A few nights ago at far too late an hour I ended up watching the entire unveiling of the first iPhone back in 2007. I’m not sure I ended up on the subject, but in the end I stuck around for the entire 80ish minutes because it was such an interesting relic of technology history.
It really it shocking to listen to an entire audience gasp at the fact that you can just swipe on the screen to see more content, something pretty much every has a natural understanding of today. Hell, the reminder of non-visual voicemail made me remember my old voicemail PIN that I haven’t used in a dozen years. The first iPhone by today’s standards is both too small (screen size) and too large (form factor) and lacking in so many features (remember not being able to copy and paste?) but the audience and the phone comparisons of the day remind us, this thing changed everything. The best reminder of this comes when Jobs opens the New York Times homepage and its a desktop website. There was no mobile design because there were no mobile designs. Being able to open a clunky desktop site and double clicking to zoom in and out on any article was a massive advancement. In December Adobe is sunsetting flash player, Apple got criticized for not including in on the phone, a decision that more than anything else helped destroy one of the worst bits of internet technology this century.
The entire presentation is just chock full of things that are startlingly out of place by today’s standards. Even if iOS 7 was so controversial, the original design just looks…old and noisy. The fact that Jobs brings out Google’s Eric Schmidt and Yahoo’s Jerry Yang is jarring because Apple is decidedly in a position of needing these companies. Google provided the maps and Youtube apps while Yahoo! gave every iPhone user free push email. Now Apple has iCloud and Maps; Google has Android (and Gmail out of beta); and Yahoo! is well…still around. Probably the most shocking thing, however, is what Jobs focuses on first…the iPod. It shouldn’t be, music was a central pillar of Apple’s business model in 2007 between the iPod and the iTunes store. But in 2020 it feels so…unrevolutionary.