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On the iPhone and Apple's Meteoric Rise To the Top 317

Posted by Soulskill
from the seems-to-have-worked-out-well-for-them dept.
zacharye writes "Friday marks five years since the world first got its hands on a smartphone that would turn the industry on its head. In five short years, Apple went from the ground floor to being the most profitable company in the smartphone business by a staggering margin. Apple and Samsung — two companies that weren't even on the smartphone industry's map a few years ago — are now the only two major global vendors making money, and the split was estimated at 80/20 in Apple's favor last quarter. That's 80% of smartphone industry profits in less than five years with just five different smartphone models under its belt during that span."
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On the iPhone and Apple's Meteoric Rise To the Top

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  • by masternerdguy (2468142) on Friday June 29, 2012 @02:47PM (#40498263)
    Alright gentlemen we have a fine flame war in store for you tonight.
  • Apple fanbois like me can't get the batteries out to make them sail across the backyard from the bonfire pit.

    • On a serious note: It's actually pretty easy to pop off the back and change out the battery. Just a thin piece a plastic and a pentalobe screw driver you can get for a couple bucks.

  • No surprise. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by cpu6502 (1960974) on Friday June 29, 2012 @02:53PM (#40498349)

    Steve Jobs and his team made a damn fine piece of technology: A screen large enough for web-surfing & an easy-to-use touch interface. Plus people were already thrilled with the best-selling iPod, so stepping up to an iPhone was a natural next step.

    In other news: I was just reading this morning that phone sales are down for everyone (except Apple apparently). Overall retail sales in the EU have dropped 7%. Sounds like we're headed for great recession part 2. :-|

    • Not really such a small step as you claim. The iPod was still a device with a touchwheel before the iPhone.
    • Re:No surprise. (Score:5, Informative)

      by geekoid (135745) <`moc.oohay' `ta' `dnaltropnidad'> on Friday June 29, 2012 @03:17PM (#40498705) Homepage Journal

      "Steve Jobs and his team made a damn fine piece of technology"
      Copied. they Copied it from the LG Prada.

      • by Pieroxy (222434)

        Hmmm. Let's test that statement. Can you tell me which part of the Prada they copied? Because frankly, those two phones had nothing to do with one another.

      • by cpu6502 (1960974)

        Since the LG Prada was announced December 2006, and the iPhone was shown by Steve just three weeks later, it seems unlikely they copied. It was parallel development like how both Elisha Grey and Bell developed the phone in parallel.

        • by Tough Love (215404) on Friday June 29, 2012 @03:59PM (#40499281)

          So are you saying that you believe that Steve Jobs' exceptionally strong moral and ethical compass put him way above engaging in a bit of industrial spying?

      • Except the development of the iPhone started nearly 3 years before LG announced the Prada, and the iPhone was announced less than a month after the Prada.

        If the iPhone was truly copied from the Prada, you can bet that LG would have filed a lawsuit and be rolling in the money. Even they realize that it wasn't, and they have a lot more to lose than a poster on /.

      • A) Prada came out just around the time of the iPhone, not enough time for Apple to copy.

        B) The only remote similarity was in shape, and some icons - the rest was a horrible mess.

    • by oxdas (2447598)

      Where did you see the news? Goldman Sachs cut their growth targets for smartphones on Monday, but they still believe the market will grow 38% in 2012. They didn't have anything negative to say about either Apple or Samsung (unlike the downgrade they gave RIM).

      Additionally, Samsung announced on Monday that the Galaxy SIII is their best selling smartphone ever and estimated sales of 10 million by the end of July (although they are having a components shortage right now due to demand).

      I am guessing the news

      • Re:No surprise. (Score:5, Informative)

        by Guspaz (556486) on Friday June 29, 2012 @03:53PM (#40499203)

        People forget this now, but the iPhone did not support apps when it launched. Jobs didn't want third-party code on the iPhone, and tried to assuage the demand with web-based APIs for accessing phone hardware. App support was only added over a year later with iOS 2, coinciding with the launch of the iPhone 3G, as Apple and Jobs conceded to the inevitable.

        • Jobs didn't want third-party code on the iPhone,

          More like: Apple didn't have an SDK that was in good enough shape to hand it out to third-party developers.

