Say what you will about the management style of Steve Jobs and the many accounts of his character, behind all the personality quirks was a marketing genius, one that truly understood what would excite the consumer. That was more evident than ever when Apple unveiled its first iPhone model 10 years ago to the day. There was Jobs, on stage at Macworld 2007 in San Francisco excitedly introducing the world to a game changing product.
The iPhone was not the first smartphone on the market, though Jobs used that to his advantage. Using a quadrant separated by two lines, a horizontal one going from "hard to use" to "easy to use" and a vertical line going from "not so smart" to "smart," Jobs helped members of the press and consumers visualize what made the iPhone different from existing mobile devices.
"What we want to do is make a leapfrog product that is way smarter than any mobile device has ever been and super easy to use. This is what iPhone is. We're going to reinvent the phone," Jobs said.
Sadly Jobs passed away well before his time, leaving Apple CEO Tim Cook to fill his shoes. As Apple celebrates a decade of iPhone sales, which to date has surpassed 1 billion units, Cook's message to fans and investors alike is that we have yet to see the best of what the iPhone has to offer.
"iPhone is an essential part of our customers' lives, and today more than ever it is redefining the way we communicate, entertain, work and live," Cook said. "iPhone set the standard for mobile computing in its first decade and we are just getting started. The best is yet to come."
Philip Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of Worldwide marketing, offered up a similar sentiment about the iPhone's future.
"It is amazing that from the very first iPhone through to today's newest iPhone 7 Plus, it has remained the gold standard by which all other smartphones are judged. For many of us, iPhone has become the most essential device in our lives and we love it," Schiller said. "iPhone is how we make voice and FaceTime calls, how we shoot and share Live Photos and 4K videos, how we listen to streaming music, how we use social media, how we play games, how we get directions and find new places, how we pay for things, how we surf the web, do email, manage our contacts and calendars, how we listen to podcasts, watch TV, movies and sports, and how we manage our fitness and health. iPhone has become all of these things and more. And I believe we are just getting started."
The rest of Apple's celebratory press release goes on to highlight the technical bits of the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus along with iOS 10, though looking ahead, Cook and company have a lot of work to do if the best truly is yet to come. There are indicators that customers are bored with the iPhone, or at least with what they perceive as incremental upgrades. The iPhone 7 was criticized for not bringing enough new features to the table, and prior to that, Apple experienced its first sales decline in a decade and a half following a quarter in which it reported its first ever year-over-year drop in iPhone sales. This all led to Cook losing out on $1.5 million in potential bonuses to his salary after ailing to hit certain performance goals.
That is not to say Apple is in major trouble or on the verge of going bust. It's share price is over $119, which works out to a $641.9 billion market cap. But if this is really the beginning for the iPhone, which is a way of saying it will be around for several more decades, Cook and his engineers will have to come up with something better than the usual round of upgrades for each new iteration.