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How Apple and the iPhone Smashed the Wireless Carriers' Control of Your Mobile Phone

AT&T (T) , Verizon (VZ) , T-Mobile USA (TMUS) and Sprint (S) may look back on the launch of the iPhone ten years ago with a wistful gaze.

Apple's (AAPL) revolutionary device highlighted the capabilities of mobile networks and helped inspire the vast array of apps and services that are now common on even the cheapest rival phones. As it did so, the iPhone forever changed mobile broadband, which had been a kind of walled garden under the control of the wireless carriers. Today the iOS and Android operating systems define wireless broadband, and Apple Inc. and Alphabet Inc.'s (GOOGL) Google hold the keys to the garden.

While the Apple and Android app stores are now cutting edge marketplaces that draw talented developers and entrepreneurs, a decade ago the phone interface was a comparably boring and limited ecosystem.

"If you wanted to get anything on there it would have to be approved by the carrier themselves in their own app store," BTIG LLC analyst Walt Piecyk said. "Today that app store is controlled by Apple."

AT&T Inc. and Verizon Communications Inc. are trying to wrestle back control of the customer experience. AT&T launched...