        • Jobs didn't want third-party code on the iPhone

          This is false. The volume of documentation and the quality of it demonstrated Apple had planned for 3rd party app development all along... They just delayed initial access to shake out the API's before the public had access to them.

          • by Guspaz (556486) on Friday June 29, 2012 @06:17PM (#40500531)

            It wouldn't be the first time that somebody in Apple went and did something behind Jobs' back anticipating a change of heart. The story of the Sony/Alps situation for the original Mac floppy drive is probably the most famous example.

            Jobs loved the new Sony 3.5" floppy drive format, and decided seven months before the Mac was supposed to ship that he wanted to use it... and he wanted that to happen via an Apple/Alps developed-from-scratch clone. The team thought this was insane, so while grudgingly going through the motions with Alps, they secretly continued working on integrating the Sony drive. They kept all the meetings/negotiations/hardware secret from Jobs, to the extent that they would hide the Sony engineer visiting Cupertino in a closet whenever Jobs was nearby. This obviously greatly confused the Sony engineer, but he went along with it.

            Later, when Alps told Apple that they needed eighteen months to get the thing ready, the team revealed to Jobs that they had gone behind his back and kept the Sony deal alive, and he ended up thanking them for their little rebellion.

            I'm not saying that this is the same situation here, only that what Jobs was convinced was the right approach and what the Apple engineers working on the internal SDK were convinced was the right approach may not have aligned. It's pretty well documented from multiple sources internal to Apple that Jobs was obstinately refusing to consider third-party apps. He didn't want other people messing with his perfection, and he didn't think his team had the bandwidth to figure out how to make it work (in terms of reliability and integration) on top of their existing workload.

          • by jcr (53032)

            The volume of documentation and the quality of it demonstrated Apple had planned for 3rd party app development all along...

            Kudos to the tech pubs team at Apple, but I'm afraid you're mistaken. At launch time, there was no intention to allow third-party apps on the phone. It took quite a lot of convincing to get SJ to allow it.

            -jcr

    • I was just reading this morning that phone sales are down for everyone (except Apple apparently).

      What were you reading, a blog written by your sister? (IOW, link please.) For the rest of us, the situation seems to be developing as you would expect, contrary to widespread reality distortion from Apple. Samsung to be the top handset manufacturer overall with 26.0 percent market share. Google Android continued to grow its share in the U.S. smartphone market, accounting for 51 percent of smartphone subscribers, while Apple captured more than 30 percent. [comscore.com]

    • by MtViewGuy (197597)

      The iPhone was the first cellphone that included a touchscreen interface that is actually viable and useful--interestingly, an outgrowth of all that research into a tablet computer (it's been said the tablet computer development that resulted in the iPad came before the iPhone, but when engineers realized the interface they ended up with on the iPad was very adaptable to a small touchscreen cellphone, the result was a cellphone that totally changed the cellphone industry).

      What makes the iPhone even more imp

  • five models (Score:5, Insightful)

    by blackraven14250 (902843) on Friday June 29, 2012 @02:56PM (#40498383)

    with just five different smartphone models under its belt during that span."

    That's a significant part of the reason for it, right there.

    • Re:five models (Score:5, Insightful)

      by rtfa-troll (1340807) on Friday June 29, 2012 @03:25PM (#40498819)

      Right; 100%. With an iPhone there is a dead simple choice; I'm rich / prioritize this - take the latest model, pay a reasonable amount. Poor / sensible - take the older one still on sale. All of them are still delivering a platform on which most of the features ("apps") will work except where tied to some very specific new feature (e.g. siri to voice recognition). If you want to see how much other phone companies don't get this, look only at the wannabe competitors who are releasing new phones unable to run skype where previous models have been able to. Even Android is barely succeeding at getting this even with Google continually and determinedly pushing it.

      The real truth is that the brilliance of Apple was in sacrificing market share for the ability to make decisions independent of the mobile operators. This meant that there was only one company (Apple its self) putting it's own interests above the consumers and even that company is pretty much aware of the danger and so only does it "tastefully".

      This is what Microsoft is fighting for with Skype - the ability to bypass the mobile operators and make them irrelevant. I don't think they will succeed, but once the mobile operators realise the risk I think it will make Apple and Google's bargaining power much larger.

