Happy Birthday! Apple iPhone Turns 15

Steve Jobs: ‘iPhone is like having your life in your pocket’

By Paul Riegler on 9 January 2022
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Fifteen years ago today, January 9, Steve Jobs stood on a stage at MacWorld 2007 and changed how people think about their phones.

At the launch event, Apple co-founder Steve Jobs told the audience: “Today, we’re introducing three revolutionary products… the first one is a wide-screen iPod with touch controls. The second is a revolutionary mobile phone.  And the third is a breakthrough Internet communications device.

“These are not three separate devices,” he continued, adding “This is one device and we are calling it iPhone.

Jobs promised to reinvent the phone, and he did.  He showed the audience an image of an iPod with a rotary telephone dial on it while holding the iPhone in his hand, and commented that smartphones “were not so smart and they are not so easy to use.”

The iPhone was revolutionary, even given the limitations of the early models.

Before the iPhone, a mobile phone was just that: a device that (gasp!) was used to place and receive phone calls and the occasional text message.

Such devices didn’t have a touchscreen, apps or an App Store.

Music on such devices was a ringtone (of questionable quality and sometimes questionable origin), and the early phones had a form of Internet access that required a device the size of two bricks with battery life of less than one hour.

The impact of Jobs’ “three-in-one” device, as he first described it because it was a phone, a music player, and a PDA (you remember the PDA, like the Palm Pilot, right?), changed forever how people think about computers and computing.

But even the original iPhone lacked a front-facing camera, video support, GPS functionality, or a flashlight.  There wasn’t even any copy-and-paste functionality, something that has existed in word-processing software since before the advent of the personal computer.

Since the first iPhone was sold in 2007, over 1.3 billion more have followed. Now of course the focus is on what the forthcoming iPhone 14 will look like and what innovations it will bring.

While many think of the iPhone as the first ever smartphone, it wasn’t, not by a long shot.  The first smartphone was IBM’s Simon Personal Communicator, introduced in 1992 and available for sale in 1994.  It was revolutionary for its time in that it featured an address book, calculator, calendar, email, and a notepad, among other features. Nokia introduced the 9000 Communicator, a digital cellular PDA, in 1996, Qualcomm launched the pdQ smartphone in 1999 featuring integrated Palm PDA functionality and Internet connectivity, and a slew of promising devices and mobile operating systems followed in the early aughts, namely NTT DoCoMo’s i-mode platform, the BlackBerry, Nokia’s Symbian platform, and Windows Mobile.

The limitations of the first iPhones notwithstanding, Jobs was optimistic and very prescient: “iPhone is like having your life in your pocket.”

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

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