Even Steve Jobs Didn’t Predict the iPhone Decade

When Apple set out to build a smartphone, the team tasked with doing so didn’t plan on changing the world. It didn’t foresee the App Store becoming a billion-dollar business full of billion-dollar businesses like Uber, Snapchat, and WhatsApp. It wasn’t trying to reinvent how people communicate, shop, and even hook up.

It was trying to build an iPod that made phone calls.

“The grand vision wasn’t really articulated, because there wasn’t one,” says Andy Grignon, a senior manager on the project and now a partner at design firm Siberia. Even the name, iPhone, started as an homage to Apple’s hit music player. Most early prototypes featured a screen and a click wheel. “That was kind of the mindset that we had. It was just going to be, not a revolutionary product, but an evolution to iPod.”

Eventually, they came around to a bigger plan. “It was a general computer that was connected and in your pocket at all times,” says Tony Fadell, one of the senior execs behind both iPod and iPhone. “We saw the dramatic usage of both the iPod and the cellphone of the time and knew people would carry and tend to only one device wherever they went.” You know what happened next. The device Steve Jobs launched at Macworld 2007, 10 years ago today, became so much more than even he imagined. It became an economic and cultural revolution while almost single-handedly making Apple the most valuable company on the planet.

But as now-CEO Tim Cook looks ahead to the iPhone’s second decade and the rumor mill speculates on the next device, it seems appropriate to ask whether Apple has accomplished the goals Jobs laid out on that January morning in 2007. And to wonder what might come next.

The Killer App

If you watch Jobs’s announcement—he goes on for 77 minutes—what’s most amazing is how even he hasn’t fully grokked the import of it all. Granted, it’s easy to appear prescient now, but in many ways the iPhone’s announcement feels understated given how radical the device was.