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When Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone 4 this past June, it already was obsolete. It had been eclipsed by HTC’s EVO 4G, which runs on Sprint’s nascent 4G WiMAX network. EVO’s big leap forward centers on Sprint’s 4G network, which can deliver data such as Web pages, e-mail attachments, and music and video streams and downloads up to 10 times faster than 3G networks.

Apple’s iPhone was not the first cell phone with an integrated music player (the Samsung Uproar, 2000), nor the first with a touchscreen interface (LG Prada, 2007). And phones with touchscreens had been available for nearly a decade. The iPhone wasn’t even the first on which a user could download and install mini applications (the Palm OS–powered Handspring Treo 180, 2002). So what was so special about it?

In less than a decade, “iPod” has become nearly synonymous with the digital music player, an extraordinary accomplishment shared by only a handful of other consumer brands—such as Band-Aid, Kleenex, and Frigidaire—whose trademarked names have come to describe a generic product.

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