Five years ago today, on June 29, 2007, the original iPhone first went on sale. Steve Jobs had previewed the iPhone back on January 9, 2007, in what I think was the best presentation that Steve Jobs ever made (which is saying something). As we got closer to June 29, 2007, anticipation was high because people wanted to try for themselves the device that seemed so different than everything that came before it. Around the country, people lined up to be among the first to get an iPhone.
As you would expect after five years, there are tons of differences between the original iPhone and the current iPhone 4S. Obviously, iPhones are now cheaper. The cheapest original iPhone was the $499 model with the 4GB, or for an extra $100 you could get 8GB. Today, you can get the iPhone 3GS for free, while the 4S starts at $199 for 16GB and the high-end 64GB model is $399.
With over 650,000 apps currently in the App Store, it seems strange that the original iPhone did not allow for any third party apps. Developers were instead encouraged to create web pages formatted for the iPhone screen (a severe limitation, although thousands were created, many of which were surprisingly good). As for Apple's built-in apps, because they took advantage of the iPhone's beautiful and unprecedented screen, they seemed great at the time, but many suffered from severe limitations. For example, the original Mail app did not work with Microsoft Exchange, and that shortcoming alone was a key reason that few lawyers bought the original iPhone. You could not select multiple e-mails at once so you had to delete e-mails one at a time. And as was the case in all apps on the original iPhone, there was no cut/copy-and-paste.
There are important hardware differences between the original iPhone and the current iPhone 4S. The original iPhone did not even work with 3G, and instead only used the slow Edge network. The original iPhone's camera was only 2 megapixels and did not support video recording, let alone FaceTime videochat. There was a headphone jack on the original iPhone, but it was deeply inset so many headphones would not fit without an adapter. And due to less memory and a much slower CPU, the original iPhone was a fraction of the speed of the current iPhone 4S. On the other hand, you did get a free dock with the original iPhone, something that you now have to purchase for $30.
And of course, technologies like Siri, AirPlay, Bluetooth keyboards, etc. were nowhere to be seen on the original iPhone. Nor were carriers other than AT&T. (The first international iPhone launch was November 9, 2007, when the iPhone was released in the UK and Germany.)
But for all of the changes over the past five years, I'm actually amazed how much the iPhone hasn't changed. Although thinner and lighter, it is still essentially the same height and width. We still have just the one button on the front, the sleep/wake button at the top, and the volume buttons and mute switch on the side. The basic interface remains a grid of icons, although with the Retina display those icons look much nicer. The basic navigation remains the same: scroll through lists, pinch to zoom, tap on the screen without to push down like on earlier touchscreens. And the iPhone remains dominated by its large, beautiful screen, uncluttered by an always-present keyboard that had been so popular with BlackBerries and Palm Treos. Here is the ad that Apple was running when the iPhone came out in June of 2007, and it still captures much of what makes the iPhone so special today (not to mention it still makes me hungry for calamari):
It is amazing how much Apple got right with the first generation of the iPhone, resulting in so many key iPhone features remaining the same after five years.
Few lawyers bought that original model of the iPhone, but many of us could tell that Apple was about to change smartphones forever (although I doubt that many of us could have predicted how successful the iPhone would be). As Steve Jobs said in 2007: "Every once in a while, a revolutionary product comes along that changes everything. ... Apple is going to reinvent the phone." I am constantly amazed at how much the iPhone and its sibling the iPad have allowed me to be a better lawyer, while at the same time providing countless hours of entertainment and learning (both for me and my kids). As we celebrate the fifth anniversary of the iPhone, I lift my glass to toast Apple for all that it has accomplished and to thank the company for creating such an amazing device.