The iPhone changed tech overnight. Almost 20 years later, nothing else has come close

I vividly remember when Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone on January 9, 2007, a device he called an iPod touch, a cell phone, and an “internet communicator” all in one product. I immediately looked at the Motorola Razr with a burning hatred. Now, with the benefit of hindsight, it’s pretty easy to say that the introduction of the iPhone was the most transformative event in the last 20 years of consumer technology. Although the original model lacked many important aspects, its impact was so immediate and monumental that the history of consumer technology was immediately divided into two eras: PreiPhone and Post iPhone.

Take the personal computer revolution, for example. Moving room-sized computers from research institutes to something the average person could buy and use at home was certainly a big step forward, but there were many inflection points in the 70s, 80s, and 90s that helped usher in modern computing. . In the 70s, the trio of Apple II, Tandy TRS-80 and Commodore PET 2001 represented the first wave, followed by the rise of the IBM PC and Macintosh in the 80s. Back in the 90s, things really got going with the dominance of Microsoft Windows; The arrival of Windows 95 was a particularly transformative moment. In more recent history, the laptop became viable and then dominant in the late 90s and 2000s, changing the way most people think about computing. All of these were events that drove the personal computing market forward, but it’s hard to say that one was more important than the others. It was rather the gradual rise and fall of various technologies that brought us to the modern age.

But the mobile phone market was completely changed by the iPhone, even if it took a few years for the effects to show. For too long, companies like BlackBerry, Palm, and Nokia have stuck to the pre-iPhone concept of a smartphone, focusing on business users and physical keyboards and not significantly improving the software experience. These companies are now gone or irrelevant to mainstream consumers. Palm’s introduction of its own webOS and Microsoft’s acquisition of Nokia to push Windows Phone forward were reasonable efforts to challenge the iPhone, but they were too little, too late. Hardware and software quality were hit or miss in both cases, but the bottom line was that developers never embraced either platform because consumers embraced iPhone and Android so quickly. The best iPhone apps usually never touch these devices, leading to inevitable doom.

On the other hand, Google and Samsung jumped on board with Android almost immediately and quickly reaped the benefits of being an alternative to the iPhone. Android had enough similarities with iOS, but also offered enough differences to capture a new part of the market. This is especially true internationally, where the multiple price points and variety of devices was a huge advantage in markets where most people are put off by the price of Apple products. Given that Android arrived only a few months after Apple launched the iPhone App Store, developers quickly began writing apps for both platforms, giving Android the support it needed. In fact, everyone else either followed in Apple’s footsteps or perished quickly.

It goes without saying that the iPhone changed a number of other businesses as well. From the obvious things like digital cameras, portable gaming devices, and the iPod, single-function gadgets have happened sooner or later. (Also consider what phones have done to clocks, paper calendars, lists, and address books.) In the post-iPhone era, consumer-grade digital cameras and portable music players are extremely niche—the iPhone’s camera is good enough for most people, and the iPhone itself is the iPod. quickly made a cannibal.

Portable gaming systems are enjoying a bit of a resurgence, but the popularity of gaming on a phone anyone can pick up and play is unparalleled. If Nintendo’s Wii made its mark by offering casual gaming, the iPhone and App Store quickly adopted the concept. Both of Call of Duty Mobile and Candy Crush Saga While peaking with around 500 million players Minecraft It is the best selling game of all time with over 300 million copies sold. Most AAA blockbuster titles don’t sell 50 million copies.

Going from that Razr to the iPhone was a breath of fresh air. Watching YouTube and movies I buy through iTunes has changed my plane rides or commutes. Being able to browse real web pages and use a fairly robust email client on the go made me more productive (and started my crippling data addiction). The Touchscreen iPod felt like a futuristic and intuitive way to navigate my music library. It wasn’t until the iPhone 4 in 2010 that Apple really had to focus on the camera and image quality, but that didn’t stop people from taking tons of photos and uploading them to Facebook. Even the 2009 iPhone 3GS took enough respectable stills and video that my photo library began to grow exponentially, and I’m glad I have a lot of these old, grainy shots from the late 20s.

And nearly a year after the first iPhone, the App Store opened the door to what was possible. Games, productivity tools, better messaging apps, social media, streaming music, and everything else we associate with the modern smartphone are quickly emerging. Some people didn’t really think of the first iPhone as a “smartphone” because you couldn’t install third-party apps, and Apple wisely saw the writing on the wall and fixed that glaring mistake.

All of the changes that have occurred since the rise of the iPhone include a good thing is controversial. Having almost unlimited access to the Internet all the time often feels like more than we can handle, and smartphones allow for all kinds of digital abuse. Our privacy has gone out the window as these devices record vast amounts of data about our movements and desires, spending habits and search histories as they try to make money and keep us addicted on behalf of the world’s biggest companies. Steve Jobs almost didn’t have all of this in mind when he took his iPhone out of his pocket in 2007, and technology has moved so fast that we didn’t know what we were getting ourselves into.

The ramifications of all this will take decades to fully play out, and to some extent, many of us are already moving away from the “always-connected, share-everything” mindset that the iPhone launched. For companies like Apple and Google, at least the specter of government regulation from the EU can’t be ignored, although it’s hard to imagine that much will happen to weaken their dominance in the near term. No matter what changes, there’s no doubt that thanks to the iPhone, we live in a world where the most important computer in people’s lives is the computer in their pocket.

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Note Engadget’s 20th Anniversarywe’ve been revisiting products and services that have changed the industry since March 2, 2004.

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