The story of the original iPhone, that nobody thought was possible

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in iPhone edited June 2018
When the iPhone shipped to customers on June 29, 2007, The first generation of the device that would change the world was missing a lot of what is has today, but it set up the road map for Apple that continues to this day.

The first iPhone


The first generation iPhone was, in many days, quite different than the ones we see in use today. For one thing, it was small, just 4.5 inches by 2.4 inches. It had no third-party apps and topped out at 16GB of flash memory. It was exclusive to AT&T, and ran only on AT&T's notoriously slow and unreliable EDGE GSM network.

But despite all of its shortcomings, relative to today, that first iPhone was hugely important. It was Apple's entry into a new category, at a time when the company's singular handheld device was the iPod.

The iPhone was the debut of the touchscreen, which would soon become standard in the category. Sure, there had been smartphones available from established manufacturers before, but they had physical keyboards and a much smaller screen.

Before the iPhone

The smarphone incumbents at the time of the iPhone's launch


In the fourth quarter of 2006, the year before the iPhone was announced, 22 million smartphones were sold worldwide, according to Canalys data, and about half of those devices were by then-market leader Nokia. RIM, the BlackBerry maker, was second in share, followed by Motorola, Palm and Sony Ericsson.

Smartphones at the time resembled the Motorola Q or the Samsung Blackjack -- a small, rectangular, handset, with a screen on top and buttons on the bottom. That began to change, however, in January 2007, when the first iPhone was announced.

Nobody thought it could happen, or would succeed

The launch of the iPhone was greeted by quite a few doubters.

Then-Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said in an interview at the time that the iPhone had "no chance" of taking over the smartphone market.

"There's no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share," Ballmer told USA Today in April of 2007. No chance. It's a $500 subsidized item. They may make a lot of money. But if you actually take a look at the 1.3 billion phones that get sold, I'd prefer to have our software in 60% or 70% or 80% of them, than I would to have 2% or 3%, which is what Apple might get." Ballmer admitted to Bloomberg in 2016 that he had been wrong, and that Microsoft had jumped into smarphones too late.

Ballmer wasn't alone. The then-CEOs of BlackBerry maker Research in Motion, Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie, watched the iPhone unveiling in disbelief. According to a Wall Street Journal excerpt of "Losing the Signal," a book about RIM's rise and fall, Lazaridis pointed out, accurately, that "these guys are really, really good," while Balsillie said (not so accurately) that "it's OK-- we'll be fine."

There were doubters in the media, as well. "We Predict the iPhone Will Fail," a Techcrunch contributor wrote. TUAW now Engadget rounded up complaints about the phone, with AdAge expecting the device to fail as well.

The rollout

Steve Jobs had reportedly eyed using touchscreens on Apple devices as early as 2005. Following the failed experiment of the Motorola ROKR, a phone that came equipped with iTunes, Apple decided to develop its own phone, which would incorporate the iPod's musical functions into a smartphone.

The iPhone was announced during that year's Macworld event in San Francisco, on January 9, 2007.

"This is a day I've been looking forward to for two-and-a-half years," Jobs said in the keynote. He went on to point out the leading smartphones of the time -- the Motorola Q, the Palm Treo, the the Nokia E62, and the BlackBerry -- and to trash them, compared to his new product.

"They all have these keyboards that are there, whether you need them or not to be there, and they all have these controls buttons that are fixed in plastic and are the same for every application." said Jobs. "What we're going to do is get rid of these buttons and replace them with a giant screen."





A few weeks later came the "Hello" commercial, which featured a succession of movie clips of characters answering telephones and saying "hello":



The release

The original iPhone reached the market on June 29, 2007. In the U.S. it was priced at $499 and $599, for 4GB and 8GB models, respectively, along with a two-year contract with AT&T.

The first iPhone ran on what was then called iPhone OS 1, as the iOS naming convention wouldn't be adopted until 2010. It boasted only Apple's native apps, as third-party applications wouldn't be available until the App Store launched along with the iPhone 3G a year later.

The initial iPhone received mostly positive reviews.

