Today in Apple history: Remember the 300-page iPhone bill?

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iJustine's epic iPhone bill was one of the first iPhone viral videos.
Photo: iJustine

August 18August 18, 2007: A video goes viral on YouTube when 23-year-old internet personality Justine Ezarik, a.k.a. iJustine, posts a 300-page iPhone bill mailed to her in a box by AT&T.

The bill — which lists every single action which consumed cellular data on Justine’s brand new iPhone — is quickly viewed by 3 million people and receives extensive media coverage.

Initially, the iPhone was available only on the AT&T Mobility network. When activating their new phones, iPhone users had the option of choosing how they wanted to be billed — although people skipping quickly over it without specifying an option received the default detailed itemized billing.

While iJustine wasn’t alone in receiving an extensive bill like this one, she was among the first: since the iPhone only went on sale on June 29, after which a one month period needed to pass before people starting receiving their first bill.

Her bill came to $274.81, while the package reportedly cost AT&T around $7 to send. It arrived on Saturday, August 11, 2007 — although it took until August 18 before AT&T issued an official statement clarifying that:

“Our customers have the option of receiving a bill that is detail-free. Also, we have for years encouraged our customers to switch to online billing because it is convenient, secure, and environmentally friendly.”

Shortly after, AT&T announced by text message to iPhone users that paper bills would no longer be itemized, although it claimed this had nothing to do with media pressure and had been planned all along.

The 300-page iPhone bill can lay claim to being one of the first iPhone-related viral videos, laying the groundwork for later videos like the “antennagate song” which Steve Jobs used to open an Apple press event, the “bendgate” iPhone 6 Plus videos, and more.

It’s also an amusing moment in Apple history because it helps underscore some of the teething problems which occurred as the world got used to smartphones like Apple’s.

Also today in Apple history

I found a few neat Apple tie-ins while researching this day in Apple history. On August 18, 1947, Hewlett-Packard was incorporated as a company. As a kid, Steve Jobs was a member of the Hewlett-Packard Explorers Club, which met in the company’s cafeteria every Tuesday night to receive a talk from an HP engineer.

Wang
This 1986 ad could almost be mistaken for one by Apple.
Photo: Wang

At age twelve, Jobs looked up company co-founder Bill Hewlett in the phone book (!) and asked him for parts for a frequency counter project he was working on.

On August 18, 1992 Wang Computers filed for bankruptcy protection. One of the companies which fared poorly following the arrival of the PC giants, Wang is an interesting tangent in the Apple story because it led the way for Apple when it came to advertising in a couple of ways.

For starters, it was the first computer company to run a Super Bowl ad, which it did in 1978. Apple famously followed with its iconic Mac ad in 1984. It also had a rivalry with IBM in which it positioned itself as the scrappy underdog fighting the established giant.

Even if I’m not sure that a marketing campaign based around the implication users are hungry for Wang is a good idea!

Finally, on August 18, 2003 Apple began shipping the original Power Mac G5 — the computer sometimes affectionately referred to as the “cheese grater.” I wrote about the Power Mac G5 on June 23, which is when Steve Jobs first introduced the computer. By August 2003, when it started shipping, more than 100,000 units had been pre-ordered.

“The Power Mac G5 is a big hit with customers and developers,” said Phil Schiller in an August 18 press release.