iPhone: 10 Years of Empowering People on the Go

3 minute read
| Editorial

I remember the gasp that sucked the air out of the room during the Macworld keynote when Steve Jobs said, “It’s an iPod, a phone, and an internet communicator. Are you getting it?” That was on January 9th, 2007, and it started what felt like the longest wait ever leading up to the original iPhone launch 10 years ago today.

Original Apple iPhone 10 years later

Apple’s iPhone hit store shelves 10 years ago today

The iPhone changed the smartphone landscape overnight with its revolutionary design—it didn’t have a stylus or a physical keyboard and instead relied on finger taps and swipes. It’s flat glass and metal slab body became the blueprint for almost every smartphone that followed.

Despite that glowing introduction, the iPhone was far from perfect when it launched and there was plenty of criticism for Apple’s entry into the smartphone market.

The iPhone’s Strong Yet Rocky Start

Big name smartphone makers at the time, like Palm and RIMM (now Blackberry) slammed Apple saying they couldn’t make the jump from computers to phones. They also said ditching the the physical keyboard was a huge mistake. Microsoft’s Steve Balmer openly mocked the iPhone for its virtual keyboard, too.

In the end Apple got the last laugh because Palm was sold to HP and eventually faded away, Blackberry is in a death spiral, and Microsoft pulled out of the smartphone market.

Still, that first iPhone was a hobbled device. It didn’t include basic features like copy and paste, and you couldn’t print from it, plus used EDGE cellular data when other companies were adopting 3G. The only way to do anything with Notes files was to mail them to yourself and open them on your Mac, and there were no third-party apps.

Compared to today’s iPhone 7, the original iPhone seems like a hobbled smartphone at best. And yet people still lined up to buy an iPhone on launch day to be among the first to get one.

That painfully limited iPhone changed my technology world because it was like having my whole office in my pocket. Instead of taking my PowerBook (plus iPod, Palm Tungsten PDA, and Motorola Razr) with me everywhere and periodically stopping at WiFi hotspots to check my email I could use my iPhone anywhere I had a cellular or WiFi connection. It revolutionized how I think about my tech gear and communicate.

Next up: The do-it-all phone and empowering people

One Comment Add a comment

  1. In certain niche applications, your thesis that the iPhone is “empowering” may be correct. Certainly your hearing impaired example is touching. But by far the vast majority of smartphone usage is hardly so uplifting. When one observes the typical scene of scores of people in any public setting, anywhere in the world now, heads down, fiddling with their screen, zero human interaction with those around them, totally absent from the present, it’s more zombie apocalypse than something to celebrate.

    Technology ostensibly designed to connect people is having the total opposite effect. Together, we are alone. All tapping and swiping away to get our dopamine hit from the latest tweet, Facebook update, news notification, or hundreds of other distractions readily available. I guess this is an improvement? I’m just not sure how, exactly. But then my life goal was never to be drowned in the banal.

    The achievement of so rapidly making entire societies utterly reliant on a single device IS impressive, I do not dispute that. But a positive one? We’ll see.

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