Apple's (AAPL) iPhone can't be blamed or credited -- depending on your view -- with changing global telecommunications, but it certainly comes close.
The groundbreaking device, which first went out to customers 10 years ago today, offered the world a clear, magnificent touch screen that would upend all future expectations for receiving and sending photos, video and voice. Steve Jobs' invention forced a legion of copycats and clones desperate to match or improve upon his seemingly futuristic iPhone.
Over time, the touch interface has become the basic means of exchanging thoughts, information and commands. It may be fast evolving into a replacement for the human voice. It's not uncommon to see a group of people huddling together with their mobile devices -- not speaking but clearly amused. And it's not just young people.
"The average person has come to accept this device as the way to meet their boyfriend or girlfriend, purchase products, consume news, do their banking," said Max Wolff, an economist and market strategist at 55 Capital Partners, a New York investment firm. "These days, it's really about smart phones generally, but certainly none of this would look the same without the iPhone."
Apple's shares were up 0.5% to $144.46 on Thursday morning.
Here are some of the many industries and services forever disrupted by Apple's revolutionary device:
1. News and Newspapers
The iPhone made news immediacy the main attraction. Newspaper newsrooms, wedded to a daily routine, were slow to react. Though the industry was already back-pedalling by 2006 as Craigslist decimated its classifieds cash-cow, the iPhone accelerated the decline. In retrospect, newspapers may have created more problems for itself by offering their websites for free. Banner ads would offer little refuge from hefty cuts in print ads and the circulation of hard copies delivered to doorsteps.
The iPhone also made video and user-interactions as conventional as reading, forcing all news organization to expand into moving images and social media. As a result, news organizations have had to focus on breaking news, relying on user notification updates to reach an audience unconfined by air-signal or street address. In recent years, many newspapers have begun charging for the extensive use of its online content, with encouraging results from publishers led by New York Times Co. (NYT) and Jeff Bezos' Washington Post.
The iPhone and the smart-phones that followed it have all but decimated the tablet business, which recently hit a five-year low, while accelerating the replacement cycle for personal computers. PC sales have been on the skids for a while, as my colleague Eric Jhonsa reported from the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. And though thinner and lighter laptops are providing some optimism, the future is mobile.
Curiously, the iPhone also made the telephone obsolete. But not because people don't like talking. they do. It's just that the iPhone, and smart phones in general, are not particularly good at voice. "The quality of the actual phone that we have now is worse than it was eight years ago," Wolff said. "That's how compelling the mobile Internet experience has become."
It seems rather old-fashioned to even use the word television on the 10th year anniversary of the iPhone. That same small, clear screen has conditioned millions of people -- yes, younger people in particular -- to watch video on phone and tablets (though even tablets are no longer fashionable). TV is video and video is now viewed through over-the-top devices like the AppleTV and Roku and Amazon (AMZN) Fire TV and the Google Chromecast from Alphabet (GOOGL) . The acceptance of mobile video is pushing major media companies to launch digital pay-TV platforms, the next battleground in the war for consumer subscription and advertising sales.
As users have become comfortable with its small screen, mobile video has become the medium of choice for everything from television to advertising to dating and the news.
Editors' pick: Originally published Jan. 9.
4. The Music Industry
The music industry, lulled into comfortable overconfidence by 25 years of CD sales, was body-slammed by iTunes and an iPhone interface that gave consumers the ability to buy only the songs they wanted to hear, and then listen to them while walking in a park or running up a stair-master.
From the standpoint of listeners, the economics were great: no more paying $16 for a CD just to listen to one favorite song. Of course, the music industry didn't think so: CD sales plummeted, and only very recently has subscription streaming begun to make up some of the loss. CD sales fell in 2015 to $1.5 billion from $11 billion in 2006, according to the Recording Industry Association of America.
5. Transportation and Accommodations
Not only has Uber replaced taxis and Airbnb sent hoteliers running to government regulators asking for relief, the fold-out car map has become as commonplace as the portable cassette deck. Uber's popularity has fueled the growth of competitors such as Lyft and inspired a backlash for rough play against rivals and critics.
Airbnb has also prompted consternation from purveyors of traditional accommodations despite plaudits from millions of "home sharers" the world over who have found new revenue by renting out a room, apartment or house. It's safe to say neither company would exist if the iPhone hadn't made mobility, a clear screen and location tracking an everyday experience.
Photography -- that is, the photographic film business and cameras -- was thrown into desperate scramble by iPhone, eliminating the need for a separate device to handle something as mundane as taking a photo. Shortly after the iPhone debuted, Eastman Kodak (KODK) tumbled into bankruptcy, unable to charm a picture-taking public that had dutifully bought its products for a century.
7. Apps for Business and the Business of Apps
The news industry isn't alone in how the iPhone forced business to change how they try to get consumers to buy products and services. Reaching and maintaining customers has always been the most pressing issue of any business. But those days are over.
Businesses today must invest countless dollars in people and technology to build and maintain mobile apps, in many cases more important to companies large and small than a mobile-friendly website or an e-mail newsletter. There are millions of apps in the iPhone app store, and even when downloaded, are often hardly used.
"It's terribly difficult even for well-established brands to get consumers to discover and then use their apps," Nicco Mele, director of the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard's Kennedy School, said in a phone interview from Cambridge. "The mobile app conundrum is real and live, and since iPhone introduced it, it hasn't gone away."