    • Re:five models (Score:4, Insightful)

      by swb (14022) on Friday June 29, 2012 @03:32PM (#40498885)

      That's a huge reason. The model simplicity (which is probably closer to 2 models when you factor in that the 3 models and 4 models share the basic case/form factor) is a huge win for consumers because it makes it easier for Apple to continue to support them with iOS updates AND for consumers to own them because they need to buy fewer accessories (my ProClip car holder still works with my 4s as it did with my 3gs).

      It's also simpler for consumers to wrap their mind around -- I wouldn't know what fucking Android phone to buy if you put a gun to my head. There's too many and too many from even one maker, and they seem (at least from the marketing background noise) to come out with new ones continuously.

      • Re:five models (Score:5, Interesting)

        by blackraven14250 (902843) on Friday June 29, 2012 @03:49PM (#40499133)

        They do have far too many models, and there's a new flagship every 4-6 months at most manufacturers. Those flagships are completely different on each carrier, too.

        On one hand, it promotes competition - Android phone specs are improving at a far better rate than the iPhone line. On the other, it makes the marketplace a total clusterfuck, so consumers have no idea what they're getting.

        One is an extreme singular focus, the other is an extremely competitive marketplace. If anything, this is a good case study of those extremes that can likely be applied to other industries as well. Too much high profile competition clouds the market, while too little ends up removing freedom in the name of centralization.

      • by Belial6 (794905)
        The accessory market is the place that iPhones seriously kick Android's butt. Most accessories require that you pick which little piece of plastic you put in the cradle, and it is ready to go for any iPhone or iPod Touch. Android has the benefit of choice, but that choice makes accessories less prevelent. This could be fixed with NFC being used to initiate a bluetooth connection. Specify an inductive charger, and the different shapes for Android would become a moot point. Since that hasn't happened yet
  • Meteoric? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Wouldn't that mean it came hurling down to earth and usually burned to nothing in the atmosphere?
  • by erroneus (253617) on Friday June 29, 2012 @03:01PM (#40498431) Homepage

    "Meteoric" brings to mind "meteor" which is something that falls down very fast and tends to burn up in the sky. (Yeah, I get that "meteor" as in "meteorology" and the notion that meteors are "fast"... it's the other properties of the word that I find horribly misplaced.)

    Sorry, but it seems "meteoric rise" has been used a lot lately and it's almost as if people are being tested to see how stupid they are.

    • by Nerdfest (867930)

      It's not 'stupid' as such, it's short-sighted. At some point a lot of people are going to realize that they themselves want to have the final work on what runs on their phone. Both Windows and OSX are headed the opposite way though, and will probably also be locked down before people realize they've lost control. Yeah, sure they'll have developer licences, but it really goes beyond that. Many people fought long and hard to keep computing open, and a lot of ground is being lost.

      • by Nerdfest (867930)

        I just realized that you meant being tested regarding the word 'meteoric'. I pass on that one, but fail overall. I thought you were saying iPhone users were stupid.

    • by geekoid (135745)

      Brilliant and quick.
      Really, you should do less looking at others and calling them stupid, and more looking into the mirror.

    • by 93 Escort Wagon (326346) on Friday June 29, 2012 @03:22PM (#40498773)

      Sorry, but it seems "meteoric rise" has been used a lot lately and it's almost as if people are being tested to see how stupid they are.

      Actually, it's a test of how quickly some people jump to erroneous conclusions without bothering to check if there is a reasonable explanation they simply don't know about. We could call it the "true knowledge test for males between the ages of 15 and 30".

      The phrase "meteoric rise" has been in use at least since 1865 [worldwidewords.org] - and, given the context, it makes perfect sense.

    • The word meteor comes to us from ancient Greek, with some kind of meaning of lifting up. Obviously the original etymological meaning is irrelevant to users of the modern phrase, but it's perhaps ironic that the meaning fits.

      The phrase "meteoric rise" has been used at least since the 1860s in print, and probably earlier than that in speech. Today we may know that meteors are drifting chunks of rock that burn up in the atmosphere or crash to the ground, but what about 200 years ago? What did (at least most) p

      • by tgibbs (83782)

        And in fact, although meteors are in fact falling, that is by no means evident to the watcher on the ground. It is not uncommon to see the track of a meteor start near the horizon and "rise" higher into the sky.

