Few people realized it at the time, but just a decade ago on January 9, the world shifted into another world when Steve Jobs showed the world the first iPhone from Apple’s bag of technological tricks. When Apple CEO Steve Jobs held up the first iPhone at the MacWorld Conference in San Francisco a decade ago, this “magical product” reshaped culture, shook up industries and made it seem possible to do just about anything with a few taps on a screen while walking around with the equivalent of a computer in our pocket. Steve Jobs even had the audacity to declare, “Every once in a while, a revolutionary product comes along that changes everything,” while pacing the stage. And it wasn’t an empty boast. We all know now that this “magical product” has since reshaped and shaken up the mobile phone and computer industries. By today’s standards, the original 3.5-inch touch screen was small, but was bigger than any screen from other brands, and featured a browser for on-the-go web surfing and built-in apps to check email and even get directions.
Since that fateful day, Apple has sold more than 1 billion iPhones, spawning millions of mobile applications and prodding other technology companies to make similar smartphones that have become like third or fourth limbs for humans. Today, people use iPhones and other brands to instantly share video and pictures with friends and family from almost anywhere. We use them to figure out where we are going. We use them to find the best deals while shopping in stores and to pay for stuff at the checkout stand. We use the phones to a hail ride, to tune instruments, to monitor our health and help find our next jobs. Phones have gotten so smart that they even talk back to us via helpful digital concierges such as the iPhone’s Siri and the recently introduced Assistant on Google’s Pixel phone. Oh, and yes, the smartphone is still used for texting and calling, unless we’ve forgotten how to do those.
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The iPhone’s revolutionary touch screen doomed the BlackBerry, another once-popular internet-connected phone. Mobile phones and the soon-following tablet cousins triggered a downward spiral in personal computer sales that has yet to recover. An estimated 219 million desktop and laptop computers shipped worldwide last year, down from 264 million in 2007, while 1.9 billion mobile phones shipped last year, up from 1.15 billion in 2007. About 5 billion smartphones are currently in use around the world compared to 1.3 billion PC’s. The eroding popularity of PC’s spurred shake-ups at powerful tech companies such as Microsoft, Intel, Hewlett-Packard and Dell, none of which adapted fast enough to the smartphone unleashed by iPhone. Then-Microsoft’s CEO Steve Ballmer even scoffed at Apple’s glass-and-metal gadget, telling USA Today in April 2007 that “there’s no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share. No chance.” Just a year later, Apple iPhone sales proved him dead wrong.