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.
The OG iPhone first went on sale on this date 15 years ago
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.
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.
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.