On the night of January 9-10, 2007, Apple Computer Inc. announced the first iPhone at MacWorld. It showcased an unfinished concept of the company’s first phone and the one that would completely change the mobile device market and even the Internet. Following this announcement, Apple dropped the “Computer” and renamed itself Apple Inc., hinting at the change in strategy for the future. 16 years later, Apple is now one of the largest smartphone manufacturers in the world, surpassed only by Samsung, which sells more models, from the cheapest to the most expensive and advanced in the market.
The hardware wasn’t exactly high-performance
At the time of the announcement, many people were skeptical of the iPhone. Steve Jobs unveiled on stage a device that would combine an iPod, a phone, and a web browsing device into one. Only this phone had no buttons or a physical keyboard, everything was done exclusively on a capacitive touchscreen. The idea of “multitouch” was just a technology demo at tech fairs at the time, but the iPhone would offer the ability to use two or more fingers for direct control of on-screen elements, such as “pinch-to-zoom” and “slide to unlock”.
In terms of specs, the first iPhone wasn’t extremely high-performance, featuring a 412 Mhz single-core AMR processor with 128 MB RAM. In fact, even compared to other phones on the market at the time, the phone could be considered “outdated”. For example, the first iPhone had a 2 megapixel camera with no autofocus and no movie function, it was equipped with a 2G modem, so it only offered EDGE transfer speeds for mobile internet, it did not integrate a GPS module, but used phone antennas for location and navigation, and a front-facing camera was completely absent.
Furthermore, the phone didn’t include an SD card slot, didn’t allow battery swapping, didn’t accept 3.5mm L-shaped headphones, and charged using the same 30-pin cable Apple already used on the iPod. Over time, however, other phones began to drop all of these capabilities.
The iPhone promised a unique software experience
However, Apple relied heavily on the software experience Apple was offering at the time with the so-called iPhone OS, billed as a mobile version of Mac OS X. At the time, the company was hoping to encourage the development of HTML5 web apps, which was one of the reasons Flash eventually disappeared from the internet, and had no plans to control apps on the phone. So the App Store, the most important iPhone software component, didn’t launch with the first phone. It would not be released until a year later, in 2008, alongside the iPhone 3G, in response to the unofficial app stores that appeared in the first year after the iPhone’s launch and could be installed by those who jailbroke their phones.
The first iPhone models, released only in June 2007, offered 4 or 8 GB of internal storage and were priced at $499 and $599 respectively, a price tied to a 2-year subscription on the Cingular network in the US. This price was subsidised by the operator.
So it’s 16 years since the moment that set the technology industry on the path it’s on now, where mobile phones are the primary way people are connected to the internet, where mobile apps and social networking have largely replaced websites, and phones serve as computers, media players, gaming devices, cameras, and pretty much anything else you want. But it’s impressive how Apple has managed to stay on top even after so long, with so much competition in the market, especially from China. Even more impressive is that even the new iPhone models are still considered reference devices, with which all manufacturers compare themselves (especially in official presentations).