Mobility

iPhone turns 10: Why it's still the smartphone to beat

For the 10th anniversary of the iPhone, an IT pro reflects on some of the features that make Apple's innovative smartphone an epic success.

Happy 10th anniversary, iPhone!

What can be said about what is arguably the world's most popular smartphone? Quite a lot apparently, as the iPhone has been credited with many industrywide firsts that have defined how smartphones are used today.

Since its inception back in 2007, Apple has made the iPhone one of the cornerstones of its business model. And with good reason—the device has spurned adoption and use rates like no other computing device in history. And despite the incredible sales history and customer satisfaction numbers the world over, the iPhone is far from perfect and faces stiff competition.

I've been reflecting on my personal experiences with the iPhone throughout the years. From the 1st Gen. iPhone 4 GB model I owned to my current iPhone 6 Plus 128 GB model, take a stroll down memory lane with me as I compare and contrast some of the features that make the iPhone an epic success, while analyzing the changes that leave something to be desired.

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

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Image: Jesus Vigo

Internet access on the go

Upon purchasing my first iPhone, one of the biggest draws at the time was mobile internet access, care of the 2G/EDGE radio (in 2007, 3G was around but power hungry). Wi-Fi existed, but it was generally not available everywhere, so being able to access the internet from the palm of your hand was liberating.

Now, to be clear, Apple was not the first to introduce cellular internet access—BlackBerry and Windows Mobile included cellular chipsets in their devices to provide mobile access years before the first iPhone. But Apple was the first to bring full-sized websites to Safari in iOS—not the watered-down or mobile-optimized versions, but the same websites that you could access on a desktop computer. This was a game changer for personal and professional users, especially those in the field (such as myself) who could benefit from the always-on connection to research issues, communicate with team members, and even tether the iPhone to a computer to download updates or drivers, as needed, to resolve issues.

SEE: 10 memorable iPhone facts on its 10th anniversary (CBS News)

Application support

Apps, apps, apps—the default way to increase the functionality and extend the capabilities of your smartphone as we know it was developed by Apple. Responding to requests from users wishing to load native apps onto the iPhone, Apple developed the App Store and provided developers with the SDK to code iOS apps and a structured pay-per-download model.

The App Store grew into a multibillion dollar a year revenue stream for Apple. As Apple updated iOS and released new hardware, app coders continue to write applications to further take advantage of the newer iPhone's specs, resulting in enhanced experiences for end users.

Some critics call the App Store the "walled garden" because of Apple's sometimes rigid rules for developers coding iOS apps; these rules seem to be a blessing and a curse. The rules often restricts what developers can program for their apps or limits what they have access to; for example, wireless scanning utilities used by net admins to troubleshoot wireless networks are largely not permitted in the App Store, despite being readily available on competing app storefronts.

An upside to this app distribution model is that apps are routinely scanned and monitored for integrity and malware. The idea is that, by keeping the apps centralized, they are easier to manage and control and should anything be found that could be potentially hazardous to the ecosystem and/or the devices connected to it, the issue can swiftly be addressed.

SEE: 10 ways the iPhone changed everything (CNET)

Reliability and usability

Entering my 20th year in IT and overall being a technologist, I consider myself to be a pragmatist through and through. And while I love the bells and whistles as much as the next person, I ultimately look at a device's usefulness in accomplishing any number of tasks and how well it performs said tasks.

All the apps in the world or a lightning-fast internet connection will not amount to any productivity gain if the underlying software that's required to run it is unstable or won't perform intuitively. Something as innocuous as a delay between home screens when swiping between one and the other, or having an application crash every time it is launched is surefire way to frustrate the user and get them to stop using a device.

Throughout my years of using smartphones, I have owned devices that run Windows OS, Android, and BlackBerry, after deciding to experience something different than Apple. In each of these cases, I always found my way back to an iPhone because of the stellar user experience and rock-solid reliability that I've come to know and expect from a smartphone that handles everything I throw it for work and personal use.

In my experiences, Apple has—for all intents and purposes—mastered the iPhone user experience and continues to refine and polish it more over time. And it's not to say that others haven't come close—in fact, I also use a modern Android device for work (it's less than 2 years old), and it functions quite admirably, but it's just not quite as responsive as my soon to be four-year old iPhone 6 Plus.

A big part of this I feel carries over from Steve Jobs and how he always came to believe in the power of simplicity when implementing new features or even retooling older ones, the element of simplicity always took center stage and it shows across all of Apple's lineup, but is exemplified in the day to day usage of an iPhone.

SEE: Android vs iOS: Which is best for business? (ZDNet)

While it can be said that Apple has a style over substance design ethos, that argument is better left for another time, say in my upcoming review of the new MacBook Pro with Touch Bar. For now, it cannot be denied that the iPhone has left an indelible mark on the mobile device market and dare I say solidified the "smart" in smartphone.

Apple's efforts at creating a cellular device that so closely integrates with our daily lives has grown the iPhone into a device that—love it or hate it—has paved the way for manufacturers to fill the necessity that has become the smartphone with devices of various shapes and sizes for just about every person on the planet.

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About Jesus Vigo

Jesus Vigo is a Network Administrator by day and owner of Mac|Jesus, LLC, specializing in Mac and Windows integration and providing solutions to small- and medium-size businesses. He brings 19 years of experience and multiple certifications from seve...

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