10 years on: How the iPhone changed the world

Lynsey Barber
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Steve Jobs Unveils Apple iPhone At MacWorld Expo
Steve Jobs unveiled the first iPhone on 9 January 2007 (Source: Getty)

The iPhone got off to a subdued start when it was first unveiled by Steve Jobs 10 years ago Today.

The decade anniversary of the device feels short and at the same time a lifetime. On 9 January 2007, we had no idea how the pocket sized computer would change our lives and business as we knew it.

One man did, of course, and whether that was just bravado or not, reflecting 10 years later, he turned out to be right. Jobs in trademark black polo neck announced on stage at the MacWorld Expo that the “magical” iPhone would “revolutionise the industry".

The impact of the iPhone is something that WPP’s Sir Martin Sorrell describes as life-changing.

“The impact has been fundamental although Blackberry missed out on a major opportunity. It changed speed, communication (both internal and external) and entertainment - in fact it's a way of life. And we're still in the foothills given virtual reality, artificial intelligence, voice recognition and more,” he said.

In fact, competition in the market, along with the high price, was one concern raised by many and the BBC’s now-technology editor Rory Cellan-Jones at the time, pointed towards “a market where giants like Nokia, Motorola and Samsung are making pretty smart phones”.

There were smartphones before, but the iPhone pioneered its popularity with a completely touch screen device, ushering in the age of second screens and an always on mentality - whether it be shopping, reading the news, planning a journey, getting updates from friends, looking at your finances, telling the time (bye-bye watch), watching a movie, or (unfortunately, perhaps) catching up with email.

Maybe even making a phone call? Let’s be honest that’s unlikely. No wonder on average say Ofcom, we now spend the equivalent of a day a week online.

It’s no longer the iPhone itself, but what it allows us to do.

WATCH: Steve Jobs's keynote announcing the iPhone

Five billion people in the world now have a mobile phone, 2.5bn of them are now smartphones, according to research from Benedict Evans at Andreessen Horowitz. In 2011 smartphone sales overtook that of PCs.

It wasn’t until more than a year after the first iPhone was unveiled that the app store was launched with an, at-the-time astonishing, 500 or so apps which included Facebook and MySpace.

Again, Apple didn’t invent applications, but it made them a household name via an almost magical concoction of seductive image and marketing: remember “there’s an app for that”? By 2010 app had become the word of the year.

“There’s an app for that”

And in tandem with the rise of cloud computing, anyone could quickly, easily and cheaply reach a consumer's palm - and make money from it.

Entire businesses such as Uber, Angry Birds-maker Rovio and Monzo would not exist without Apple ushering in the smartphone age with the seductive iPhone.

New figures from Apple reveal developers earned $20bn from the App Store last year, a rise of 40 per cent on 2015. Total earnings since 2008 now stand at $60bn and the global app economy is forecast to be worth $100bn by 2020, according to App Annie.

WATCH: The first TV ad for the iPhone

The UK’s digital economy now makes up 10 per cent of the UK’s GDP - the largest internet economy in the G20, according to figures from Boston Consulting Group. Official economic figures fail to take account of all the economic benefits of the digital economy, leading MPs have said, “such as time saved, increased, choice and lower cost of production.”

The London Stock Exchange’s James Clark, who is in charge of technology business development, said: “Looking at companies in the FTSE 100 over the 10 year period it’s impossible to miss the sweeping changes that digital has made to virtually entire industry base.”

Any analysis of the changing face of the FTSE over the last decade does not work half as well as those popular charts shared on social media that show how Apple and other tech firms supplanted the likes of General Electric in the US as the biggest companies, he points out.

“Take the finance sector which has comprised 25-30 per cent of FTSE 100 companies over the last decade. Banks have been digitally powered in the back-end for decades now, but in the last 10 years their customer face is almost entirely digital to the point that you now have mobile only banks,” said Clark.

"The real legacy of iPhone has been the consumer at the centre of corporate technology spending."

The world will pass the smartphone tipping point in 2017, eMarketer predicts.

“For the first time, more than half of the world’s mobile phone users 53.1 per cent, according to eMarketer’s estimate - will regularly use a smartphone,” said principal mobile analyst Cathy Boyle.

“Now, more than ever, success for businesses hinges on how quickly they learn and adapt to how smartphones are changing the way people communicate, consume media, engage with brands and shop.”

Find out how City A.M. and others covered the launch of the first iPhone in 2007.

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