10 things you (probably) didn’t know about the iPhone

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Get ready for some iPhone trivia!
Image: Killian Bell/Cult of Mac

Even if you’re a die-hard Apple fan, there’s still plenty you most likely don’t know about the company’s most popular product. And, whether you want to wow your Apple-loving in-laws over the holidays or just feel the need to fill your brain with some iPhone facts, we’ve got you covered.

Here are 10 things you (probably) don’t know about the iPhone.

iPhone trivia

By this point, we all know the iPhone changed the world (and Apple). It’s been more than a decade since the iPhone launch in 2007, and innovation continues apace. But in fact, Apple’s quest to build a phone didn’t even start with the iPhone. Brace yourself for some iPhone trivia.

The iPhone wasn’t Apple’s first cellphone

The Rokr E1 was the first Apple-sanctioned cellphone. It wasn't good.
The Rokr E1 was the first Apple-sanctioned cellphone. It wasn’t good.
Photo: Apple

Launched in September 2005 — two years before the first-generation iPhone — Apple and Motorola’s Rokr E1 was the first Apple-sanctioned cellphone to run iTunes.

At the time, the iPod was Apple’s biggest selling product. And Steve Jobs knew a cellphone that played music could become a serious rival to Apple’s music player. The Rokr E1 was Apple’s attempt to cannibalize its own product before anyone else could. But the phone turned out to be disappointing. After that, Jobs realized that surrendering control over design to make it to market first was a terrible decision.

The first iPhone wasn’t made by Apple

The InfoGear iPhone was definitely a bit ... different from current models.
The first iPhone was definitely a bit … different from current models.
Photo: Bob Ackerman/Wikipedia CC

Apple registered the iphone.org web address in December 1999. But even that wasn’t early enough. Cisco had been using the name “iPhone” for its dual-mode cordless VoIP network phones since 1998.

In the end, Apple came to a (kinda, sorta) agreement with Cisco to use the iPhone name. And the iOS name, too. The deal certainly favored Apple more than it did Cisco.

The iPad predated the iPhone

The iPad predated the iPhone, at least inside Apple.
The iPad predated the iPhone, at least inside Apple.
Photo: Ed Hardy/Cult of Mac

As far back as the late 1990s, Steve Jobs wanted Apple to build a computing device it could sell for just a few hundred bucks. To make the price point meant eliminating things like keyboards, which would add to the cost.

The research project led Apple to multitouch, which led to the first iPad prototypes. However, Apple paused development of the tablet to focus on building a phone. A few years after the iPhone, the iPad arrived. Everyone thought of it as a big iPhone. In fact, the iPhone was a small iPad that made calls.

Apple predicted Siri with almost scary accuracy

Siri was the big selling point of 2011’s iPhone 4s. Apple showed off the device in October 2011, one day before the death of Steve Jobs. But what’s most amazing about Siri is how accurately Apple predicted the feature. In the 1980s, then-Apple CEO John Sculley came up with a concept for a Siri-style virtual assistant called the Knowledge Navigator.

Apple even created a promotional video to show how it might work. In the video, set in the future, a professor asks his AI assistant for a paper written five years ago in 2006. Meanwhile, a calendar on his desk shows the date to be September 16. Put those two numbers together and you get a predicted date of September 16, 2011. To get a prediction accurate to one month, 24 years in advance, is astonishing!

Apple has sold 2.2 billion iPhones

A collection of iPhones, presented as a 30th birthday present to MacPaw CEO Oleksandr Kosovan, fills a critical hole in his private Apple museum
A collection of iPhones, presented as a 30th birthday present to MacPaw CEO Oleksandr Kosovan, fills a critical hole in his private Apple museum.
Photo: MacPaw

Since the iPhone debuted, Apple has sold somewhere in the vicinity of 2.2 billion smartphones. That’s almost four times as many iPhones as there are people in the United States.

The iPhone 6 is the best-selling iPhone model of all time

The iPhone 6 is Apple's biggest selling iPhone of all time
The iPhone 6 is Apple’s biggest selling iPhone of all time.
Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

Since debuting in 2014, the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus have sold upward of 222 million handsets combined. Of the two, the iPhone 6 has sold more.

Even combined, however, the iPhone 6 line lags behind the 250 million-plus units Nokia sold of its classic Nokia 110. You know, back when Snake was the best feature on a phone.

The iPhone almost had an iPod Click Wheel

A Click Wheel iPhone? This could have been your first-gen iPhone.
This could have been your first-gen iPhone.
Photo: Apple

The iPod’s Click Wheel was the most iconic bit of UI design of its day. It’s no wonder, then, that Apple briefly considered using the scrolling physical wheel for navigation on its in-development phone. In an early iPhone prototype, a Click Wheel was used for scrolling through contacts and for selecting numbers to dial like an old rotary phone.

However, it took far too long to dial, and it couldn’t do other things like surf the internet. “Honestly, we can do better, guys,” Steve Jobs finally said. It turns out that Apple could.

Apple briefly considered putting a joystick in the iPhone

A side view of the concept shows how the joystick would elevate above the iPhone surface
A side view of the concept shows how the joystick would elevate above the iPhone surface.
Photo: USPTO/Apple

I don’t know how seriously Apple considered adding a joystick to the iPhone, but it’s pretty great nonetheless. Back in 2015, Apple published a patent application describing the possibility of building a miniature joystick inside the Home button of future iOS devices.

This spring-loaded joystick would have been hidden inside your handset until you needed it. In an age of ultra-thin iPhones, and the elimination of the Home button, the chances of this one happening seem pretty much zero.

The demo iPhone didn’t work properly

Steve Jobs’ iPhone unveiling remains one of the most famous demos in tech history. But things get even more impressive when you know that the demo unit barely worked. Not only were the demo units incredibly fragile, but they were also prone to crashes.

The one shown off by Jobs onstage had a “golden path” he could follow to show off apps. If he had taken one wrong step, this would have been one of the most notoriously botched unveilings in tech history.

The shortest-lived iPhone in history

The lowest-tier first-gen iPhone didn't hang around for long
The lowest-tier first-gen iPhone didn’t hang around for long.
Photo: Traci Dauphin/Cult of Mac

Although Apple releases new iPhones every year, older models typically hang around for some time as cheaper options. The shortest lifespan for an iPhone, however, wasn’t years at all — it was barely even months.

After the first-gen iPhone went on sale on June 29, 2007, Apple continued selling the bottom-tier 4GB model for just two months. It officially vanished from shelves on September 5, 2007. At the same time, Apple cut the price of the 8GB version by $200.

Know all this already?

Did you know these facts already? What’s your favorite bit of obscure iPhone trivia? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.