Ten years ago, the late Steve Jobs -- bespectacled and black-turtlenecked, as per usual -- took to the stage at the 2007 Macworld convention in San Francisco.
He began his presentation with the amount of modesty you would expect, which is to say, not much. “Every once in awhile, a revolutionary product comes along that changes everything,” he said.
Jobs couched the imminent announcement as one years in the making, the latest in a long line of industry game changers from Apple -- putting it in a family tree with 1984’s Macintosh and 2001’s iPod.
Playing up the drama, he said that the company had made three new products: a widescreen iPod with touch controls, “a revolutionary mobile phone” and “a breakthrough internet communications device.
He repeated himself a few more times as the audience started to get it, finally ramping up to the big finish.
“These are not three separate devices. This is one device,” he said as the cheers started reaching rock concert decibel levels. “And we are calling it … iPhone. Today, Apple is going to reinvent the phone.”
In 2006, the cool kids had phones such as the Motorola RAZR or LG Chocolate. The mobile device of choice for tabloid page regulars such as Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton (were we ever so young?) was a Blackberry. Nokia, Sony, Samsung and the Palm Treo (remember the stylus?) got some play too.
But in 2007, nothing on the market looked quite like the sleek new iPhone. And customers would have to wait from the beginning of January until the end of June, and only if they had AT&T, to get their hands on it.
Apple being Apple, the launch was not without controversy. Shortly after the announcement, Cisco sued the company for trademark infringement over the use of the iPhone name. And while the 8GB model initially retailed for $599, the price dropped to $399 a few months later, which irritated many early adopters, so much so that Jobs personally wrote a letter of acknowledgment and apology. But as that first year drew to a close, the company had sold more than 1.4 million phones.
This year saw the release of the iPhone 7 -- though one of the more memorable things to come out of that announcement might have been the company’s “courageous” removal of the device’s headphone jack. Probably the biggest smartphone news this year other than Samsung’s Note 7 debacle was the launch of Google’s first smartphone, the Pixel.
But even if some of the iPhone’s more recent changes have been on the small side, there is no denying that you know an Apple product when you see one.
I spent an afternoon this holiday weekend in an Apple store surrounded by friendly salespeople in red shirts -- for Christmas instead of the customary blue -- with white Apple logos.
I found myself waiting for the better part of an hour and a half for my 16GB iPhone 5, with its rapidly depleting battery, to be backed up to the iCloud so I could load all my information onto my shiny iPhone 7, with its Apple Pay, water resistance and biometric log-in.
Now, what I learned from this experience is that I need to regularly backup my devices.
But for entrepreneurs who are inspired by Apple’s decade of smartphone dominance, the lessons here are to build consistently evolving products which can act as a showcase for your company’s entire array of work, and to develop a design aesthetic that is uniquely your own.And finally, remember that you aren’t doing customers a favor with the products you create -- you need to always bring them along with you. Competition is everywhere and hype will only get you so far. So it’s incumbent on you to not rest on your past successes and keep innovating.