Apple iPhone turns 5 today
On June 29, 2007, one phone changed the fortune of several technology giants and shook the entire smartphone industry for good. No points for guessing, which phone we are talking about. Today marks the fifth anniversary of the original iPhone. It did not have the best hardware, it did not have most of the software features that other handset vendors claimed users could not do without and it was expensive to the boot. Yet, five years later it is still defining what users really want, what smartphones should be about and most importantly, a smartphone does not have to be complicated to use. The iPhone has propelled Apple as the largest listed tech company in the world with a market cap abover $500 billion. The iPhone not only single-handed demolished the likes of Nokia, Palm and Research In Motion (all considered pioneers in smartphones) but also spawned the glorious age of applications. Let’s take a stroll down memory lane.
It was MacWorld Expo 2007, January 9 to be precise, when Steve Jobs unveiled the first iPhone. It was nothing like anything anyone had ever seen before. The iPhone had no keypad. It had just one home button under a 3.5-inch glass touchscreen display. Not plastic but glass. It had no stylus and users were expected to use the display with their fingers. Why have a stylus when God had given us ten of them, was Jobs’ logic.
Rival handset vendors were quick to dismiss the iPhone. They pointed out that the iPhone lacked 3G connectivity, expandable memory support, Bluetooth support, file transfer, copy-paste, removable battery… The list was endless. In fact, one handset vendor’s CEO went on to say that they had nothing to fear from the iPhone. “Apple has just one product, we have a portfolio. One size does not fit all, ” used to be his war cry. Others mentioned the lack of a physical keypad – “People want physical keys to type emails. They cannot type on glass,” said another.
It wasn’t as if they were just putting up a brave face while shitting bricks from the inside. In the first few months they really believed the iPhone was destined to fail. They couldn’t have been more wrong. The original iPhone did not have most of the features that most conventional smartphones of 2007 boasted. Instead, it had features that most users would end up using. Apple took away smartphones from early adopters, geeks and corporates and made it cool enough for every one to desire. This changed everything.
Today iOS devices are responsible for more than half of Apple’s revenues. Apple has sold more than 250 million iPhones globally in the last five years earning it $150 billion from sales of the hardware alone. Revenues from accessories and apps are separate. Apple has paid developers in excess of $5 billion by selling their apps. It keeps 30 percent of app sales revenues. You can do the calculation.
On the other hand, early naysayers are paying the price for not waking up to a disruption. Nokia is bleeding and has a market cap below $10 billion making it a potential target for acquisition. On June 29, 2007, Nokia was the world’s largest smartphone vendor. BlackBerry maker RIM is probably breathing its last breath and has seen its market cap below $5 billion. It has failed to respond to the iPhone threat and is no longer the largest smartphone player in the US or Canada.
Almost every player is now copying the iPhone – Gorilla glass has become a standard fixture and so has an all-touchscreen form-factor. Every platform is now talking about apps and it is not very uncommon to find phones with non-removable batteries.
Who could have thought that one phone could change everything. Happy birthday, iPhone!