"As it turns out, much of the hype and some of the criticisms are justified," David Pogue wrote in the New York Times. "The iPhone is revolutionary; it's flawed. It's substance; it's style. It does things no phone has ever done before; it lacks features found even on the most basic phones."

"Despite some flaws and feature omissions, the iPhone is, on balance, a beautiful and breakthrough handheld computer," Walter Mossberg wrote in The Wall Street Journal's All Things D. "Its software, especially, sets a new bar for the smart-phone industry, and its clever finger-touch interface, which dispenses with a stylus and most buttons, works well, though it sometimes adds steps to common functions.

Apple sold 1.9 million iPhones in 2007, according to Statista. By contrast, they sold 216.76 million iPhones in 2017. It took Apple a few years to earn a dominant market position, as the device improved, it added more features, and it became both more affordable and available on more carriers.

The iPod Touch, which brought touchscreens to the iPhone, arrived later in 2007, while the iPad followed in 2010.

End of life

The original iPhone's successor, the iPhone 3G, arrived the following year, adding 3G functionality, apps and more; the first iPhone was discontinued the same week. Apple declared the first-generation iPhone "obsolete" in June 2013, prior to the unveiling of the iPhone 5 and 5S.

A prototype of the first-generation iPhone sold for $1500 on eBay in 2013.

Legacy

The first iPhone is primarily remembered as the product that set Apple on its current course, as a company in which the iPhone is the product line that both sells the most and is most important to the company's bottom line and financial health. Before it, almost no mobile devices had touchscreens; now, nearly all of them do.

That original iPhone sold just over 6 million in its first year. While current iPhone sales significantly outpace that number, the first iPhone's legacy is secure as one of the most important products in Apple history.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 27
    xbitxbit Posts: 224member
    "The iPhone was the debut of the touchscreen, which would soon become standard in the category. Sure, there had been smartphones available from established manufacturers before, but they had physical keyboards and a much smaller screen."

    There had been keyboardless touchscreen phones before the iPhone. The Sony Ericsson P900i (which I owned back in 2004) and the Nokia 
    7710 spring to mind. However, they weren't particularly mainstream. The P900i sold around one million units total. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 27
    The first generation (first released model) iPhone was only available in 4GB or 8GB.  The refreshed model the following year in early 2008 was bumped up to 8GB or 16GB and the 4GB model was dropped.  EDGE was slower than the relatively new 3G network, but I would not call it unreliable.  Like any network, it was reliable if you had a good signal.  I never had any issues in Los Angeles.
    edited June 2018 sycamoregradsycamoregradmuthuk_vanalingamtdknoxJWSCwatto_cobraBozoClown
  • Reply 3 of 27
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 3,917administrator
    The first generation (first released model) iPhone was only available in 4GB or 8GB.  The refreshed model the following year in early 2008 was bumped up to 8GB or 16GB and the 4GB model was dropped.  The article is incorrect.  
    I'm not certain what you're talking about?
    sycamoregradMuntz
  • Reply 4 of 27
    I'm not certain what you're talking about?
    Maybe the first paragraph of this story will enlighten you. "The first generation iPhone was, in many days, quite different than the ones we see in use today. For one thing, it was small, just 4.5 inches by 2.4 inches. It had no third-party apps and topped out at 16GB of flash memory. It was exclusive to AT&T, and ran only on AT&T's notoriously slow and unreliable EDGE GSM network."
    StrangeDaysanton zuykovBozoClown
  • Reply 5 of 27
    radarthekatradarthekat Posts: 2,899moderator
    “...the first iPhone's legacy is secure as one of the most important products in Apple history.”

