Skip to content
Happy birthday iPhone

Brown’s Bytes – Happy Birthday iPhone!

Welcome to Brown’s Bytes! Your weekly insight from Mobliciti’s CTO Andy Brown. Follow #brownsbytes

10th January 2020

Welcome back everyone and a very Happy New Year to all the regular readers.

The 9th of January was the birthday of the iPhone and amazingly enough, it is now a teenager! The iPhone was unveiled to the world by Steve Jobs 13 years ago…

I have spoken before about what a game-changer this was, but the highest compliment you can pay to this product launch is that, 13 years later, pretty much every smartphone made since then is basically the same design.

However, this isn’t the reason for this particular Byte. Instead, I want to look at an area that was launched as part of that initial iPhone release.

Forced Change

13 years is a long time and its worth remembering what the mobile handset world looked like before this launch – in particular in relation to carriers and how they ran things.

Up until the launch of the iPhone, the carrier was the gatekeeper for phones. This meant that they:

  1. Controlled which phones would be ranged and sold
  2. Made sure only SIM-locked devices would be sold
  3. Controlled when updates would be released to handsets (if at all)
  4. Customised/branded their handsets and added their own software overlays
  5. Made sure almost everyone got their phone from a carrier

Seems almost odd now when you look back on it, but the same phone on Vodafone could potentially be different to operate than one on O2. Even in the days of BlackBerry, this carried on – Vodafone installed their own skin as default on every device. In addition, it was normal to expect carriers to take different amounts of time to range a new handset (if at all).

Handset manufacturers were massively beholden to carriers when it came to ranging their devices and getting them updated.

But then along came Apple…

Apple decided they were to remain the gatekeepers of their device. It was going to be up to THEM when the iPhone would be available and when it would be updated. It was so much in demand that carriers were queuing up to work with them!

Now I often go on about how positive this was for us admins – it meant that patches would be released much, much quicker and it also opened up the device market in many different ways.

However, there is a dark side to this.

Carrier networks are amazingly complex pieces of infrastructure. In fairness to carriers, there was a very good reason why they wanted to control what connected to their networks and they wanted to test things thoroughly before they were let loose in the wild. Simply put, I would want to do this same thing if I was running the network!

As admins, we sometimes complain about the fact that we are unable to hold back the tide of updates from Apple. Well, carriers have the exact same issue; only much, much bigger. iOS updates also contain changes to the way the devices interact with their network.

And do you know what – there is an issue right now in the UK with precisely this. Apple released a new version of iOS and it has created an issue on iPhone XR devices running on the O2 network.

O2 (ironically the launch partner for that first iPhone here in the UK) are in the exact same position we as admins are in when there is an issue with Apple handsets. O2 have to wait for Apple to release in the fix… in another iOS update.

For users of these devices, this is an annoyance and I’m sure Apple will have this solved soon.

But as always, it shows that it isn’t always sunshine and roses when testing is stripped out of the process.

Anyway – welcome back everyone and let’s see what 2020 brings!