Five Years In

John Gruber, on the iPhone five years in:

But that’s not what it was. It was the world’s best portable computer. Best not in the sense of being the most powerful, or the fastest, or the most-efficient to use. The thing couldn’t even do copy-and-paste. It was the best because it was always there, always on, always just a button-push away. The disruption was not that we now finally had a nice phone; it was that, for better or for worse, we would now never again be without a computer or the Internet. It was the Mac side of Apple, not the iPod side, that set the engineering foundation for the iPhone.

What’s happened over the last five years shows not that Apple disrupted the phone handset industry, but rather that Apple destroyed the handset industry — by disrupting the computer industry. Today, cell phones are apps, not devices. The companies that were the most successful at selling cell phones pre-iPhone are now dead or dying. Amazon, Google, and now even Microsoft are designing and selling their own integrated touchscreen portable tablets. “App” is now a household word.

All of this, because of the iPhone.

Solid analysis, as usual, by Gruber.

In my experience, I barely use my iPhone as a phone -- most of my communication with others is done via text message. In fact, that I so infrequently make phone calls means I’m able to get by (comfortably) on just 450 minutes per month.

The reality is my phone isn’t really my phone. It’s effectiively my pocket iPad: I use it to text, check social media and email, create notes in Drafts, and listen to podcasts/music. My usage pattern likely isn’t much different than most people with smartphones these days. This is exactly what Gruber’s talking about. When Steve Jobs said Apple was going to “reinvent the phone”, he didn’t mean just make a nicer cellphone. The iPhone was a transformative, revolutionary device that forever changed the way people view and use their phones. And lest we forget what they did to the handset market: brokering a deal with AT&T, without AT&T ever having seen the phone and never having a hand in any part of the product’s design or marketing. That Apple was able to do these things could arguably be viewed as more disruptive than the iPhone itself. Before 2007, no one pushed the carriers around.