Becka is an amateur software developer from Georgia. He's interested in blockchain and AI.
Remember when we mere mortals were able to cognitively perceive and understand the pace at which innovations were made?
Me neither - that kind of linear development model sounds like something that might've held true during the Industrial Revolution.
Today, we live in a much crazier world.
Everywhere you look, in every direction, there's something revolutionary going on.
Take a look at finances: blockchain and cryptocurrencies are turning the whole industry upside down. Even in the entertainment industry, tech has turned the Marvel movies into CGI-crammed fun-fests for the whole family.
My point is: across all spheres of our lives, growth, innovation, and improvement have become exponential.
As the world grows better and larger at every single aspect, this pace becomes more and more accelerated to the point where we cannot even comprehend its scale.
And while there are many tech giants we can thank for this, including Google, Microsoft, Samsung, and Sony, there’s one particular company that has been a pioneer on various fronts. Of course, I'm talking about Apple and its revolutionary “think different” approach.
In case you've been living in a cave for the last few decades, Apple was created in a garage in 1976 by a college dropout Steve Jobs and his tech geek friend, Steve Wozniak. With Jobs’ visionary mindset and Wozniak's skill combined, they were able to create a company that would last half a century and bring some of the most beloved tech products to their customers.
Apple’s first product was Apple Computer. It was the first attempt to make computer ownership more popular and more importantly, affordable. Before that, computers were only used by the richest people and the scientific communities; it was a giant piece of technology that was both expensive and impractical.
With Apple Computer, however, people found an opportunity to use computers more in their daily lives. And while the first generation of Apple Computer was very redundant and limited, the company was off to the right course.
Over time, Apple computers became more and more sophisticated. They even got a new name - Macintosh. However, during a rocky period in the 80s and 90s, the company wasn’t exactly successful in selling those devices.
When previously ousted Jobs returned to the company in 1996, he quickly regained control and instilled a new mindset to the company. From now on, Apple would only make products that were instantly recognizable and revolutionary all at the same time.
And that’s where original iMac came to existence. Today, iMac, Macbook, Mac Pro, and Mac Mini computers are incremental parts of millions of people’s lives. They have proven to be one of the most - if not the most - powerful and well-optimized computers on the market right now. And that’s the result that Steve Jobs has always aspired to.
After that, an iPod was born. Before that, the music players came in all shapes and sizes, but all of them had one similarity - they were very impractical. Remember those round-shaped CD players? They were the ugliest and most annoying devices ever. Besides, the CD discs only had a 700MB storage and could store somewhere around 70-80 songs.
In 2001, Jobs began his presentation by coming out on stage with a card box-shaped device in his shirt pocket. When the time came to present it, he took it out and showed the audience. He called it an iPod and it also revolutionized the music consumption industry.
As its card box shape suggests, the iPod was very convenient and could easily fit in people’s pockets. But that wasn’t the main point: as Jobs claimed, this device could store “thousand songs” in its storage. That’s right: a thousand individual tracks in a single tiny device.
While this might not be a big deal today, back then, it was truly spectacular; something very special. I remember the time when I could be no more than 10 or 11 (in 2008) and I was so fascinated when I saw that Nokia N95 8GB version. For me, 8GB was the biggest storage that I had ever seen. And considering how incredible this amount of storage was for me in 2008, the 30GB, or even some 80GB iPod models would’ve been a total miracle back in 2001.
And so did Steve Jobs stir things up in the music industry as well. People instantly fell in love with the original, as well as other versions of iPods. And as Apple added new features to it from time to time, including a touch-screen display, increased storage, cellular data, even the smartphone-like appearance, iPod’s popularity grew even further.
While Mac computers and iPods became an incremental part of Apple’s product lineup, they certainly aren’t the only ones the company or the customers cherished. In a myriad of products, there are Apple’s own phones, tablets, watches, and even Bluetooth speakers. And among them, one has reached the fame and popularity that no other Apple product has ever had. We’re talking about the iPhone, of course.
During the Macworld keynote in San Francisco, Steve Jobs was delivering his usual speech regarding Apple’s recent year statistics, as well as some updates to its already existing products. And when the keynote was about to end, Jobs uttered his legendary phrase: “And one more thing!”
