Ten years ago, on June 29, 2007, Apple rolled out its much-anticipated iPhone, injecting the first modern smartphone into a relatively staid mobile communications market that until that point was dominated by cell phones—like the Blackberry devices and Motorola’s Razr2—and PDAs— such as Palm’s Centro. The ripple effect from the iPhone’s introduction has spread far and wide, rolling quickly through the tech industry, the workplace and the consumer lifestyle and culture.
It’s hard to overstate the impact the iPhone has had over the past decade. It has spurred the rise of a smartphone market that, according to IDC, in the first quarter of this year saw 347.4 million devices ship—a 4.3 percent rise over the same period in 2016—and the rush by other vendors into the space, including Samsung and now a host of fast-rising Chinese OEMs. The combination of smartphones and tablets—Apple introduced the iPad in 2010—sent a shockwave through the PC market, which after the iPad’s launch, saw shipments fall for several years and only now appears to be stabilizing. Smartphones also have driven a stunningly sharp rise in the amount of mobile traffic being generated, primarily through increased data usage, driving increasing demand for fast and highly reliable cellular connectivity.
Changing how we relate to our devices, think about work
But even more than its impact on the tech industry, the iPhone—with its touchscreen, virtual keyboard and growing collection of apps—changed the way people related to their devices and thought about communication and computing. A mobile phone was no longer just about talking with someone else, sending out texts or keeping a calendar. Starting with the iPhone, smartphones became portals to the outside world, a way to access the internet, get around, surf the web, watch videos, get your message out to the world, play games, collect and listen to music and, eventually, to do work. Smartphones became very personal, an extension of the user and a constant companion and, now, an entryway into virtual worlds.
Younger people – or “digital natives” – were raised on the iPhone and other smartphones and mobile devices, quickly embracing their intuitive use, the broad range of things they could do with them and the easy access they had to the internet and applications. Those people now make up an increasingly larger percentage of the workforce, bending the definition of the workplace and work itself to fit their more mobile, connected lifestyles.
They’re not content with using the PCs and mobile phones issued by their employers; they use their smartphones and other personal technologies at work. According to a study last year by PcW regarding Millennials in the workplace, more than half of respondents said they routinely use their own devices at work, and 78 percent said they are more effective at work when they have access to the technologies they want to use. A Gartner survey found that 44 percent of Millennials believe they have the latest and greatest personal devices.
Pushing the limits of cellular data capacity
Smartphones have become the key catalyst behind the trends around the skyrocketing amount of mobile traffic being created, mobile applications being accessed and data being consumed.
According to Cisco’s annual Visual Networking Index, global mobile data traffic last year jumped more than 63 percent (to 7.2 exabytes per month) over 2015 (4.4 exabytes a month), and bandwidth-intensive video accounted for 60 percent of the global mobile traffic. Smartphones made up only 45 percent of the mobile devices used globally, but accounted for 81 percent of all the mobile traffic.
These trends are not going to slow anytime soon. By 2021, global mobile data traffic will hit 49 exabytes a month, with annual traffic surpassing half a zettabyte. Smartphones – including phablets – will make up more than half of global devices and connections, and will generate 86 percent of the mobile data traffic. Seventy-eight percent of the traffic will be video. It will all happen as the industry completes its migration from 3G to 4G, and then moves onto 5G.
Driving the need for reliable cellular coverage
All this drives home the need for increasingly faster, more reliable cellular connectivity. Organizations of all kinds and sizes—from larger enterprises and retailers to first responders and educational institutions—are going to have to address this in the coming years if they expect to stay competitive in their markets.
Employees armed with multiple mobile devices will continue to demand such wireless connectivity to be productive wherever they are, regardless of whether they’re using a smartphone, tablet or PC. Shoppers will continue to want greater connectivity as they move through the store, students will need it as they work on campus and emergency responders always need solid, reliable connectivity when the call comes in.
Businesses will need to provide the infrastructure that can ensure cellular coverage that can support not only the current wireless technologies, but also those still in the pipeline, and do so in a cost-efficient manner.
Apple’s introduction of the iPhone 10 years ago helped accelerate the drive to a much more mobile world for employees and consumers alike. It also has meant rapidly growing amounts of data consumption and mobile data traffic and increasing demand for fast, reliable connectivity as mobility grew to include tablets, and new uses for wireless such as the internet of things (IoT) and machine-to-machine (M2M) communications have emerged. Businesses going forward will need to ensure that they are able to meet these demands or risk falling behind in a world that is moving forward ever-faster.