The Day A Smart Phone Changed an Industry

Ben Bajarin / January 9th, 2012

Five years ago today Apple introduced the iPhone. On this day five years ago, Apple opened our eyes to the reality that the devices we considered “smart” were not really smart at all. They re-invented the smart phone and made the industry re-evaluate what we knew a smart phone to be, changing the landscape entirely.

I remember the day vividly because our team had split up and one person from Creative Strategies (not me) got to attend history in the making at the iPhone launch event, while I was stuck at CES doing my analyst duties.

I have never seen the buzz around CES be so focused on something not present at the show. That year the iPhone completely overshadowed CES in a way I have never seen and may never see again.

The industry leading up the launch of the iPhone was a mess. Handset innovation was at an all time low and purely focused on business users. Carriers controlled nearly every aspect of the device. Developers knew mobile apps were the big opportunity but had to fight for “on deck” promotion through carriers’ walled gardens if they hoped to make any money. To sum it up, there was no unity, no vision, and almost zero innovation as it related to smart phones. Apple changed all that with the iPhone.

So now here we are five years later and how is the iPhone doing? If ChangeWave’s recent data is any indication, the iPhone is not only continuing to thrive five years later, but it is dominating at an unprecedented level.

Today ChangeWave released findings of a survey that intends to gauge smartphone buying intent by consumers. The results of this survey of 4,000 US-based consumers showed that among respondents planning to buy a new smart phone in the next 90 days, better than one-in-two, or 54%, say they’ll get an iPhone. Perhaps a quote in the ChangeWave press release says it best.

“Apple has never dominated smart phone planned buying to this extent more than two months after a major new release.”

I have made this observation time and time again, but the volumes that Apple ships in a single model device is unprecedented in this industry. There is no arguing that Android vendors as a whole are moving volumes. But the point has to be made that it takes an army of Android devices, to compete with one single model of the iPhone. One could argue, quite strongly that, five years later, the competition is just now catching up — or not depending on your perspective.

I’m not sure any of us could have predicted that the iPhone would not only be thriving, but dominating, and expected to continue to dominate, the smart phone landscape. I truly hope the next five years bring even more excitement and innovation to this industry, and it’s probably a safe bet that Apple will continue to lead this charge.

I’ll close with an anecdote that highlights for me my memory of the day the iPhone launched. As I mentioned, I didn’t attend the iPhone launch because I decided to stay back and cover CES for our firm. After the launch a Sr. Executive at Apple along with my father called my cell from a working iPhone. That iPhone then proceeded to be shown on TV and have images taken with my cell phone number clearly displayed on the dial pad. For about the next month I received on average 2,000+ calls a day from strangers asking if I was Steve Jobs or if they could talk to Steve Jobs.

People are strange and no I didn’t change my number. My cell phone number is, however, forever engraved into some of the first media images used the day the device launched.

I guess that counts for something.

Ben Bajarin

Ben Bajarin is a Principal Analyst and the head of primary research at Creative Strategies, Inc - An industry analysis, market intelligence and research firm located in Silicon Valley. His primary focus is consumer technology and market trend research and he is responsible for studying over 30 countries. Full Bio
  • Rich

    Ben, how do you deal with 2,000+ calls a day?

    • benbajarin

      Luckily that only lasted about a month. I still get a few random calls here and then with people saying they saw my number on the news but its not much.

  • Frumius

    Very fun anecdote at the end!

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