Seven years is a long time in computing. It’s especially a long time in the world of mobile computing. And while the iPhone’s predecessors brought numerous innovations to the nerd masses right up to 2007, the arrival of the iPhone put mobile technology in the hands of millions of non-geeks and immediately accelerated the pace of development for an entire industry.
Yes, the arrival of the iPhone was an astounding event seven years ago, but we forget that not all of that technology arrived at once. Let’s take a stroll down memory lane and see what we now take for granted:
1. GPS navigation
The iPhone got a real GPS chip a year after it was introduced. But then it took four more years before Apple rolled out free turn-by-turn navigation as part of Apple Maps. While they’re still playing map-catch-up (glitches anyone?), at least consumers can now count on any smartphone they buy to have GPS navigation built in.
2. 326 pixels per inch
What can you possibly do with four pixels on the iPhone 4 for every one pixel that was on the iPhone 3GS? You could make your icons ridiculously detailed. You could watch flawless HD video — albeit at less than HD resolution but, hey, your eyes can’t tell the difference on that 4″ screen anyway. Or you can fire up Safari and zoom out and zoom out and zoom out on a page full of text and still read each and every word there.
3. Natural language voice assistant
Siri was a surprise in 2011. Who would’ve thought we’d be speaking to our devices already? It’s incredibly convenient to tell Siri to set an alarm, or give you directions, or send a quick text. That said, while it’s useful enough it’s still not Her. Siri’s not passing the Turing Test any time soon. The Apple engineers weren’t without a sense of humor though — they came up with a couple zingers for canned answers.
4. 1080p video recording
“Don’t tase me, bro.” was _not_ recorded on an iPhone because the iPhone couldn’t record video in 2007. Now? Apple products are the most commonly used device for capturing video and stills. Look no further than the zillions of videos shot in portrait mode and then uploaded to Facebook.
5. Angry Birds
Yes, there were games before Angry Birds, but Rovio proved how compelling the iPhone could be as a gaming platform. Lots and lots of people have a smartphone. Lots and lots of those people are bored at various times during their day. And in the same way that smartphones have made us ditch our point-and-shoot cameras, MP3 players, GPS units, and even our laptops at home, they’ve also made many people leave their 3DSes and PS Vitas at home while creating Candy Crush Saga addicts out of everyone else to fill in those times of the day when we otherwise would be staring into space.
And in a larger sense, this demonstrates the fact that the iPhone is a platform; it’s not just a device with features set by the manufacturer. Pretty much every piece of software ever written for a Mac or PC has a counterpart fulfilling the same function or serving the same category on iOS and/or Android.
Andy Kuan, the author of this post, is CEO of Plum Voice which designs, builds, deploys, and manages communications technology solutions for business.