Many remember the original iPhone as a revolutionary cell phone. In a way, it was – yet the iPhone lacked important features in the beginning.
When Steve Jobs introduced the first iPhone in January 2007, the definition of what a smartphone had to be able to do was “phone, e-mail and Internet.” But even compared to the competition at the time, Apple’s first cell phone wasn’t a true smartphone at first.
The first Apple smartphone shook up the market
At the famous 2007 Macworld keynote in San Francisco, Jobs announced three “revolutionary” devices: an iPod with touch input, a revolutionary cell phone, and a groundbreaking Internet communicator. Then, when Jobs started repeating the three devices over and over (“an iPod, a phone, an Internet communicator”), the penny slowly dropped. It’s not three separate devices, but one that combines all these functions – the iPhone. The room erupted in cheers, the first Apple smartphone was official.
Here you can follow the presentation of the first iPhone once again:
In 2007, the iPhone was a risky move for Apple. At the time, the U.S. smartphone market was dominated by Blackberry and T-Mobile. Just how cautious Apple was with the original iPhone can be seen in its initial exclusivity. The iPhone was not readily available over the counter as it is today. Back then, the Apple smartphone was only available with an AT&T contract in the U.S. and only with a T-Mobile contract in Germany.
Apple’s goal with the iPhone was to revolutionize the smartphone market. Early smartphones still had QWERTY keyboards and stylus input pens. With the iPhone, the smartphone was not only supposed to become even smarter, but also easier to use. At least Apple succeeded in the latter with the fully capacitive 3.5-inch screen in the first iPhone, which was huge by the standards of the time.
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The first iPhone was revolutionary – but not all that “smart”
The iPhone was indeed novel with its finger-based control via the touchscreen. However, this does not mean that it was far ahead of its competitors in all aspects. Some features were simply missing from the iPhone that were already available on other smartphones from 2007. For example, the iPhone could not send MMS, nor did it have a “copy & paste” function. However, hackers quickly found a solution to get around these limitations: Jailbreaking. Apple itself only delivered this function with further updates for the original iPhone OS (iOS). iOS 3, for example, finally brought MMS to the iPhone. However, the original Apple smartphone never got “Copy & Paste” and a video recording function.
Unlike today’s smartphones, the first iPhone also had only a handful of pre-installed apps, such as for stocks, weather, Google Maps and a special version of YouTube. Installing additional apps from other providers was simply not possible in the beginning. Other smartphones, such as Blackberrys, Palms and Symbian-based Nokias, could already do that. Instead, Apple wanted to rely exclusively on web apps in iOS 1, which would run in the preinstalled Safari browser. Fortunately, the company quickly realized that this is not a “smart” solution. As early as the summer of 2008, it introduced the App Store with iOS 2, making the iPhone a true smartphone.
15 years and 14 successors later, the iPhone is the best-selling smartphone in the world. No other smartphone model line has existed as long as the iPhone and has had such a lasting impact on the market. Despite its initial shortcomings as a smartphone, the iPhone has turned the industry around and made the pocket computer respectable.