Seven Years Ago Today the iPhone Wasn’t That Great

Thu, Jan 9, 2014

Simplicity Rules

On January 9, 2007 Steve Jobs announced the iPhone. This device, and the other phones and tablets it has inspired, clearly changed the way many of us live our lives. At the time it was impressive technology, but there were many problems with it.

Original iPhone with 3G and 4

Photo by Yutaka Tsutano

To me, the most impressive thing about the last seven years is not that Apple created a whole new approach to smart phones. The company, known for its determination to get things right, was willing to release the iPhone before it was perfect… and has spent the last seven years practicing kaizen, incrementally improving the iPhone.

The original iPhone was too expensive

The cheapest iPhone cost $499 in 2007. The cost of the iPhone has continued to be an issue, but the original price was scary high at a time when most of us spent far less time with our phones. PCMag called it a revolution for the few, declaring the iPhone a niche product.

Now one can have a new iPhone for $99.

The connection was too slow

Though 3G connections were available on other smartphones, Apple launched the iPhone with an Edge connection. Those who already had fast data were unlikely to give it up.

It took another year for the iPhone 3G. Now Apple has fully caught up, first with 4G and now LTE.

Couldn’t copy and paste

What?! Despite introducing several new types of interfaces with the iPhone, there was no way to copy and paste text.

That took over two years to come.


It took a long time for the iPhone to get turn-by-turn directions, but that wouldn’t have even worked on the original iPhone. The 2007 model used cell tower and WiFi triangulation to determine the placement of the blue dot on the map.

Attached to a single carrier

The first iPhone was only available on Cingular (later rebranded as AT&T). It is now available on a number of carriers world-wide.

Couldn’t download attachments

A non-starter for most business users:

Will the iPhone support Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents? Jobs says you can synchronize the iPhone with e-mail — and even pointed to IMAP support, including Microsoft Exchange — but what about attachments? Without support for standard office documents, the iPhone is a non-starter for most business users.

I rarely receive attachments that are useless to me these days. That’s perhaps helped by the next item.

No apps

Not much to say here. I barely remember life without apps.

In fact, I don’t remember much about my pre-iPhone life. I guess I used to phone in tasks to myself rather than add them to a to-do app. And I took photos with a camera?

My post about the iPhone in 2007 focused on the lack of a physical keyboard as a choice Apple made for simplicity. While that was seen as a negative by many at the time (“the letter keys are just pictures on the glass screen“), people got used to it. But many more issues with that original iPhone were short-term shortcomings.

There are many ways to be inspired by the iPhone as a product. The one I celebrate on the seventh anniversary of its launch is all the ways it’s been improved, a little at a time.

What can you launch even if it’s not perfect?

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