internet, it was generally done from a PC. Even though few sites were optimized for mobile devices (including Safari, the heart of the first iPhone’s web-browsing experience), the ability to pinch and zoom in that browser made it possible to read the New York Times and shop on Amazon, long before either had gotten around to making an app.
“You know, if you’ve ever used what’s called a web browser on a mobile phone, you’ll know how incredible this is,” said Jobs. “I hope you’ll never really know, because it’s bad out there today.This is a revolution of the first order, to really bring the real internet to your phone. It’s the internet in your pockets for the first time ever.”
Mobile software distribution became centralized
Roughly a year after Jobs unveiled the iPhone, Apple followed up with an announcement that was nearly as important: the App Store. With its release, customers had a centralized location to download software for their phones, rather than having to hunt it down from individual developers (or from relying on carrier-run storefronts). Not everyone was a fan, but it ensured Apple got a cut of every sale and lets Jobs and Apple have a measure of quality control. Since its launch, sales in the App store have topped $28 billion.