- No 3G support
- No corporate email
- No 3rd-party application support, no app store
- No support for corporate phone plans
- No MMS, as one CEO of a rather large phone company stated, “It was not a proper phone, as it had no MMS.” For the record, I have never sent an MMS, but this just shows the thinking of some companies at the time.
But the iPhone had one great feature: it had a compelling user experience. You just picked it up, and it was a joy to use, compared to earlier mobile devices. It may not have had all the features of other phones, but it was, quite simply, the best phone that had ever been available.
The Phones that Time Forgot
In case you have forgotten what the phone world was like pre-iPhone, the phone market could be broken into three areas:
- Blackberries for the corporate world.
- Feature phones for the consumer -- candy bar or flip phone depending on your nationality. Differentiation was in the color, quality, and size of the phone. As one US carrier told me in 2005, US consumers were not willing to pay for phones, resulting in the $0 “plastic fantastic” flip phone.
- Smartphones for the techies. These did not win prizes for ease of use, either having T9 keyboards or restive touch screens with stylus. All of these devices had sub 3-inch screens.
In short these phones did the job, but they were not compelling consumer devices that allowed you to lead your digital life. Other people’s descriptions of these devices maybe less forgiving and less polite.
5 Years of Innovation and Change
The original iPhone has unleashed 5 years of innovation and change in so many areas that it would be impossible to list all of them in this blog, but here are some notable results:
- Your digital life is with you – always. Five years ago, you had to use your home or work PC to access your content, do your on-line shopping, as well as access maps and directions, let alone participate in things such as social media (did social media exists 5 years ago?). Now your digital life is with you always. My 50 Gbyte of audio content is just there in the cloud, and available on my smartphone.
- The apps revolution. Smartphones have completely changed the software ecosystem unleashing new developers and apps, resulting in over 40 billion applications being downloaded.
- Smartphones are no longer a niche techie product. In many markets, smartphones are outselling traditional feature phones.
- Smartphone capabilities have increased rapidly. There’s been a 6x increase in screen resolutions, 15+x increase in your mobile data connection speed, 15x increase in the processor performance in your smartphone, full 1080p support -- and no longer is your smartphone camera “Mr. Blurrycam.” It is your camera (and video camera too).
- A re-energized Silicon Valley. Five years ago, Silicon Valley was a proverbial mobile backwater. Instead, you would go to Japan, Korea, or Europe for mobile innovation. Today, Silicon Valley combined with San Diego, Redmond, and Washington have emerged at the center of mobile innovation. This innovation covers the entire mobile ecosystem from the SoCs in the phone, to applications and services, to the Mobile OS’s and the smartphones themselves.
5 Years of Destruction
In the process of so much innovation and change, companies that did not adapt and tried to do things the old way lost market share … or worse. It is also interesting to look at what categories the smartphone has subsumed including:
- PDAs. Do you even remember those?
- PNDs. Who buys a personal navigation device today?
- MP3 Players and CDs
- Portable DVD players
- Portable video cameras
- Digital cameras
- Portable game players
- And of course, watches
The smartphone has become the digital Swiss Army Knife, and the TSA still allows it on the plane.
The Next 5 Years
What is going to happen in the next 5 years in smartphones is a topic for an entirely different blog. But this rate of change that you have seen in the last 5 years will happen in the next 5 years … and it may even continue to accelerate.
I was going to finish of this blog with a flippant comment that people in the mobile industry who cannot handle this rate of change should go to the PC industry for a quiet life, but then I remembered that the same forces of change that were unleashed on the smartphone industry, are being released on the PC industry.
A tip to those companies in the PC industry who are trying to maintain the old ways (if it is not already too late) -- don’t.
James Bruce, Lead Mobile Strategist, ARM, is based in Silicon Valley. James is without doubt a gadget guy who is continuously looking at the latest devices and services on them. Working for ARM allows James to see what technology will be on your mobile device in 3 to 5 years time. This view of the future combined with being based in Silicon Valley and having worked on mobile for the last 12 years allows James to have a unique view of mobile technology. At the moment James is enjoying the latest quad core CortexTM-A9, quad core MaliTM-400 smartphone, but is waiting impatiently for next years Cortex-A15 phone.
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