It was just five years ago, at the Macworld Conference & Expo in San Francisco, when Steve Jobs would announce the Apple iPhone. It had been rumored, and oft speculated, for a while, but nobody was entirely sure whether or not Jobs would actually be announcing the Apple iPhone at the conference, or just another Apple product.
Still, with bated breath, everyone awaited the arrival of something new. A new product or idea that was so spectacular that it truly epitomize Apple’s ‘Think Different’ slogan.
But with the arrival of the Apple iPhone — despite all of it spectacular qualities like a one of a kind UI — an air of disappointment seemed to wash over the crowd at the Macworld Conference. Certainly, it was a beautiful phone, and people definitely wanted it — it was something new, after all. But did it really do anything different? Did it change the way we think of smart phones?
And initially, it really didn’t. Yes, it was intuitive and it certainly sparked the beginning of what would become a mobile revolution, but without the initial inclusion of the app store, it was just another internet-connected phone. It simply provided us with an extension of the web that we see right now, in a mobile format. And it was expensive — at $500, it would have been difficult to convince anyone that it was ‘worth it’. A spectacular phone, sure, but worthy of 500 of your precious dollar bills?
Then Apple released something, months after the release of the original Apple iPhone, that would change the mobile world for forever and for better. In July of 2008, Apple released the App Store, and development for Apple’s iPhone OS began. Using Apple’s robust development tools for the iPhone OS, developers could create and then distribute their own applications on Apple’s app store. Initially, the brunt of those apps were often simple, silly things like fart apps, and simple, but fun games. Immediately, the app store became rife with simple, easy to develop apps that were intended to make a quick buck in what was, essentially, a gold rush in the world of software development.
But, increasingly,more and more useful applications came about. News reading apps, task management apps, and even financial management apps all joined in on the fun — app development was in full-bloom on the iPhone OS and companies that neglected to take part in the mobile revolution, as it were, would be missing out on a huge opportunity.
In essence, the app store opened up the floodgates for what would become a huge shift in culture for any and all brands that were digitally inclined. No longer were their online marketing budgets constrained solely to the world wide web. Now, brands had to begin thinking about ways in which they could attract mobile users through inventive apps and other intuitive mobile solutions.
And during that same period, there was another revolution going on simultaneously: The social media revolution. Beginning with Facebook, and continuing with Twitter and Foursquare, the social media aspects of our lives had been becoming increasingly more and more prominent and omnipresent. Businesses were quickly hopping on the social media bandwagon, and checking in at locations through Foursquare or Facebook was no longer a strange, uncommon thing to do. Despite the ‘big brother’ concerns of being always connected, people embraced it.
And then our smart phones quickly became more than just mobile devices — they became extensions of ourselves. Through every update, photo and check-in, we were detailing the stories of ourselves. Where the app store got us to start thinking more closely about mobility, app developers and the iPhone OS forced us to consider connectivity and social media as it all related to the world around us.
If Apple’s goal, all along, was to force us to change our perception of the world around us — as their original campaign put it, to ‘Think Different’ – then the Apple iPhone and the iPhone OS stands as a smashing success. It forced us to recognize that phones didn’t necessarily need to rely on old hardware, like keyboards, in order to be successful, and that creating a truly unique mobile experience was the most significant feature that any smart phone could have.
With the iPhone OS, Apple successfully forced us to stop thinking about our mobile devices as just that — mobile devices. Instead, Apple made us consider the things that were within that device — the software, the apps and the experience. Everything else became secondary. ‘Think Different’ we did.