iPhone is considered to be one of the most revolutionary gadgets ever made. And that is not just because it sold in massive numbers, but because it actually influenced the whole industry and market. Whether it was changes in design (straight sides, glass backs) or in functionality (portrait mode, pinch to zoom), the iPhone had a knack for kicking off trends. No, it was not always the first off the mark, but such was the hype and attention paid to the iPhone that a feature just had to appear on it and be talked up at its launch, to become a necessity for pretty much everyone else. In fact, in many cases, the industry even followed suit when Apple removed a feature from the iPhone.
It doesn’t come as a shock that many people wait for the launch of a new iPhone to see which features will trend in the smartphone world in the coming year. And which will be shown the exit. We do know what Apple will bring into our lives on September 7 and what it will assure us is unnecessary and should be dumped. As we wait, here is a look at some features that the iPhone has made a part of our tech lives and some that it has removed from it.
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Love these features? Thank the iPhone
Large displays…and large phones
It may seem ironic, considering how hard Apple is trying to hang on to the idea of a small phone in the era of large and larger phones, but Apple is really the brand that added the big display-big phone spice to our tech lives.
When Apple introduced the first-generation iPhone, it was iconic for more than one reason and one of those reasons was its big (by that time’s standards) display. The first iPhone came with a 3.5-inch display which was pretty rare back in 2007. It was the time when displays did not even traditionally make up half of the phone’s front.
That’s when the iPhone came and changed the smartphone game forever. It brought us that tall 3.5-inch mostly-all-display front which acted as the stepping stone for what was to come: big display, big phone era.
With data becoming the new currency and companies already following the data-to-dollar scheme (through advertising) and sometimes even worse, engaging with data manipulation, there has never been more need for digital privacy when it comes to our smartphones.
We all keep personal, professional, and even intimate data on our phones, and to have that data accessed by an app or a website without our knowledge is literally the last thing any smartphone user would want in this day and age.
While most smartphone manufacturers either act oblivious to the whole privacy issue or barely talk about it, Apple is a brand that not only keeps the privacy of its users front and centre but has made it the USP of the iPhones.
With iPhones, Apple has given users control over their data, while others hand it out like free pamphlets at a fair. Apple has not only given users the option to see which app is tracking their information but it also provides them with the option to keep the app from getting data, if the user does not trust it. It has also sparked the privacy debate and shown the world that user data can and needs to be protected.
Touchscreen phones existed before the iPhone came into our lives but none of them changed the course of our smartphone lives quite as the iPhone did. With big displays, the iPhone also brought the full-touch interface to our lives and famously gave us five styluses (our fingers — remember the scene from the Danny Boyle movie Steve Jobs?), while taking away the plastic one.
While basic swiping and some kind of scrolling did exist on touch phones before the iPhone came into the picture, it was still restricted to a niche audience, but the introduction of the iPhone made it a part of our everyday tech lives.
Multi-finger gestures like pinch to zoom not only wowed the audience during the launch of the iPhone but also became so popular that eventually, other brands had to follow and add it to our smartphone lives.
Apps and App stores
Like many other features and specs, even apps existed before they came with the iPhone but by launching the App Store in 2008, Apple changed the way software was created and distributed to users.
Before the App Store, you could install additional software on a handful of phones but it was never as easy as going to a digital store and getting whatever you needed.
Apple initially launched the App store with 500 apps and that number has grown to millions since then. The brand made it an industry staple. Now, we do not think anyone can think of owning a smartphone without some kind of digital app supermarket on it.
Regular software updates that went to ALL users
Regular software updates are one of the biggest USPs of the iPhones and for good reason. When the likes of Symbian and even the relatively earlier Android smartphone manufacturers were struggling (and some were not even considering) delivering software updates to their users, Apple was the brand that was rolling out regular software updates to not only newly launched smartphones but even older iPhones.
That saga, unfortunately, continues even now. While some Android manufacturers have become more hands-on when it comes to software updates, getting a new Android version on an old smartphone still remains a nightmare, which means if you do not come with it out of the box, you are probably not going to get it, with a few exceptions.
But that is not the case with iPhones. Apple does not only offer regular software updates to fix bugs in its existing software but when it launches a new version of iOS, even devices that are four to five years old, get the latest version of the UI.
Like many new features Apple introduces, the notch was also in the eye of the storm for quite a while after Apple brought it into our lives with the iPhone X. Many called it hideous, ugly, and some even seemed offended by its existence. Apple’s arch-rival Samsung even made a whole ad campaign mocking the notch.
But as it goes with most iPhone features, what the tech world loves to hate at first gets endlessly copied in the near future. That is exactly what happened with the notch. Other smartphone manufacturers picked up the notch, although more as a design feature than functionality, and introduced it on their phones as well.
Since then, other brands have introduced even smaller notches, dots if you will. Today, it is rare to see a phone without some sort of notch, and it was the iPhone that started it all.
While the notch took some time to make space for itself in the tech world, the case was absolutely the opposite when it comes to bokeh. Bokeh and software features related to bokeh existed on smartphones way before Apple came with Portrait Mode but Apple pretty much made it a staple camera feature for ALL smartphones with the launch of the iPhone 7 Plus.