    • Most people can't figure out how to spell "Phoenixian".

      And even when they can how many would understand what it meant?

      Everyone knows of the fiery path of the meteor, even if as you say it's going the wrong way for what they are trying to imply.

  • Will it continue? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 29, 2012 @03:04PM (#40498491)

    I wonder if this will continue for Apple.

    iOS 6 is a yawner. Yes, what we need -- more facebook integration. Already, there is a backlash against FB. The latest Android announcement had some cool items in it including another method of protecting against piracy that does not depend on if a device is not rooted.

    The Retina Display Macbook Pro has a cool screen, but cannot be repaired or upgraded.

    Mountain Lion?

    Jobs's RDF is gone.

    What Apple needs to do is start figuring out how to get themselves enterprise-friendly without losing their consumer market. Enterprises buy stuff in such large chunks that a few good contracts are a lot better than lines around the building of hipsters.

    First, redo the Mac Pro. Make a chassis that works like a tower, but can have a rack drawer attached so it can be slammed into a standard enclosure. Offer not just 8Gbs FC cards, but NICs with enough packet offloading power so FCoE is workable.

    Second, make something like BES but for managing iPhones. Yes, Exchange can do a lot, but having a dedicated policy management server that can handle data transmissions, perhaps even backups of phone devices would bring a lot of revenue.

    Third, the ARM processor supports worlds. In this day of BYOD, offer iPhones and iPads with a "work" partition and a "home" partition. That way, the employee only needs to type in the long password when accessing the "work" side, and the Exchange erase only blows that out. It also allows for apps to only see a subset of data, so the FB app isn't able to access work contacts.

    Fourth, make an antipiracy mechanism similar to Google's LVL or new encryption mechanism in Jelly Bean. That way, apps don't have to rely on the fact a device is not jailbroken. As an added bonus, more money can be spent on features, not anti-jailbreak BS.

    Fifth, make a business friendly Mac desktop that can push the Dells and Compaqs out of the offices. Take an iMac, toss the camera and mic, and sell that as a business PC with service plans to follow. Lots of cash there to be made, as most companies would switch to Macs if they could, only for the artistic value of the machines.

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      Apple is actually alienating some of its most influential users, the ones with the big fancy machines that other Apple owners fap to. Macbook Pro is decidedly un-pro what with all the stuff you can't replace or upgrade. Mac Pro is not as expandable or upgradable as a real PC. Neither one is "professional". You can expect them to make the mac pro worse, not better.

    • by whisper_jeff (680366) on Friday June 29, 2012 @03:35PM (#40498929)

      This is such a glorious example of how Slashdot readers just don't get it sometimes. Let's see:

      Yes, what we need -- more facebook integration.

      Yes. There are literally 100's of millions of Facebook users and I suspect they will happily take more Facebook integration with their phone. Just because you (or many Slashdotters) hate Facebook doesn't mean that the vast (VAST) majority of people out there also hate it.

      What Apple needs to do is start figuring out how to get themselves enterprise-friendly without losing their consumer market. Enterprises buy stuff in such large chunks that a few good contracts are a lot better than lines around the building of hipsters.

      Absolutely right. Except the iPhone is, by a wide margin, the most successful smartphone on the market making Apple the most successful company in the world while RIM, with it's focus on enterprise, is nearly dead. So maybe not so right after all.

      Seriously, Slashdotters have such a strong sense of "I know how to do it right and they clearly don't so let me spell it out for you..." Um, Apple is _THE_ most successful company on the planet, by a wide margin. They have figured out how to do it. Perhaps your roadmap to success isn't quite as good as you think it is given that your roadmap to success sounds a HELL of a lot like "focus on enterprise like RIM". You know, RIM, the company that is desperately cutting overhead in an effort to save their company from utter ruin because that's where they're headed.

      Look, Apple isn't perfect and there are things that they can do better in various ways but I think they've proven, beyond any possible shadow of a doubt, that their approach works a hell of a lot better than your suggested approach. Focusing on consumers is a roadmap to success. Getting consumers behind your product gets your product into businesses. They've proven this. Why Slashdotters cannot see this is a mystery to me.

