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The iPhone Turns 4: Measuring its Impact on Technology

In the four short years since the iPhone's inception, the way we build and use technology has drastically changed thanks to its influence. Don't think the iPhone has affected your life? Think again. Here are the top five ways the iPhone has changed the game since it debuted June 29, 2007 ...

Dave Courbanou

June 30, 2011

4 Min Read
The iPhone Turns 4: Measuring its Impact on Technology

In the four short years since the iPhone’s inception, the way we build and use technology has drastically changed thanks to its influence. Don’t think the iPhone has affected your life? Think again.

Here are the top five ways the iPhone has changed the game since it debuted June 29, 2007 …

  1. Android: Once upon a time, Android looked and felt similar to what Research In Motion was offering on its BlackBerry platform. I remember as a college student playing with the Android SDK Simulator, which had been released to the general public. Android, at the time, was clearly a departure from feature phone technology, but also was more approachable than RIM’s technology. If given an early Android prototype (which physically looked a lot like a BlackBerry) most people would have no idea it was running Android. After the iPhone came out, Google retooled Android for touch, and made its true public unveiling in late 2008

  2. Apps: Can you think back to the days of Palm and buying apps? I remember buying apps via a web browser, downloading them, and then syncing them to my Palm IIIc via a COM port. It was a slow and arduous process. Applications tended to be expensive, and free ones were often hit or miss. When Apple introduced the app store in 2008, the idea of using a mobile phone as a development platform truly blossomed. High-quality and inexpensive apps also flourished, making $5 to $9 feature phones games and apps seem like a rip-off. Admit it — we all paid too much for Tetris on the Motorola RAZR.

  3. Multitouch: Touch technology before the iPhone existed in a few forms, but it tended to be resistive touch in consumer-level products. That meant users needed a stylus and a decent amount of pressure to ensure a tap was registered. The iPhone was one of the first (if not the first?) consumer devices with a capacitive touch screen, enabling feather-light taps with fingers. It wasn’t about pressure anymore, it was about making contact with the screen to induce a localized flow of electrons. By using your fingers, multitouch came naturally, and now, Apple-popularized gestures like pinch-and-zoom and two-finger rotating have been adopted everywhere.

  4. Consolidated Device: I carried quite a few devices during high school. I had my iPod, my PocketPC and my cell phone — cell phone for calls and texts, the PocketPC for wireless web browsing and e-mails via Wi-Fi and my iPod for my music. Even though popular cell phones supported some forms of multimedia, from MP3s to taking pictures, the iPhone was truly one of the first devices to make it a ubiquitous and easy-to-use process. Sync with iTunes, and you’re good to go. Not even Microsoft’s ActiveSync worked that smoothly.

  5. Tablets: Following the introduction of the iPad in 2010, it was revealed Apple originally designed iOS as a tablet operating system, but realized it worked just as well with a phone. After seeing how well iOS has been accepted through three iterations and maturation of the iPhone, the iPad was born. Tablet computing before the iPad was an awkward category of computing devices. Half-PC, half-touch screen, these products often were for niche individuals who enjoyed handwriting recognition or had some other obscure use for touching a monitor. Plus, operating systems had never been specifically designed with touch in mind. After the iPad, numerous companies shifted their tablet strategies (HP is a big one),  realizing the paradigm of what people wanted to do — and could do with a tablet — had completely changed.

Here’s a tangential No. 6: Think about the way attitudes regarding consumerization of IT have come about, due in part to the iPhone’s use in the workplace. How has your life been changed or altered by the iPhone? Chime in an let us know. Even if you’re not an Apple fan, you have to admit that the iPhone has shaped many of the technologies you’ve been using in the last four years.

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