Five Years Later: Where Were You When The iPhone Was Born? [Feature]

Five Years Later: Where Were You When The iPhone Was Born? [Feature]

This changed everything. Where were you when it was announced five years ago?

Today is the fifth anniversary of the release of the original iPhone, and for Cult of Mac’s writers, it’s a particularly important birthday: not only does June 29th mark the anniversary of one of our most all-time beloved gadgets, but it’s also a day so momentous that it has rippled through every aspect of our professional lives as both Apple fans and writers.

To mark the occasion, Cult of Mac’s writers got together to talk about where we were when the first iPhone came out, what it meant for us then and what it means for us now. Check out our stories, then please feel free to hop in and leave a comment telling us where you were when the iPhone was born.

Leander Kahney

There have only been a couple of times that I thought technology was truly magical. Seeing a Palm Pilot convert my handwriting into text was one, and using the iPhone for the first time was the other.

I took my kids to get my first iPhone. Of course, they grabbed it from me and I couldn’t get it back for hours. They had it figured out in a few minutes. That doesn’t seem so remarkable now, but I was impressed at the time. It was so naturally intuitive, even though nothing like it had been seen before. They squealed with delight at the finger candy: swiping, pinching and zooming.

I remember getting a kick out of simple things: double tapping to zoom into a story in the New York Times; getting the full web on the go; seeing the screen go dark when I moved my finger over the proximity sensor.

Over time it has become even more remarkable. Each hardware iteration is better than the last. The iPhone 4 is a stunning piece of engineering; beautifully made and durable. I’ve dropped it on concrete several times and there are just a couple of small chips in the glass. It’s remarkable it isn’t broken, given the abuse.

But the best thing is all the apps. It transforms from a reading device to a games console to a bike computer, depending on which app is loaded. It’s the infinite gadget.

John Brownlee

By the time I got the first iPhone in my pocket, the iPhone 3G was already on store shelves, but a buddy who was upgrading sold me his old one. It didn’t matter to me, really, though: all I wanted was my first fancy smartphone. What I got was something more… an always-connected computer that lived in my pocket, and which could settle all debates, arrange for tickets to a play, tell me the weather, help me meet friends and more. Five years later, we take that all for granted, but for me, it was revolutionary, in that it finally blended the Internet in all of its facets into the fabric of my real life. No longer was I only “on the Internet” late at night when I was drinking a beer or prowling forums: it was part of my real, everyday life, for good and for ill. It was transformative.

Buster Heine

All I wanted was a touchscreen iPod.

That’s what the rumor mill said was coming along with the iPhone, and when it turned out that the iPhone and the touchscreen iPod were actually the same device, I was slightly disappointed. Steve Jobs has a habit of disappointing me with every keynote because his vision was always different, and usually better than mine.

Despite having little need for a $600 fancy phone, I went to the Apple Store on launch day to check it out anyway. Twenty seconds of holding that original iPhone was all it took to get me hooked.

It just felt good in my hand, and the touchscreen wasn’t clunky and delayed. Everything was perfect (other than that stupid recessed headphone jack that Jobs added to sell some more Apple headphones). The Apple Specialist saw immediately that I was hooked and said they only had a few units left, which in turn made me pull out my bank card faster than if I were starving for a burrito.

Including the security deposit for a new AT&T account, it cost $900 for me to get that iPhone on launch-day. A ridiculous sum for a phone at the time, and yet I don’t regret it as it feels like life would be a bit less colorful without it.

Charlie Sorrel

When the iPhone was first announced, I was where I always was for Apple keynotes before the iPad was invented — sitting with my feet up on my desk, drinking a beer and refreshing the live blogs. It was obvious even then that this was going to be something big, and I swore I would have one as soon as the iPhone launched in Spain (which, due to high demand even for the first iPhone, took longer than expected).

But I have never owned an iPhone, or even made a phone call with one. I tried to buy one several times, but there was either no stock, or I had the wrong ID, or I just plain got bored waiting in the terrible Barcelona Movistar stores.

Then came the iPod touch, which I bought as soon as I could find one. It was the pocket computer I had dreamed of since I was a kid. And then came the iPad, which has all but replaced my Mac.

But the biggest change has been that now, with an iPad, I can follow the Apple live blogs from the comfort of my local bar. Thanks, iPhone!

