The iPhone’s legacy, 10 years later

January 9th, 2017 is a milestone day in the technology world: It’s the 10th anniversary of Apple’s iPhone. Yes, it’s been a full decade since Steve Jobs took to the stage and introduced the device that many credit with defining the modern smartphone. But was it an overnight revolution? Well, no. Despite all the initial hype, the iPhone actually represents a gradual reinvention strung across many years. It wasn’t the first out of the gate with many basic concepts, but its fresh approaches to those concepts helped smartphones escape their niche business-tool status and become the must-have companion devices they are now.

The most conspicuous improvement is the one that’s likely staring you in the face: the touchscreen. While touch-enabled phones were far from a novelty in 2007 (PalmOS and Windows Mobile had supported it for years), Apple was the first to implement a touchscreen you wanted to use. Most touch displays at the time were resistive (pressure-based), with all the precision and sensitivity of a billy club. Complex gestures were out of the question, and you frequently had to use a stylus with interfaces that simply weren’t meant for your fingers. It’s no wonder why many touch-capable phones at the time still had keyboards and directional pads. Why poke at the screen when it was less painful to tap buttons?

The iPhone’s capacitive screen and multi-finger touch interface were revelations in comparison. Not only could you ditch the pen — you could use intuitive gestures like flicks and pinches. You could focus on actually getting things done instead of fighting with controls, and apps like the web browser (which was the first truly full-featured mobile browser, we’d add) were a joy to use. Even in 2007, it was clear to many that large capacitive touchscreens were the future. Most big phone makers started shifting away from resistive displays and physical buttons, and those that were slow to change (BlackBerry and Nokia in particular) wound up struggling. Apple definitely wasn’t alone in spurring the adoption of modern touch: Android helped it take off in a big way, particularly when the Motorola Droid arrived in 2009. The iPhone got the ball rolling, though, and it’s safe to say that the shift toward touch wouldn’t have happened so quickly without Apple’s help.

iPhone Goes On General Sale In Tokyo

It wasn’t just hardware that made a difference, as the iPhone was also crucial to jumpstarting the market for smartphone apps. Mobile software certainly existed before, but the industry was almost hostile to its very existence. You often had to ‘just know’ where to find apps, and those portals that existed either demanded exorbitant royalties from developers or were controlled by carriers eager to exclude apps that competed with their services. Even installation and updates were awkward. It wasn’t uncommon to find smartphone owners who’d never downloaded a third-party app. Why would they when they didn’t know where to go or what to do, and creators frequently shied away?

Enter Apple’s App Store, introduced alongside the iPhone 3G in 2008. It suddenly gave legions of smartphone owners easy access to third-party software. Moreover, the barriers to making and selling those apps were much lower — when there were straightforward tools, better royalties and millions of potential customers, even tiny teams could make blockbuster hits. Mobile apps quickly became much more popular, and in some cases vital. Would social services like Instagram and Snapchat be as big as they are today if the App Store hadn’t made their concepts practical? Would smart homes or wearables exist if you couldn’t easily get the apps that make them work? The app model that the iPhone pioneered made built-in software stores virtually mandatory on smartphones, and those handsets wouldn’t be as dominant as they are today if there weren’t an abundance of apps to fulfill tasks that would otherwise require a PC.

The iPhone hasn’t always changed the game quite so dramatically. In many cases, it was more about nudging technology forward just enough that it became popular. Take video chat, for instance. The concept certainly existed before FaceTime arrived with the iPhone 4 in 2010 (more than a few phones already had front-facing cameras), but it was Apple’s dead-simple approach that made the difference. If you had someone’s phone number, you could start a video call. There were no special carrier fees or complex video conferencing solutions to fight with. While FaceTime didn’t conquer the world the way the App Store or multi-touch screens did, it spurred demand for video chat services and served as the template for extra-simple apps like Google Duo.

Apple CEO Steve Jobs Unveils New iPhone At Developers Conference

You can even argue that some tech wouldn’t have gotten very far without an iPhone boost. Fingerprint readers are the classic examples. Before the iPhone 5s, fingerprint scanners on phones were frequently more trouble than they were worth (ahem, Motorola Atrix). Touch ID simplified it down to a quick and easy tap, and spawned the surge in fingerprint readers you’re seeing in everything from the latest Samsung Galaxy through to the Google Pixel. Recent efforts to get rid of passwords might not be as feasible if fingerprint readers still required multiple swipes.

Mobile payments got a similar bump. There’s no doubt that the iPhone was late to the tap-to-pay party when Google Wallet and other options were available years earlier, but Apple Pay was the first to really get some traction. It didn’t require carrier support, special apps or other convoluted terms — you just had to keep your thumb on your home button while buying your coffee. Android Pay and Samsung Pay certainly do some things better, but there’s little doubt where they got the basic idea for their fingerprint-based shopping.

And let’s not forget voice recognition. Although Google Assistant and Microsoft’s Cortana have clear advantages, it was Siri on the iPhone 4S that kicked off the concept of a built-in AI-powered assistant. Before then, voice commands were primarily restricted to direct, robot-like instructions. The iPhone introduced plain-language questions, contextual answers and other concepts that many take for granted today.

