Today in Apple history: Steve Jobs unveils the iPhone


Steve Jobs introduces the smartphone that changed smartphones.
Photo: Apple

January 9 Today in Apple history January 9, 2007: Apple CEO Steve Jobs gives the world its first look at the iPhone onstage during the Macworld conference in San Francisco. The initial reaction to that first iPhone demo is mixed. But Jobs is confident that Apple has created a product that people want — even if they don’t know it yet.

The palm-size device combines an iPod, a phone and a PDA. The iPhone unveiling excites many Apple fans but critics remain skeptical.

The first iPhone: Launching a tech revolution

“iPhone is a revolutionary and magical product that is literally five years ahead of any other mobile phone,” said Jobs in a press release about the new device. “We are all born with the ultimate pointing device — our fingers — and iPhone uses them to create the most revolutionary user interface since the mouse.”

Still, that first iPhone was very basic compared to the ones available today. It was built around a 3.5-inch touchscreen with a paltry 320 by 480 resolution at 163 ppi. The device came with 4GB, 8GB or 16GB of flash memory. The rear camera was 2MP; there was no front camera.

Jobs used the Macworld keynote to show off the iPhone’s capabilities. He described it as “an iPod, a phone and an internet communicator.” And Apple’s press release showcased the company’s bold vision for the device that would fuel a trillion-dollar tech empire:

Apple today introduced iPhone, combining three products — a revolutionary mobile phone, a widescreen iPod with touch controls, and a breakthrough Internet communications device with desktop-class email, web browsing, searching and maps — into one small and lightweight handheld device. iPhone introduces an entirely new user interface based on a large multi-touch display and pioneering new software, letting users control iPhone with just their fingers. iPhone also ushers in an era of software power and sophistication never before seen in a mobile device, which completely redefines what users can do on their mobile phones.

Steve Jobs’ iPhone demo

Jobs’ original iPhone demo also included playing TV shows and movies on the device, as well as showing off the Photos and Calendar apps. (He couldn’t tout the App Store because that wouldn’t come along until the following year.)

Watch Jobs’ Macworld 2007 keynote to relive the magical iPhone unveiling:

There were plenty of counter-revolutionaries

“Every once in a while, a revolutionary product comes along that changes everything,” Jobs said during that Macworld keynote in 2007. But there was a lot of resistance to the revolution.

Many years later, it’s easy to think the world immediately saw the genius of the device after witnessing the first iPhone demo. Nope.

The hardware, which played an important part in making that first iPhone revolutionary, went against all the conventional wisdom for phones at the time. Rival BlackBerry, Palm and Windows Mobile smartphones used tiny keyboards, while more traditional mobiles came with keypads. Apple’s device depended on its relatively large touchscreen instead.

The innovative design drew plenty of critics. Many predicted that the 3.5-inch screen would crack. And TechCrunch said “that virtual keyboard will be about as useful for tapping out emails and text messages as a rotary phone.”

Original iPhone software made waves

Apple’s iPhone software was fairly radical, too. In 2007, most people had a phone capable only of making calls, texting and playing preinstalled games. As Jobs’ iPhone demo showed on this day in 2007, the device included a suite of apps for playing music, watching video, exchanging texts and accessing the internet.

Skeptics saw no demand for a device that combined so many functions. In those days, people carried an iPod for music and a separate phone for calls and texts. Many people added a Palm organizer to keep themselves productive. While that sounds inconvenient now, it’s what people were used to at the time. Some saw no reason for change.

For more (now hilarious) comments from naysayers, read Cult of Mac’s  “10 iPhone predictions from 2007.”

Luckily, plenty of people didn’t listen to the critics. Long lines of eager buyers queued up for the original iPhone on launch day. And it’s that eagerness that many people remember. Especially now, when iPhone sales generate billions of dollars each quarter for Cupertino — and that doesn’t even include accessories and third-party software. So it’s good to remember there were plenty of vocal iPhone doubters back in 2007.

After the first iPhone demo: A personal recollection

I remember exactly where I was when I heard Jobs had unveiled the first iPhone. They say that happens when something truly momentous occurs, so apparently, the first iPhone was a truly momentous event for me.

I wasn’t at Macworld 2007, though. I ran a website dedicated to smartphones and PDAs way back then, and Apple didn’t make either of those products … yet. So I attended the Consumer Electronics Show instead of Apple’s showcase, and I was waiting at the gate for my flight home when I read about the announcement.

I have to admit, my first thought was that my job had just expanded. I was already writing about Palm, BlackBerry, Windows Mobile, Symbian and more. Apple had just loaded more on me. Sigh.

Before Macworld 2007, we knew iPhone was coming, of course. Thankfully, once the announcement had been made, I didn’t write an article predicting doom for the device. My coverage was straightforward. But even back in 2007, it was clear the iPhone was a big deal. After that first iPhone demo back in January 2007, potential customers’ wait was just beginning, though. The first iPhone didn’t launch until June 29 of that year.

I have to admit, I wasn’t overly impressed. I’d been using smartphones for years, and the iPhone didn’t seem like a game-changer. Besides, I liked having a physical keyboard. That’s why I didn’t buy the first Apple handset — my heart back then belonged to the Treo line of smartphones running Palm OS. I didn’t jump on board with iOS until the iPhone 4s in 2011.

P.S. You should hear what the Android users said after Steve Jobs unveiled the iPhone on this day in 2007. Actually, you can’t — because Android wouldn’t come along until 2008 so it could heavily copy iPhone. Jobs called Android a “stolen product.”


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