By Jason Snell
January 9, 2017 2:36 PM PT
The iPhone’s first 10th birthday
Warning: This story has not been updated in several years and may contain out-of-date information.
It’s true—ten years ago Apple announced the iPhone. This is the first of two 10th birthdays the iPhone will get this year, because although the device was announced at Macworld Expo in January of 2007, it wasn’t actually released until June 29.
As you might expect, there have been a bunch of excellent reminiscences about the events of 10 years ago around the Web today. Stephen Hackett linked to a bunch on 512 Pixels, including the excellent episode of the Prompt where the boys broke down the iPhone keynote, Incomparable style. Marco Arment and Stephen Hackett had some personal reflections. John Gruber linked to his original piece on the subject. We talked about it a lot on today’s episode of Upgrade. And Apple posted a thing that was a celebration of the original iPhone—and also of the iPhone 7.
As for me, I was fortunate not only to be in the audience for the keynote, but I got to be one of the few members of the press who were allowed to try one out in a briefing room off the show floor later that week. Fortunately, my story about that experience is still online, so you can read it for yourself. Here’s my favorite bit:
In any event, I can admit that I found it quite difficult to form complete sentences while I was holding the iPhone. In terms of sheer gadget magnetism, its power can not be overstated.
You do these reminiscences long enough and you start writing reminiscences about your reminiscences. Which is why I’m also happy to point you to what I wrote on the occasion of the iPhone’s fifth anniversary, if only for the amazing photo of Steve Jobs looking at the phone on the show floor.
When the iPhone arrived, I wrote the Macworld review, and reading it back today I’m amazed at how much time I spent on the phone portion of the device. Today, my iPhone is revolutionary internet communication device first, widescreen “video iPod” second, and telephone third. And that’s okay. But at the time, whether it was a decent phone was a big question.
This is also the 10th anniversary of Apple changing its corporate name from Apple Computer to Apple Inc. Look back at that keynote and you can see why: Not only did it unveil the iPhone, the product that has come to represent Apple and dominate its business… it was also the day that the original Apple TV was named and given a ship date. All while the iPod was wildly successful. If there was ever a day for Apple to remove the word “computer” from its name, that was the day.
One final anecdote about the original iPhone: Six months is a long time to wait for such an anticipated product. The closest Apple analog I can provide is probably the Apple Watch, which was also announced six months before it shipped. Apple’s initial announcement and subsequent press briefings the week of Macworld Expo was all the information we got until the product shipped. We had so many questions and there weren’t a lot of answers.
We also had about three official images, released by Apple, to use as the basis for our magazine coverage. As you can imagine, every single story about the iPhone used those images. You saw them everywhere, in all web coverage as well as in magazines. We were really concerned about putting the same old image on the cover of the magazine—especially since we assumed our competitor would be using that image, too.
So what we ended up doing was working with an illustrator named Joe Zeff, who made some amazing 3-D illustrations for many issues of Macworld. Joe created a photorealistic iPhone (and a set of white earbuds!) in 3D and we used it as the cover art for our first iPhone issue, with an Apple-supplied iPhone screenshot added in. (We would later repeat this process for the iPad, which had similar issues of being announced—with limited photography available—way before it actually shipped.)
Anyway, if there’s one theme that runs through all these reminiscences today, it’s that it’s hard to believe that it’s been ten years. I really do believe that the day the iPhone was announced is probably the single most significant day in the history of the technology industry, because the modern smartphone—a product category defined by the iPhone—has changed the world and will continue to change it for years into the future. We got to witness a bit of history being made on stage that day in San Francisco.
(See you back here in six months for the iPhone’s real birthday.)
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