    I think that could be written without the reference to Apple and still be just as true.
    muthuk_vanalingamtmaytdknoxchiaStrangeDayswatto_cobraBozoClownjony0
  • Reply 6 of 27
    The first generation (first released model) iPhone was only available in 4GB or 8GB.  The refreshed model the following year in early 2008 was bumped up to 8GB or 16GB and the 4GB model was dropped.  The article is incorrect.  
    I'm not certain what you're talking about?
    He’s saying the article is about the initial launch day, where the only models available were 4 GB & 8 GB. The article says it topped out at 16GB. The 16GB model was released well after launch day.
    StrangeDayswatto_cobraBozoClownjony0
  • Reply 7 of 27
    Plus, the original iPhone wasn’t “shipped to customers” on launch day. You could only buy it, in person, at an Apple Store or AT&T. It wasn’t like today where you can preorder to receive it on launch day.
    watto_cobraBozoClownjony0
  • Reply 8 of 27
    Pogue's review was spot on. It was ballsy to launch a "smartphone" that was behind the curve on pretty important features such as 3G (although they squeezed the hell out of EDGE), stereo bluetooth (it only supported the headset profile, Apple also sold an expensive but elegant headset) or MMS (although picture sending was fairly unusual back then; people didn't even text that much in those days). Of course the biggest thing was the complete absence of a developers program and Jobs's initial insistence that all apps should be written as web services. The thing is, it was also the elegance and simplicity most people were craving at the time; to understand what choices were back then, take a look at the slide Apple showed at many court hearings, with smartphones before the iPhone (hideous contraptions with chiclet keyboards, scroll wheels, styli, and antennae sticking out) and after (they all look like an iPhone -- some even went as far as copying the app icons!) Amazing how so much has changed in 10 years. Thanks Steve.
    Muntzwatto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 27
    tmaytmay Posts: 3,344member
    The first generation (first released model) iPhone was only available in 4GB or 8GB.  The refreshed model the following year in early 2008 was bumped up to 8GB or 16GB and the 4GB model was dropped.  EDGE was slower than the relatively new 3G network, but I would not call it unreliable.  Like any network, it was reliable if you had a good signal.  I never had any issues in Los Angeles.
    If it were a different model, I would agree with you. https://support.apple.com/en-us/ht201296 Even Apple states that it came in 4, 8 and 16GB versions.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 27
    The iPhone is nothing short of the greatest consumer product in history and the embodiment of the greatest and most unlikely turnaround in business history. Twenty years ago, it was unthinkable that Apple would ever again be anything more than a niche player, if it even survived. The computing world was completely dominated by Microsoft and Intel and all of their lackeys. That Apple could have any sort of broad success, much less become the juggernaut that it is today, was simply unthinkable. The iPhone single-handedly changed all that.
    JWSCStrangeDaysMuntzwatto_cobrajony0
  • Reply 11 of 27
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 6,530member
    Yet even today the pundits are still at it, predicting failure at every turn for Apple product releases. All one has to look for an example is the iPhone X. The pundits were unanimously in agreement about the failure of this device because of price, because of the notch, because of FaceID, and because of a myriad of other reasons.
    watto_cobraBozoClownjony0
  • Reply 12 of 27
    tmay said:
    The first generation (first released model) iPhone was only available in 4GB or 8GB.  The refreshed model the following year in early 2008 was bumped up to 8GB or 16GB and the 4GB model was dropped.  EDGE was slower than the relatively new 3G network, but I would not call it unreliable.  Like any network, it was reliable if you had a good signal.  I never had any issues in Los Angeles.
    If it were a different model, I would agree with you. https://support.apple.com/en-us/ht201296 Even Apple states that it came in 4, 8 and 16GB versions.
    At launch, it was only available with 4GB or 8GB.  It was not until a refresh in early 2008 that the 16GB capacity was offered.  Of course Apple now states that the 1st gen included 4, 8, or 16 GB, but you could not buy a 16GB version when it was first launched.
    JWSCStrangeDayswatto_cobraBozoClownjony0
  • Reply 13 of 27
    Dead_Pool said:
    The iPhone is nothing short of the greatest consumer product in history and the embodiment of the greatest and most unlikely turnaround in business history. Twenty years ago, it was unthinkable that Apple would ever again be anything more than a niche player, if it even survived. The computing world was completely dominated by Microsoft and Intel and all of their lackeys. That Apple could have any sort of broad success, much less become the juggernaut that it is today, was simply unthinkable. The iPhone single-handedly changed all that.
    I agree thoroughly save for "That Apple could have any sort of broad success." I would categorize iPod as a broad success, albeit not of Richter scale magnitude like iPhone.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 14 of 27
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 3,917administrator
    The first generation (first released model) iPhone was only available in 4GB or 8GB.  The refreshed model the following year in early 2008 was bumped up to 8GB or 16GB and the 4GB model was dropped.  The article is incorrect.  
    I'm not certain what you're talking about?
    He’s saying the article is about the initial launch day, where the only models available were 4 GB & 8 GB. The article says it topped out at 16GB. The 16GB model was released well after launch day.
    No, we're aware. We address that later in the post.

