Ten years ago today Apple shipped a wide-screen iPod with touch controls, a revolutionary mobile phone, and a breakthrough internet device. But it wasn’t three products. It was one product. And we got it, Steve. We got iPhone.
On June 28, 2007, Apple shipped the original iPhone. People had been waiting outside for days in lineups that ran for blocks. Anticipation was off the charts. Competitors were nervously dismissing it as a over-reaching and over-priced. Media was calling it the Jesus Phone.
Steve Jobs had put sneaker to stage only six months earlier to introduce it. The most incredible keynote presentations of his life—a life filled with incredible keynote presentations—and in the history of consumer electronics, he’d taken a moment before he started to assemble the team and tell them to remember the moment: The moment before iPhone. Because, in the next moment, everything would change.
During the keynote Jobs said it was rare enough for a company to revolutionize even one product category. Apple had already revolutionized two: Computers with the Mac and personal music players with the iPod. With the iPhone they’d be going for three.
He set up and knocked down the physical keyboard and the stylus, features that dominated the BlackBerry, Motorola, and Palm smartphones of the day. Then Jobs introduced the multitouch interface that let the iPhone smoothly pinch-to-zoom, the physics-based interactivity that included inertial scrolling and rubber banding, and the multitasking that let him move seamlessly from music to call to web to email and back.
They were technologies that would one day become commonplace across the industry but back then looked like science-fiction. From Apple:
Technology alone wasn’t enough
The original iPhone, based on the P2 device of the Project Experience Purple (PEP) team, code named M68 and device number iPhone1,1, had a 3.5-inch LCD screen at 320×480 and 163ppi, a quad-band 2G EDGE data radio, 802.11b.g Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 2.0 EDR, and a 2 megapixel camera.
It was powered by an ARM-based 1176JZ(F)-S processor and PowerVR MBX Lite 3D graphics chip, manufactured by Samsung, with an 1400 mAh battery, and had 128MB of on-board RAM. Two NAND Flash-based storage tiers were available at launch: 4GB or 8GB.
More importantly, iPhone also included several sensors to enhance the experience, like an accelerometer that could automatically rotate the screen to match device orientation, a proximity sensor that could automatically turn off the screen when close to the face, and an ambient light sensor that could automatically adjust brightness.
And it could also be charged—and critically, synced to iTunes—by the same 30-pin Dock connector as Apple’s already exceedingly popular iPod.
What the original iPhone didn’t have was CDMA and EVDO rev A network compatibly. That meant it couldn’t work on two of the U.S.’ big four carriers, Verizon and Sprint. Not that it mattered; the original iPhone was exclusive to AT&T.
It also lacked GPS, or support for faster 3G UTMS/HSPA data speeds. In addition to no hardware keyboard or stylus, the iPhone also didn’t have a removable, user-replaceable battery or SD card support. None of that pleased existing power users of the time. Nor did the absence of an exposed file system, copy and paste or any form of advanced text editing, and, critically to many, support for third party apps. Likewise, since the iPhone had a real web browser instead of a WAP browser, which was required to display carrier-based multimedia messages, the original iPhone didn’t support MMS either.
All of this was wrapped in bead-blasted aluminum with a black plastic band around the back to allow for RF transparency.
Then there was the price. The iPhone debuted at $499 for the 4GB and $599 for the 8GB model on-contract. Those prices weren’t unheard of at the time—early Motorola RAZR flip phones were incredibly expensive as well—but it meant Apple couldn’t penetrate the mainstream market.
Race to launch
Macworld wasn’t a finish line, it was a shot from the starting pistol. Jony Ive, Richard Howarth, and the industrial design teams’ work had largely been completed already but hardware engineering still faced challenges. Steve Jobs scratched the pre-release iPhone screen with the keys in his pocket, he asked the team to come up with a better solution. They turned to Corning, which had invented a new, chemically hardened material, but had yet to find a commercial application for it. The team spun on a dime and got Gorilla Glass onto the iPhone.