Fifteen years ago this Wednesday, at 6 pm local time inside Apple stores around the US, customers started to swipe credit cards and walk out with the very first iPhones. All 164 of the company’s stores around the US extended their hours that day (June 29, 2007), staying open until midnight so that everyone who wanted one could get their hands on the phone that would kick off a new chapter in the mobile revolution.
It’s pretty staggering when you think about not only how much of an outsized influence the iPhone still exerts on Apple’s fortunes. But also the degree to which it’s matured — to an extent that would surely have seemed unthinkable 15 years ago. Back when everyone really just wanted a better mobile experience to handle calls, send texts to friends, and the like.
Over the weekend, meanwhile, I watched the new Apple TV Plus movie Cha Cha Real Smooth on my iPhone. I caught up on a spy novel I’m reading via iBooks. Again, on my iPhone. I also chatted with some language-learning friends via the iPhone-friendly HelloTalk app, which makes studying new languages a breeze with your handset.
The point is, I can’t exactly remember which iPhone model was the first I ever bought. But now, I can’t imagine ever owning a mobile device from a different company.
iPhone 2007 launch video
If anything, that’s probably the legacy of the new chapter in Apple’s story that unfolded this week back in 2007. The loyalty that Apple engendered with this device is also partly why the company enjoyed a record-breaking sales year in 2021, when it sold more than 240 million iPhone units.
But none of that was readily apparent, of course, from the outset.
“This is a day I’ve been looking forward to for two-and-a-half years,” Apple’s late CEO Steve Jobs said by way of kicking off his first iPhone keynote presentation, which you can check out in full below.
Those of us who follow this industry for a living can probably quote large chunks of this video by heart. Including the big “Are you getting it?” moment, in which the three products Apple’s greatest showman teased are revealed to be one single device.
Notwithstanding how infallible a teacher that hindsight imagines itself to be, it’s nevertheless always an interesting exercise to step back in time and revisit some of the first reactions to the iPhone. Starting with the dismissive blog post that Motorola’s CTO at the time, Padmasree Warrior, penned about the device.
It reads, in part:
“There is nothing revolutionary or disruptive about any of the technologies. Touch interface, movement sensors, accelerometer, morphing, gesture recognition, 2-megapixel camera, built in MP3 player, WiFi, Bluetooth, are already available in products from leaders in the mobile industry — Motorola, Nokia and Samsung.”
Likewise, a bit of a non-plussed review from Wired‘s Scott Gilbertson:
“On one hand it’s a truly remarkable device — easy to navigate and use — but at the same time it has some serious shortcomings. I’ve made a number of calls and the sound quality has varied immensely — ranging from something like an echo sealed in a bottle ten years ago and reopened in your ear to perfectly crisp sound.”
Of course, speaking of dismissiveness surrounding the iPhone launch, one can’t forget former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. Specifically, his hearty laugh when he got asked for his thoughts on the product. In the video clip below, he goes straight to the whole “no keyboard so it doesn’t appeal to business customers” angle.
Interestingly enough, though, Brian Merchant’s book “The One Device: The Secret History of the iPhone” revealed an intriguing tidbit. Apple marketing VP Phil Schiller, at least for a time, fought hard to include an actual, physical keyboard with the iPhone. Fortunately for all of us, Apple didn’t go down that path.
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