Weird glitch makes original iPhone even more lovable

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iPhone user
Photographer Joe Cunningham still thinks his original iPhone is the best.
Photo: Joe Cunningham

iPhone turns 10 The iPhone has changed enormously in the 10 years since it launched, but some people still think the first iPhone was the best.

Take, for instance, Minnesota photographer Joe Cunningham, who owns not one but two of Apple’s breakthrough smartphones. He doesn’t view them as investments, either. Even though the original iPhone goes for big bucks on eBay these days, Cunningham continues to use both handsets on a daily basis.

Original iPhone is best

Cunningham thinks the original iPhone has never been bettered. “I prefer the user experience of the original and its design much more than any subsequent release,” he told Cult of Mac.

While he keeps a 2013-era iPhone handy in case of emergency (10-year-old smartphones have a funny habit of failing at inopportune times), he dismisses the recent model as “forgettable in comparison to the iconic smartphone that Steve Jobs first showed the world.”

Cunningham loves the second of his original iPhones the most — because of a weirdly beneficial malfunction that produces crazy pictures.

The handset’s 2-megapixel camera seems positively primitive compared to the 12-megapixel, dual-lens monster inside the latest iPhone 7 Plus, but the device’s inexplicable glitch means it takes bizarre photos that look like the result of a bad drug trip.

“The psychedelic iPhone only gets used as a camera because I want to extend its life as long as possible,” Cunningham said.

Joe Cunningham "psychedelic iPhone" photo
The “psychedelic iPhone” from 2007 is great for shooting urban scenes, says its owner.
Photo: Joe Cunningham

The handset made its way to Cunningham a couple of years back. In keeping with the kind of haunted phone you’d expect to spit out imagery like this, it was found abandoned in the drawer of the IT company his brother works at, still in its box. When nobody claimed it, his brother handed it to him. It didn’t take long to discover the weird glitch.

Like a bad acid trip

“[As a photographer] I immediately began experimenting with it to discover what subject matter it would be useful for,” Cunningham said. “For example, it is useless for portraiture and rural landscapes. I soon realized that urban imagery was its forte and began shooting out of the windows of Minneapolis city buses every day. This perspective is unusual because you’re 10 feet tall in the middle of the street, viewing life downtown through the lens of an acid flashback.”

Joe Cunningham "psychedelic iPhone" urban street scene
The “wonderfully damaged” camera in Joe Cunningham’s first-gen iPhone helps him capture striking urban street scenes.
Photo: Joe Cunningham

Cunningham keeps a blog of his images and is planning to publish a book of them. He’s never discovered exactly why the “wonderfully damaged” camera on his psychedelic iPhone renders photos in such acid-soaked colors.

“I’m an artist, not a technical person, so I have no idea what the malfunction is,” he said. “But if one of your readers knows what’s going on I’d love to hear the details. I have searched the internet for similar imagery and come up empty.”

The best explanation we can come up with for the wild pictures? A glitch in filtering the raw data from the image sensor, resulting in pixels being given the wrong colors. Given that experiments with artificial intelligence have made computational creativity all the rage as of late, it’s pretty awesome to see that an O.G. iPhone can be used in this way.

Do you have a better explanation for the strange glitch? Leave your comments below.