The Mobile 15: Our picks for the most innovative companies

Apple, Inc.

photo: Giancarlo Gagliardi /

CEO: Tim Cook

Number of employees: 70,000

The business:

On top of its computer hardware and software business, Apple has designed, built and sold smartphones since 2007. The business line expanded to include tablets in 2010.

The backstory:

In 1993, Apple’s first portable handheld with touchscreen arrived in the Newton but fared poorly in the market. After a failed partnership with Motorola on the ROKR in 2005 — a feature phone with limited iTunes support — Apple envisioned more powerful smartphones coming to market.  That led to the iPhone — elegant, but simple and capable — in 2007. With its strong history of design and usability, the iPhone quickly became the de-facto standard, in look and functionality, for all the smartphones that followed.

The innovation:

Apple isn’t on this list because it’s Apple — it made the Mobilize 15 because it’s still innovating with the speed and innovation of many smaller more nimble companies. Apple learned from its Newton that a poor touchscreen experience on a handheld was unacceptable. While other phones and PDAs continued to use resistive touchscreens, Apple pioneered the use of capacitive displays that improve touch accuracy. Hardware is only half of the innovation story, however. By using the Mac OS X kernel with a touch-friendly user interface designed solely for mobile use, Apple’s iOS platform redefined how consumers interact with their phone. Completing the trifecta was Apple’s move to centralize content for handsets and tablets with its iTunes App Store. Add the inclusion of Siri, which introduced the general public to a useful natural language processing assistant, and Apple has set the bar for its competition.

Their plan:

Having already reinvented the smartphone market, Apple has a simple stated goal: To continue evolving its product so that the sales of each new handset version sell as well as all prior models combined. The company is also adamantly fighting in court to protect the many features and functions it has patented for its smartphone.

—Kevin C. Tofel