John Naughton: Ten years after its launch, the iPhone is both a miracle and a menace | John Naughton

Apple’s smartphone changed the way we function – for better and worse

On Tuesday 9 January 2007, in the Moscone Center in San Francisco, the late Steve Jobs, dressed in his standard black turtleneck and jeans, announced that Apple had built a mobile phone. “The phone is rectangular,” reported CNN “and the entire front surface is a touchscreen. All of its functions are activated by touch, but when you bring your iPhone to your face, a proximity sensor will turn off the touchscreen so you don’t accidentally face-dial. The phone, which runs the Mac OS X, will be able to download and play both music and movies. It will come in two models – a $499 version with 4 gigabytes of memory and a $599 one with 8 gigabytes.”

Apple fans were predictably ecstatic – as they always were when His Steveness addressed them – but the rest of the world yawned. After all, the mobile phone business was a boring, mature global industry, dominated by Nokia. Apple knew nothing about the business, and Jobs had been able to negotiate a deal with only one mobile network company – Cingular, a branch of AT&T. Sure, the new gizmo had a web browser that worked – which Jobs said was “a real revolution” – and it could do email. But hadn’t he also said that “the killer app is making calls”? And the iPhone came with a battery that you couldn’t change! How dumb was that? Accordingly, Nokia executives slept easily in their beds – though their counterparts at RIM, which made BlackBerrys and had an unbreakable lock on mobile email, stirred uneasily in theirs, having noticed an $11 drop in their share price on the day.

Parents who give smartphones to young children ought to be prosecuted for neglect

Related: ‘My electronic Swiss army knife’: readers on 10 years of the iPhone

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