Last week, Time Magazine in the US awarded the Apple iPhone (opens in new tab) its prestigious ' Invention of the Year' award. The smartphone officially launches in the UK today, riding a wave of hype that's been building since the US launch in June.
The Time Magazine prize has previously been won by the likes of video sharing monster site, YouTube, and before that, Snuppy the cloned puppy. The awards have certainly been no stranger to controversy over the years. After all, this is a magazine which gave the ' Person of the Year' award to George W Bush. Not once, but twice.
Why is the iPhone so imporant?
Despite a tendency to choose an unlikely winner for some of its honours, you'll be hard pressed to find many people who would argue against the iPhone winning the best invention of 2007 gong.
Sure, we're all sick of hearing about it. But as a piece of technology, the iPhone could well be the most important phone of the last few years. The simple fact that people will queue a day early to buy one, shows you what impact Apple's GSM-equipped iPod has already had. Did anybody queue for a Nokia N95? Or an HTC touch?
The iPhone isn't even a perfect phone. There's no 3G in the model that launches today, only 8GB of memory, no removable (or upgradeable) battery and a piddling 2.0 megapixel camera. Apple dangles the carrot of third-party application support in the future, but for now the iPhone is a mobile system that's locked down tighter than a prison. It's no wonder hacking iPhones is referred to as 'jailbreaking'.
Nevertheless, rival manufacturers will be treating the iPhone as a benchmark; the thing to beat. As a result, the entire industry should leap forwards. Better products should now be produced, usability standards should soar, prices should fall.
Even if you don't buy an iPhone, you'll ultimately be better off for having it around.
iPhone is the spark of change
The iPhone is easily the most advanced gadget ever put into the hands of the everyday person on the street. It's a phone; it's a PDA; it's a music and video player; it's a web tablet. We've not seen a single person who has failed to be impressed by the iPhone when they've had play with it. Mostly importantly, the iPhone represents change.
Look how YouTube has changed the world of online video. Have you heard of something interesting that happened on TV recently which you weren't able to find on YouTube? It's not only a fantastic idea for a website, it's also something that has changed the way millions of us access information.
Likewise, Snuppy the dog in 2005 represented an enormously large leap forward in cloning technology and stem cell research. While a cloned Afghan Hound might not be terribly interesting now, this is the technology which will one day help scientists create human organs from stem cells. That is revolutionary .
Time Magazine views the iPhone on a par with these other winners because it promises to give the world of mobile devices a good, hard kick up the arse.
Besides... can you think of anything else that could have won this year?