It was 12 years ago today, a large percentage of many of our readers’ lives, when Apple released the iPhone. Long lines snaked around Apple Stores where some had been camped out for days waiting to shell out $499 for the unit with 4GB of storage and $599 for the 8GB model. The phone was actually unveiled by the late Steve Jobs on January 9th of that year and instantly captured the imagination of the public and the media. It was sleek, it was new, it was a breath of fresh air for a smartphone industry mostly focused on business users.
While the OG iPhone was hardly zippy (it ran on AT&T’s slow as molasses EDGE network and Wi-Fi), features like the touchscreen, multi-touch and that large (for the time) 3.5-inch display helped sell the device. Still, it didn’t have MMS or the ability to shoot video, users couldn’t cut and paste, and without 3G the iPhone could not receive calls while the browser was being used.
The iPhone helped Apple reach a valuation of one trillion dollars
The competition responded in one of two ways. Some, like Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer, made fun of the device. Ballmer’s response was to laugh and point out that the lack of a keyboard meant that the iPhone would not be attractive to the enterprise. He predicted that Apple might get 2% to 3% of the market and later admitted that he was wrong. A month after the unveiling of the iPhone, BlackBerry co-CEO Jim Balsillie wasn’t worried at all. The executive stated, “[Apple and the iPhone is] kind of one more entrant into an already very busy space with lots of choice for consumers … But in terms of a sort of a sea-change for BlackBerry, I would think that’s overstating it.” Other companies responded by trying to copy the iPhone. Even feature phones like the LG Voyager and the Samsung Instinct carried touchscreens.
“An iPod, a phone, an internet mobile communicator. An iPod, a phone, an internet mobile communicator…. These are not three separate devices!”-Steve Jobs, introducing the iPhone on January 9th, 2007
What came out of the box with the original iPhone. Note the dock
From June 29th through the end of 2007, Apple sold 1.39 million iPhones (via Statista) rising to 11.63 million in 2008, the first full year the phone was available. The numbers rose steadily, peaking at 231.22 million by 2015. While Steve Jobs practically bet the entire company on this one device, it was a gamble that paid off big time for Apple. And the success of the iPhone led to the introduction of the App Store in 2008 and the release of the iPad and the Apple Watch. Last year, Apple became the first publicly traded U.S. company to be worth a trillion dollars and the iPhone XR is by most counts the largest selling smartphone model this year.
But this was all in the future on June 29th, 2007. At the time, the handset was an AT&T exclusive and neither it or Apple sold the product online. Apple limited purchases to two per customer while AT&T was selling just one unit per person.
Last year, Apple released a trio of iPhone models ranging from the “more affordable” iPhone XR ($749 and up) to the iPhone XS ($999 and up) and the iPhone XS Max ($1,099 and up). Over the years we have told you about Antennagate, Bendgate, and Batterygate. We have seen Apple makeover the iPhone in 2010 (iPhone 4), 2012 (iPhone 5, still the best many say), 2014 (iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus), 2016 (iPhone 7) and 2017 (iPhone X). Screen sizes have expanded from the original 3.5-inch display to as large as 6.5-inches. Features like the FaceTime camera, Siri, Touch ID, and Face ID were added. And it all started 12 years today when a brand new smartphone went on sale.