Happy 10th birthday, iPhone


It’s been ten years since Steve Jobs first unveiled the first iPhone and in the decade since it arrived its impact on the smartphone landscape has been incredible.

Where once they were the stuff of science fiction, touchscreen interfaces have become almost industry standard in the smartphone industry. Furthermore phones have gone from being simple communication devices to multimedia and gaming platforms, PDAs, high-end cameras, digital hubs and more.

Fortunately, YouTube is slightly older than the iPhone. So documentary evidence of its first appearance outside of Apple HQ, on January 9 2007, is in great supply.

While Apple may not enjoy the impregnable market share it used to, it deserves a lot of credit for pushing the envelope in smartphone tech.

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To celebrate a decade of pinch-zoom gestures, ridiculous patents, and incredible sales figures, our writers share their experiences of Apple’s signature product.

Adam’s only one

This is going to seriously undermine my tech credentials, but I’ve only ever owned one piece of Apple gear.

I’ve certainly used (and reviewed) a lot of Macs, because they were the de facto computer in the publishing industry throughout the 90s and 2000s and I definitely admired Apple hardware like the elegant iMac and MacBook.

But lack of funds and a preference for other operating systems meant that the only time I’ve ever walked into a shop and bought a thing designed in Cupertino was in 2009, with the launch of the iPhone 3GS.

Up until that point, I’d considered the iPhone an interesting novelty but still wasn’t sure it would become essential. The launch of the iPhone 1, with no 3G, no App Store and a massive price tag put me off the phone initially.

At the time, the idea of paying for a mobile phone rather than getting a subsidised handset as part of your contract (this was in the UK where pre-paid wasn’t as ubiquitous) seemed like madness, especially given its other limitations and the fact it seemed to be built for other Apple services – like iTunes – which I didn’t use.

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By the time the 3GS rolled around, however, everything had changed. iOs was mature and could do everything other phones could do plus an enormous amount they couldn’t. No phone came close to the iPhone in terms of speed and power, and the App Store was still completely unique. Everyone was making apps for iOS, which made Windows Mobile 6.1 look ancient and the nascent Android operating system look ridiculous in its immaturity.

Its launch was perfectly time for my next contract upgrade, so even though it still remained pricey I bought one on launch day.

I joked at the time that before I’d even got it out of its box, my three-year-old daughter had got the BBC iPlayer app working on it – but that wasn’t a complete lie. The world which parents take for granted now, in which phones are full of apps to occupy kids while you eat/shop/drive/breakdown was still a novelty. As was using Google Maps while walking around London to find the obscure pub friends suggest you meet in.

The 3GS was amazing. It was the last of the iPhones which followed the original design, but despite Apple’s notorious built-in obsolescence when my contract was next up, I didn’t trade up. I just got a cheaper tariff and stuck with the 3GS for longer.

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What tempted me away was the bigger and more useful screen size of the Galaxy S2, and by that time I was more interested in the flexibility of the equally polished Android operating system and keen to get out of Apple’s walled garden.

The way things are going, the 3GS may be the only Apple branded thing I’ll ever own – and I can live with that. Apple’s phones and computers are great, they’re just not for me. I maintain that 2009 was the only time since the 1970s that Apple had an essential product with absolutely no extant peer at all. It may never be able to say the same thing again.

Nick was late to the party

Full disclosure: I’m the sort of person that both Apple fans and detractors look down their noses at. The iPhone is a device I would probably find it impossible to manage without, but I’ve never felt the need to upgrade to the latest iteration.

In terms of functionality, the iPhone has never boasted a feature I felt was essential since around the release of the iPhone 4S. For the record, the only reason I own an iPhone 5S is because two years ago some light-fingered bugger stole my trusty iPhone 4 (and the cute panda sheathe it was in) from my locker at the gym when I wasn’t looking.

In a lot of ways I was late to the party – and I remain that way. When the first iPhone was launched back in 2007, it left me cold. Due to its lack of functionality – no 3G, no iTunes store, massive price tag and it didn’t even have the ability to copy and paste text – it looked like nothing more than an iPod that could make calls.

Apple’s phones just looked like shiny overstuffed baubles to me – that is, until I bought one. Mind you, I was upgrading from a rather lousy Nokia handset at the time, so a pair of tins on a string would’ve been an improvement.

Since then I’ve lagged behind Apple’s release schedule, only upgrading when the opportunity to do so was free, or – once again – I had no choice thanks to some thieving sod. I prefer its orderly eco-system to Android and to be honest, I don’t mind that Steve Jobs put me in a glass box as far as my media consumption is concerned.

Some may dismiss it as technology for luddites, while others may berate me for choosing old iterations over new, but for me the iPhone is still a sexy, overstuffed bauble – and something I would find it hard to manage without.

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