For two decades now, Apple has been fighting a battle between attention and disregard. In 1997, when Steve Jobs returned as interim CEO, the company was a struggling maker of personal computers with limited market share. Then came the iMac, a Mac computer people finally wanted to own again. Then the iPod, which transformed the company into a maker of high-design personal electronics and accessories. Then, of course, the iPhone, which made Apple the most valuable company in the world—and changed forever the way people live, work, and play.
Apple’s latest plans, announced on Tuesday at its Cupertino headquarters in a new theater bearing Jobs’s name, suggest that the company has entered a new phase. The iPhone has become so popular that it’s almost hard to notice, like the air people breathe. So now Apple has a new job: to make the iPhone just as important when it’s old and banal as it was when new and extraordinary.