Apple's iPhone went on sale June 29, 2017 — over 10 years ago — and now it's time for Apple to show off what that decade of innovations has been building up to with the launch of the iPhone 8 and iPhone X.
It was Jan 9., 2007, when then-CEO Steve Jobs took to the stage at San Francisco's Moscone Center to showcase Apple's newest innovation — a touchscreen-based device that Jobs famously billed as a music player, mobile phone and Internet communication device. "These are not three separate devices," Jobs told the Macworld Expo crowd. "This is one device, and we are calling it iPhone." You can see our original iPhone review here.
Since its June 2007 release, the iPhone has become a cultural phenomenon. And it's also been home to some of the most important mobile innovations of the last 10 years. As Jobs promised a decade ago, the iPhone has proven to be more than just a phone — it's a device that's ushered in features that have changed the way we go about our daily lives. Apple might not have been first to deliver some of the features we're outlining here, but it often delivered those capabilities better than the competition. Here's a closer look at some of the innovations popularized by Apple's phone.
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Touchscreens existed before the iPhone was available, but they didn't deliver the same level of features nor the multitouch experience that made mobile devices more accessible to users. So, when the iPhone delivered a slew of multitouch functions, including pinch-to-zoom and a double-tap to zoom in and out, users welcomed the innovation with open arms. A decade later, phones with physical keyboards like the ones you used to find on BlackBerry devices have all but vanished in favor of screens that respond to your every gesture. (And even the phones that cling to keyboards, like the BlackBerry KeyOne, have embraced touchscreens, too.
Before the iPhone's launch, many people carried both a camera and phone with us wherever we went. But with a camera built-in, the iPhone changed that. Now we could bring just one device and capture all the photos we wanted. Better yet, the camera on our phones has improved over the years, introducing new capabilities such as Touch to Focus so you could get the best picture. iPhone camera improvements over the years have included True Tone Flash, introduced with 2013's iPhone 5s, so your images aren't washed out, and 2015's Live Photos that augmented your images with sound and motion. With the iPhone 7 Plus, Apple delivered dual cameras to snap truly impressive portraits.
All of that effort paid off: since 2015, the iPhone has been the world's most popular camera for sharing images at Flickr, after rising up the popular service's rankings in the preceding years.
Apple's decision to create an App Store to the iPhone in 2008 proved a wise addition to the iPhone universe. Soon, developers around the world were creating apps that could dramatically improve the experience of using an iPhone and get more than what Apple offered out of the box. The move also meant people around the world could become app makers themselves, and for years, the breadth and depth of the App Store gave Apple a sizable edge over Google's Android platform. Even today, there are plenty of great apps on the iOS App Store you simply can't find on Android.
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Mobile gaming has dramatically changed the way we play video games on the go. Before the iPhone, we often carried portable devices, like the Nintendo 3DS or before that, the Nintendo DS, to play games. With the iPhone, developers brought their best and brightest titles to Apple's App Store (Infinity Blade was a great example) and started to ignore those old-school portables. Even Nintendo has capitulated and embraced mobile, releasing Super Mario Run to the iPhone first, before eventually bringing it to Android. All the while, the smartphone gaming industry has swelled from $30.4 billion in mobile revenue in 2015 to $36.9 billion in 2016. By 2019, mobile gaming revenue will reach $52.5 billion, according to data from Newzoo. And with iOS 11, mobile games now get their own place of honor in the redesigned App Store app.
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Apple started designing its own mobile processors with the A4 chip that first debuted in the iPad before appearing in 2010's iPhone 4. Subsequent entries in the A-series lineup have kept delivering gains in processing and graphics power. Take the A10 Fusion processor in the iPhone 7. When that phone came out last fall, the A10 easily topped leading Android flagships by a wide margin. (Other chips, like the Huawei-developed Kirin 960, have since bested the A10 in some tests.)
In addition, in 2014 Apple announced Metal, a low-level graphics engine that delivers an outstanding gaming experience for the iPhone. All told, Apple's mobile processors have helped push innovations in mobile computing, giving us ever-more powerful pocket-sized devices.
Photo: Kevork Djansezian / Staff
When Apple Pay was unveiled in 2014 as part of the iPhone 6 launch, mobile payments were anything but popular. That's changed dramatically in the last two-plus years: Apple Pay lets you make purchases in store and online by simply saving your credit card in the system and using the iPhone's Touch ID fingerprint sensor to securely complete a transaction.
While Apple Pay is still fairly young, in 2016, Apple said that it was gaining 1 million new users a week and payment volume was five times greater in 2016 than it was in 2015. And later this year, iOS 11 will add the ability to send money to your friends to Apple Pay's back of tricks.
Other mobile payment platforms may be more widespread — Samsung Pay supports magnetic secure transmission terminals in addition to the near-field communication stations Apple Pay is limited to — but the iPhone deserves credit for popularizing mobile payments.
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Another iPhone touchscreen innovation, 3D Touch has proven handy since it was first introduced in 2015's iPhone 6s update. The feature offers contextual options when you vary the amount of pressure you apply to the smartphone's screen. Using 3D Touch on the Maps app icon, for instance, will help you get access to important features, like local search and directions. It's also available to third-party apps, making 3D Touch a time-saving, quasi-right-click in a touchscreen world.