These charts, from the Web 2.0 Summit, show the iPhone's growth in both data usage and sheer sales compared to other blockbuster gadget releases — and (not without caveats, natch), it blows most of them out of the water.
Before I show these charts, created by Morgan Stanley analyst Mary Meeker, I should mention the obvious: Comparing one gadget to another in a different category is messy and inconclusive. iPhone adoption is different than, say, Wii adoption for lots of reasons: The iPhone is a phone, a gadget which pretty much everybody has and needs, and it combined the capabilities of a phone with that of an established hit, the iPod. In contrast, the Wii is a videogame system, a category with a totally different demographic, requiring different kinds of software and accessories. They're just not the same (and I only mentioned a couple reasons), and comparing unit shipments doesn't necessarily prove anything. However, it is interesting to see exactly what an absolute blockbuster the iPhone has been over its first 10 quarters, and while we can't make any sweeping conclusions, we can say that the iPhone/iPod Touch is, as TechCrunch says, "the fastest-growing consumer electronics product of all time".
This next chart is also inconclusive, but pretty interesting: It compares the rate of growth in mobile internet to the rate of growth in desktop internet, in the mid '90s. Caveats apply again, of course, as the adoption of mobile internet is much easier than going from no internet to desktop internet. But certainly the iPhone has introduced easy-to-use mobile internet to the masses in much the same way that Netscape and AOL brought it to the home user a decade and a half ago, and the iPhone is making way quicker work of it.
As I said repeated, these charts aren't exactly ironclad evidence. But they do put the iPhone's remarkable rise to the top of the smartphone game in perspective, and it's hard to show in charts and graphs exactly how much it's changed the game of mobile devices. Those sales records are pretty impressive, after all, and there's no denying the impact it's had on today's gadget landscape. [TechCrunch via Twitter]