Friday Morning News

With yesterday marking 10 years of the iPhone, there’s been several great stories published about how the iPhone rose to be the world-dominating force that it is. This is just a small subset of them.

While the frantic pace of technology means it’s hard to go back and review a device from ten years ago, it’s easy to reflect on what could have gone differently. Over at Wired, Steven Levy tells us about how the iPhone was announced at the Macworld conference in January, then the deliberate radio-silence of Apple until the end of June, at which point reviews were published two days before the public could buy the iPhone for themselves. While each of the four chosen ones were overwhelmingly positive about the iPhone, none of them came close to predicting how massive the iPhone would be.

The original iPhone wasn’t launched in Australia, but a big part of that launch was waiting in line. The lining up experience was markedly different at the small-by-comparison Cincinnati Apple Store, at least when compared to San Francisco where every man, woman, and their dog knew about the iPhone, but somehow, that didn’t make the lines any shorter. Queueing up for a new smartphone has been a thing ever since, and I’d like to think that the iPhone started it all.

One of the things that the iPhone will be known for is that for the first time, the carriers ceded control over the design, manufacturing, and marketing of the device. No longer were the carriers in control over the features that the iPhone had to have — instead, Apple told them how it was going to be, and when AT&T’s exclusivity agreement ended, Verizon was right there ready to negotiate the terms of their own deal.

But it wasn’t just in the US that the iPhone made a huge impact, either. The Japanese smartphone market was more than just Blackberries or Windows-mobile smartphones, with every possible feature jammed into flip phones. When the iPhone 3G launched in Japan in 2008, it had 3G connectivity and the ability to install apps. Emoji — a staple of Japanese smartphones and communication — didn’t come until iOS 5, and one by one, Japanese telcos started offering the iPhone. Just like that, the iPhone won Japan.

In some respects, it’s surprising that the iPhone didn’t die. When it launched, the original iPhone was basic in the most extreme sense. It wasn’t a phone unless you launched the phone app, it had a paltry 4GB of storage for your music, and many of Apple’s original home screen icons were from Google. ZDNet says that Apple’s excellent design and the strength of the mobile Safari browser was what provided it with just enough to get it over the line so Apple could ship improvements with every hardware and software iteration, and look where we are today.

Jason Snell writes about the greatness of that original iPhone. As much has changed throughout the years, as much as original iPhones can now run iOS 3, if you looked at an iPhone today and compared it with an original iPhone, you’d instantly recognise the similarities. Swipe to unlock may be no more, but much of what made the original iPhone great remains.

One of the things about the iPhone is that Apple both gets too much and too little credit for the iPhone. The Verge says that the iPhone’s success is attributed to many working parts — components from third parties, or apps from now-famous developers. At the same time, Apple took every day materials like glass and aluminium and crafted something, dare I say, beautiful.

The designer of the iPhone’s software keyboard has shown off the prototype devices he used to develop the touchscreen keyboard. Referred to as “wallabies”, one device looks like a chunky iPod touch and the other vaguely reminds me of an iPod mini with a removed click wheel and expanded display.

If you wanted one of the original iPhones in 2007 but weren’t on AT&T, you were out of luck. Intrepid hackers soon jailbroke the iPhone, allowing it to be run on different carriers, and an entirely new hacking community was born.

The iPhone has done a lot for mobile gaming, too. While we lament the rise of Candy Crush and borderline brain-numbing games, Apple’s original Touch Fighter showed off the power of the iPhone SDK. Third parties started releasing their own titles, and before you knew it, Angry Birds was enough of a thing to become a cultural phenomenon.

Notable Replies

  1. Reading through this annotated edition of their initial review, this particular piece jumped out at me:

    “From an iPod perspective, Apple’s biggest triumph with the iPhone is the fact that it has returned album artwork back into the music experience in a way that goes beyond a token thumbnail graphic. Physically flipping through your music collection in the iPhone’s Cover Flow mode really brings back the visceral feel of digging through a CD or record bin. It’s a tough feeling to quantify, but the real music lovers out there will appreciate how well the iPhone reconnects their digital music to a form that is both visually and physically more vivid.”

    I completely forgot that iPhone OS/iOS had Cover Flow at all. Apparently it died with the release of iOS 7!

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