And I’ve never been more excited about it
Original iPhone after 3 years of abuse (photo credit)
The iPhone is 10 years old this week, and in that time Apple has sold more than 1,000,000,000(!) of them. Over the last decade its gains in hardware and software have far surpassed anyone’s expectations, and actually, it’s now my only computer.
After seeing a zillion retrospectives on this 10th anniversary, I was reluctant to pen one myself, but, as when it was released, my experience has been a bit different than most, and I felt compelled to jot down something.
As I went about writing this I pored over my polymath.net archives to help refresh my recollection of how I felt after this little piece of magic was revealed and started embedding itself in every facet of my life, both personally and professionally (and holy shit did I write a ton about it). (My initial thoughts on the original iPhone, after telling everyone I wasn’t going to buy one.)
The best computer is the one you have with you
Maybe the craziest thing about the original iPhone is that none of its features were unique to it. In fact, even its combination of features wasn’t unique to it. There, of course, were “smart” phones long before the iPhone, some of which were actually pretty cool. In April 2007 I wrote:
Save the interface, iPhone v1.0 isn’t bringing anything wholly novel to the mobile space. However, it is causing consumers to think differently about what they should expect from the computer in their pocket. You kind of have to think long-term here, years down the road when your “mobile phone” is your wallet, the keys to your car and house, the…you get the idea. Apple is going to get its foot in the door (and its hands gripped on consumers’ heartstrings) with all of the fluffy, shiny chrome in iPhone v1.0, but this is just the hook into the untapped cash cow that will be mobile computing.
Raising the expectations of what a pocket computer could be probably has been the iPhone’s greatest gift to the world. Every pocket computer now is a thin rectangle of glass and plastic/metal, and is interfaced with via touch…and we expect it to do everything.
Was this inevitable? Of course. But for Apple though, I’m not sure we would be half as far along as we are now.
The transition wasn’t easy and the homogeneity was hard to swallow
I owned approximately 50(!) mobile phones before the iPhone came along. I’ve been obsessed with them since buying my first in 1998 — a Nokia 6120 — and every few months from then until 2007 I bought a new one. Whatever the latest and greatest was, I had to have it. In July 2007 I wrote:
The best part about Apple making mobile phones is that I no longer have to scour the earth looking for the “new hotness” and then hope that it’s unlocked, uses GSM, and costs less than $1000. The worst part about Apple making mobile phones is that I’ll now be the rule instead of the exception (and I think part of me kind of enjoyed being the exception).
I’m no longer going to be told, as I once was by some law school friends, that I should just “fly to Singapore and wait at the end of an assembly line.” I’m now just going to be in the Apple line with everyone else.
I used nearly every iteration of the various mobile operating systems that existed from 1998 to 2007, including Series 60, Symbian, PalmOS, Windows CE, Windows Mobile, BlackBerry OS, etc., and for a while I really missed playing with and testing them as they added this or that feature.
But gradually that changed as the mobile OS world fractured wildly and then eventually consolidated into just two real players, and the iPhone’s indispensability in my life continued to grow with each new release. The tradeoff has been more than worth it — I love the iPhone and can’t imagine my life without it.
Apple gives a shit about security and privacy
I’m a privacy nut, and I don’t think it’s controversial to say that Apple is far and away the privacy leader with respect to mobile hardware and operating systems. As this thing has burrowed ever deeper into our personal lives, I think Apple has done a fantastic job of balancing utility and security. I trust them.
I still hate the name
I’ve disliked the name since the first time I heard it, and over the years it only comes across as more and more anachronistic. What do you do the least on your pocket computer? My guess is talk on the phone. I literally never use the phone. I’d prefer almost anything to “iPhone”; hell, I’d even be OK with “iPod,” and since the iPod is dead, I don’t see why this couldn’t happen. (Yes, I realize they’ll never change the name.)