    • First, redo the Mac Pro. Make a chassis that works like a tower, but can have a rack drawer attached so it can be slammed into a standard enclosure. Offer not just 8Gbs FC cards, but NICs with enough packet offloading power so FCoE is workable.
      All apple needs to do is include 2 thunderbolt ports, each on separate busses. Who needs FC when you have thunderbolt? Add USB 3 and new graphics cards; that's all I could ask for as a pro right now. There are so many thunderbolt video and audio devices coming out,
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by stewbacca (1033764)

      What Apple needs to do is start figuring out how to get themselves enterprise-friendly without losing their consumer market.

      In engineering, EVERYTHING is about tradeoffs. You simply can't have a good enterprise experience AND a good consumer experience, so Apple (thankfully for me as a consumer) has leaned towards consumer. Sure there are some positive aspects of the consumer brand that could be incorporated into the enterprise environment, but for the most part, the two are mutually exclusive. This is why, in my opinion, Windows + x86 sucks as a consumer product. The money Microsoft makes from businesses is way more than their

    • by SuperKendall (25149) on Friday June 29, 2012 @03:58PM (#40499259)

      iOS 6 is a yawner

      Spoken like someone totally ignorant of details, or lacking in vision...

      iOS6 has such major, important updates for developers that going forward I will go with iOS6 support only as soon as it comes out, with no backwards support.

      Finally developers will be able to display anything on the built in maps framework, without any of the limits imposed by GOOGLE on how you can use maps.

      Also developers will be able to create regionally focused mapping applications that users can buy in the map itself! Android does not have nearly as open and extensible built in third-party map helper support - only what Google chooses to provide. Yes you can buy other mapping apps but you have to find them yourself, and determine if they will work where you are.

      Also iOS6 has an really advanced constrait based layout engine that goes way beyond a springs/struts model, or Android's Relative layout model. It makes support for proper internationalization trivial.

      Apple never needed Jobs mythical RDF, just great products... and Apple is continuing to provide that for users.

    • by jbolden (176878)

      The macbook air is hugely successful and can't be upgraded. The way you upgrade a mac is you sell it or give it away and get a new one.

      What Apple needs to do is start figuring out how to get themselves enterprise-friendly without losing their consumer market. Enterprises buy stuff in such large chunks that a few good contracts are a lot better than lines around the building of hipsters.

      Based on what? Enterprise customers are
      a) cheap while Apple tends to offer top of the line hardware
      b) demand long sup

  • Daft Punk, Not Kanye (Score:5, Informative)

    by skinlayers (621258) on Friday June 29, 2012 @03:06PM (#40498513)

    "Better, faster, stronger," Apple could have easily lifted those Kanye West lyrics for their press release announcing the coming of the iPhone 3GS in 2009.

    *facepalm* Sorry, I know its a minor detail, but Daft Punk originally wrote "Better, faster, harder, stronger", and Kanye sampled it (with permission) for his song. They have a cameo in his video, which is an awesome tribute to Akira for those that haven't seen it.

    *watches Daft Hands and Daft Bodies on youtube*

  • Samsung may have been under _your_ radar but they made some darned nice PalmPhones, e.g., the SHG-i300.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    It's funny how people fight over which smartphone is superior. If people from the past (even 10 years) could see people name-calling over who has what smartphone, they would think it absurd.

    Let me make it simple for you. Me touch phone. It do stuff. Me make phone call. Me play game. Nice blinky lights.

    It's no more complicated than that people.

    • by Merk42 (1906718)
      This is technology. There can only be one, and when there is, everything else must be branding as an x-killer.
    • by Cimexus (1355033)

      Yeah. 100% right.

      I don't get it either. I have an iPhone ... it works and does what I want it to, and is simple to manage. It doesn't crash. It's nice and smooth and responsive when I scroll up and down. It gives me a decent 2 days of battery life. And has some fantastic apps. And listening to/controlling my music library via the included headphones works nicely on the bus. And a hundred other little reasons that made me buy it.

      But I don't give a flying f**k that Apple made it. Nor do I think Android is inf

  • by kurt555gs (309278) <kurt555gs AT ovi DOT com> on Friday June 29, 2012 @03:34PM (#40498913) Homepage

    I am a phone geek. The cell phone that I like the best. Actually the best cell phone ever made, in my opinion is the Nokia N9. Now dead, no longer made, it's corpse used to make shitty Lumia's. It could have been the 3rd leg in the cell phone triad.

