Calling it the Godphone might outrage the sensitivities of those truly religious, but there is no denying that the iPhone did turn the tech world on its head. And on the tenth anniversary of its formal unveiling, having used every iPhone since its launch, I look at ten ways in which it changed the phone-y world. No, it was not always for the better. But change it did!
Touchscreen phones, minus stylus!
No, the iPhone did not herald the touchscreen era in smartphones. Palm, Microsoft and even Nokia had touch-friendly UIs before the iPhone came along, but none of them worked as smoothly and speedily as the iPhone’s did. In fact, almost all of its competitors were designed to work with a stylus – something that Jobs mocked famously in his iPhone presentation. The iPhone was the first touchscreen phone that anyone could use with minimum fuss, and without ever having to lug a stylus along.
Pinch (ouch!) to zoom
Before the iPhone came along, zooming into an image or text generally involved double tapping the display or selecting an item from the menu or a magnifying glass and hoping that the software would do what you needed it to. It was a rather erratic process. With the iPhone, however, you could actually “pinch” your fingers to zoom in and out of content, a process that seemed far more intuitive and easy. The “pinch to zoom” is one of the most popular touchscreen device gestures today and it all really became popular with the iPhone.
A successful pursuit of Appiness
Once again, Apple was not first off the mark with downloadable apps – Nokia, Palm and Microsoft had apps for their mobile OS platforms, and one could even go to websites and get Jar files for installing apps on their Java based phones, but with the App Store, the whole process became so much smoother and organised. With the App Store, you had a single, reliable source for accessing appiness and a very good collection of apps too.
OS updates for everyone
Before the iPhone came along, getting a software update on your phone was generally a matter of quashing bugs or tackling problems. Rare was the case when your phone’s OS could be updated to a new version complete with new features – Symbian Series 60 (2nd edition) users could not update their devices to Symbian Series 60 (3rd edition), for instance. All that changed with the arrival of the iPhone, where regular OS updates often with new features and functionality were the rule of the day. Oh and the OS updates were easily accessible and available for all available devices – an art Android is still struggling to master.
SIM card, thy size will change
When the first iPhone came out, people changed SIM cards only when they stopped functioning or when they wanted one with more storage space on it (yes, latecomers, in 2007 people actually saved contacts and messages on SIM cards too!). However, the iPhone changed that trend, introducing new SIM card sizes as it kept trying to slim down and become more efficient – we had micro SIMs and then nano SIMS and users dutifully turned up at operator stores, asking for replacement SIMs. We bet they will the next time around as well.
Saying cheese simply and speedily (yum)
Yes, there were phones with terrific cameras well before the first iPhone came out – the Nokia N95 and Sony’s Sony Cyber-Shot series, to name a couple. But before the first iPhone came along, phone photography was always a slightly complex, laggy process if you wanted to take really good pictures. The iPhone changed all that with its incredibly simple and speedy interface. There have always been phones with cameras that could take better pictures but few can match the sheer consistency and ease of use that the iPhone’s shooter delivers.
Removable battery? What removable battery!
In 2007, a removable battery was almost compulsory in most smartphones. How else would you restart the phone when it inevitably hung (and Symbian and BlackBerry phones hung with the regularity of convicts in Death Row)? So imagine the outcry when Apple released a phone whose battery could never be removed! Apple claimed the iPhone would not hang, and well, it surprisingly did not (it was not a regular event at any rate). The debate between removable and non-removable batteries continues to this day – LG made a big deal of the fact that the battery on its V20 was removable – but thanks to the iPhone, no one gets surprised when a battery is not removable in a phone.
Poverty, thy name is battery life
Cut to 2007 and it was unforgivable if you could not get at least a day and a half’s battery out of your smartphone – our E61i used to go close to two and a half days on a single charge. The iPhone however brought us to the age of “a recharge a day keeps the battery blues away.” Blame it on the fact that you could do more on the device or the fact that the display was larger than most displays and very bright too, but the iPhone paved the way for the portable charger generation!
Specs become ex as experience rules
In a world that seems obsessed with spec sheets and benchmarks, the iPhone has always been a delightful aberration. It stubbornly resisted getting into HD and full HD territory for a while and even today, there is no official information about processor speed, RAM and the mAh count of its battery. That the phone remains the gold standard for its competition is a tribute to its performance, and one of the rare instances of experience trumping specs!
Wanna iPhone? Gimme kidney!
Yes, we know the iPhone did not trigger off the trend for premium priced phones (there were way more expensive phones around when it was launched and even today, there are phones in its price range), but unlike other brands which always had slightly more affordable devices and models around, the iPhone was always unabashedly high-end when it came to pricing.
Oh and one more thing…
Oh yes, we know we were supposed to talk on our phones, but with Siri, Apple made us talk to our iPhones. And quite often with results that were rather hilarious. Everyone poked fun at it. And then started copying it. Sounds familiar?
It has been a great decade, iPhone. Thanks for the blessings and damn and blast you for all the headaches.
Looking forward to more in the coming years.