When the original iPhone arrived in 2007, few people knew it would lay the foundation for the devices we now carry in our pockets each day. As the June 5 date of Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference approaches, all eyes will be focused on whether the tech giant can re-create that impact with its first entirely new product in almost a decade: a head-mounted computer.
The iPhone wasn’t the first smartphone, nor was it the first mobile device to achieve cultural relevance as a status symbol. But it came at just the right moment, and there arguably hasn’t been such a perfectly timed tech product launch since. Re-creating that moment will be challenging, even for Apple.
The tech industry has evolved a lot since 2007, and so has our relationship with technology. Devices like the iPhone and the BlackBerry revolutionized the way we access information and communicate, at a time when the idea of constant internet connectivity was relatively new.
But the biggest new gadgets since then (think smartwatches, wireless earbuds) were initially useful because they untethered us from those phones, helping us better navigate the influx of alerts flowing from them. It took years for the Apple Watch to establish its direction as a health and wellness device, and I suspect it’ll similarly take time for the headset to find its niche.
The arrival of a completely new product — whether it be a smartwatch or a headset — doesn’t feel the same as it did 16 years ago. Nor should it.
For the iPhone, timing was everything
The iPhone debuted at a formative time for personal technology. As the internet became a more integral part of our lives, so did the need to take it with us.
The iPod, BlackBerry phones and other personal digital assistants (better known as PDAs) provided a way to keep us connected on the go as people recognized the need to listen to music, send emails, and manage calendars away from home. Shipments of handheld computers from brands like BlackBerry and Palm rose 18.4% in 2006, according to Gartner data reported by the Associated Press in early 2007, underscoring the demand for mobile access to email and other communications.