Tech memories, sometimes, are the shortest memories of all. Do you remember what "smartphones" were like before the iPhone? Unless you were fairly well-off, you may not have any clear recall of those hazy days of 2007, when the Palm Treo and the BlackBerry ruled the world. Maybe your dad has one in a drawer somewhere -- go find it, power it up, and take a trip back to the Dark Ages (comparatively speaking). Eight years ago today, Steve Jobs blew up Macworld West in San Francisco with an earth-changing announcement.
Whether you currently own an iPhone or not, all modern smartphones -- every last one of them -- are essentially based on the iPhone. That's how much of a paradigm shifter the phone that Jobs built was. Yes, even you, the Fandroid with the Samsung t-shirt who is proud of his Apple Derangement Syndrome-esque posts: you're ignoring (or ignorant of) your history. Google and BlackBerry engineers alike have since admitted that when they saw the iPhone, they knew that all their current and previous work was dust.
Best of all, it's very obvious that Steve Jobs, visionary that he was, knew exactly what he was holding. He knew that Apple had genuinely done it -- had brought together a combination of inventions, sweat and clever combinations of existing technology into a world-beating, life-changing stroke of genius that would redefine the whole industry.
When he said during his introduction that Apple had "re-invented the phone," truer words have rarely been spoken. It was probably not Apple's intention to kill off the concept of the "land-line," re-purpose all of America's existing phone providers, and completely change the way nearly everyone on earth communicates, but Jobs clearly had a notion that the iPhone could wreak such havoc -- and that's why there's a big dopey grin and a twinkle in his eye throughout the entire segment.
The iPhone was introduced an astonishing six months ahead of its arrival to the market. His teaser for the product is nothing short of brilliant, from the "oh, one more thing," slyness to rousing the crowd with the promise of three new products: a widescreen iPod with touch controls, a breakthrough Internet communicator, and a revolutionary mobile phone. He repeated it, yelling "do you get it?" before raising the roof off the place by revealing that this was all in one device.
Six months later, I found myself standing in a sweltering Florida queue outside an AT&T store with maybe 50 or so others for several hours for the privilege of handing the company $500 of my hard-earned money and signing a cell contract for the first time in my life (yes, that's right, you kids -- you had to pay big bucks for the phone and sign a two-year pact). Within a few days of using it, I understood that all smartphones forevermore would be like this one. It was the top-selling phone in its very first month, a position it often retains at most US carriers, most months, ever since.
Lots of people unfairly give Steve Jobs sole credit for the iPhone, as if he invented it personally. This is a bit like saying Neil Armstrong single-handedly landed on the moon. Still, Jobs deserves some of the accolades -- for being an inspiration, for knowing where and when to say no, and for driving the teams that did create the various components to work together towards a singular vision. All of Apple's employees, however, should take pride in whatever they've contributed, back then or more recently, to the various iterations of the iPhone. It truly is a product on par with the light bulb in its effect on the world and the millions of ways, large and small, that it changed all our lives.
-- Charles Martin (@Editor_MacNN)
When I saw Steve's keynote about the iPhone, I was reasonably certain that it was the wave of the future, but with a baby on the way, there was just no way I could shell out that kind of dough for it. I knew I'd ultimately get one, but it would take time, so I'd suffer along with my existing piece of crap.
In February of the following year, my daughter developed some serious medical problems. Using the crap phones of the day, I called my entire family for assistance, but given the delightful state of emails on phones, voicemail, text messaging, reception, and the other garbage, it took ages to get anybody.
As soon as I could after the incident, I ponied up for the iPhone for two of my family members. The bevy of ways we could get each other with the new phone in an emergency was a safety blanket for new parents dealing with a baby with a chronic condition. Those phones are gone, but at this point, we wouldn't think about anything else. This says nothing about the connectivity from the phone during one of our many hospital stays, which was a boon as well to soothe frazzled relatives.
So, thanks, Steve. I've got a kid who hasn't joined you in part because of your phone.