The tech world was already expecting some steps towards the mobile industry from Apple, and as Jobs did his “one more thing”-thing, the whole audience burst into applaud and screams. That was the thing with Jobs: he could grab the audiences, mesmerize them, and read their minds. And on that same day, he knew what people wanted: a new phone.
And he delivered it. The world witnessed a smartphone that would completely change the layout of the whole industry and initiate this competition that we see today between the major smartphone producers. iPhone 2G, that was called just iPhone back then, was the very first smartphone that combined an-all screen body, no physical keyboard, a 2mp camera, a GPS, music player, and many more.
iPhone completely redefined the way phones were made. After that, Samsung quickly enrolled in this race, alongside Nokia, Sony, and other tech giants. And that “one more thing” was what started all this feud which, all things considered, is the most beneficial thing for us - the customers.
Fast-forward just three years, and the world witnessed yet another smartphone miracle from Apple. In fact, The Verge has recently compiled a list of the most influential tech devices and innovations of the decade and guess what? This device came on top!
Yes, we’re talking about the iPhone 4. As Verge notes, the fourth-generation iPhone was, and still is, “the most beautiful smartphone ever made”. And it spurred quite a lot of controversy of its own.
The iPhone 4 was the first smartphone that was built from front-to-back glass and aluminum on the sides. It somehow resembled a tech sandwich. This design was so distinctive, yet influential, that if you take a look at today’s smartphones, starting from the native iPhone 11 all the way to the rival Samsung Galaxy Note 10, every major device has a glass form factor.
But the design wasn’t the only thing that made this phone stand out: it was the first Retina display-device Apple has ever made, and it was the sharpest and most vivid screen on the market. On top of that, the phone had a selfie camera for the first time ever, as well as a 5mp rear camera, and a 720p video recording.
In a time where the smartphones come at a 4K 60fps recording capabilities, we might fall into a trap of forgetting that just 7 years ago, the phones couldn’t record even the smallest-resolution HD video. And the iPhone 4 was to first to make it happen.
And “one more thing”: this device was the last Steve Jobs was able to create. Sure, iPhone 4s was still his product, but the form factor, as well as many other features, were derived from the iPhone 4. So, this goes to show just how much of a visionary this person really was.
And so we come to where we are today. After Jobs’ death, Tim Cook became the CEO of Apple. And I have nothing against Cook in particular. In fact, when it comes to the financial side of the company, he has proved to be a resourceful manager and a skillful accountant.
However, when it comes to that “one more thing” mindset, it seems to me, and many other tech geeks, that Apple lacks a visionary leader who constantly pushes the invention side of the company and develops some of the most ground-breaking products.
Look at it this way: when the first iPhones were launched, almost every feature was mind-blowing and new. Even Siri in the iPhone 4s was revolutionary at that time: the AI assistant in a smartphone, what? But somehow, Apple lost touch to its revolutionary side and became more focused on profit - or that’s how it looks from outside.
The Apple products of today are no longer those game-changing devices that introduce mind-blowing new features every single year.
There are no brand-new cameras - although the current ones are constantly rated the best on the market, no mind-boggling Retina displays - still, the OLED display on the iPhone 11 Pro is not a bad one by any stretch of the imagination. In general, everything Apple offers is streamlined and perfected, but there’s hardly anything new to them.
And that is the thing: the Apple keynotes, be it hardware-based September events or software-based June WWDCs, aren’t that exciting anymore. It’s as if the “one more thing” era has passed along with Jobs and isn’t going to make a revolutionary entrance to the stage.
Now, to give the devil his due, it’s not easy to make a technological breakthrough in today’s very sophisticated tech industry. Almost every flagship smartphone, laptop, or another device that you look at has more in common than different. All of them have high-quality displays, some of the best glass in the camera, high-quality speakers, powerful chipset, and so much more.
And since they’re jam-packed with the most sophisticated hardware and software, it’s not easy for Apple or any other company to release inherently new devices and features.
On the other hand, when Jobs began his campaign, there was almost nothing that could potentially rival Apple’s iPhones, iPods, Mac computers, and iPad tablets. It’s like Apple had a giant head start and every invention seemed new and exciting.
But that’s not to say that there’s nothing left to reinvent.
Take a look at folding phones such as Galaxy Fold or even earlier Huawei Mate X - there was nothing like them just 2 years ago and now, they’re the most talked-about devices in the industry.
That’s the spirit Apple craves for so badly. And let’s hope that the “one more thing” era isn’t over yet!