The first iPhone, iPhone 2G, was the ultimate combination of Apple’s best products. It allowed desktop-quality web browsing, could play music like an iPod, had a touchscreen and it was a mobile phone.
Before the iPhone, the mobile world was a dark place, comprised of Blackberries and flip Nokias. But thankfully, since the release of the 2007 iPhone, all mobile phones have aspired to the level of tech genius modeled by Apple.
The creative spark that led to the development of the iPhone began way back in 2004. Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple Inc., approached the company's engineers with an inspired request—investigate the use of touchscreen devices and tablets. Touchscreen apparatuses were a new field at the time, with few advancements being made in touchscreen technology.
Jobs had decided that the traditional PDA (personal digital assistant) and tablet PC market were not the right areas for Apple to enter. Though Apple had received many requests to create another PDA to follow up the Newton MessagePad (a PDA device employing the use of a stylus), Apple would instead concentrate on the iPod.
Sales of the iPod had soared throughout the early 2000s. People had started to carry both a mobile phone and an iPod daily. About the time it occurred to the Apple team that an “iTunes phone” was likely the next best step for the iPod.
Jobs saw that mobile phones were quickly becoming invaluable portable devices for accessing information on the go. He envisioned a cell phone with faultless synchronization software. On September 7, 2005, the ROKR E1 was introduced by Apple and Motorola; it was the first mobile phone able to synchronize with the iTunes software.
But Jobs wasn't happy with the Motorola collaboration. The firmware used on the ROKR E1 was designed to limit storage space to only 100 iTunes songs. This limitation of storage space was done on purpose to avoid competition with the Apple iPod nano—perhaps not an ideal step in hindsight.
“Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.”-Steve Jobs
Moreover, Motorola had stifled the creativity of the Apple team. Plus, the ROKR interface was a nightmare and uploading to the device from iTunes was painfully slow, which was not the innovative design for which Jobs had hoped. Apple would have to create its own phone, and they would do it their way.
This time around, Apple decided not to go with the “design by committee” approach they used with the Motorola ROKR E1 project, which turned out to be mostly unsuccessful. Now Apple would have the freedom to develop the hardware and software in-house for the iPhone.
They began recruiting top players in the tech field, including Jonathan Ive—the designing mind behind the iMac and iPod. In total, Apple would hire nearly a thousand additional employees for the project.
The beta version of the iPhone, built-in 2004, was used to test the commands created by the Apple team, and that was a turning point. It marked the beginning of the highly confidential “Project Purple,” named for the purple-colored cables used to communicate with prototypes of the iPhone.
The touchscreen that would eventually make the iPhone famous was initially created with a tablet in mind. At the time, though, Jobs was ready to focus on developing an Apple cell phone rather than taking the tablet further.
Just like a tablet, the main feature of the iPhone was to be that it was nearly all screen. This feature emphasized the importance of interaction between the user and the phone, facilitated by the touchscreen.
The concept of integrating a large screen was thanks to Jonathan Ive, Chief Design Officer at Apple. His very first sketch of the iPhone shows an aesthetic that would be continued throughout many iPhone releases.
Unfortunately, Apple was not entirely free from the need to collaborate. The iPhone would be released alongside AT&T Wireless, who initially allowed Apple their creative freedoms in exchange for 5 years of exclusive sales rights in the U.S., plus a percentage of monthly service revenue. The agreement would eventually be curtailed, and future iPhones would be compatible with numerous cell service providers.
Apple made the ambitious declaration that it would reinvent the mobile phone with the iPhone. And it did. On January 9, 2007, the public got its first glimpse of the iPhone.
(iPhone 2007 Presentation)
This grand unveiling took place at the Macworld 2007 convention in San Francisco, during which Steve Jobs demonstrated how to use iTunes, the Weather Widget and Google Maps on the iPhone.
Jobs alluded to just how exciting the completion of the iPhone was for him and his team, opening his announcement with, “This is a day I’ve been looking forward to for two and a half years.”
The iPhone was introduced not as a mobile phone, but as three devices in one—an iPod, a mobile internet device and, yes, a phone. Such diverse functionality was unheard of in the mobile phone industry at the time, making the keynote speech, and the iPhone itself, iconic.
There was once a time when the public did not know much about applications or even use the term "app." The iPhone would change this too.
On June 11, 2007, an Apple spokesperson announced that the iPhone would support applications created by third parties and run on the Safari platform.
This announcement was fabulous news for app designers around the world. It meant that third party designers could create Web 2.0 applications that everyday users could access over the internet. No surprise, such applications began to come out of the woodwork, well before the release of the iPhone. One of the pioneers in this venture was OneTrip. The app was programmed to keep track of a user's shopping lists. Though it sounded simple enough, it was handy for people that never seemed to have a pen and paper handy. One Trip was just the beginning.
Once app developers started to recognize all the little things the average person needed to make life easier, the apps began to flow. The famous slogan used in Apple commercials at the time— “There's an app for that” —became so indicative of their devices that it was trademarked under the Apple name.
After the first iPhone keynote speech, customers had to wait nearly six months before they were able to buy this new creation. But people lined up in anticipation for its release at exactly 6:00 pm on June 29, 2007.
The buildup and hype surrounding the iPhone were immense, and at this point, Apple’s reputation rested on the success of the iPhone.
“Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.”-Steve Jobs
Fortunately, the release of the initial two models drew enormous crowds. A 4 GB version priced at US$499 and the other an 8 GB for US$599, Apple offered options to cater to different consumers right off the bat.
Even though a two-year contract was required for each model, people were willing to commit to the iPhone, and they began lining up at storefronts across the nation.
The remarkable response to the iPhone launch prompted various media outlets to dub the phone the “Jesus phone.” The incredible success of the U.S. launch was quickly followed by releases in the UK, France, and Germany, with Ireland and Austria following suit in the spring of 2008.
The original iPhone was met with its share of nay-sayers. The media immediately picked up on any faults and reported on cracking screens, the lack of a stylus, and average battery longevity. Concerns about the functionality of a touchscreen were raised. Despite all this, sales for the 2007 iPhone 2G reached 1.39 million. Not too shabby for a mobile device at the time!
“There’s an old Wayne Gretzky quote that I love. ‘I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.’ And we’ve always tried to do that at Apple. Since the very, very beginning. And we always will. So thank you very, very much for being a part of this.” -Steve Jobs
The 2007 iPhone was the start of something new, not just in the industry of technology and entertainment, but for Apple itself. According to Jobs, the “i” in Apple devices—“iMac,” “iPod,” “iPhone,” and “iPad”—stands for internet, individual, instruct, inform and inspire. These “i’s” became the foundation of Apple culture moving forward.
The iPhone also raised the bar for what consumers expect in a phone or in any piece of technology for that matter. It provides access to the latest advancements in technology, yet it is simple to use and attractive to behold.
A focus on valuing the individual iPhone user has led to technologies being developed, such as FaceTime, Face ID, and the ever-advancing iPhone camera.
Apple’s development and release of the iPhone in 2007 set the tone for the mobile phone industry for years to come. Perhaps Jobs and his team were able to pull off this industry-changing device because of their foresight. After all, Jobs himself would note that Apple had always been headed to where technology was headed, not where it had already been.
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