The iPhone at 10: Where would start-ups be without the smartphone?

The mother of all smartphones, the iPhone first hit the market a decade ago, launching countless careers and providing a platform for the app economy.

10 years ago, Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone to the world, setting in motion a chain of events that have transformed how we’re entertained, clothed, fed, and educated. The smartphone has become such a staple in our lives that it’s how most people socialise and even do business.

A new consumer study reveals that most people would rather give up alcohol, sugar, coffee, sex, and even talking to their loved ones than live without their phones. But for start-up founders in the app economy has launched careers and changed the scope of doing business, taking hyper local concepts to the world in a simple tap.


Not since the advent of the telephone line in 1877 has there been a truly disruptive piece of technology like the iPhone, according to Dale Lovell, chief digital officer and UK MD at ADYOULIKE.

“Considering that in 2002 the Nokia 3510 was the first phone to bring internet services to the mass market, the iPhone disrupted all previous expectations consumers had of what a mobile phone could and should do. Since then it has continued to revolutionise mobile technology by creating entirely new products, services and even entire industries, that we couldn’t envision just ten years ago,” he says.

While people had already coined the term ‘smartphone’ in 1995, only until the iPhone was released in 2007, did it do justice to the word. Consumers clearly feel the same with over a billion iPhones sold to date, Lovell explains.

The level of advancement that has happened is really unprecedented. There were just 500 apps in the Apple App Store when it made its debut in July 2008 – now there are over 2.2 million.

The iPhone was a catalyst for larger leaps in innovation. As Lovell adds, technology is constantly changing. “We are at the dawn of how these major technology changes are going to impact society in the years to come.  Technology never stands still – and smartphones will undoubtedly be replaced in the future – but now we are very much living in the smartphone age.”

“In the advertising space smartphone-centric advertising models are now essential: Feeds, accessed via smartphones are where customers live now. It’s the water-cooler at work and the TV set at home of day’s gone by. Any brand wanting to gain market share simply has to advertise there. This is one of the key factors in the growth of native advertising and why it will continue to grow in the years to come.”


Podcasting has grown alongside the iPhone, capturing the imagination and attention of an entire generation. The average Brit listens t to over 6 hours of podcasts per week, which couldn’t have been possible without the iPod.

“Apple products and podcasting are intrinsically linked. The advent of the iPod in 2001 launched podcasts as we know them today, but the arrival of the iPhone liberated the format and completely removed the long-winded route of downloading and transferring from desktop to device,” says Karl Rosander, founder and president of podcasting platform, Acast.

“Podcasting is now seen as a major mainstream media format, with brands like Blue Apron, Casper, Squarespace, and Cornerstone focusing their advertising dollars on it. Streaming a podcast is a very intimate way for listeners to engage with the storytellers they love, and brands are able to be connected directly to highly relevant and focused audiences.”

Acast’s business model only really works with a mobile platform, Rosander adds. “The iPhone laid down the original technology for this industry, and now 10 years later, it’s amazing to see what it’s become. Today’s listeners are constantly plugged in to their smartphones accessing everything on-demand. I’m personally excited for this next chapter in audio.”

Productivity and health

The app economy is saturated with start-ups peddling mobile office suites, note taking apps, calendars, to-do lists, and the like. This is because productivity via app has become such a mainstay for most, whether through tracking tasks or scheduling mindfulness meditations or keeping track of health stats.

According to health and fitness app, Lifesum’s CEO, Henrik Torstensson, the advent of the iPhone launched thousands of careers. “Lifesum simply would not exist without the iPhone, and it is hard to imagine the consumer health-tech industry being where it is today without the Apple device’s revolutionary aspects. The magic of the iPhone was clear to see from day one. Powerful, yet simple – a device for everyone and anyone.”

”The iPhone launch ignited a smartphone race which deposited intelligent devices into the bags and pockets of hundreds of millions of consumers. Today’s devices and companion wearables can continuously collect data such as our heart rates, the daily number of steps we take, and how well we sleep, creating personal health reports that doctors could only have dreamed about a few years ago.”

For Torstensson, there is no doubt that the iPhone had a major impact on health-tech products. Firstly, he says, it set the gold standard for design and usability. Secondly it enabled the process whereby purpose-built health-tech hardware has begun to be replaced by software, which now sits on your smartphone, quietly monitoring your physical state. “You don’t need a sleep tracking device, when your iPhone has a sleep tracking app with machine-learning capabilities.”

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A generation of entrepreneurs

The growth of the app economy has paved the way for ‘Generation Entrepreneur’. Currently 26,400 people aged 21 or under are listed as directors of UK limited companies.

Despite the improving economy, it’s still very difficult for young people to find a job, with the current unemployment rate for young people aged 16 to 24 at 16.2 per cent. According to Procorre’s Wiktor Podgorski, the inability to find the kind of employment they want may be inspiring some young people to start out on their own instead. “High-tech industries, where the size of a business is much less important than its ability to create innovative products are proving particularly popular amongst young entrepreneurs.”

“The UK’s technology sector is growing fast and attracting a lot of high profile investment. Young entrepreneurs now aspire to set up a business and sell it for millions before even starting university. The success of a few pioneers made people realise that they can start setting up a business much earlier than in the past.”

Their success in fast growth sectors like app creation and online media are acting as a driver for people aged 21 and under to open businesses within the app economy using technology as a powerful marketing tool. Another feather in the smartphone’s proverbial cap.

Praseeda Nair

Praseeda Nair

Praseeda was Editor for from 2016 to 2018.