Five years ago today, the original iPhone went on sale. Since then, to its growing legions of users, the iPhone has become less a gadget or machine, and more a personal means of relating to a wider and richer world.
To assess the iPhone's impact, we asked a group of users, many of them IT professionals, one question: How has the iPhone changed the way you (personally or your organization) live or work?
There are common themes that emerge from these experiences. Repeatedly, users say the iPhone lets them be in "constant contact" with colleagues, family and friends. "Contact" can mean being able to respond to someone, or collaborate on a decision, or share -- at least by word or image -- in a new experience. They have "access" to vastly more information. And they have that access whenever they want it, or need it.
MORE: The iPhone turns 5 today
The iPhone has become greater than the sum of its parts: a portable, always-connected computer, with the intimacy of a touch interface, packed with a set of highly personal apps and data, an ever-present node on the Web, integrated camera, with voice phone calls only one mode of personal communication. Together, these parts have created a new "mode of being," at once intensely personal and highly public.
Here are their iWitness answers.
"The ways the iPhone has changed, in a remarkably good and completely unexpected way, both my personal and professional life, are innumerable. Personally, it (and the iPad even more so) has allowed me to be in constant contact (for better or worse) with family and friends around the world. ... A perfect example is the fun I had traveling around Italy a few years ago. Taking pictures on the iPhone and being able to post instantly to Twitter, Flickr, my blog, family was an amazing experience. Sharing like that in real time was eye opening. The iPhone has literally opened my world and helped me be better informed, more entertained and, to be honest, 'happier' than life before the iPhone." -- Shawn King, Host/Executive Producer, Your Mac Life "For the corporate world, especially for my company, the biggest difference or the game changer was the availability of business critical information for anyone, anytime and anywhere in a seamless way. For example, having Daily Sales Reports on iPhone allows our senior executives to make critical business decisions on the plane (or anywhere), communicate with appropriate team members, and make decisions quickly without waiting to get back to office. This helps our organization to be very productive and we are able to make important decisions on time."
"For our customers, the iPhone has opened the flood gates on business data. Useful business information that was previously only accessed by analysts -- tethered to their desk -- is now in an App that's opened 20 times a day by sales people, executives, store managers, field personnel. ... When you can touch and swipe through your data user adoption goes through the roof.
"Personally, it's enabled me to make the trip to pick up my son from daycare everyday by 6 p.m. and still have access to the business. With my role, prior to the iPhone, too much of the business relied on my being present at my desk to continue working. ... Now I can continue to approve business processes, send and answer emails, track work, and do it from the park/daycare/supermarket/couch/bus/car (assuming somebody else is driving of course)."
-- Hugh Owen, Director of Mobile Marketing, MicroStrategy, McLean, Va.
"It's changed almost everything I do in almost every aspect of my life. The biggest way, I would say, is that it's a tool for discovery for me, in and out of the classroom. I turn to it for information and for exploration, and I expect my students to do that, too. I want people looking up things, checking what we're talking about, finding media, etc. And I do that, too. And I do it when I'm in strange places -- like Sydney, Australia. That discovery tool makes it easier for me to engage when I'm in new surroundings."
-- William Rankin, director of educational innovation (and associate professor of English), Abilene Christian University, Abilene, Texas
"The iPhone allows me the ability to be out of the office, networking and meeting with prospective and existing clients, while managing existing commercial accounts that have more immediate needs. I can forward my clients' needs to the appropriate people within the bank in order to expedite their requests, without having to be there. ... I wouldn't be able to achieve that without the iPhone."
-- Christopher Teachout, vice president business development, Needham Bank, Needham, Mass.
"My parents are from a small rural town in Maine, with one store, 'The Trading Post,' which has a diner. In July 2007, shortly after the launch of the iPhone, which I bought when it was still $600 dollars, my wife and I, our son (who had just turned 1), and my parents were having breakfast there. Everyone knew the iPhone had launched, but no one there had ever seen one. So there were lots of people staring at us. Kids will be kids and my one-year-old was cranky, so we did the 'iPhone will pacify him' trick and let him play with it. It wasn't long before he ended up spiking it on the ground, and the entire restaurant collectively let out a GASP! [The phone survived.] -- James Gordon, vice president IT, Needham Bank, Needham, Mass.
"Now [it seems] everyone has an iPhone, they are so ubiquitous. The world has radically changed in a very short period of time. Adoption rates that were once measured in decades (radio) or years (Internet access) are now measured in quarters or months (smartphone adoption). It's been an exciting journey, and I look forward to the next five years of innovations."
"Over the last 5 years the iPhone has made a major impact in my personal lifestyle, organizing me in a way that I would never have believed a mobile device could have. With the introduction of the iPad and iCloud, seamless integration between my personal data on all my devices has taken my 'iLifestyle' to a new level. The ability to email and Facetime from anywhere has changed any travels that I undertake and having a device that does so many things, with the wealth of apps, allows me to carry just an iOS device rather than the plethora of books, hardware or accessories I used to carry five years ago."
-- Ian Thain, mobility evangelist and blogger
"The iPhone has allowed me to be always connected. I have access to the entire wealth of knowledge of the Internet in my fingertips. I can connect with family and friends as well. I can keep up with the ever changing landscape of technology on a daily basis. If you need to 'disconnect' -- just put away or turn off the iPhone. The iPhone has also been a life saver as an emergency 'computer' -- I've had situations where I needed to remotely access servers from my iPhone in order to make time sensitive, mission critical changes. Apple has created an ecosystem of applications that allow you to do so much with this device."
-- Derick Okihara, IT technician, Mid-Pacific Institute, Honolulu
"Many people get so caught up in the apps and features of the iPhone that they easily forget that what they've really got in their hands is a completely functional and powerful computer that also makes telephone calls. I can use the iPhone to do almost anything I can do on my iMac, or my MacBook Air, or my iPad. I can (and it's happened!) log into a server from a ski slope to answer a client need. It means I can create and edit any sort of document I want, access shared storage and easily answer any kind of issue I encounter in my daily work. The iPhone also means that I'm never without something to read or do to pass those little wait times that are part of the day. I'm looking at you Bejeweled!"
-- Benjamin Levy, principal, Solutions Consulting, Los Angeles
"Most of the iPhone's capabilities are not unique to the iPhone: I carried an Android phone for quite some time and most of them existed there. But the simplicity of the iOS interface separates it from the pack somehow, even if I can't quantify what really sets it apart. If I have my iPhone, which I always do, I know that I am not going to miss an email, text message, calendar appointment, or photo op. I can create a video archive of whatever is going on around me. I have access to my files -- the same files that I create and edit on my PR or, through a browser, from anywhere (such as Dropbox or Google Drive). I have easy access to contact or look up information about any of my family, friend, or coworkers through either my personal contacts, or corporate Global Access List. And all of this is accessible on demand and reliably. And this is a level of reliability that I did not get from Android or even Blackberry."
-- Clay Hilton, director of information technology, Hawthorn Pharmaceuticals, Madison, Miss.
John Cox covers wireless networking and mobile computing for Network World. http://twitter.com/johnwcoxnww firstname.lastname@example.org://www.networkworld.com/community/blog/2989/feed
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