The iPhone Was Inevitable

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The iPhone launched 10 years ago. The device—and its many, many descendants—is core to how we live. After only a decade, smartphones easily outnumber PCs, despite personal computing’s quarter-century head start. There are 2.5 billion Apple iOS and Android smartphones in use out there, with that number, as analyst Ben Evans puts it, “heading for 5 billion plus users.” PCs never even cracked 2 billion users and are now drifting downwards… More at The Atlantic.

Thanks to Kirk for the link. It’s an old article, but a good one.

5 thoughts on “The iPhone Was Inevitable

  1. You can say that about a lot of things, that they were inevitable. I think it was the combination of technologies and uses that made it such an innovation. And, just by coming into existence, it pushed the whole industry.

    1. Yeah. And even that very first one had such amazing attention to detail – specifically scrolling.

      I guess there was one phone out there with a capacitive touch screen, so maybe that’s where the industry was headed (like w/ OLED now, or whatever) but even the first iPhone made it a joy to use by customizing the hardware to keep up the zippy scrolling… and if you scrolled past what the poor little processor in the phone could “draw”, it would do a gray/white checkerboard so that the critical kinetic feel and predictability of where you are in the long document could be preserved. It harkened back to the early Mac, where the desired interface outstripped the tech running it, and so they required fanatical devotion to design and many, many late nights to make it work – and I don’t know who else could have done that.

      Eventually we’d get there, but it would have taken longer.

      Similar for visual voicemail. By now, voice is far fewer people’s first choice, whether live or these messages. But it took Apple’s muscle to force AT+T to have a back end system that got us away from voice and keypad only message UIs… (heh, ironic that the trend now is to experiment with getting back to voice UIs 😀 )

      Tangent: I was going to point to the final model of Treos as proof that “hey, look, that scrolling amazing stuff wasn’t going to come from Palm, right?” But then I thought about how ahead-of-itself the Palm WebOS (as seen on the Palm Pre) was – that’s where we got stuff like application “card” views etc. So Apple didn’t have an exclusive lock on UI design greatness and aspiration, but still, for 2007, the iPhone was truly special.

      1. There’s the research that goes into proving that something is feasible. Then there’s the technology to make that concept into something practical. Then it’s engineering to put it together with all the other things needed. That assumes that all the things needed are available.

        One could argue that Apple’s genius was to take things that had reached the engineering stage and put them together such that the sum was greater than the whole.

        Steve Jobs said that Apple built the products that they wanted to see, more likely what Steve Jobs wanted to see, as opposed to what they thought the consumer wanted to see. To envision something that doesn’t exist on the consumers’ want list that becomes a must have is true innovation.

  2. Your first paragraph misses out on “design” … “then there’s the design that makes it pleasurable”. And that has been a very strong suit for Apple.

    In modern times – combine that with really living up to the Alan Kay idea that “People who are really serious about software should make their own hardware.”… Apple is one of the very few companies that lives that these days, especially the handheld computer . Samsung et al are content with Android, albeit throwing their own customizations on top. Google just puts it toe into hardware phones. (Switching to larger devices, Microsoft is having some success following Apple w/ the Surface, and is bravely foraging a “one OS as a laptop *or* a tablet but still has that legacy of being the OS that runs on other folks crap hardware.)

    I just read Steven Levy’s “Insanely Great”, about the Mac, its precursors, and its first decade in the world. There’s a lot of inspiring talk about how the Mac was going to break through those Apple II and DOS-commandline ways and empower people, the whole bicycle for the mind thing. And before that there was the whole Alan Kay “Dynabook” concept, Or even “As We May Think” a 1945 essay by Vannevar Bush. But it’s amazing how the 90s and 2000s gave us powerful internet and now these handheld companions, and really fleshing out these dreams in a way we hardly notice. I guess we could be cynical and point to how social media has so dominated our use of these gadgets, but I think there’s still a lot of people using them in wonderful and delightful ways, to retrieve information, and to make and share photos, and a hundred otherways that would wow the socks off of any tech-minded person in the 80s or before.

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