Ten years ago, Steve Jobs announced what has become Apple’s most profitable and defining product: the iPhone. Today, the iPhone is one of the most popular and easily recognized devices, but back then it was a radical departure from anything else on the market. At the time, there was no guarantee it would succeed. The first iPhone was cutting-edge in some ways — it was the first smartphone to feature a capacitive touchscreen as a primary method of input, and its screen, while small by today’s metrics, was significantly larger than any other device in the US.
But the first iPhone was limited as well. There was no 3G support and no carrier options — you either signed up with AT&T or you didn’t buy an iPhone. It wasn’t really geared towards power users, the keyboard wasn’t as good as a physical device (this, at least, hasn’t changed), and it was expensive relative to other devices, which often offered more features and flexibility. In their initial review of the device, published in June 2007, Ars Technica wrote:
It’s clear to us that the iPhone wasn’t meant, at the outset anyway, as a smartphone for smartphone people (who typically end up being business people). Instead, the iPhone was meant as a smartphone for everyone else: average people who, until now, had no reason or motivation to get a BlackBerry or something similar that may have been more difficult to use and had way too many features for the average phone user. But the concept of the iPhone doesn’t just appeal to average users; it appeals to everyone, including business users.
Even the App Store, which has become an iconic part of Apple and driven much of the iPhone’s success, didn’t exist when the device launched. You could argue the iPhone wasn’t really a smartphone at launch, because it didn’t run native third-party apps. Jobs’ original plan was for all iPhone apps to run through Safari using Web 2.0 (remember when that was a buzzword) and AJAX-enabled websites. This was a controversial move that was seen as limiting both the performance of applications on the iPhone as well as limiting the types of applications that could be developed for the platform. Jobs would later relent on this issue, and a full SDK for iPhone development dropped in the spring of 2008.
We’ve put together a slideshow of each of Apple’s devices and the major advances that each delivered.