The rumors have already started. According to Tech 2, talk of the upcoming 10th-anniversary editions of the iPhone 8 includes speculation about three sizes — 4.7 inches, 5.5 inches and a new 5-inch model — along with an all-glass body that would support wireless charging.
It’s a far cry from the original iteration of this piece of mobile technology, which rolled out in 2007 with no App Store, a 320×480 resolution and only 8 GB of storage for a whopping $599. But a decade’s worth of dedication has a made a significant difference, not just for Apple’s fortunes, but also in the way users and companies interact with smartphones and tablets.
A Decade of Mobile Technology Transformation
As noted by Computerworld, Steve Jobs announced the first iPhone on Jan. 9, 2007, although it didn’t actually go on sale until June of that year. While clunky by current standards, its multitouch gesture support heralded a revolution in smartphone design. Critics lambasted the high price, but Apple rolled out the 3G just a year later, named for its ability to connect with 3G networks, for just $299. Next up was the 3Gs, which didn’t look any different but was twice as fast and included a camera that could record video.
Apple continued to innovate with its subsequent iPhone iterations:
- June 2010: The iPhone 4 included Apple’s first high-resolution retina display and came with the earliest version of FaceTime.
- October 2011: Nothing changed on the surface, but the iPhone 4s was actually a huge upgrade from the previous version, with its A5 chipset and voice assistant, Siri.
- September 2012: With the iPhone 5, Apple upped the screen size to 4 inches and made the phone slimmer and faster as well.
- September 2013: While the iPhone 5s got a gold model, more power, a better camera and fingerprint reader, the 5c offered bright colors and significantly lower prices.
- September 2014: Apple bumped the size of the screen up to 4.7 inches for the iPhone 6 and 5.5 for the 6 Plus. Resolution also increased, while other game-changing features were notably absent.
- September 2015: The iPhone 6s introduced more under-the-hood upgrades in addition to a rose-gold version.
- March 2016: The iPhone SE brought back the 4-inch screen and a new 12-megapixel, rear-facing camera.
- September 2016: Apple tossed the audio jack and replaced the home button with a haptic-based virtual button for the iPhone 7 and added dual cameras for the 7 Plus.
At the start of 2017, there’s talk that the iPhone will return to Apple’s revolutionary roots and shake up the smartphone space once again.
Returning to Revolutionary Roots
What’s next for the iPhone market and the smartphone market at large? As noted by BGR, the likely move to a full-glass panel for the iPhone 8 is prompting other smartphone manufacturers to pressure active-matrix organic light-emitting diode (AMOLED) display-makers to innovate. Future devices may include curved, even foldable displays, which would render the current brick form factor obsolete.
Ars Technica reported that a Chinese firm, Xiaomi, just released its Mi Mix phone, which is effectively all screen and zero case — even the external earpiece is placed under the glass phone surface to allow for maximum screen real estate. Or consider the potential of the new HTC 10, which features a metal unibody to protect against falls or water. It also includes a new adaptive audio feature, which automatically adjusts the sound output based on external noise conditions.
It’s also worth taking a look at market trends. According to NASDAQ, Apple actually trails Samsung in terms of market share, but all major manufacturers face an uphill battle to drive increased device demand. The biggest growth area is budget-friendly phones, which are accessible to users in countries with low smartphone penetration such as India, Brazil and Indonesia. This gives the wider-market Androids an edge over the more expensive Apples.
The Corporate Conversion
Ten years ago, smartphones weren’t even a consideration for the workplace. Seen as little more than fancy tech toys, they posed a multitude of security issues and had the potential to tank productivity. Fast-forward a decade, and these devices are everywhere. Bring-your-own-device (BYOD) has become common practice for even the most technology-resistant industries.
Companies typically issue corporate smartphones directly or allow staff to bring whatever device they prefer, so long as corporate IT has control over sensitive data. It’s a slippery slope, however; while mobile technology empowers remote workers and enhances connectivity, it creates challenges when it comes to locking down critical assets.
So what does the evolution of smartphones mean for IT security? Consider the rise of near-field communication (NFC) payments and connections. Companies must now develop ways to protect devices at short distances from malicious terminals or access points looking to exploit insecure NFC components.
The move to wireless charging, meanwhile, aligns with the burgeoning impact of Internet of Things (IoT) technology. But as with everything wireless, this introduces the potential for even minuscule vulnerabilities to become serious network breaches if cybercriminals can turn minimal device access into root permissions or stolen credentials.
Battling for New Markets
Perhaps the biggest concern for corporations, however, lies with smartphone parity among manufacturers. Apple is no longer the only brand in town, and big producers such as Samsung have smaller companies iterating on its design to deliver open-source handsets to meet the needs of particular users. This huge diversity in smartphone design leads to a similarly complex security landscape, increasing the number of endpoints to monitor while simultaneously making it harder to see each one.
Smartphone design has stagnated over the last few years, with most innovations focusing on under-the-hood achievements rather than usability improvements or cutting-edge features. The future of mobile technology, however, looks poised for a return to these revolutionary roots as companies gear up for a fight over new markets, new users and a space at the corporate tech table.