Thought Bubble: iPhone’s 10th Anniversary

June 2, 2017
5 min read

A lot has changed since the Apple iPhone made its debut ten years ago when MTV offered endless hours of music video entertainment; MySpace and Facebook were the social channels of choice; the housing bubble finally burst (big time); Harry Potter-mania peaked with the debut of the seventh (and final) book of the series; and Hillary was running for president (well, some things have stayed the same).

Here, Mintel analysts highlight the impact the iPhone has had on the technology and consumer landscapes since it was released on June 29, 2007.

Billy-Hulkower---CircularBilly Hulkower, Senior Technology Analyst

In the ten years since Apple launched the iPhone, it has seen plenty of competition in the personal mobile phone space, but where it lacks competition is in minting money. The brand’s market cap has been famously compared to the city of Chicago’s GDP, the GDP of Switzerland and the value of the entire Russian stock market. Apple’s cash hoard has even been compared to that of the US federal government.

But even these figures provide a poor estimation of the brand’s earning power, which has been sustained primarily by the iPhone alone. Apple’s operating income of over $60 billion in 2016 was nearly three times that earned by Google or Microsoft, and flies in the face of withering criticism ranging from excessive price points to a lack of innovation and too few products. However, Apple is heading toward becoming the first trillion dollar company in history with a fairy tale story that can be pinned on just a few decisions.

Apple’s success can be attributed to Jonny Ives and Tim Cook, but Steve Jobs remains the face of the brand and a cult icon years after his death. Little quirks, like his black turtlenecks and use of the phrase, “one more thing,” gave him a status more similar to a celebrity than a CEO. A commanding, eccentric showman with unique presentation skills provided a tremendous boon for earned media through interviews and product launches.

Even relatively obscure elements of Apple’s product design have become iconic – the Apple logo may be one of the best known in history. Sound design has created a unique brand experience with the three notes of “158-Marimba” now universally known as the sound of a text being fired off, and the non-diatonic chime of a Mac starting up is likewise a signature sound without peer.

Frequent criticism regarding price points and the brand’s unwillingness to license its software has been lobbed at Apple. Instead, that software became the brand’s moat, and selecting high-price points over volume sales drove the brand to consistently high margins.

Apple’s piece de resistance, however, is its retail stores, with their iconic glass designs offering the feel of a museum where products can be worshiped. Access to Apple “Geniuses” and classes at high-profile locations have moved Apple from a niche brand with a cult-like audience to an aspirational brand with global recognition.

Carli-Gernot---CircularCarli Gernot, Manager of Trends, North America

In the few years before the release of the iPhone, consumers were becoming accustomed to smartphones and having access to the internet in their pockets. However, the introduction of the iPhone marked a turning point in smartphone style, usage and culture.

The iPhone’s wide, flat touchscreen changed the face of what smartphones looked like. Prior to this, candybar style mobile phones, flip phones, phones featuring hidden keyboards and the iconic Blackberry’s wide rectangle were more prominent. Now, it’s nearly impossible to find a smartphone that doesn’t match the iPhone’s simple, flat touchscreen that consumers love to swipe.

The iPhone’s wide, flat touchscreen changed the face of what smartphones looked like

The time before the iPhone coincided with the era before the app. The phrase “there’s an app for that” now feels outdated as smart systems today offer consumers new levels of convenience and connectivity. With the second iteration of the iPhone came the concept of an app store, where users could purchase single-function software bundles or applications that boosted the utility of the iPhone, such as the addition of GPS features.

Nowadays, die-hard iPhone users upgrade to the newest and shiniest model, even if there’s nothing wrong with their current phone. In fact, this is a purchase driver for nearly a quarter of Americans, according to Mintel’s Mobile Phones US 2016 report. Apple has cultivated a club of consumers who are part of the technology family that changed the way we all communicate. It’s a powerful pull and Apple’s cult status has a lot to do with the fact that the iPhone was the device that led the change.

In some sense, “iPhone” is synonymous with “smartphone” and that’s likely because, ten years ago, Apple introduced the phone that changed consumer expectations for mobile devices, delighted them with sleek design and created a standard around which most other innovators have been circling ever since.

Billy Hulkower is a Senior Analyst, Technology and Media, at Mintel. His area of expertise includes consumer electronics, digital entertainment, social networking, digital marketing, pay TV services and online video, with a particular emphasis on cellular services, and mobile hardware and software.

Carli Gernot is the Manager of Trends North America at Mintel. She’s been contributing to the success of Mintel Trends since 2010, spotting trends and shifts in consumer behavior all over the world. Carli is responsible for creating content for global trends, North American and EMEA regions, as well as ensuring that North American consumer trend content is relevant and insightful.

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