It’s been 15 years since Apple released what is arguably its flagship: the iPhone. A decade and a half later, there are few products that have managed to achieve a similar level of brand recognition.
Introduced to an eager audience in 2007, the iPhone revolutionized the way we communicate and even the way we live every day.
The big screen revolution
The iPhone was launched in the United States in June 2007 and in six other countries in November.
From the introduction of the Mac in the 1970s to the iPod in 2001, Apple knew how to engage its audience—and how to encourage an extraordinary level of hype when launching a product.
Early reviews of the iPhone were almost universally glowing, applauding Apple’s attention to detail and style. The only problem reported was with network connectivity – and that was a problem with slow speeds on phone carrier networks rather than the device itself.
That consumers appreciated the iPhone’s style came as no surprise. It indicated an emerging trend towards smartphones with large-format screens (but still reflecting the form of the phone). The Nokia N95 was another such example that hit the market in the same year.
The original iPhone offered wifi, supported 2G EDGE connectivity and had internet download speeds below 500 Kbps (compared to today’s multi Mbps speeds).
It was also limited to 4GB or 8GB models. That may sound pitiful compared to the 1TB options available today, but it’s enough for hundreds of songs or videos and was revolutionary in its day.
Apple assembly line
The iPhone 3G was released worldwide in July 2008, with significantly higher data speeds and the addition of the Apple App Store. Although it only offered 500 apps at launch, the app store marked a significant improvement in the phone’s functionality.
And just as users began to get used to 3G, it was replaced by the 3GS about a year later.
This cycle of regularly pushing out new products has been essential to Apple’s success. By releasing regular updates (either through entire product iterations or a few minor improvements to functionality), Apple has managed to secure an enthusiastic audience eager for new releases every year.
Since older products were often passed down in families, Apple’s product pipeline helped create a multigenerational user base. This pipeline is still in operation today.
New approaches to old ways
The iPhone family has brought improvements in size, speed and storage over its 15-year history. Some of its “new” features weren’t necessarily new to the market, but Apple excelled at delivering them in highly integrated ways that “just worked” (as founder Steve Jobs would say).
In 2013, the iPhone 5S introduced Touch ID, which allowed users to unlock their phones with their fingerprint. While this was first introduced with the Fujitsu F505i back in 2003, Apple has delivered a robust implementation of this feature. Of course, it didn’t take long for enterprising individuals to learn how to bypass the mechanism.
The iPhone 8, released in 2017, brought with it the Face ID feature. This still had weaknesses, but at least it was immune to photo unlocking.
In addition to security, the iPhone series also brought year-over-year improvements in camera technology. While the original model had a paltry 2 megapixel camera, later models had multiple lenses with resolution increased to 12 megapixels – rivaling many digital cameras on the market.
Wireless charging was introduced with the iPhone 8 (although it was preceded by Samsung back in 2011). And the bezel-less design of the iPhone X, launched in 2017, was built on features found in the Sharp Aquos S2 from the same year.
Still, the iPhone was not without problems. When the iPhone 7 was introduced in 2016, the standard 3.5mm headphone jack was removed – and many were not happy.
While customers were initially provided with an adapter to connect their regular headphones, it was only free for about two years. Then it had to be purchased. In 2016, there were signs of an increase in sales of wireless headphones. Perhaps somewhat conveniently, Apple launched its AirPods (wireless Bluetooth headphones) at the same time.
A similar change came in 2020 with the launch of the iPhone 12. Arguing consumers had a large number of spare devices – and perhaps trying to ride the green reuse agenda – Apple removed chargers from unboxing.
Users still received a charging cable, but it was a USB-C to Lightning cable, whereas previous iPhone chargers had a USB-A socket (a standard USB port).
Reasoning that iPhone users would have a box full of old chargers overlooked the fact that none of them are likely to support the newer, faster USB-C cable.
So you could use your old USB-A to lightning cable and charger to charge your brand new phone, but you’d be limited by the slower charging speed.
If the last 15 years are anything to go by, it’s likely that the iPhone will continue to release annual products (as of this writing, many expect the iPhone 14 to be released later this year).
These models will likely bring improvements in speed, weight, battery life, camera resolution and storage capacity. However, we are unlikely to see many of them groundbreaking innovation in the coming years.
The latest iPhones are already highly sophisticated mini computers, which means that there is limited room for major improvements.
Perhaps the most radical change will be the shift from Apple’s proprietary Lightning connection to USB-C charging, thanks to a new European Union directive. And while the common power connector standard is widely seen as a positive step, Apple wasn’t convinced:
We believe that regulations that mandate the harmonization of smartphone chargers would stifle innovation rather than encourage it.
As display technology evolves, Apple may turn to a clamshell phone design with a fully foldable screen.
Samsung has already brought this to the market. But Apple, in reality, will probably wait until the technology (particularly glass) has evolved to deliver an experience in line with what iPhone users expect.
While we can’t predict what the iPhone will look like in another 15 years (although some have tried), it’s likely that demand for Apple products will still exist, fueled by Apple’s strong brand loyalty.
Ismini Vasileiou, Associate Professor of Information Systems, De Montfort University and Paul Haskell-Dowland, Professor of Cyber Security Practice, Edith Cowan University
This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.
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