The year was 2005. iPods were the coolest entertainment devices around. Their sales numbers were hitting the roof, setting new revenue records. Apple was unanimously winning laurels and awards for its technological excellence and innovation. The sailing was more than smooth for the company and the future looked shiny. And yet, one man – wasn’t all that happy.
Steve Jobs, the visionary founder of Apple, had sensed an inevitable immediate threat, Mobile Phones. The mobile technology was evolving rapidly, there was a vast unexplored market and a number of consumer electronic giants were researching in that space. Jobs knew it would not be long before someone developed a software and made the phones double as entertainment devices. And if phones could have music – and not only music but games, internet access and camera – of what use would iPods be?
Thus, with a set of Apple’s best engineers, designers, analysts and thinkers came together to create a product that could change the very idea of phones, even if it would mean potentially killing their own baby, the universally loved ipods.
Apple had been envisioning a touch based tablet device that could replace laptops. An initiative was taken in 2003 and subsequently rapid progresses were made on the multi-touch ability and finger sensitivity. A prototype tablet had two newly developed touch features; inertial scrolling, which allowed the user to swipe at a list on the screen, and in response the list would move based on how fast the swipe was, finally resting with a deceleration as if it had a real inertia and the second feature was called the rubber-band effect. It caused a list to rebound against the screen’s wall when there are no more pages or icons to display. These two features later came to make the iphone.
There was a sketch drawn a year earlier that had a plain rectangle with rounded corners, just a single button on its face – at the bottom center, and there was a glass panel without frames or casing. It is said that that design was inspired by Apple’s first touch phones called ‘Newton pads’ that were manufactured back in 1983. The team made improvements in the sketch and it became the design the world would know iPhones for.
On January 9, 2007, at the Macworld convention, the first announcement for the iPhone was made and on June 29, 2007 the first device was released amidst large media attention and hype. If there were any remaining doubts about the phone’s success, they were eradicated as soon as it was made available for sale. The phone was a huge hit. It was hailed as Time’s Invention of the Year 2007, and sold millions of pieces in the very first year in USA alone and it made all other designs look primitive.
The success story of iphone is the result of the incredible vision and understanding behind its invention, and the amount of work and pace with which that vision was realized. Had Apple not have the foresight to sail into the new waters of mobile phones, had it not decided to reinvent the very idea of phone, had it basked in the glory of ipod’s success, it would never have been the global leader it is today.