The above prescient headline was written in June 2007 following the launch of Apple’s first iPhone by Steve Jobs. After twelve years it is hard to imagine life without the smartphone, such has been the impact of the iPhone.
At the time the new iPhone was derided in some areas of the technical press and criticised for its obvious shortcomings — these included an absence of the then obligatory 3G, no cut-and-paste and no physical keyboard. It was easy to dismiss, but All Things Digital took a more pragmatic and positive view. As did Walt Mossberg in this video from 2007:
Before 2007 most people used what came to be known as dumbphones, such as those produced by Nokia, Samsung and Motorola. Handheld organiser phones had been around for at least the previous eight years, with the once-dominant Blackberry debuting in 1999. Palm, Compaq and HP offered bulky “personal digital assistants” which combined a phone with a computer capable of performing basic tasks, including word processing, spreadsheets, task management and calendaring. At the time I thought they were marvellous and avidly bought every iteration as soon as it was announced.
These PDAs did a good job at the time but their Achilles’ heel was always connectivity and synchronisation. It was thanks to Apple and its eco-system that we all now take for granted having our calendars and date faultlessly synchronised across all our devices. And, more to the point, protected against loss.
The marvel of the iPhone is that, despite its initial shortcomings1, it defined hand-held computing for the future. The concept of a light hand-held device with a dominating screen and a virtual keyboard is now universal. It is extremely hard to imagine going back to the sort of devices which we thought were cutting edge up to 2007 or 2008.
See the panel on the left for an overview of the competition as seen in 2007. The iPhone, at $500, was hugely expensive at the time but its advantages persuaded buyers to part with the cash. In turn, this set the trend for the sort of pricing which is now universal, even for top-line Android models.
Even the once-mighty Blackberry has been shunted off into a minor siding. We shouldn’t forget, too, that it is the iPhone that turned Apple — once a basket case before Jobs returned to kick some rear-ends — into the world’s most valuable company. No one could have foreseen this, least of all the majority of commentators at the time. Yet can now look back and see just how revolutionary the iPhone launch actually was. We take it for granted, which is perhaps the nicest things that can be said about a seamlessly efficient handmaiden.
The writer of the ATD article clearly saw the wood from the trees:
Our verdict is that, despite some flaws and feature omissions, the iPhone is, on balance, a beautiful and breakthrough handheld computer. 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.
The Apple phone combines intelligent voice calling, and a full-blown iPod, with a beautiful new interface for music and video playback. It offers the best Web browser we have seen on a smart phone, and robust email software. And it synchronizes easily and well with both Windows and Macintosh computers using Apple’s iTunes software.
It has the largest and highest-resolution screen of any smart phone we’ve seen, and the most internal memory by far. Yet it is one of the thinnest smart phones available and offers impressive battery life, better than its key competitors claim.
The phone is thinner than many
smart phones. It feels solid and comfortable in the hand and the way it displays photos, videos and Web pages on its gorgeous screen makes other smart phoneslook primitive.
- I refused to buy the first generation iPhone because it couldn’t handle 3G. Instead, I soldiered on another year with my Palm PDA. I later bought the iPhone 3G model and have never since been tempted to forsake the Apple brand ↩