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iPhone at Ten Years

“Today, Apple is introducing three revolutionary products. A widescreen iPod with touch controls, a revolutionary mobile phone, and a breakthrough internet communicator. An iPod, a phone, and an internet communicator. An iPod, a phone… are you getting it? These are not three separate devices. This is one device, and we’re calling it iPhone.”

Where were you June 29, 2007? I ask this, because, last week, that slab of glass in your pocket, also known as iPhone, turned ten years old. It is amazing to see how much things have changed in terms of how we use our devices. What we take for granted today, scrolling through lists, pinching to zoom in and out of photographs, was a magical, revolutionary, and new experience in 2007. If you think about it, the iPhone has replaced iPods, digital cameras, contact books, calendars, flashlights, maps, calculators… shall I go on? The App Store created millionaires overnight, and changed the way consumers buy software forever. The iPhone 4 brought the front facing FaceTime camera, and ensured selfies would be at the forefront of social and our camera rolls. Without the iPhone, there would be no Instagram or Snapchat, and you might still have to actually… CALL PEOPLE (the horror).

Impact on Brands and Advertising

The iPhone was not the first smartphone (where art thou now Blackberry and Palm?), but it was the first smartphone designed for everyone. Strangely enough, reviewing the original announcement of the iPhone, it is ironic that the “internet communicator” part of the announcement got the least love. Steve Jobs spent a solid 30 minutes explaining the killer app: the phone. After all, the iPhone put the internet in everyone’s pocket and gave marketers a new screen to engage in consumer’s universe, forcing advertisers to create new ads and to enter the age of mobile advertising.

Always On

Advertising dollars go to where the eyeballs are. The iPhone, by no means, killed TV advertising, but it definitely hurt it. When launched, the TV industry attempted to label the smartphone as the “second screen”. TV was still first, right? Marketers quickly realized that the smartphone was now the central screen, and it was never truly off. The way we consume media has completely changed. We are always on. As such, having the internet in our pocket, and advances in cellular data allowed advertisers to whisper in our ears at all times. We now wake up in the middle of the night to check our email, or see if the Blue Jays lost again.

As a result of this, our attention spans are at all time lows; 8 seconds according to research (goldfish have an attention span of 9 seconds, for those keeping tabs). As a response, advertisers have had to retool, giving way to successful ten-second mobile video ads. For the first time ever, mobile advertising spending is expected to surpass desktop advertising. Nevertheless, despite the promise of this new mobile ecosystem, advertisers are still struggling, or just learning how to create unobtrusive ads, and create meaningful stories to sell.Evolution of the iPhone


New Opportunities

Despite the excitement around the first iPhone (it was coined the “Jesus Phone” by the Wall Street Journal), the full implications of its arrival weren’t felt immediately. The launch of the App Store, a year after the original iPhone, gave brands a seamless and easy way to connect with consumers. Today the App Store is an after thought. When launched in 2008, it changed the way software is distributed, immediately turning your iPhone into anything from a mobile bank to a gaming device.

Of course, GPS and other location tracking abilities provided an unprecedented opportunity for advertising based on location. Data from applications granted new insights into consumer behaviour, vital to advertiser strategy. The iPhone was one of the first phones that allowed for attribution; tracing and measuring the impact of ads. iPhone and the shift to mobile has also placed emphasis on video consumption. 70% now consider smartphones as their go-to screen of media consumption. And, we are still in the middle of development of new video formats. How will brands utilize new technologies like augmented reality, and virtual reality to sell their products?

The Cult of Apple

I am not afraid to admit I “drank the kool-aid”. I am an Apple fanboy, through and through, but cannot explain the rapid growth and brand loyalty of iPhone. At launch, 64% of US mobile phone users were aware of the iPhone. 19 million expressed interest in purchase. This is remarkable, one, for a completely new product, and two, for a product that carried a hefty price tag of $499.

Shot on iPhone Campaign

Obviously, the heritage of Apple makes advertising the iPhone unique, but there are lessons for marketers. First, the modern consumer doesn’t just love tech, they want the latest, top of the range model, with a brand image. I think this is important for all sectors, most so with seasonality trend of fashion. Secondly, iPhone advertising has never centred around “features” per say. The very first iPhone commercial featured takes from various famous movie/TV characters simply saying, “hello”. Similarly, the now famous “Shot on iPhone” campaign doesn’t show the actual phone! Apple has harnessed the power of story. People don’t buy an iPhone because of “optical image stabilization” or a 12 megapixel camera; they buy it to capture an unforgettable family trip, or to become their very own DJ. Brands need to sell the story, not the product. Further, competitors can and will copy features. Don’t be a victim of marketing myopia.

Future of iPhone

What will this blog post look like in another ten years? Will the iPhone in your pocket still exist? I think you’ll still have the general glass slab shape, but who knows. Perhaps it will be replaced by a watch on your wrist, and a digital contact lense/glasses? I can say confidently, that artificial intelligence (AI) will change everything, again. For consumers, the familiar grid of apps will be replaced by a generic interface, knowing our every need before we turn on our screen. You can see “baby AI” on your phone today. Swipe to your widget screen, and you can see “Siri Suggestions”; apps Siri think you may use next. Your keyboard suggests words to use next in your sentence. In photos, using machine learning, you can search “dogs” and it will find pictures of your puppy!

AI for advertisers is a game changer. The ability to decipher terabytes of information to optimize ads provides priceless value for agencies and brands. It allows for creatives to build more realities and appropriately placed content for consumers. While undeniably powerful, agencies will need to consider the ethical implications of artificial intelligence as it becomes ubiquitous in everyday lives.


In my humble opinion, the iPhone is the most important and revolutionary consumer product of the last century. It has become the everything device, and spawned new opportunities like the “app-economy”, and breakthroughs in mobile marketing. It is also amazing how the iPhone has fundamentally changed the way we all use a phone, and equally fascinating to consider how foreign our current idea of a phone may be in another ten years time.