Matthew Biggins

@matthewbiggins

On the 8th Day God Made the iPhone, and He Saw That It Was Good

So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky, and all the wild animals. But for Adam, no suitable partner was found. So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s hands and placed an iPhone in it. ~ Not Genesis

I might be misremembering my scripture a bit here, but you get the idea. The introduction of the iPhone was a pivotal moment in technological progress, a godsend some might say.

The introduction of the iPhone 10 years ago brought Moore’s Law into the handheld age. Moore’s Law is the observation that the number of transistors in an integrated circuit doubles about every two years, meaning faster computers. That statement, however, doesn’t mean much on its own. Economies of scale are needed to bring these improved speeds to the masses. Personal computers did the heavy lifting in the 80s and 90s, which drove more money into the R&D of chipmakers such as Intel. This in turn ensured that Moore’s Law kept apace. Beginning in 2007, the iPhone succeeded in miniaturizing the internals of computers even further. This is not to say there wasn’t already progress being made, but the iPhone acted as the economic forcing function necessary to accelerate computer miniaturization. Fast-forward to the present and the newest phones are powerful enough to create desktop-like experiences.

Beyond the gadfly that this was for the established phone industry, besides the revolution this made for communication and the Internet , and more than the new industry of apps birthed from this invention, the iPhone planted the seeds for every next big thing we are talking about today, 10 years after its introduction.

This is how.

Have you ever wondered how Apple manages to ship over 200 million iPhones a year? It isn’t magic. It’s a globally connected economy sourcing computer chips, cameras, touch screens, and batteries. There is a lot of money to be had here. In 2007 after the original iPhone launch, the smartphone space became a proverbial gold mine. Naturally a glut of competitors rushed in to try and win large, lucrative deals from Apple, Samsung, and other phone makers. Some thrived, some went under. But the end result was incredible value production for end consumers.

The market drove prices down and effectively commoditized many components. To maintain profits, manufacturing companies were forced to innovate, making faster, more powerful, and less expensive components. Only the most innovative survived, and after the dust settled, the price of high-tech smart phone technology had fallen drastically while quality had increased. Now with processes in place, companies looked for other markets to sell their chips, cameras, and screens to. Luckily VR, IoT, and drone creators were right there to capitalize on the lowered cost, smaller footprint, and increased computer power

All this innovation has led to a new breed of makers, hackers, DIYers. Think the computer hobbyist trend in Silicon Valley from back in the 1970s and 80s that led to Apple, except this time it is with smartphone tech. And instead of the U.S. it is happening in China, more specifically Shenzhen.

This documentary is long, but the pertinent part is at the 1:01:37 mark. The commoditized smart phone tech shown allows makers to hack together Frankenstein-like devices. This is an extremely cheap way to work out the kinks in products. Once there is a spark, it’s all about refinement and go-to-market. The Apple of this movement? DJI. If you have seen a drone flying or watched video shot from a drone, chances are it was theirs. DJI started in 2006 with hacked together DIY drone frames and flight control systems in — you guessed it — Shenzhen. In 2016, they made $1.5 billion in revenue.

And in the IoT smart home department, we all recognize this by now:

Well it turns out that anyone with a little technical chops and some spare cash can build their own. The most valuable part of the echo isn’t unique or proprietary hardware it’s the software.

Frankly, this is incredible news especially with Amazon opening up the Alexa API to 3rd party hardware makers, allowing integration with the Alexa ecosystem. This example perfectly illustrates how easy it is becoming to build usable IoT devices from a hardware perspective. Prices for components are cheap and simple enough that we can build the basis for an IoT company in our apartments. This access will ensure more people with less capital can engage in the tech economy. We all win from that.

So all thanks be to God for giving us the iPhone — and I can’t really blame Adam for eating from the tree, when I get a new iPhone I have Apple on my mind all day too.

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