    But, it isn't about technology. The people that buy cell phones aren't the real customers, but the companies that suck user information and sell it.

    The Nokia N9 is like the 2002 BMW E39 M5. the last of the great road cars where you could actually shift it, and trurning off the traction control really did just that.

    So, long Nokia. The N9 could have been a stellar hit.

    • Bad car analogy (but great car that BMW)...I've been driving for 26 years, and have never owned an automatic, to include my two current BMWs (1-series, 3-series wagon). Are you suggesting BMW no longer makes manual transmissions, or BMW no longer makes great cars?

    • Okay, so you're a cellphone geek? Good for you.

      But the truth is that the vast majority of people don't care that much about a great big feature list. They care about "will this make me happier?" - emotional benefits, if you like.

      The iPhone is regularly advertised with video chat to the hypothetical user's nearest and dearest. That's a great emotional-benefit type feature.

  • Competition has a way of eroding fat margins. Just saying.

  • Apple only has 30% of the Mobile OS market share [bgr.com] compared to Android at 51%. If you want to go off a different graph [droid-life.com] Apple is at 29% so it's still pretty close despite two separate studies.

    Furthermore, the top mobile OEMs are Samsung and LG. Apple is bringing in a measly measly 14% [vimg.net]. Yes, Apple took no time at all in getting profitable in the last five years, but that's in stark contrast to global market dominance where things aren't so hot for Apple. I know it's hard to fathom but the rest of the world (

    • by jo_ham (604554)

      That last graph includes non-smartphones. Apple is not in that market, never will be, and doesn't care about it.

      If Apple also made a non-smartphone then the metric might mean something (in terms of "it being not so hot for Apple" ), but the fact that they have chosen to concentrate on a small segment (by global phone use) standards, but one that is growing all the time, is the area you need to look. In that market they are competing well and doing quite nicely for themselves.

  • by peter303 (12292) on Friday June 29, 2012 @03:51PM (#40499153)
    I remember hackers jail breaking the thing to expose the underlying Mac UNIX. Opening it up to 3rd party developers was an uncertain but profitable move.
  • by rujholla (823296) on Friday June 29, 2012 @04:02PM (#40499309)

    According to ZDnet Samsung is ahead of apple in the smartphone market.

    Samsung’s success in the U.S. is both a blessing and a curse. It dominates the U.S. smartphone market, even outshining Apple’s iPhone. But delays, sales injunctions, and supply chain issues are hampering Samsung’s latest efforts to crank out its Galaxy S III smartphone to the market.

    Market research firm

    Samsung Electronics' Galaxy series has overtaken Apple's iPhone as the number-one individual smartphone sub-brand in the world.
    According to a report published by American market research firm Strategy Analystics in the first half of the year, Samsung sold 41-million units of its Galaxy series, which comprised 28 percent of the global smartphone market.
    Apple was close behind, selling 35-million units of the iPhone and taking up 24 percent of the market share.
    Research in Motion's Curve was the third-largest smartphone brand, but it only accounted for FOUR percent of the market.
    The report said Samsung and Apple are "clear leaders," since they make up over half of the global smartphone market combined.

    • by MikeMo (521697) on Friday June 29, 2012 @04:12PM (#40499433)
      The summary says correctly that Apple makes 80% of the profits, not 80% of the phones. Samsung appears to be shipping the most phones, although the only numbers available are estimates of SHIPPED phones, not phones sold to consumers. For some reason, Samsung refuses to release any numbers at all.
  • by retroworks (652802) on Friday June 29, 2012 @05:34PM (#40500193) Homepage Journal
    Only 2 vendors making money? PLEASE. The article trots out has-beens like aging NBA basketball players, but doesn't mention Han Hoi Precision, HTC, or any of the hundreds of fast growing Android-clone manufacturers. 30 companies on 3 continents cooperated to make the IPhone. I like Apple, but I admire how IBM gave Lenovo credit compared to how Apple shares the credit with the geeks of color in Asia who made this generation of touchscreen phones affordable, scaleable, and possible.

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