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To be sure, the iPhone has sometimes been (and occasionally, still is) on the trailing edge. It took until 2014 to get an iPhone larger than 4 inches, well after Steve Jobs was convinced nobody would buy one. You can’t use the near-field wireless for anything but payments. You also can’t add removable storage, swap your battery or get a greater-than-1080p screen. And of course, enthusiasts who insist on choice and customization still have a good reason to prefer Android or Windows 10 Mobile.

Even so, it’s evident that the iPhone has created a vast legacy over the past 10 years. One way or another, the smartphone in your pocket owes a small debt to what Apple has done, whether it’s the basic design or a feature you use every day. And the competitive landscape has forever changed. All the rival smartphone platforms from 2007 either died or lost most of their relevance, and you can trace their downfalls back to their inability to adapt to the iPhone’s breakthroughs in a timely way — even if Android was sometimes the one to sound the death knell. The next 10 years probably won’t be nearly as revolutionary given how mature the smartphone market is these days, but that doesn’t diminish the iPhone’s past accomplishments.

Image credits: Kiyoshi Ota/Getty Images; David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images; Reuters/Maxim Zmeyev

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Foxconn exec faces 10 years for stealing 5,700 iPhones

A senior manager at Foxconn, the company that makes Apple’s iPhone handsets, is facing 10 years incarceration after being charged with the theft of 5,700 iPhones valued at nearly $ 1.5 million. According to AsiaOne, the Taiwanese testing department manager, identified only by his family name Tsai, coerced eight of his subordinates to smuggle iPhone 5 and 5Ses out of the Foxconn Shenzhen plant between 2013 and 2014.

Apparently, these phones were designated for testing, rather than sale, which could explain how the gang managed to take so many without tipping off security. However, an internal audit conducted earlier this year outed the group.

Via: Business Insider

Source: AsiaOne

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Samsung’s highest profit in two years comes thanks to the S7

Samsung just had a great quarter, and it’s all because people are snapping up Galaxy S7s. The Korean chaebol has revealed that it’s expecting its second quarter operating profit to reach 8.1 trillion won ($ 7 billion), thanks to its smartphone business. That might be far from the 8.84 trillion won ($ 7.6 billion) operating profit it posted in January 2013, but it’s still around 17 percent higher than last year’s. It’s also the highest in two years since it notched a profit of 8.5 trillion won ($ 7.4 billion) back in the first quarter of 2014. The company expects its revenue to be up by three percent, from 48.5 trillion won ($ 42 billion) to 50 trillion ($ 43 billion), as well.

While Samsung won’t be releasing its detailed earnings until the end of July, Reuters believes the top earner this quarter is none other than the mobile division, which also topped the last one. The news source says the division’s profit could be up 54.5 percent from the same period last year. According to Yonhap News, Samsung shipped out around 15 million S7 and S7 edge units from April to June, with the latter beating out the basic S7 despite being more expensive.

The company hasn’t revealed the total number of phones it sold from April to June yet. Susquehanna Financial Group analyst Mehdi Hosseini told The Wall Street Journal, however, that Samsung might have shipped out around 78 million units. To note, it sold 81.18 million phones in all in the first quarter, mostly because it released the S7 in late March. Clearly, Samsung’s latest flagship device got its smartphone business out of the slump it experienced last year brought about by the iPhone 6. This time around, it’s Cupertino that’s hit a bump on the road, announcing the first ever year-over-year iPhone sales decline in April.

Source: Reuters, Yonhap News, The Wall Street Journal, Samsung

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WSJ: This year’s iPhone won’t feature big changes

If you’re eagerly awaiting a load of new features for this year’s iPhone, you might be a bit disappointed come fall. The Wall Street Journal reports that the upcoming models will offer only modest changes from the current iPhone 6S and 6S Plus rather than a more robust redesign. Apple has been trotting out new designs every two years with the “S” models offering mostly internal tweaks in between. According to WSJ’s sources though, that won’t be the case this year.

WSJ reports that both the 4.7- and 5.5-inch models will return, and they’ll do so without a 3.5mm headphone jack. Rumors have gone back and forth on whether or not Apple will ditch the port entirely, and we’ve even caught a glimpse of alleged iPhone 7 parts that indicate the jack is staying. The rumblings about the company’s preference for Lightning connectivity for headphones began late last year and has been the most discussed tweak for the new models. Nixing the 3.5mm port is said to not only improve the phone’s water resistance, but also allow for a thinner handset.

Apple is planning a massive overhaul for 2017’s 10th anniversary of the iPhone, according to WSJ. Those updates are said to include an edge-to-edge OLED display while nixing the iconic home button entirely. Sources say that the Touch ID security features would be part of the display itself. Of course, that release is well over a year away, so things could change significantly between now and then.

What’s the reason for not having a major update this year? Apple’s coming off its first quarter of sales decline in the iPhone’s history, but WSJ reports that the reason for subtle changes is due to tech that’s currently in the works taking more time to finish. While the iPhone 5S featured the addition of Touch ID, last year’s 6S and 6S Plus focused largely on internals with 3D Touch and improved cameras. Both kept the same overall design as the iPhone 5 and iPhone 6 the year before. Nixing the headphone jack wouldn’t be a small change though, especially if you’ve already invested in a set of wired headphones.

Source: Wall Street Journal

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