This past January 9, 2017 marked the 10th anniversary of the debut of the iPhone, and suitably marked by a flurry of media comment. At TechInsights, we took a more considered approach to this milestone and looked at the technology evolution within the device. There’s certainly been plenty of that! With the iPhone 8’s introduction this week, tracking the phone’s evolution may give us a glimpse into Apple’s product-development strategy, and into what’s coming next.
To start, I took a look at the video of the launch (Fig. 1). It was certainly a trip down memory lane; the hits shown on the music lists included Nellie Furtado and Alanis Morrissette. Today, the original iPhone and its competitors are museum pieces. Even so, with the iPhone, you can see the continuity in the design history. Steve Jobs did not have good things to say about the leading-edge phones of the time.
He described the iPhone as “a widescreen iPod with touch controls, a revolutionary mobile phone, and a breakthrough internet communications device.”
He made a big deal of the “large” (that’s not what we think now!) 3.5-in. screen, but it was really the software behind the touchscreen that defined the device, allowing multi-touch capability so that users could flip through lists and photos, zoom the display in and out, interfacing the screen with all of the background iPod and phone functions, and, of course, providing the text keyboard. The screen itself was relatively high resolution, at 160 ppi (pixels per inch), and there was a 2-Mpixel camera, about par for the time.
Apple also had ported its Safari browser into the device and beefed up the email capability, giving it a richer interface than any of the competition. As I remember it, most of the other features were already available in one or another of its contemporaries, but it was the combination of them that made the iPhone unique.