OTD, Steve Jobs unveiled the first iPhone 16 years ago

Jan 10

Steve Jobs revealed the first iPhone to the world 16 years ago.
January 9, 2007, was a milestone in the history of computing: the introduction of the first iPhone.

It wasn't the first "smartphone," or the first phone with a camera. It wasn't the first mobile device to have a touchscreen, or to let users install apps. (In fact, the App Store didn't even launch until 2008, a year after the first iPhone was released!)

But it tied numerous disparate features together in a cohesive, well-designed whole — kickstarting a mobile revolution that has transformed the modern world.

Today's app economy is bigger than Hollywood, and WhatsApp, Snapchat, Uber, Tinder, and more are essential parts of modern culture, collectively used by hundreds of millions of people every day. But prior to 2007, none of that existed, and the iPhone's success was by no means guaranteed.

It was announced by the late Steve Jobs, Apple's cofounder, onstage at the company's Macworld conference on January 9, 2007. The now-iconic exec was not humble about its possibilities — calling it a "revolutionary device ... that changes everything."

Five months later, as customers queued for days, it hit shop shelves in the US.

It was a revelation.

Before Apple's most popular product came out, smartphones were clunky devices — half keyboard and half screen. Full websites didn't run on mobile phones, so companies were forced to build weak, mobile versions of their sites.

The iPhone changed all that.

And yet, the typical smartphone experiences we enjoy today didn't happen overnight. It took years of Apple adding feature upon feature. By today's standards, the original iPhone was a primitive brick.

It ran on "EDGE," or 2G wireless, which is painfully slow. It's basically as slow as home internet was before high-speed broadband.

The screen itself measured just 3.5 inches, a far cry from the 6.7-inch screen of the most advanced model so far, the iPhone 14 Pro Max.
Photograph of the original iPhone
Getty Images

There was no App Store when the iPhone launched.
App Store icon displayed on a phone screen is seen in this illustration photo taken in Krakow, Poland on July 18, 2021.

Beyond the touchscreen and sleek design, the defining concept of modern smartphones is apps. Unbelievably, when Apple first launched the iPhone it had no App Store.

Steve Jobs wasn't sure if he wanted to have one because of his desire to totally control the experience. Eventually, he relented. And it's a good thing he did, because Apple's App Store set the standard for how to extend smartphone functionality. 

While the iPhone was a revelation when it was released, it still had a long way to go. The next time your favorite tech company releases a new product — especially if that new product is in a new category the way, say, smartphones were in 2007 — cut them some slack. Assuming the fundamental product vision is sound, the first version is just that: a starting point.

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