iPhone at 10: A Decade of Dichotomy

Obnoxious, obsessive, offensive.

Addictive and compulsive.

My wife, Debbie, berating me for my smartphone behavior.

And on the tenth anniversary of the iPhone, I know that I’m not alone…nor is she.

But those comments are about my personal behavior and usage habits. Not about the iPhone.

She, as an iPhone user, would tell you how it’s changed her life for the better…while she shakes her head in dismay at how it’s changed mine not always so….

Check out this article from The New York Times from last October…she made me read it…twice:

“Married to Their Smartphones (Oh, and to Each Other, Too)”

And therein lies the dichotomy as we look back and contemplate what hath Apple wrought….

Forbes will help us set the stage:

Jobs stood on stage on January 9, 2007 and unveiled “An iPod. A Phone. And an Internet communicator.” The iPhone was unlike anything that had come before it. It combined a mobile phone and a music player in an easy to use package, leveraging (some might say cannibalizing) the popularity of the iPod. That first iPhone introduced us to the concept of apps and social media on-the-go. Overnight, a new world of sharing (and oversharing) your every moment and meal with your followers became as simple as taking a picture, going to the Facebook for iPhone page in Safari on your iPhone, then resharing…In the decade that’s followed, the iPhone has triggered a societal shift. We are always connected…The iPhone and all the devices it’s inspired in the decade since its inception have gone beyond “convenience” to “lifeline.”

So whether or not you think it was a phone mashed into a player or a camera glommed onto a phone or an artifact from an alien visit to earth, it beat the hell out of Maxwell Smart’s shoe phone, which up until then, according to Mel Brooks, was the ultimate multi-purpose communications device ever thought of…even better than Star Trek….

So did it disrupt? Let’s hold that thought for a moment of reverence for Alexander Graham Bell’s accidental invention and check out a typical analyst response that, in my book, misses the point entirely, published by CNN:

Not all the disruption has been in Apple’s favor. Released a year and a half after the iPhone, Google’s Android mobile operating system has been the biggest competitor to Apple’s iOS. Android phones accounted for 84% of the market in the first quarter of this year, according to Gartner.

Initial disruption is never in the original disruptor’s favor forever – and that’s the point, no? its not real disruption unless everything changes.

And of course the inevitable… “ten years in the market and is slowing” piece not to be confused with “PCs are finished”; “TV is over” and “retail is dead,” from The Economist:

On June 29th 2007 the iPhone first went on sale. Since then Apple has sold some 1.2bn phones and notched up more than $740bn in sales from the bestselling tech gadget in history…. Two-thirds of Apple’s $216bn in sales in 2016 came from the iPhone….

The relentless rise of smartphone ownership is slowing, with around two-fifths of the global population now owning one. Apple is also facing more competition, especially in China (its second most important market after North America) where sales have been declining, lending weight to fears that Apple is experiencing “peak iPhone”.

Frankly, for me, as we commemorate and maybe even celebrate, the following chart from The Wall Street Journal says it all:

Apple Rubiks Cube
And the only question is, 100 years from now, what besides Barbie and Rubik’s Cube (I just gave away my bias here) will still be sold or bartered or gigged or whatever will pass for commercial transaction then? And what will be, at best, a relic of history to be held up as a “Can you believe we used that?”

Enough foundation time to see what people think has changed, been disrupted, up-ended, enhanced, destroyed or enabled:

The Washington Post links change directly to POTUS:

Smartphone-enabled technologies such as Uber have flattened industries and helped usher in a precarious new “gig economy” in which rates, hours and employment altogether are contingent on the whims of others. Constant connectivity has made leaving the office a thing of the past, to the point of normalizing a workweek of 72 hours or more. The easy accessibility of social media means that our president can casually spark an international crisis at any hour of the day or night.

And also to the workforce…good or bad…depending on your need to work.

TIME took a different approach and looked at the impact of ten years on market sectors:

The first industry it upended was the PC market, where Apple’s stroke of genius was to put one in your pocket….

The second industry the iPhone impacted was Telecom companies like AT&T and Verizon….

The third industry the iPhone turned on its head was the movie and TV business.…The iPhone created a mobile platform for video delivery, and since 2007 every major movie and TV studio has been forced to expand their distribution methods to include downloaded and streaming services to mobile devices…

The fourth industry the iPhone impacted has been the gaming industry. Before 2007, most games were either delivered by way of game consoles, a PC or a dedicated handheld device like the Nintendo DS or Sony PlayStation Portable. The iPhone expanded the market for mobile games as well as created an entirely new category of touch-based gameplay…

The iPhone has also impacted the health industry. Today, one can use an iPhone to monitor various health metrics as well as access detailed health information, connecting with health professionals and even receiving health advice virtually anytime and anywhere.

