Assessing the iPhone Decade

January 9, 2017, 3:04 PM UTC

A game-changing event happened a decade ago today: Apple introduced the iPhone.

I took a walk down memory lane by rereading Apple’s news release, a detailed cornucopia of bold achievements along with a dash of trademark Steve Jobs hyperbole.

The superlatives in the description of this revolutionary gadget were not exaggerations. It was no understatement when Apple (AAPL) bragged that the “iPhone … ushers in an era of software power and sophistication never before seen in a mobile device.” As well, the sensors Apple trumpeted in the original device—“an accelerometer, a proximity sensor, and an ambient light sensor”—would transform industries. Without iPhone’s sensors there would have been no Uber, for example.

There were some whoppers, however. Jobs promised the gadget that became his crowning achievement was “literally five years ahead of any mobile phone.” In fact, Google (GOOG) launched its first Android-powered phone the next year, and subsequent years brought a multitude of improved versions. Apple also crowed about its exclusive launch partner, Cingular, which would become AT&T Wireless, “the best and most popular carrier in the U.S.” That turned out to have been a Jobsian howler as AT&T’s spotty network made it one of the worst and least popular cell-phone companies. AT&T (T) nevertheless enjoyed iPhone exclusivity for years.

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The iPhone transformed industries, and it also transformed Apple. The decade of the iPhone completed Apple’s journey from tech-industry afterthought to the world’s most valuable company. And yet, iPhone sales now are slipping, so much so that Apple CEO Tim Cook missed his performance targets for the last fiscal year, dinging his pay.

By the way, Apple typically releases its products shortly after announcing them. In the iPhone’s case, the unveiling preceded the debut by six months. That means on June 29 we’ll have another opportunity to dissect the iconic product’s history.


The next U.S. president promises to be a game changer of a different sort. I highly encourage you to sign up for Fortune’s latest newsletter, Trumponomics Daily, in which our man in Washington, Tory Newmyer, will break down the government’s impact on private enterprise.

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