The term ‘smartphone’ is synonymous today with mobile devices that feature a full size screen and operate on multi-touch, i.e. by our fingers touching the screen, allowing actions like scaling to be executed with two or more fingers. But this was not always the case, as smartphones back in 2007, before the launch of the iPhone, merely combined traditional phone capabilities such as calling and sms messaging with email and some restricted internet access capacities, all operated via the phone’s built-in keyboard or a stylus pen. Since Apple’s launch of the iPhone in 2007, mobile technology has evolved at lightning speed, from network innovations such as 3G and 4G technology, to software innovations such as voice-controlled Assistants like Siri. Looking at all the developments that have taken place, it is credit to Apple’s futureproof innovation that the overall hardware features of touchscreen smartphones have remained very true to the original iPhone ever since its launch. So how have the last ten years and seven generations of iPhones changed the way we work and live?
When the iPhone went on sale on 29 June 2007 for $499, it was for many a device beyond their means—either due to its price or because of unavailability, since most Apple stores had sold out within hours. Today, there are 2.5bn smartphones in the world, with Apple having sold 1bn iPhones since the launch of the first model.
From an enterprise use perspective, iPhones were initially not considered suitable for business use, partly due to investment cost and also the fact that they had to be synced with iTunes, potentially giving employees access to too many ‘media’ privileges. Considering that Apple built the first iPhone directed towards the general consumer, this meant it did not support any enterprise-worthy email exchange or security measures, a factor that would have made exchanging data risky. Apple improved on this with iOS 2 the following year, strengthening the iPhone’s mobile device management (MDM) capabilities, an important factor for businesses looking to invest in the technology. Not only did this version bring some over the air (OTA) management functions for better administration by IT departments, it supported Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync for corporate email, as well as provided new configuration profiles to manage device settings.
The year 2009 brought further advancements relevant to enterprises, such as the ability to encrypt iPhones and restrict their behaviour, both from a configuration and a restricted content perspective. This meant that companies could hand their employees an iPhone, knowing that they would be able to use it in line with company policies and purposes, without the temptation to misuse it. The launch of iOS 3 that year also presented the first time that push notifications were introduced, a feature that has gained in popularity ever since. As mobile signals improved and Wi-Fi became more popular, getting things done remotely became easier and more important. Apple further led the way for mobile device management (MDM) with its release of iOS 4 which, for the first time, enabled users to update and manage devices fully over the air. Another useful feature that was introduced with this release in 2010 was automatic mail syncing while roaming, opening the doors to the high-frequency mobile email exchange rate that we are now used to. iOS 4 was also the first update to finally introduce email attachment encryption, another major step in the right direction for enterprises hesitant to use iPhones for business.
The following six years each brought further improvements to their respective iOS update, either in terms of security or convenience, with TouchID being introduced with iOS 7 in 2013. Since 2011, Apple has offered a volume purchasing programme and a way for developers to distribute apps via the app store to restricted audiences. Both developments were received very favourably by the business community. It enabled companies to take advantage of Apple products without compromising on security, convenience or ease of access, especially when App Transport Security (ATS) was introduced with iOS 9 just over 15 months ago. This means that users who have ATS enabled can be assured that app access to the web takes place via a secure, encrypted HTTPS connection. Security improvements such as this often take place in the background unnoticed, with users often more likely to notice improvements to user experience (UX) and user interface (UI). Today, users of iPhones running on iOS 10 enjoy seamless experiences between multiple Apple devices, from iPhone, to Apple watch, to MacBook. Moreover, Apple’s partnerships with leaders in their respective industries continually ensure that mobile management remains smart, fast and intelligent for developers and end users alike. For enterprises, mobile-led transformation with Apple devices also continues to be supported by Apple mobility partners, of which there are now over 100 in more than 20 countries, a number that is growing as Apple becomes a true competitor to the likes of Microsoft in the enterprise space.
When the iPhone was first released 10 years ago, companies were already realising the value that could be delivered to their business by using mobile phones. Being able to reach employees when they were working remotely, via call or text, seemed like the ultimate convenience, and many managers or directors who were using a Palm or Blackberry device at the time proudly sent emails from their devices too. The release of the first iPhone in 2006 revolutionised not only mobile devices’ capabilities, but also opened up a whole new world of business and commerce, both to businesses and consumers. This manifested itself when Apple opened its App Store to developers in 2008. Suddenly, reaching customers via apps became a possibility. In the months that followed, many brands started developing entertainment and game-related apps to endorse their brands and offer a bit of fun to customers, but this approach soon changed to developing apps that would offer real-value functionality, such as organising or shopping apps. Looking back on 10 years of history, without the iPhone, there might not be approximately 2.5bn smartphones in the world and the estimated 200bn combined app downloads from the App Store and Google Play might never have taken place. The iPhone has revolutionised the way we communicate, work and play for the last 10 years and will hopefully continue to do so for a long time to come.