In 2007, Steve Jobs told MacWorld that Apple was launching “three revolutionary products” that would have the same impact as the Mac and iPod. These were a “widescreen iPod with touch controls…a revolutionary new phone,” and “a breakthrough internet communicator.” Mr. Jobs’ joke, of course, was that these products were actually one – the iPhone.
Bigger, Better, But Still iPhone
On June 29, 2007, the first iPhone went on sale, meaning it is now a teenager. It is bigger and better than 3.5-inch device Mr. Jobs unveiled that day. Instead of running OS X it now has iOS, and, thankfully, you don’t have to sync it via iTunes anymore. However, what struck me while watching back the original presentation is how many of the core, elements of the original remain.
The game-changing multi-touch technology explained by Mr. Jobs at Macworld, although obviously improved, still sits at the heart of what makes iPhone a great, easy to use, device. Likewise, a high-end camera and the ability to sync various media has always been and its core. So has the ability to watch it on a high-end screen. It was never just a phone and that trend has only accelerated in the years since.
Similarly, Apple still relentlessly focuses on the device remaining thin, and while rival form factors, like the keyboards Mr. Jobs mocks during the presentation, have disappeared, the fundamental form of the iPhone has actually remained. Yes the charging port has changed and the headphone jack is gone, but we still have the home button on the latest iPhone SE (not to mention the iPad). All models of the device are still recognizably, reassuringly, related to the first one that we ever saw. It still “feels great in your hand.” All of this can only be a ringing endorsement of the robustness of the original design.
Remembering The Original Launch
Some of the journalists who covered the iPhone first going on sale have been reflecting on it. They include Walt Mossberg, whose review of the product with Katie Boehert was published in The Wall Street Journal two days before it went on sale.
The iPhone’s Impact on Society
Nevermind the impact it had on Apple, the iPhone’s wider impact on society as it has evolved has been profound too. In 2008, Mr. Jobs tasked engineers with making the device be able to record video. As current WSJ columnist Joanna Stern wrote recently:
About 10 years and 10 iPhone models later, 17-year-old Darnella Frazier found herself standing on a sidewalk in Minneapolis, swiping on her purple iPhone 11 lock screen to launch the video camera as fast as possible. She hit the red circle and for the next 10 minutes and 9 seconds she held her phone as steady as she could, capturing George Floyd, a black man crying for his mother as his face was smashed into the pavement by white police officer Derek Chauvin. “I opened my phone and I started recording because I knew if I didn’t, no one would believe me,” Ms. Frazier said in a statement provided by her lawyer, Seth Cobin. A day later, May 26, she opened up the Facebook app, and tapped the video of Mr. Floyd to upload it. The world now knows his name.
Like so many others, the iPhone has changed how I work, travel, and communicate. In this time of quarantine, isolation, and social distancing, it has sat at the heart of how we all keep in touch with friends and family. I can’t wait to see what the iPhone’s teenage years look like. One this is for sure, it will all be built on what Steve Jobs announced that day in 2007.