The idea of having deep bokeh in the background which lets the subject stand out more, while the back is artistically blurred, was a concept most people only associated with full-fledged cameras. But when the iPhone came up with Portrait Mode, users realised that this could be achieved on phone cameras too, albeit with a lot of help from software.
The feature soon turned into a trend and almost all smartphones started coming with their own version of the portrait mode. Many even started incorporating cameras dedicated to building bokeh in the multi-camera setup on smartphones, all thanks to the iPhone.
There was a time when people used Bluetooth to share files from one phone to another and did not use it to just connect other devices (like earbuds) with their phones. While the iPhone has always had Bluetooth, it was a nightmare to use because it was more restricted than on other devices. And with Apple’s restrictions on sharing media (to discourage piracy), sharing media via Bluetooth on iPhone was always a struggle.
To solve this problem, Apple came up with its very own solution to this — AirDrop. AirDrop basically allows you to share media, notes, and other documents in a matter of seconds, more easily and speedily than Bluetooth ever did. Of course, it worked just with Apple devices.
Other brands are still trying to come up with something that works as smoothly. “AirDrop it to me” is part of standard iPhone user lingo!
We seldom hear of a phone being launched without Gorilla Glass protection nowadays. It has pretty much become a hygiene feature that is present in the spec sheet of most smartphones.
Even though Apple has moved to its own toughened glass, Ceramic Shield, for the longest time iPhones came with Corning’s Gorilla Glass.
In fact, Gorilla Glass perhaps owes its origins to the iPhone, as development for it picked up when Apple asked Corning for a tough glass for the first iPhone. Even though Apple never advertised it, almost every phone that came with a glass display had to have some sort of protection, and Gorilla Glass was easily the most popular and recognised of the lot.
The next time you see your phone’s display survive a scratch or a fall, thank Apple.
While many brands had attempted to shrink display bezels before the iPhone, no smartphone could get the hype around ‘all screen, no bezel’ display quite like Apple did with the iPhone X.
People cursed the notch on it but also swooned over the incredibly slim bezels around it, giving the phone an “all-display” look. Of course, other phones followed suit.
Much like many other features, this also was a very ‘premium phone only’ feature for a while but soon made its way to affordable smartphones too and before you knew it, pretty much all smartphones above Rs 10,000 came with slim bezels around their displays.
Miss these features? Blame the iPhone
While the iPhone has brought a number of cool, useful features to our lives, there are a few that it took away too. Here are five features that were pretty much killed because of the iPhone.
Remember the times when you could open the back of a phone, take out its battery, and put it back every time your phone froze? Or when you could simply take the battery out and replace it with a new one when the older one was exhausted or worn out?
Well, those simpler times have ceased to exist because of the iPhone. Apple launched the iPhone with non-removable batteries, cutting down on moving parts and looking to make the device more compact.
The rest of the industry made fun of the idea, and then followed suit. Sounds familiar?
The iPhone has never come with a memory card slot, and this is something users have been complaining about for years. While most of the tech world did not follow the iPhones blindly in this case for the longest time, we do see a trend in the smartphone city where expandable storage is losing its popularity.
While the majority of the mid-segment smartphones still come with expandable storage options, that idea is making an exit from the premium side of smartphones.
When Steve Jobs first launched the iPhone, styluses were quite a natural pairing with any touchscreen phone. But then came the iPhone and with it out went styluses with Jobs even making fun of them on stage.
While Symbian and Windows Mobile continued to support styluses for a while, Android went the non-stylus way as well and the poor styluses have been struggling to make a real comeback to smartphone land ever since.
Samsung, to its credit, has not given up on the idea and still ships its most high-end devices, the Galaxy S22 Ultra and the Galaxy Z Fold 4 with S Pen support, but other than that there is hardly any stylus buzz around the smartphone world. Even the Galaxy Note series, which always came with a stylus seems to have come to an end.
The 3.5mm audio jack
When Apple launched the iPhone 7 series, it shocked a number of people by removing the 3.5mm audio jack from it. Although Apple claimed that the audio jack was removed to get more space in the phone and also for better water and dust resistance, it might not have been a coincidence that Apple also introduced its AirPods at the same event.
The AirPods, of course, created the TWS market, in spite of being criticised for their “EarPods without wires” design. Other brands poked fun at Apple for removing the 3.5mm audio jack from the phone before once again following suit in their premium offerings. Now, the 3.5mm audio jack is even slowly disappearing from the sub-Rs 30,000 market.
Before the iPhone came into our lives, entering information was done through a physical keyboard, either of the full QWERTY or alphanumeric sort. In fact, on most devices, this keyboard occupied more space than the display on which it placed numbers and words — the BlackBerry was a prime example. Typing on a touchscreen was supposed to be difficult and erratic. The iPhone changed that.
Of course, not many were convinced by it — even the first Android smartphone came with a slide-out ‘proper’ physical keyboard. But as time passed, most of the buttons on our phones became on-screen ones.
Today, you will be hard-pressed to find a smartphone with a QWERTY or alphanumeric keyboard. Blame it on the iPhone!