When Apple unveiled the iPhone in 2007, it was hailed as a groundbreaking device that would redefine the mobile phone industry. Steve Jobs himself referred to it as a “revolutionary product” in need of a complete reinvention. Little did anyone know at the time that this small device would go on to become one of the most popular phones in the world.
The release of the original iPhone in June 2007 was met with mixed reviews. Priced at $499 and exclusively sold with AT&T, initial sales figures were not as promising as investors had hoped. Gene Munster of Deepwater Asset recalls the early days after the launch, stating that “the general sense was that this product, in one investor’s words, was dead on arrival.”
In comparison, Nokia, the industry giant and maker of the iconic Nokia 3310, sold 7.4 million mobile phones in Q4 of the same year. Many believed that Nokia’s dominance would make it challenging for Apple to make a breakthrough in the market.
A Game Changer: The App Store
The turning point for Apple came in 2008 with the introduction of the App Store. This innovation allowed users to enhance the capabilities of their iPhones by downloading and installing a wide range of applications. This concept was revolutionary and caught competitors off guard.
“The App Store allowed your phone to become a lot more,” explains Gene Munster. “That was the piece, that insight, other phone manufacturers didn’t see that coming.” This strategic move by Apple paved the way for a new era of technology companies, including the likes of Uber, and propelled Apple ahead of its competitors.
Riding the Wave of Success
Following the launch of the App Store, Apple experienced a significant increase in iPhone unit sales. The iPhone 4s, released in 2011, played a pivotal role in helping Apple reach a major milestone of 50 million units sold. By the end of that year, Apple had sold a staggering 72 million units. The upward trend continued, with the company surpassing 200 million iPhone unit sales annually by 2015.
Marc Weber from the Computer History Museum acknowledges the iPhone’s impact, stating, “I don’t think there’s any question the iPhone set the standard that really almost all phones have followed since then.” The introduction of the App Store also influenced Android’s Play Store, emphasizing the fundamental shift Apple had brought to the industry.
From Market Cap Milestones to Global Leadership
A decade after its initial release, Apple became the first publicly traded U.S. company to achieve a market capitalization of $1 trillion. Today, it stands as one of the most profitable companies worldwide. Surpassing long-time rival Samsung, Apple now holds over 20% of the global market share, a position Samsung had maintained since 2010.
During the period from 2008 to 2015, Apple faced concerns over Samsung’s use of the Android operating system. However, Gene Munster emphasizes Apple’s prowess in building a robust ecosystem, stating, “I can’t imagine a scenario where Samsung can build a suite of products that is going to disrupt the Apple ecosystem.”
Apple has recently been exploring the realm of machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) for the iPhone. However, Microsoft, Google, and Open AI have been more vocal about their integration of this technology. Gene Munster acknowledges the importance of AI, stating, “AI is going to be critical to humanity, and it’s going to be a critical feature inside of iPhones.”
Currently, Apple uses AI to enhance various functionalities, such as organizing photos and emails. However, Munster believes that there is still untapped potential for the iPhone to fully embrace the capabilities of AI.
Since its humble beginnings, the iPhone has come a long way. From being perceived as “dead on arrival” to becoming an industry leader, Apple’s flagship device has left an indelible mark on the global smartphone market. With continuous innovation and a strong focus on building an ecosystem, Apple has solidified its position at the forefront of technology. As the future unfolds, we can expect the iPhone to continue evolving and shaping the way we interact with our world.