    Regarding launch versus announcement. We're also aware that the 16GB phone wasn't available with it was announced. Announcement and launch are not the same thing.
    edited June 2018 watto_cobra
  • Reply 15 of 27
    SoliSoli Posts: 8,435member
    tmay said:
    The first generation (first released model) iPhone was only available in 4GB or 8GB.  The refreshed model the following year in early 2008 was bumped up to 8GB or 16GB and the 4GB model was dropped.  EDGE was slower than the relatively new 3G network, but I would not call it unreliable.  Like any network, it was reliable if you had a good signal.  I never had any issues in Los Angeles.
    If it were a different model, I would agree with you. https://support.apple.com/en-us/ht201296 Even Apple states that it came in 4, 8 and 16GB versions.
    It did, but not out of the gate. It was 4 and 8 GB at launch for $499 and $599, respectively. Then on 05 Sept 2007 they dropped the 4 GB model from the lineup, reduced the price of the 8 GB model to $399, and gave all previous iPhone buyers a $100 refund (as I recall). Then on 05 Feb, 2008 (8 months after the initial launch) they added a 16 GB model at the original price of the 4 GB model at $499.
    JWSCwatto_cobraBozoClownjony0
  • Reply 16 of 27
    SoliSoli Posts: 8,435member
    disneylandman said:
    Of course Apple now states that the 1st gen included 4, 8, or 16 GB, but you could not buy a 16GB version when it was first launched.
    What do you mean by "of course"? The original iPhone did come in a 16 GB option. Are you suggesting Apple is being duplicitous? The link that tmay presented isn't suppose to be a detailed history of launch dates.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 17 of 27
    nhtnht Posts: 4,338member

    There were doubters in the media, as well. "We Predict the iPhone Will Fail," a Techcrunch contributor wrote. 
    Typo.  Title is We Predict the iPhone Will Bomb.
    watto_cobraunbeliever2
  • Reply 18 of 27
    Plus, the original iPhone wasn’t “shipped to customers” on launch day. You could only buy it, in person, at an Apple Store or AT&T. It wasn’t like today where you can preorder to receive it on launch day.
    I stooid in line for 4 hours to get mine at an ATT store in Spokane WA.  The entire time I was in line it drizzled rain.  I can't remember being so happy to get a product as I was then.  Several iPhones since and I'm still very happy.
    welshdogMuntzwatto_cobrajony0
  • Reply 19 of 27
    kenaustuskenaustus Posts: 888member
    Plus, the original iPhone wasn’t “shipped to customers” on launch day. You could only buy it, in person, at an Apple Store or AT&T. It wasn’t like today where you can preorder to receive it on launch day.
    I stooid in line for 4 hours to get mine at an ATT store in Spokane WA.  The entire time I was in line it drizzled rain.  I can't remember being so happy to get a product as I was then.  Several iPhones since and I'm still very happy.
    Apple4 "introduced" the iPhone 6 months before it's ship date because they had to file details with the FCC for approval, which would have eliminated any surprise in June.  That January introduction also gave customers of competitive products a heads up on the iPhone, allowing them to decline to renew their contract.  On 2 year contracts it would mean 25% of existing customers would have the heads up.  That probably contributed to the lines outside of Apple Stores on launch day. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 20 of 27
    welshdogwelshdog Posts: 1,639member
    iPhone changed the way people poop.
    kuduwatto_cobraking editor the grateanton zuykovjony0
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