Apple shipped the first iPhone eight years ago today. It was June 29th, 2007. That's not so long ago, and yet it feels like forever because Apple has made this into an iPhone world.
It's easy to take that for granted just how much Apple changed things with the iPhone, even though it has been one of the largest seismic shifts in culture in humanity's history. Billions walk around with the Internet in their pocket, and it's hard to imagine life working in any other way.
Much Has Changed
Let's go back to that day in 2007. Apple had shown us the iPhone during January's Macworld Expo keynote. The original iPhone was touch only. It had no keyboard, and everyone but Apple fans and Google laughed at that. They all knew you had to have a physical keyboard to do anything serious on a mobile device.
I can still remember a Research In Motion Blackberry ad with a douchebro talking up some new model: "And it has a keyboard. Because that's important to me."*
How's that working out for you, bro?
Today, of course, physical keyboards are quaint, a relic of the past before we learned how things should really work. Apple hasn't remained a leader in touch keyboards, of course—Google and the Android community did a much better job of bringing innovation to keyboards than Apple—but it was the iPhone that made virtual keyboards a reality.
There were only a handful of apps on the original iPhone, and few of them were from third party companies. One year later, in July of 2008, Apple launched the App Store, and apps quickly took over the world. They're ubiquitous, and entire niche economies run off them.
Mobile apps and the App Store and Google Play are giant forces in our lives now. Billions take them for granted, just as they take for granted the services, information, and entertainment they can deliver to us with a couple of taps.
The same is true for mobile maps. Portable GPS units were a thing before the iPhone, in both handheld models and devices designed for your car. But iPhone made mobile mapping a daily part of our lives anywhere and everywhere we went.
The biggest change brought about by the iPhone has to be communication. Mobile phones brought us closer together, and basic SMS texting was very disruptive. Both pale in comparison to what the iPhone hath wrought, however. From social networking sites like Facebook to a variety of text and voice services like LINE, WhatsApp, Snapchat and many more, instant-communications are now part of our daily lives in a way that makes it hard to imagine living without.
An iPhone World
It's an iPhone world. Sure, Google Android plays in that world—Android even sells far more units than iPhone. But it's Apple's iPhone that defines our world today. It's iPhone that sets the bar. It's iPhone that has the mindshare. It's iPhone I suspect most people think about when they hear "smartphone."
It's hard to believe this has happened in just eight years, and I don't think anyone thought it would work out this way at that time, not even Steve Jobs and the Apple executives, designers, engineers, and other employees who brought it to life.