The First iPhone – Was it really a smartphone?

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“Today, Apple is going to reinvent the phone”, Steve Jobs said these words 15 years ago at the launch of the original iPhone which set off a wave of innovation – a wave that transformed the mobile phone industry forever. We can say the first iPhone is the godfather of the smartphone market. At the time of the launch, the mobile phone market was ruled by tech giants like Blackberry, Nokia, LG, Sony, and Ericsson. Yet, Steve Jobs there he was with an entirely different handset, ready to take on the market by storm.

The iPhone has experienced huge changes within its 15-year lifespan. The original handset, nicknamed “The Jesus Phone” for its great potential to change the rule of the industry was a major input to the phone market. And a huge risk too. While it is easy to focus on the potential and ignore the risk aspect of the iPhone, Steve Jobs and Apple took a big risk by introducing a unique phone to the market –  a risk that big players like BlackBerry and Nokia had never taken.

Apple pulled a fast one on the entire mobile phone market with a never-seen phone with a large touchscreen and no buttons except for the home, power, and volume buttons. Notwithstanding, iPhone faced the risk of being the most inscrutable handset in the market. 

Features of the first iPhone

The phone had a 3.5-inch screen with a resolution of 320 X 480. If you are trying to picture the size of the phone, the latest Apple handset, iPhone 13 has a 6.1-inch display with a resolution of 1170 X 2532. The first iPhone weighed 135g and had measurements of 115 x 61 x 11.6 mm.

It only had a 2MP rear camera, no selfies. It ran on iPhone Software – the OS didn’t have this name until 2008 before it was changed to iOS in 2010. You could choose between 4GB and 8GB storage before the 16GB version was launched in 2008. All these models had 128 MB RAM.

With a 1400mAh battery, the phone would last 7 hours on calls and play videos for 6 hours and 15 minutes. As expected, it was not cheap. The 4GB storage model went for $499 while the 8GB model was sold for $599 in the US. Apple sold over six million units in the first year making it one of the most popular smartphone models in the world. 


Forgotten History

The original iPhone was not an amazing phone per se. The phone supported only one carrier in the US (AT&T) and the one would navigate through six steps to simply make a call.

The original iPhone was tremendous to iTunes providing a nice virtual technology for managing your music. It had an appallingly small speaker though. The handset had several widgets for Stocks, YouTube, Weather, and the Web but could not run third-party native apps. Failure to support third-party native apps could make it a lesser smartphone. The company was able to address this issue in the best way possible by launching the App Store.

The funny thing about the iPhone is that the company did not own the iPhone brand, but it belonged to Cisco which had acquired the name together with the company InfoGear, an American technology company established in 1985. Little known to many, Apple had been involved in deep negotiations with Cisco for years. It is weird to imagine what Apple would have named the iPhone had they failed to reach an agreement. Apple Phone or maybe Steve Phone. 


Impacts of the first iPhone

Generally, the phone was not great, but it was definitely a game-changer. Being one of a kind, the iPhone was bound to bring a paradigm shift in the mobile phone industry. Everything else that came to the industry after the launch would be influenced by the iPhone in one way or another. It aligned itself at the center of mobile phone design in a market filled with multiple designs.

15 years since its launch, the iPhone has remained a chief brand in the market, however, many other innovators have managed to assert dominance. Every smartphone you hold in your hand owes a debt to the first iPhone for opening a chapter for a new generation of mobile phones.  Now we have smartphones with a big screen, slim design, glass and metal chassis, and excellent camera.  As we mark 15 years of the iPhone we can never forget the role of the original iPhone in the entire smartphone industry. 


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