Ten Years Later: How the iPhone Changed User Expectations

Published by Rob Conant July 10, 2017

 Ten years ago, Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone and for those of you (like me) who had a Palm Treo, it was a breakthrough.  Jobs summed it up quite well:

“The problem is that they’re not so smart and they’re not so easy to use, so if you kinda make a… Business School 101 graph of the smart axis and the easy-to-use axis, phones, regular cell phones are kinda right there, they’re not so smart, and they’re – you know – not so easy to use.”

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What set the iPhone apart was that it was smart and easy to use.  I marvelled as my 2-year-old daughter quickly figured out how to use the iPhone to scroll through picture of her favorite animals. It was truly a breakthrough in user design, and it has had an incredible impact on the world.

The ease-of-use revolution ushered in by the iPhone has impacted every aspect of the technology world. Customers have come to expect easy to use products, and the most successful companies have wholeheartedly embraced ease of use and elimination of friction as core to their success. 

Many of us in tech are early adopters and we’re comfortable with the complexity of hard-to-use products. But since the iPhone introduction in 2007, many of us have come to recognize that mainstream customers don’t have the time or inclination to read instruction manuals or learn how to use complex products.  More and more companies have been focused on eliminating friction and providing delightful user experiences.  

For example, many believe that Google bought Nest to capture the elegance and simplicity of the Apple user experience ethos:

"Both companies believe in letting the technology do the hard work behind the scenes so that people can get on with their lives," Nest CEO Tony Fadell told WIRED in an interview just after the deal was announced.

And Amazon’s famous commitment to eliminating friction for users has led them to be one of the most valued companies on the planet.

Since starting Cirrent, I see the impact of the iPhone on the connected product industry every day.  Most WiFi product companies that we talk with want to make their products easier to use.  Most product managers want to differentiate products by making them easier to use. And most support managers answering phone calls want to make the product frictionless, to eliminate complexity for users, and to make magical user experiences where products just work out-of-box.  

Over the 10 years since the iPhone was introduced, my daughter has grown up and could now probably figure out how to use a Palm Treo. Over that time I have become less patient with hard-to-use products and continue to see evidence every day of the huge positive change the iPhone has made on customer expectations. I’m happy that we at Cirrent are doing our part to help companies make IoT and Smart Home products easier to use.

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