The iPhone turns 15

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From the launch of Mac computers in the 1970s to the iPod in 2001, Apple already knew how to engage with its audience — and how to encourage extraordinary levels of hype when launching a product. A look at the past (and future) of one of the 21st century’s most influential devices

It has been 15 years since Apple unveiled the iPhone, which is undoubtedly the company’s hallmark product. Few products have been able to achieve the same level of brand recognition fifteen years later. The iPhone has revolutionised how we interact and even how we go about our daily lives since it was unveiled to a rapt crowd in 2007. In addition to six additional nations in November 2007, the iPhone was also made available in the United States in June 2007.

Highlights

  • The original iPhone offered WiFi, supported 2G EDGE connectivity and had internet download speeds below 500 Kbps [kilobits per second] (compared to multi Mbps [Megabits per second] speeds today). It was also limited to 4GB [Gigabytes] or 8GB models. This might sound pitiful compared to the 1TB [Terabyte] options available today, but it’s enough to hold hundreds of songs or videos and was revolutionary at the time.

  • Early reviews for the iPhone were almost universally glowing, applauding Apple’s attention to detail and style. The only problem flagged was network connectivity — and this was an issue with slow speeds on phone carrier networks, rather than the device itself. Consumers’ appreciation of the iPhone’s style was no surprise. It was indicative of an emerging trend towards smartphones with large-format screens (but which still reflected the form of a phone). The Nokia N95 was another such example that hit the market the same year.

This cycle of regularly pushing out new products was critical to Apple’s success. By releasing regular updates (either through whole product iterations, or more minor functionality improvements) Apple managed to secure an enthusiastic audience, eager for new releases each year. A 2019 file photo shows customers testing iPhone 11s at an Apple store in Hong Kong | AFP. Also, since older products would often be passed down within families, Apple’s product pipeline helped it establish a multigenerational user base. This pipeline continues to operate today.

The iPhone 3G was rolled out across the globe in July 2008, with significantly improved data speeds and the addition of the Apple App Store. Even though it offered a mere 500 apps at launch, the app store marked a significant improvement in phone functionality. And just as users started getting used to 3G, it was superseded by the 3GS about a year later.

From the launch of Mac computers in the 1970s to the iPod in 2001, Apple already knew how to engage with its audience — and how to encourage extraordinary level. Wireless charging was introduced with the iPhone 8 (although preceded by Samsung as early as 2011). And the bezel-less design of the iPhone X, released in 2017, built on features found in the Sharp Aquos S2 from the same year.

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