On rare occasions, reality measures up to marketing hyperbole. The introduction of Apple's iPhone, on January 9, 2007, proved to be just such an occasion.
Steve Jobs, Apple's co-founder and CEO at the time, said, "iPhone is a revolutionary and magical product that is literally five years ahead of any other mobile phone."
Apple's iPhone really did revolutionize the technology industry. It proved to be phenomenally popular and, with the help of company's iPad in 2010, made Apple one of the most valuable companies in the world. It turned Google, developing its Android operating system at the time, into a competitor and prompted rival hardware makers to design similar devices. It caught Microsoft napping -- seven years later Windows still struggles to gain traction in the mobile market. And it refined popular expectations about software interaction, distribution, and cost.
On September 9, 2014, Apple is expected to introduce its latest iPhone. The device is said to have a larger screen than current models, a feature that has proven popular among those buying Android devices. Apple recognizes that it needs to compete for customers seeking larger screens.
With iPhone 6, or whatever name Apple chooses, the company is also expected to release iOS 8 a, the latest iteration of its mobile operating system. The next version of Apple's desktop operating system, OS X Yosemite, is also expected shortly.
In preparation for the event, here's a look back at some of the most meaningful milestones of the history of the iPhone.
1) iPhone begins, January 9, 2007
Speaking at the Macworld Convention in San Francisco on January 9, 2007, Steve Jobs described three products -- a revolutionary mobile phone, a widescreen iPod, and a breakthrough Internet communications device -- that were one. A video of the event, available on YouTube, shows Jobs at his best. Never mind the Palm Pilot; the smartphone era begins here.
2) iPhone v. Android, October 22, 2008
The original iPhone was released on June 29, 2007. People lined up for hours to get one. Seventy-four days later, on September 10, 2007, Apple said it had sold its one millionth iPhone. About fifteen months after the iPhone debuted, the first Android device hit the market: the HTC Dream, also known as the T-Mobile G1. The race was on.
3) iPhone, now available steeped in blood, May 27, 2010
Following reports of Chinese worker suicides at Foxconn, Apple and other companies using the contract manufacturer, including Dell, HP, Nintendo, and Nokia, promised to investigate. Suddenly, technology labor issues began getting broad media coverage in the US, and Apple, as a focal point of popular interest, offered news organizations a compelling proxy for the sins of the industry.
4) iPhone learns to walk and chew gum at the same time, June 21, 2010
The release of iOS 4 in the summer of 2010 addressed a long-standing issue with Apple's mobile operating system: It added support for multitasking, the ability to run apps in the background while another app is active. This was an important advance for iOS. It reduced the appeal of jailbreaking (for access to multitasking), addressed a competitive advantage of Android, and offered developers access to APIs that depend on multiple apps running at once, including background audio, push notifications, and background location.
5) Antennagate, July 2, 2010
The bloom left Apple's rose in 2010. Following reports of reception issues affecting its iPhone 4, Apple investigated and acknowledged a problem: Not faulty antenna design, as some had proposed, but bad math. "Upon investigation, we were stunned to find that the formula we use to calculate how many bars of signal strength to display is totally wrong," Apple said in an open letter. "Our formula, in many instances, mistakenly displays 2 more bars than it should for a given signal strength." This mea culpa of sorts followed a statement by Steve Jobs that had provoked widespread derision: Asked a week earlier by Ars Technica to explain the apparent reception problems affecting the iPhone 4, Steve Jobs responded, "All phones have sensitive areas. Just avoid holding it in this way."
6) Just kidding, September 9, 2010
Earlier in the year, an update to Apple's developer agreement banned the use of many third-party development tools for iOS apps. It appeared that Apple would no longer accept iOS apps unless they were written in Objective-C, a decision that threatened to keep many developers away from the iOS platform and might have led to regulatory scrutiny. Come September, however, Apple said it was relaxing its restrictions based on developer feedback. The result is abundance of apps in Apple's App Store.
7) Freedon of choice, or something like it, February 3, 2011
AT&T's exclusive relationship with Apple ends when Verizon begins offering the iPhone on its network. Finally, iPhone users had some carrier competition.
8) You've been served, April 15, 2011
Fed up with competitors copying its iPhone, Apple sues Samsung, accusing it of slavishly copying Apple's technology, interface, and design instead of developing its own. Three years later, it would prevail over Samsung in court. But its legal victory accomplished little. The damages it was awarded proved inconsequential, and it failed to win what it really wanted -- an injunction that prevented Samsung from selling its products in the US. Finally, in August 2014, Apple and Samsung called a truce of sorts, agreeing to drop litigation between the two companies outside the US.
9) End of an era, October 5, 2011
Apple co-founder and CEO Steve Jobs dies after a long struggle with pancreatic cancer. Almost three years later under the leadership of Tim Cook, Apple has changed, for the better in many ways. But it has yet to prove that it can come up with a product as consequential as the iPhone.
10) Mapgate, September 19, 2012
With Apple and Google at odds over the licensing of Google Maps data, Apple launches its own Maps app in iOS 6 and begins providing its own backend map data. The result is an embarrassment. Reviewers slam inaccuracies in Apple Maps. Nine days later, Apple CEO Tim Cook publishes a public apology.
11) The purge, October 12, 2012
Apple cleans house, announcing the planned departure of Scott Forstall, SVP of software at the company, and the addition of new responsibilities for executives Jony Ive, Bob Mansfield, Eddy Cue, and Craig Federighi. Reports suggest Forstall was ousted for refusing to sign the apology for the failure of Apple's Maps app. The shakeup underscores Apple's desire to improve its cloud services, which will become increasingly important in future versions of iOS and OS X.
12) Lucky seven, September 18, 2013
Apple's iOS 7 arrives, bringing a major interface overhaul and much needed features like automatic app updates. Two iPhone models arrive two days later, the iPhone 5S and iPhone 5C, the latter representing a more affordable version of Apple's flagship iPhone 5S and a nod to the need for a more diverse mobile product lineup to counter Android's dizzying diversity. Three days after these iPhones debuted, Apple had sold nine million of them -- recall that it took 74 days to sell the first million devices.
That brings us to 2014. Android has the lead, at least in terms of market share. IDC in August said Android in Q2 2014 accounted for 84.7% of worldwide smartphone shipments, iOS accounted for 11.7%, and Windows Phone accounted for 2.5%.
Apple however collects the bulk of the mobile industry's profit. Whether it can keep doing so remains to be seen. Most of the growth in the mobile phone market is coming from Asia where the cost of the iPhone relative to Android devices puts Apple at a disadvantage. At the same time, iOS 8 is fairly compelling, particularly for households with multiple Apple devices. Expect the next iPhone to sell well and to set the stage for a new line of wearable products. If we're lucky, reality will rise to meet the hype.
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