Killian Bell

Before Apple announced the iPhone in 2007, I was using a Windows Mobile smartphone that was manufactured by HTC. As much as I hate to admit it, I loved that device at the time — despite its frequent crashes — because it could do all kinds of things that feature phones couldn’t do.

But then Steve Jobs unveiled the iPhone at Macworld, and like a toddler discarding their plate full of spaghetti as soon as their eye catches their ice cream, I immediately fell out of love with my Windows Mobile device and started saving for the iPhone. (I was only 18 back then, and I wasn’t earning all that much.)

I still didn’t have quite enough money for it the day it came out, so I ended up grabbing mine a few weeks later. When you look at pictures of the original iPhone today, it looks kind of old and outdated. But back then it really was incredible — unlike anything that came before it.

I found it amazing that I could use the iPhone without ever having to pull out a stylus, and I could jump in and out of apps without a single crash. Like the white plastic iMac and the iPod mini I had at home, the iPhone “just worked.”

My Windows Mobile device now seemed like a heap of junk, and it immediately found itself on eBay.

Five years on I’ve owned every iPhone Apple has ever released, and I still use the device each and every day. I’ve toyed with Android and Windows Phone handsets here and there, but there are a number of reasons — design, apps, and usability are just a few of them — why these just cannot replace the iPhone for me.

Ryan Faas

My first glimpse of the iPhone was during the MacWorld 2007 keynote where Steve Jobs unveiled it. I remember the woman sitting behind me in the press section of the auditorium gasping in surprise and then muttering to the person next to her “I knew it was a mistake saying they wouldn’t make a phone.”

As exciting as the idea of the iPhone was, I didn’t buy one initially. The lack of 3G support was a big factor in that decision along with the limited selection of built-in apps. Both of which led me to hold onto my Windows Mobile phone (and a fair amount of money) for the entire summer. Once Apple dropped the iPhone’s price by $200, I decided to bite the bullet and buy one, though I did keep my Widows Mobile phone active until the end of the year because of its 3G connection.

A year later, when the iPhone 3G launched, I dutifully got out of bed at 3:30 and drove to a suburban AT&T store to buy one so that I could write a first-look piece about it. As the endless wait times caused by the crush of activations continued, I’m pretty certain I scared the hell out of the store’s manager by telling him I was a technology journalist when he asked if I’d taken the day off from work to buy an iPhone.

I also remember scaring my upstairs neighbor by showing her how accurate GPS was on the iPhone 3G, particularly when used with satellite view in the Maps (on which you could identify various things in the back yard of our brownstone).

It’s amazing to realize that it was just five years ago that a feature like that, which we now take completely for granted, seemed so new and revolutionary. I’ve often said that many of today’s technologies feel like something that was practically science fiction just five or ten years ago. In many ways the iPhone was something out of science fiction when it launched – and in many ways the iPhone and iPad continue create that impression over and over as Apple keeps innovating with no signs of stopping.

Lonnie Lazar

I first saw the iPhone rotating inside a glass curio display at Macworld in 2007, when Steve Jobs unveiled the thing to a universe of people who had no idea what was about to hit them.

I remember following the reaction in the Apple blogosphere later that summer when the iPhone actually made it into the wild, and I remember thinking to myself, “damn, these people are hard to please.”

I didn’t actually get to use one until just after the release of the iPhone 3G, when one of my more well-to-do and gadget-obsessed friends suddenly had an Orig to spare. I used it for almost a year before I was able to splurge on my own 3G unit just before the 3GS came out.

Ah, timing, eh?

Full disclosure: I’ve not used another smartphone, though I have played with a Palm Pre and an Android of forgotten provenance. I watched a guy next to me on a plane using an HTC running Android and I thought, “well, that looks preety cool,” but basically I’m of the opinion that Apple fundamentally changed the way human beings access information and communicate when it invented the iPhone. And now, almost five years later, iPhone still seems — to me — the undisputed Smartphone champion.

Adam Rosen

I didn’t jump on the iPhone bandwagon until the second generation iPhone 3G came out, but many of my colleagues dove right in. The first time I picked one up was when a client needed help pairing their new Apple bluetooth earpiece with the their phone. Had to learn iOS pretty quickly! The iPhone quickly became a player on the smartphone landscape, and Apple — moving with uncharacteristic speed — opened up the phone to third party apps and 3G networking just a year after launch.  I’ve been in since ’08, and am now on my third model.

