Mobility

iPhone: Best and worst features of the past 10 years

The iPhone has changed the way millions of users connect, communicate, and work. Some its features were revolutionary, while others, not so much. Erik Eckel explores the iPhone's hits and misses.

The iPhone will go down in history as one of the most revolutionary tech devices that significantly changed the way millions of workers fulfill their daily professional responsibilities. Since its introduction in January 2007, Apple has sold more than 1 billion iPhones.

Much of the iPhone's success was fueled by its many innovative features, but a few hiccups occurred, too. Here's my list of the iPhone's best and worst features to date.

SEE: Gallery: The iPhone's journey to its 10-year anniversary (TechRepublic)

The iPhone's best features

The introduction of multiple touch gestures, included with the very first iPhone, immediately separated Apple's smartphone from most competitors. The multi-touch screen featured an on-screen keyboard and the ability to perform different tasks depending upon the gesture (such as pinching fingers apart to enlarge a menu or an image). While not necessarily a unique technology, Apple's implementation proved to be so well designed and intuitive that millions flocked to the device.

Built-in GPS and location services, included with the second-generation iPhone, the 3G, debuted in June 2008. GPS, 3G, and tri-band UMTS/HSDPA support enabled the iPhone to make relevant use of the user's location, thereby enabling turn-by-turn navigation instructions, localized weather forecasts, improved Maps operation capable of displaying nearby accommodations and attractions, and a host of additional new location-based features, including tagging photos and social media posts with the user's location. Built-in GPS and location services proved another best feature that changed the way mobile employees interacted with the software and found their way to client sites, among other functions.

Also introduced with the iPhone 3G was the App Store, Apple's new method for tracking, downloading, and updating approved third-party software applications and licenses. The innovation changed the way business users purchase, deploy, and track software, including through Apple's Volume Purchase Program. Ultimately, Microsoft would follow suit with its own Windows-integrated store.

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Apple began making it easier for its users to make payments as well, including outside the App Store, with the introduction of Apple Pay. The mobile payment and digital wallet solution was compatible with the iPhone 6 and newer devices. The integration of an NFC chip made secure local payments possible, including everywhere from McDonald's and Starbucks to airlines.

The iPhone 5s' Touch ID proved to be another impressive feature that made it easy for Apple users to unlock their iPhone using just their finger. In addition, the Touch ID feature permits Apple users to authorize purchases using their fingerprint, eliminating the need to enter additional authentication information, passwords, or codes. It's one more way that Apple has made it easier for iPhone users to more easily perform common, everyday actions.

SEE: The enterprise iPhone: Improvements in Apple iOS over the last 10 years (ZDNet)

iPhone 10's Raise to Wake feature, in which the screen displays upon raising the phone, saving the user the trouble of having to tap the display, is another smart feature that, upon first glance, doesn't seem that innovative. But use an iPhone repeatedly throughout the day to check email, messages, voice mail, stocks, and other news and information, and the feature quickly begins saving numerous repetitive, and now needless, gestures and movements. Ergonomists, certainly, approve.

The iPhone's worst features

But the iPhone has encountered some dark periods, too.

Most notable was a problem with the iPhone 4's antenna. Integrated within the iPhone's frame, the antenna location caused cellular performance problems when the unit's case was gripped in a certain way. Following a PR fiasco in response, Apple ultimately issued free bumper cases to users to make the problem go away.

Then the iPhone 7 eliminated the 3.5mm audio jack, commonly used to connect headphones to an iPhone. A clear case of Apple's designers simply deciding design priorities superseded users' everyday operations needs, the convenience of being able to connect wired headphones while also charging the device, or connecting wired headphones without having to use an inconvenient Lightning-to-3.5mm adapter, was lost. Who wants to have to carry a Lightning-to-3.5mm adapter just to plug in headphones? The decision continues to frustrate some iPhone users (including this one).

SEE: 10 ways the iPhone changed everything (CNET)

The iPhone's switch from its traditional 30-pin connector to the Lightning jack, introduced with the iPhone 5, was almost as bad an adjustment. Suddenly, all the power charges, connectors, and third-party docks, including music speakers, iPhone users had purchased over the years were obsolete. While the iPhone's elimination of the traditional 3.5mm audio jack stands as a continuing annoyance, the 30-pin-to-Lightning-connector evolution at least permitted new iPhones to be thinner. That said, don't get too attached to all your Lightning chargers and connectors—someday Apple may replace future iPhones' Lightning connectors with USB-C ports.

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Image: Josh Lowensohn/CNET

What's your take?

What have been your favorite and least favorite features of the iPhone? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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About Erik Eckel

Erik Eckel owns and operates two technology companies. As a managing partner with Louisville Geek, he works daily as an IT consultant to assist small businesses in overcoming technology challenges and maximizing IT investments. He is also president o...

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