Today 15 years ago the iPhone was released

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15 years ago today, long lines of consumers lined up Apple Stores trying to get in to buy Apple’s new product, the iPhone. On June 29, 2007, Apple released the first generation iPhone and the world was never the same. The device had already been launched with much fanfare on January 9, and it took Apple and its supply chain more than five months to build enough handsets to sell.

The OG iPhone wasn’t perfect, but it was something no one had ever seen before

The OG iPhone was not perfect. It didn’t offer stereo Bluetooth, nor did it have MMS or copy and paste. It also didn’t work on AT&T’s 3G network. Instead, the first iPhone used AT&T’s “2.5G” EDGE network. The latter prevented users from using the browser and making calls at the same time. It also made YouTube videos running on mobile look like crap. Fortunately, the video viewed over Wi-Fi was sharp and clear.

What the iPhone did have was an incredible touchscreen and a cool user interface. Everyone wanted an iPhone and there was no Android back then. If you weren’t on AT&T, your choice was to buy one of the iPhone clones (many of which were feature phones with a poor resistive touchscreen and an HTML browser like the LG Voyager). It wasn’t until Motorola, Google, and Verizon teamed up to Motorola DROID announced in November 2009 that a phone has been delivered that can match the iPhone in terms of capabilities.
Network newscasts on June 29, 2007, showed iPhone buyers ecstatic to purchase their mitts. Owners of the device were both envied and ridiculed for spending $499 on a smartphone. The world didn’t know that $1,000 phones would be coming soon. Still, the excitement was electric and palpable. Just 74 days after its release, Apple announced that the iPhone had sold 1 million units.

Today, an iPhone launch that resulted in 1 million units sold in its first 74 days would be considered a huge failure and you would read about the many Apple investors who committed suicide by jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge. For example, the latest information we have shows that 1.7 million to 2 million iPhone 12 units were purchased during the first 24 hours of availability.

The OG iPhone had a 3.5-inch LCD screen with a resolution of 320 x 480. Under the hood was a 412MHz single-core processor. A 1400mAh battery powered the phone, which carried a 2MP flash-less camera on its back. From that moment on, Apple has added the App Store (perhaps the most important addition to the phone), introduced Siri and Touch ID, increased the screen size and significantly improved the photography platform.

Soon, cheaper smartphones and older iPhone models brought the price so low that almost anyone who wanted a smartphone could buy one. You couldn’t walk the streets of Manhattan without seeing everyone looking at their phones.

Still, not everyone in the industry could predict what was coming. Steve Ballmer, CEO of Microsoft, famously laughed at the iPhone for its price and virtual keyboard. When asked what his first thoughts on the device were, Ballmer cackled, “$500 fully subsidized with a plan?” The director also said the iPhone was not attractive to business customers because it did not offer a physical keyboard.

Research In Motion (RIM) co-chief executives Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis, who couldn’t read the room properly, also failed. RIM was the company behind the popular BlackBerry phones known for their physical keyboards and mobile email platform. Some of their quotes explain why the iPhone ultimately outperformed BlackBerry.

Some industry executives thought the iPhone would fail

“As beautiful as the Apple iPhone is, it presents a real challenge to its users. Trying to type a web key on a touchscreen on an Apple iPhone is a real challenge. You can’t see what you’re typing,” said Jim Balsillie in November 2007 His partner, Mike Lazaridis, said in May 2008, “The most exciting mobile trend is full QWERTY keyboards. I’m sorry, it really is. I’m not making this up.”

BlackBerry tried to beat Apple with the Storm that launched in 2008 with a virtual keyboard designed to feel like you’re pressing a physical keyboard. A design flaw (corrected in the sequel) made typing on the Storm quite an adventure, and just about every unit sold by Verizon (including the one this writer pre-ordered) was sent back for a replacement unit.

Just as many say there will never be a Beatles again, we may never see another consumer electronics product take off like the iPhone did. So on the 15th anniversary of its first public release, we wish the iPhone a happy birthday and hope there are many more to come.

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