The iPhone launched in 2007. Its release was sensationalized to the max, and brought in a new dawn for the mobile phone. Whether you’re a die hard Android lover, or Apple hater, you cannot deny the impact that the iPhone had on the smartphone market.
It brought in the first, really thumb-able touch screen, with a simple to use interface. Up until that point every touchscreen device was sold pre-packaged with a stylus. Whether it was a corporate looking grey piece of plastic with the Windows Mobile devices, or the lipstick mimicking stylus of the LG Prada, they all had one. The following incarnation of iPhone, the 3G, saw the opening of the App Store. Why had no one done this before? It made purchasing and developing software so simple, and made it a great user experience. It’s fair to say Apple hasn’t been the game-changer it once was.
Let’s look back 10 or maybe 15 years. I remember being in school when cell phones became popular. Everyone either carried a Nokia 5110 or a some Motorola brick. Mostly though, it was the Nokia – you could change the front cover, and play ‘Snake’. Exchangeable fascias and an addictive game became the reason to own a certain handset. Nokia made phones cool.
Fast forward to 2005, and recall the Nokia N70. I was working in a phone store at the time, and remember this being the first device I ever heard the term “smartphone” used. Smartphones had been released before, but not aimed at the general consumer. It was a new thing. Our store didn’t sell BlackBerry handsets, or HTCs, it didn’t even sell the Sony Ericsson P-series phones – they were far too expensive. People wanted handsets that could play music, take pictures and record video – that was all. The N70 changed it all for us – I remember buying one when it first came out – it was an incredible phone. It was running what was, at the time, a pretty cool software – Symbian. Remember, this is 2005. Browsing the “real” internet was a little slow, but so worth waiting for. It made touchscreen the norm. Who’d have thought that handsets with buttons would become the minority?
Move on to 2007 – the iPhone launch. This is what smartphones should always have been. Instead of creating a phone that only business people wanted to use, Apple put all the high-end features; browsing the internet, touchscreen and email in to a device that could be used by absolutely anyone. Granted, Apple priced everyone out by not subsidizing the first generation – but it was still a massive leap forward from what existed. The App Store and a cheaper price a year later really made the difference, and Apple became a market leader in handset design, and software performance.
Now, however, only 4 years after the original iPhone was launched, we’re in a position where iOS is still the same. The device is being out-specced, out performed and outsold by Android, Google’s aternative OS. Windows Phone 7 and HP/Palm’s WebOS both make iOS look like an old fuddy-duddy. So, what will the future hold for Apple? Look at the state of Nokia now, it has stuck with Symbian, a once market-leading OS – now solely responsible for Nokia’s lack of reputation in the smartphone market. We’re yet to see if the partnership with Microsoft will bear fruit.
Right now, if it hasn’t been done already, Apple needs to take a long, hard look at iOS and rebuild it from the ground up. iOS has been wonderful so far, but it’s time to up the game once again. With iOS 5 Apple has the opportunity to create something “magical”, “innovative” and “revolutionary”. Something which has never been seen before on a handset. My concern: if Apple doesn’t revamp the aging OS now, it may be too late, and the iPhone will turn in to another one of those handsets that had so much potential, but the stubbornness and pride of its creators hindered its growth.
Look at Nokia’s handsets now. The hardware on some of them is unequalled. The Finnish company design some stunning looking phones. The C7 (Astound) and the E7 are two of the best looking devices I’ve ever seen. However, the OS is so poor and outdated, that I’d sooner go back to the 5110 than dirty my hands with a new Symbian device. I would hate to see Apple’s iPhone go this way. So here’s to more innovation – and not resting on your laurels.
What do you guys think? What does Apple need to introduce to safeguard its future? Comment below, or tweet @TiP_Cam