Vincent Messina (Editor, Cult of Android)

Where was I when the iPhone was born? Well, dreaming of Android, of course! I was actually on Verizon sporting either a LG or BlackBerry (can’t remember) and while I was curious about the new iPhone, I had no plans of picking one up.

What were my reasons? Mainly, I did not care for Apple’s restrictive nature and did not want a device that would basically be useless without iTunes. Even if the thought of getting one popped in my head, the AT&T exclusivity squashed that notion quickly.

The iPhone has and always will be a great device, and it’s never been the device that’s been the problem — it’s the lockout by Apple. If the iPhone had been open for me to transfer music, photos, etc. without having to be tied to iTunes, I most likely would have picked one up. Although, I would have eventually ended up switching to Android in the long run, as the iPhone has basically remained the same (design wise) and I enjoy having choices (otherwise I’d be wearing the same clothes I had on when the iPhone was born).

Happy birthday iPhone, and thanks for pissing off enough people into making some amazing Android products!

What about you? Where were you when the iPhone was born? Tell us your stories in the comments below!

  • Tallest_Skil

    I was winning one. Sits on my desk to this day. Best little everything-but-a-phone I’ve ever owned.

    Happy fifth birthday, my iPhone.

  • Pmania

    I was on my seaside holiday. Just came back to the hotel after a walk on the shore and started browsing the gadget blogs and there it was, I saw it for the first time in my life. My life was never the same since then :)

  • DrWinstonOBoogie

    I was in New York City, and decided to go down to the 5th Ave. Apple Store to see all of the people in line for the iPhone. The line stretched down one long city block, snaked around the corner and traveled up half of the next block. There must have been 2,000 people in line. I decided to head to the back of the line just to get in on the excitement of the event and say that I was part of it. I had been looking forward to the new iPhone since I watched the Macworld keynote. I arrived at the end of the line at 4pm and immediately struck up friendly conversations with all of the people in line around me. We were all super excited, but did not expect to get a phone, assuming that they would run out of them long before we ever got near the store, which was a block and a half away. 5pm rolled around and the line slowly, slowly started to move. To my astonishment, the employees of the Apple Store had processed and sold iPhones to everyone in front of me in line, and myself, by 5:30pm. It took them half an hour to sell 2,000 iPhones to the people in line! I was awed by their efficiency and friendliness. Of course, you just bought the phone and took it home to activate it, unlike these days where they open them up for you and set it all up in the store. It was a fun, fun experience and I’ve bought every iPhone except for the 3G model.

  • DrWinstonOBoogie

    By the way, the photo used at the top of this article is an iPhone 3G or 3Gs, not the original iPhone.

  • ZeusCarver

    On launch day I left my job early and headed over to the mall where the Apple store was situated. I marveled at all of the people there as if it were an Apple Store opening. I snapped a few pictures of the folks in line and the black curtains covering the windows before I ducked through an exit leading to the bowels of the mall. I worked feverishly for the next 2 hours. After what seemed like an eternity the curtains finally came down and I exclaimed at the top of my lungs “Welcome to the Apple Store!” My night was just beginning.

  • howie_isaacks

    I was a Mac Genius at the Apple Store Willow Bend. What a night! I’ve always been amazed at the loyalty that Apple has from its customers. These people started lining up very early in the morning. They would have lined up earlier if the mall management had let them stay over night. I was there until well past midnight. None of us had even touched an iPhone until just less than an hour before the store reopened to put the iPhones on sale. That was crazy, but none of the customers were there to ask questions. They wanted an iPhone… or two. A couple of weeks later, Apple gave us all free iPhones.

  • howie_isaacks

    By the way, the photo used at the top of this article is an iPhone 3G or 3Gs, not the original iPhone.

    I guess it must have been too hard for them to find a photo of the original. Maybe they forgot about Google Images.

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  • mikeymo

    On my couch when I saw it On cnbc and i said “Now this Is going to change the world” it is really the first time technology felt like magic (second iPad 2)

  • Drmstix303

    Lol I love how Steeber was left out of this!

About the author

John BrownleeJohn Brownlee is a Contributing Editor. He has also written for Wired, Playboy, Boing Boing, Popular Mechanics, VentureBeat, and Gizmodo. He lives in Boston with his wife and two parakeets. You can follow him here on Twitter.

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