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article imageTen years of the iPhone: The device that started smartphones

By James Walker     Jan 11, 2017 in Technology
The iPhone reached its tenth birthday this week, a milestone not just for Apple but the history of consumer technology. Since its launch, over one billion handsets have been sold, giving rise to millions of apps and a new generation of mobile-based media.
Steve Jobs introduced the very first iPhone on January 9, 2007, at Apple's Macworld conference in San Francisco. Back then, the iPhone was a relatively simple device. Its limitations ranged from the lack of an app store to the inability to customise the background wallpaper.
From the start, Apple designed the iPhone to be a new kind of device. Jobs described it as a three-in-one handheld, combining the iPod's multimedia prowess with the data processing power of a computer and communications facilities of a phone.
The idea quickly caught on, gaining momentum after 2008's App Store launch and then growing exponentially since. Only recently has Apple begun to find it more difficult to shift new hardware, forcing a divergence into new iPhone sizes and styles.
Amid growing analyst uncertainty around the iPhone's future, Apple CEO Tim Cook sought to allay any fears in a statement for the iPhone's tenth anniversary. Cook promised Apple still has more innovation to unveil, claiming the company is "just getting started" on the iPhone concept.
People looking at an iPhone handset
People looking at an iPhone handset
"iPhone is an essential part of our customers' lives, and today more than ever it is redefining the way we communicate, entertain, work and live," Cook said. "iPhone set the standard for mobile computing in its first decade and we are just getting started. The best is yet to come."
In an interview with the BBC, former Apple executive Tony Fadell related how the first iPhone was built. Apple realised that high-speed data networks were the future of mobile connectivity. It also recognised it needed a new design to unlock the advanced functionality that data would deliver.
It developed a variety of interface concepts before settling on the touchscreen form factor, including a bizarrely clunky design that lifted the iPod's interface onto the iPhone. It didn't last long before the company settled on the far more intuitive iPhone Operating System, later to be launched publicly as iOS.
The debate over whether to include a physical keyboard took longer to be settled. Jobs was famously against it, insisting touchscreens were the future. Some engineers and executives were sceptical though. At the time, BlackBerry led the industry with its infamous keyboard-equipped devices. Jobs refused to listen to his critics though. The iPhone ended up being the all-touch experience we know today.
A selection of iPhone handsets
A selection of iPhone handsets
At ten years old, the iPhone has achieved more than anyone could have imagined at its launch. For many people, it’s the most important device in their life, an entertainment portal, personal assistant, fitness tracker, productivity aid and gateway to the wider world.
The iPhone remains the device by which many other flagship smartphones are compared against, the benchmark for what makes a revolutionary computing experience. It's still far from perfect and recent launches have exposed Apple's stagnating innovation. It remains the device that made "smartphone" a household term though.
"It is amazing that from the very first iPhone through to today's newest iPhone 7 Plus, it has remained the gold standard by which all other smartphones are judged," said Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing. "For many of us, iPhone has become the most essential device in our lives and we love it."
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