I think it’s safe to say that all of us have felt the changes documented above and experience them daily.

Fox took yet another approach and looked at businesses that have been decimated by smartphone consumer usage:

Smartphones have also laid waste to the camera industry — even as they made photos more relevant than ever. Digital camera shipments fell 80% between 2010 and 2016 to 24 million, according to the Camera & Imaging Products Association. Among the casualties: Eastman Kodak Co., the iconic film company that was already reeling from the onslaught of digital cameras. In 2012, it declared chapter 11 bankruptcy and has reorganized to focus on commercial imaging markets.

Most photos taken today aren’t printed and kept, but tweeted, messaged or posted. That gave rise to the $20 billion-plus IPO in March of Snap Inc., the disappearing-messaging app….

Garmin Ltd.’s navigational device technology was groundbreaking. In 2005, sales of its GPS devices were exploding despite retail prices of $700 and above. Within four months of the introduction of the iPhone, equipped with Google Maps, Garmin had gone from posting record earnings at the end of 2007 to missing expectations in early 2008. Its stock, which was trading around $100 at the end of 2007, had fallen to under $20 a year later.

iPods (we might see a resurgence yet), cameras, navigation devices of all kinds have all felt the power of the onslaught…

And of course, as Market Watch reports, there is this as well:

Matchmaking has gone mobile with apps like Bumble and Tinder and, some say, hook-ups and Starbucks-loving online daters have killed the dinner date. While just 5% of married or committed Americans say they met their significant other online, this type of dating has surged for people of all ages, according to Pew Research data. Today, 27% of people 18 to 24 years old use online dating, up from 10% in 2013, and 12% of 55 to 64 year olds use online dating, compared with 6% in 2013.

So much for one liners and Mom review….

And, there is also a down side to all of this…a warning, much like Debbie’s to me, that cannot be ignored, about our “sanity, productivity and focus,” according to Business Insider:

A study conducted by University of Florida, Michigan State University, and University of Washington researchers suggests that late-night connectedness takes away from productivity the following morning. The more workers checked their phones at night, the less engaged they felt the next day….

“The people we talk with continually said, look, when I really have to concentrate, I turn off everything and I am laser-focused,” Stanford University professor Clifford Nass told NPR. “And unfortunately, they’ve developed habits of mind that make it impossible for them to be laser-focused. They’re suckers for irrelevancy. They just can’t keep on task.”

And that is the story after ten years…a dichotomy of negative and positive…good and bad…business destroyed and business created…business lost and business built…of sharing and siloing…of focus and ADD…

The Wall Street Journal sums it all up like this, in a piece called “Dear iPhone: I Love You. I Hate You” in which its Personal Tech editor asks iPhone owners about their most intense gadget relationship. Some responses:

You’re the important thing I need to attend to during awkward elevator rides with Forgot Her Name from Accounting. You’re also way cooler to fidget with than a cigarette and probably not as dangerous.

I was smitten from the moment I realized, with you in my hand, I could always name the 20th president (provided I have service, of course).

Then I realized I could also no longer get lost, including in places where people speak Finnish. Together, we can always find a 4.5-star coffee or foot massage or Cronut in a three-block radius.

You’ve made it feel safe for me to get in a stranger’s car, and even take candy from him.

Phones protect us from socially awkward elevator encounters.

Because of you, there’s no chance I’ll inadvertently lose touch with family or friends. (Of course, that means most “Seinfeld” episodes no longer make sense.)

You make me want to express myself. In the decade before my first iPhone, I took 39,242 photos. In the decade since, I took 159,154. According to you, 5,407 were selfies, which seems low to be honest.

Without you, my cherished memories would be locked in my
head. It’s hard to imagine climbing a mountain without sharing a 360-degree panorama of it with all my friends—and their own beloved iPhones.

I love you because as soon as I realize that I’m out of Cheez Whiz I can instantly order more Cheez Whiz. Or I can walk into a hip local bookstore and find a cool book, then scan the bar code and buy it for $5 less on Amazon. (Wait, is that wrong?)

I love you because you pacify unruly children at dinner parties. In-app purchases are cheaper than babysitters.

I love you, because I will never again have to purchase bathroom reading material.

Now that you’re waterproof, we don’t ever have to be apart. Ever. Ever.

It’s easy to be critical. Easy to find fault. Easy to talk about slowdowns and loss of market share. And, no doubt, it’s important, on some level, to do that.

But for this Ramble I want to celebrate – finally – Listen:

“An iPod, a phone, and an Internet communicator. An iPod, a phone … Are you getting it?These are not three separate devices, this is one device, and we are calling it iPhone. Today, today Apple is going to reinvent the phone, and here it is.”
Steve Jobs

What do you think?

Excuse me…my iPhone is vibrating…


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