Four years ago today, Apple released the original iPhone. The hype that preceded the release of the so-called “Jesus Phone” was nothing short of staggering.
Analysts, tech blogs and consumers oscillated between hyping the phone as the second-coming or deriding it as much-ado about nothing. In 2007, I was both an Apple fan (I purchased my first iPod in 2002) and a mobile phone fanatic. Still, I had my doubts about the iPhone because of its outlandish price, its carrier lock (and the carrier of choice) and the lack of third-party applications. I thought, OK, the iPhone will probably sell pretty well, but it’s not going to change the mobile phone industry.
The details and investment into the narrative surrounding the iPhone’s launch wasn’t like other tech products — or even other Apple products. It was more like a highly promoted, well publicized and much buzzed about movie. The only question was, would the iPhone be an Ishtar (a highly publicized failure), or a Titanic (surpassing even the most hopeful expectations)?
In four years, the iPhone has utterly transformed the mobile industry. One can debate how much Apple innovated versus refined when it comes to certain features (touchscreens and app stores existed before the iPhone), but when we look at the mobile industry, there is a very clear line between what happened before June 29, 2007, and what happened after. I would argue that every major smartphone that has gone into production since the iPhone’s release has, in some way, been a response to the iPhone itself.
The iPhone not only transformed the mobile industry, but changed Apple as a company. In 2007, Apple was nearly 10 years into a fantastic business turnaround. Propelled by the early success of the iMac and pushed further into the black with the iBook, iPod, iTunes and the transition to Intel processors, the iPhone took Apple into an entirely different direction.
As our lovely infographic showcases, Apple’s stock has nearly tripled over the past four years. The company now has a market cap of more than $300 billion, exceeding that of Microsoft. Apple’s revenues are now higher than Microsoft’s, too — something that would have been a laughable suggestion four years ago.
Four years after the first iPhone was released, a lot has changed in the mobile space. Smartphone adoption has finally gone mainstream. The fortunes of Nokia, RIM and Palm (now HP) have significantly changed. The big leader in the mobile OS space is Android, Google’s open source OS that debuted a year and a half after the original iPhone.
One thing that hasn’t changed (aside from Apple’s aversion to Flash on mobile devices) is the hype and furry that the iPhone still incites in both its supporters and its detractors. Rumors of the iPhone 5 are likely to continue to build throughout the summer, ebbing the hype to the point that all of us will ask, “Can anything really meet these expectations?” Only this time, we know how this story ends.
After all, if the iPhone was Titanic, the iPad was Avatar. Now we just have to wait for the sequels.