iPhone

Happy Birthday Apple iPhone!

Few inventions have had more cultural significance than the launch of the iPhone on June 29, 2007. A whole generation was shaped by it.

There were three possibilities: computer, television, or phone. No one knew, which was going to be the platform for the integrative technology of the future.

Of the three options, the mobile phone was the worse bet. The large size and limited battery life of the 1980 mobile phones [the notorious “Bricks”] made them the least likely possibility. I remember being asked in 1985 when I worked for a futurist company by Motorola engineers whether size mattered in mobile phones. Everyone now knows the answers to these questions.

The smartphone won.

The launch of the iphone celebrated its tenth anniversary on June 29, 2017. Ten years! It’s hard to remember life before iphones.

Cohort research assumes that a defined age group that shares common life experiences, particularly during their formative years, will create a distinctive perspective. There are lots of problems with cohort research, not the least of which is knowing when one cohort starts and another ends. This is a point not lost on millennials, who decry how they are portrayed in this research. When cohort research is applied to wider social descriptions as in typical marketing and business applications—i.e., millennial research—too many variables come into play to be able to derive meaningful conclusions. It is difficult to disaggregate age, cohort, and period effects. Most cohort-based research should be met with skepticism.

That said, if we use for point of discussion the date of millennials as those born between 1980 and 2000, there are social changes that they have experienced together that are remarkable. Here are just some of them:

  • Launch of the IBM personal desktop computer—1981
  • California Task Force to Promote Self-Esteem and Personal Social Responsibility—1986
  • The fragmenting of popular music—1980s
  • The growing acceptance of hooking up—1990s
  • Introduction of digital cable television—1990
  • Launch of the Internet—1991
  • Attack on the World Trade Center—2001
  • Iraq War and the failure to find WMDs—2003
  • Launch of Facebook—2004
  • The first iPhone—2007
  • Wall Street financial collapse—2007
  • First black president—2008
  • Black Lives Matter movement—2013
  • NSA and WikiLeaks—2013
  • Same-sex marriage legalized—2015

Of these few have had more significance than the launch of the iPhone on June 29, 2007. Rani Molla in “Recode,” list ten ways the iPhone has change the world.

  1. iPhone put the Internet in everyone’s pocket.
  2. iPhone changed photography from a hobby to a part of everyday life.
  3. The iPhone App Store changed the way software was created and distributed.
  4. Apps changed everything, creating the on-demand marketplace for companies like Uber.
  5. iPhone changed the way people deal with boredom.
  6. Social media became an obsession.
  7. Attention was shifted away from traditional advertisers and even the mainstreet media.
  8. iPhone transformed Apple’s growth, driving 63 percent of the company’s sales.
  9. iPhone made Apple the world’s most valuable company.
  10. iPhone led to the Android ecosystem.

We now live in a ubiquitous world of instant constant connectivity. The phone in our pocket has altered the nature of relationships and time. We live now in an iphone matrix. Historians will look back at 2007 as a decisive pivot point in the evolution of technology and society. We have all been altered by this evolutionary leap.

Happy Birthday, iPhone! Only time will tell the impact you have had on our generation. Until then, we don’t want to be without you for long.

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John Seel is a cultural renewal entrepreneur and social impact consultant. He works with people and projects that promote human flourishing and the...
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