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Six Colors

by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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By Jason Snell

The iPhone at 10: Into the woods

Note: This story has not been updated for several years.

Happy second 10th birthday to the iPhone, which was released a decade ago today. (No, you’re not forgetting things—everyone celebrated the 10th anniversary of the iPhone back in January, but that was the anniversary of the announcement, not the release of the product. The media loves an anniversary story, so why not do it twice in the same year?)

The iPhone was released on a Friday. Phones went on sale at 6 p.m. local time, and there were enormous lines around Apple and AT&T/Cingular stores leading up to the event. (This means Dan got his phone three hours before I did!) I got the iPhone late in the evening, and if my Twitter feed at the time is any indication, recorded a Macworld podcast about it?

The next morning my family and I had to be up bright and early to go to a previously scheduled weeklong family camp in the high sierras (no, not that High Sierra). That’s right, I would be writing my review of the original iPhone from a tent cabin in the mountains. This one, in fact:

That camp is remote enough that there was no AT&T service there. Kind of hard to review a phone when it can’t actually connect to the network! The drive up to camp was basically my best chance to test out the iPhone’s connectivity, so I sat in the passenger seat as my wife drove and checked and sent email and texts, browsed the web, and used a Twitter web interface to tweet my journey.

The first photos I took on the iPhone are from that passenger seat in the car, of my family during the drive. Once we arrived at camp, I managed to snap a few pictures of my kids playing in a flowery meadow, showing off the original iPhone’s mighty 1.9 megapixel camera.

I remember sitting in a camp chair inside that canvas-topped tent, writing diligently. It felt strange to be using and evaluating a piece of advanced technology while out in the middle of a forest, but in hindsight, it doesn’t seem as weird. The thing about the iPhone is that it’s a device that integrates itself into our lives, wherever we roam. I could hardly have lugged a new iMac with me to review at camp, but the iPhone came along easily. That’s what it does, and one of the reasons it’s great.

And it is a truly great piece of hardware. I wrote about it in a lot more detail at Macworld today, but I could make an argument that the original iPhone has the best design of all of them. Yeah, its screen is laughably small by today’s standards and it’s way too thick, but there is beauty in the glass front and the brushed aluminum back. Future iPhone designs (with the exception of the 3G/3GS, which feels like a regression for the sake of mass production) seem to be following the same track as the original iPhone design, refining it as technology and manufacturing methods improve.

Here’s what I wrote in that tent cabin ten years ago to conclude my review of the iPhone:

…The iPhone’s positives vastly outweigh its negatives. It’s a beautiful piece of hardware with a gorgeous high-resolution screen and a carefully designed, beautiful interface inside. The iPhone’s touchscreen keyboard will end up pleasing all but the most resistant Blackberry thumb-typers, making it an excellent device for email. Its Safari browser cleverly condenses full-blown Web pages into a format that’s readable on a small screen. Its iPod features make it a versatile audio player and a drop-dead gorgeous video player. And, yes, it does pretty well at making phone calls, too.

To put it more simply: The iPhone is the real deal. It’s a product that has already changed the way people look at the devices they carry in their pockets and purses. After only a few days with mine, the prospect of carrying a cellphone with me wherever I go no longer fills me with begrudging acceptance, but actual excitement.

It’s true—before the iPhone, I only carried a cell phone with me when I felt it was necessary. Being connected was optional, and not being connected was the default. When the iPhone arrived, I put it in my pocket and never looked back. On June 29, 2007, the world changed for me—I now had an Internet-connected computer with me wherever I went, even if it was up into the mountains—and in the ensuing years it would change for billions of other people around the world.

The iPhone’s influence will continue to reverberate for years to come. One decade in, that much is certain.

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