The Mindbending Fifteen Years of iPhones

What is the one item you must always carry? The electronic one that must retain enough electrical charge to function throughout your day?

It’s the black mirror, the fondleslab, the ball-and-chain. The device serves as your communicator, wallet, summoner of services – transport, lunch, point of contact, educator, and entertainer. It’s in your purse, pocket, or hand more frequently than any other object, animate or inanimate.

Yet until the debut of the iPhone fifteen years ago, mobile phones were an entirely different beast.

Enter the “Jesusphone”

“A nickname for Apple’s iPhone, so-called because of the nearly religious fervor the phone has caused and the cult status it enjoys,” wrote PC Magazine.

The hype for Apple’s new product for 2007 reached a crescendo when hipster princess Xeni Jardin wrote on BoingBoing: “It lives up to the hype. All the rules just changed. ”

Jardin was a believer from the get-go. “The interface makes all the other mobile devices I have around the office look dumpy and half-functional; the sleek form factor makes my other smartphones look morbidly obese, ”she wrote. “I want to pick them up and gaze upon them pityingly, then throw them all in a blender and hit ‘puree’.”

“It is not hype if the product lives up to it,” wrote Jardin. Other industry-watchers weren’t so praiseworthy.

Luxury bauble

Scribes enjoy the luxury of 20/20 hindsight, and parsing skepticism of a product that subsequently proved successful is low-hanging fruit. But it’s worth looking back at less-reverential 2007 predictions for the device.

Luke Dormehl at Cult of Mac compiled some zingers for the tenth anniversary.

“When the iPhone comes, Digg will likely be full of horror stories from the poor saps who camped out at their local AT&T store, only to find their purchase was buggier than a camp cabin,” wrote TechCrunch’s Seth Porges (it’s worth remembering that names like Digg, MySpace and LiveJournal were popular online services at the time).

The technology of our present century leapfrogs expectations

“That virtual keyboard will be about as useful for tapping out emails and text messages as a rotary phone,” he wrote. “Don’t be surprised if a sizable contingent of iPhone buyers express some remorse at ditching their BlackBerry when they spend an extra hour each day pumping out emails on the road.”

MarketWatch writer John Dvorak titled his March 2007 article “Apple should pull the plug on the iPhone” and excoriated Cupertino’s ambition. “There is no likelihood that Apple can be successful in this competitive business,” wrote Dvorak. “What Apple risks here is its reputation as a hot company that can do no wrong. If it’s smart it will call the iPhone a ‘reference design’ and pass it to some suckers to build with someone else’s marketing budget. ”

In a Bloomberg opinion piece, Matthew Lynn predicted that the iPhone’s impact on the wireless industry would be minimal, arguing that ‘the iPhone is nothing more than a luxury bauble that will appeal to a few gadget freaks. In terms of its impact on the industry, the iPhone is less relevant. “

“The big competitors in the mobile phone industry such as Nokia Oyj and Motorola won’t be whispering nervously into their clam shells over a new threat to their business,” he wrote.

“No chance”

In January 2007, Richard Sprague, a senior marketing director at Microsoft, said he couldn’t “believe the hype being given to iPhone … please mark this post and come back in two years to see the results of my prediction: I predict they will not sell anywhere near the 10M Jobs predicts for 2008. ”

“In the end, Apple didn’t sell the 10 million iPhones Jobs had predicted,” wrote Dormehl. “It sold upward of 11 million.”

Scribes enjoy the luxury of 20/20 hindsight

But former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer’s jocular dismissal of the then-new Appleslab is one for the ages. In 2007, Ballmer said: “There’s no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share. No chance. It’s a USD500 subsidized item. ”

He conceded that Apple “may make a lot of money. But if you take a look at the 1.3 billion phones that get sold [sic]I’d prefer to have our software in 60% or 70% or 80% of them, than I would to have 2% or 3%, which is what Apple might get. ”

NOTE: A 2007 report by Canalys is titled “64 million smart phones shipped worldwide in 2006.”

NOTE: As of May 2022, Apple’s iOS has a 27.22% market share.

iPhoneography and ant keyboards

Smartphones today, whether powered by iOS or the more popular Android platform, look more like iPhone 1.0 than any previous iterations from Nokia or Motorola. Touchscreen keypads, a feature cited by the doubters of 2007, are now de rigueur – few prefer the ant-sized keys of earlier Nokias or Blackberrys.

One feature that’s evolved beyond most expectations is the quality of built-in mobile phone cameras. The application of compute power supplied via the phone’s processor allows the software to record and manipulate still images and video to significant effect.

We’ve gone from the grainy potato-quality cameras found in the early-2000s phones to “iPhoneography” in a decade or so. Director Sean Baker shot his critically acclaimed feature film Tangerine using three iPhones. According to IMDb, “the production was so low budget that after filming, Baker sold one of them to pay his rent while another became his own personal phone. The remaining iPhone eventually was donated to the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures. ”

There was a method to Baker’s mobile-phone madness. “Since the entire film was shot on location without any sets, all of the background extras were not actors, but pedestrians in the city of Los Angeles captured in the film,” says IMDb. “That meant that a small inconspicuous phone could shoot uninterrupted without any curious passersby approaching the crew and interrupting filming.”

None of the 2007-era naysayers mentioned the guerrilla-filmmaking niche, but the technology of our present century has a way of leapfrogging expectations. The iPhone (and its Android-powered relatives) certainly has done so.

Stefan Hammond is a contributing editor to CDOTrends. Best practices, the IoT, payment gateways, robotics and the ongoing battle against cyberpirates pique his interest. You can reach him at [email protected].

Image credit: iStockphoto / Karen Poghosyan


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