The iPhone is seven years old today – what’s next in mobile phone technology

It’s seven years today since the launch of Apple’s first iPhone and since then it’s brought about new sectors of business, increased connectivity around the globe and forced its competitors to innovate. 

On this day seven years ago (January 9 in the United States), Steve Jobs introduced the first iPhone in a keynote address at the Macworld Conference and Expo in San Francisco.

It wasn’t the first smartphone, it didn’t have the best hardware, but its software and usability quickly made it the dominant phone on the market and Apple challenged the positions of other phone manufacturers and telecommunications companies.

With the introduction of the iPhone, opportunities for businesses emerged which had never before been realised. Social media became pervasive, app businesses emerged and new payment technologies were developed.

When the iPhone launched on the market in November 2007, thousands of people queued around the world to secure their first iPhone. Many of these people are still devout Apple users today.

Telsyte managing director Foad Fadaghi told SmartCompany in the past seven years consumers have adopted smartphone technology at a rapid rate.

“This has created both opportunities and challenges for businesses. On the app side of smartphones, it’s provided a new platform for businesses to sell and interact with customers which is more engaged and it’s also facilitated micro-transactions,” he says.

“But it’s also created additional requirements for businesses to have mobile websites and to actually develop these apps.”

Technology expert Paul Wallbank told SmartCompany the iPhone also challenged the business models of telecommunications companies.

“The iPhone broke down the telco model of trying to lock us into their proprietary applications… Apple went behind the backs of the telcos and they’ve never really forgiven it for it,” he says.

“The iPhone has been a huge thing for business. Apple created an app store and showed businesses they can help drive sales and productivity. It’s helped businesses both as technology consumers and by allowing them to create their own apps to capture further business opportunities.”

Thanks to the rise of the smartphone, driven largely by the success of the iPhone, businesses such as Appster, Smart50 winner Outware Mobile and AppsPro have come to exist.

Businesses have also been forced to up their customer engagement via social media, new banking methods have been developed to allow people to transfer money and monitor their accounts on the go, and increasingly businesses are developing payment technologies which allow people to pay for things like their morning coffee while in transit.

But Wallbank says the best innovation has been the most simple – making business mobile.

“It’s liberated people from the office and automated a lot of field workers systems. At the time the iPhone was released I was running an IT support business and I was struggling to find something which would let my field technicians do their paperwork on the road,” he says.

“Smartphones have changed the way many industries can work with their mobile workers. Before the iPhone, the mobile revolution was stunted by the telcos and companies like Blackberry and Nokia, but Apple opened up the platform.”

Both Fadaghi and Wallbank agree in the next five years smartphones will become integrated with other smart devices.

“What we’ll see is an extension of the smartphone to a number of connected devices and smart accessories. Their functionality will be extended through wearable devices, docking solutions and software which lets it integrate with other devices,” Fadaghi says.

“When it reaches maximum penetration innovation will be around its integration with other devices… There is a pent up demand for Google Glass and these kinds of products at certain price points.”

 Fadaghi says the success of wearable devices will depend on their price.

“Longer term, one thing which will occur is the computing part of the technology will get smaller and smaller. You’ll have the full functionality of a smartphone in wearable devices, SD card-sized computers and smart computing units will be applied in different ways like wearables and sensor type devices.”

Wallbank says the current International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas has shown there will be more integration between smartphones and in-car navigation and entertainment systems, fitness equipment and medical devices.

“Smartphones and tablets are becoming the centre of our digital lives. They’ll be the remote control for everything from home security systems to fitness watches,” he says.

“The trend prior to smartphones was phones getting smaller. I think the form factor of the phones will evolve as we use them. It could go back to tiny phones if we use them to engage with things like Google Glass and smart TVs predominantly.”

Wallbank says just as the motorcar changed the twentieth century, “the smartphone will change the twenty-first”.

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