What is the one item you should always have with you? The electronic one that needs to hold enough electrical charge to function all day long?
It’s the black mirror, the fondle lab, the ball-and-chain. The device serves as your communicator, wallet, caller of services – transportation, lunch, point of contact, educator and entertainer. It sits in your purse, pocket, or hand more often than any other object, animate or inanimate.
But until the iPhone’s debut 15 years ago, cell phones were a different beast altogether.
Enter the “Jesusphone”
“A nickname for Apple’s iPhone, so named because of the almost religious fervor the phone has engendered and the cult status it enjoys,” wrote PC magazine.
The hype for Apple’s new product for 2007 peaked when hipster princess Xeni Jardin wrote about BoingBoing: “It lives up to the hype. All the rules have just changed.”
Jardin was a believer from the beginning. “The interface makes all the other mobile devices I have in the office look clunky and semi-functional; the slim form factor makes my other smartphones look morbidly obese,” she wrote. “I want to pick them up and look at them with compassion, then throw them all in a blender and hit ‘mash’.”
“It’s not hype if the product lives up to it,” Jardin wrote. Other industry watchers were not so commendable.
“Luxury Christmas Ball”
Scribes enjoy the luxury of 20/20 hindsight, and dissecting skepticism about a product that subsequently proved successful is low-hanging fruit. But it’s worth looking back at the less reverent 2007 forecasts for the device.
Luke Dormehl at Cult of Mac compiled some tenth anniversary singers.
“When the iPhone comes, Digg will probably be full of horror stories from the poor suckers who camped out at their local AT&T store, only to find their purchase was more buggier than a camping cabin,” wrote Seth Porges of TechCrunch (It’s worth remembering that names like Digg, MySpace, and LiveJournal were popular online services at the time).
Today’s technology exceeds expectations
“That virtual keyboard will be about as useful for tapping emails and text messages as a rotary phone,” he wrote. “Don’t be surprised if a significant number of iPhone buyers express some regret about dumping their BlackBerry when they spend an extra hour every day pumping emails.”
MarketWatch writer John Dvorak called his March 2007 article “Apple should pull the plug on the iPhone” and denounced Cupertino’s ambition. “It’s unlikely that Apple can be successful in a company this competitive,” Dvorak wrote. “What Apple is risking here is its reputation as a hot company that can’t hurt. If it’s smart, it’ll call the iPhone a ‘reference design’ and pass it on to a few suckers to build with someone else’s marketing budget.”
In a Bloomberg opinion piece, Matthew Lynn predicted that the iPhone’s impact on the wireless industry would be minimal, arguing that “the iPhone is nothing more than a luxury ball that will appeal to a few gadget freaks. In terms of the impact on the industry, the iPhone is less relevant.”
“The major competitors in the mobile phone industry, such as Nokia Oyj and Motorola, will not nervously whisper into their shells about a new threat to their business,” he wrote.
In January 2007, Richard Sprague, senior director of marketing at Microsoft, said: said he couldn’t believe the hype being given to the iPhone…mark this post and come back in two years to see the results of my forecast: I predict they’ll be nowhere near the 10M Jobs forecast for 2008 will sell.”
“In the end, Apple didn’t sell the 10 million iPhones Jobs predicted,” Dormehl wrote. “It sold over 11 million.”
Scribes enjoy the luxury of 20/20 hindsight
But the jesting resignation of former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer from the then-new Apple lab is one for all time. In 2007, Ballmer said: “There is no chance that the iPhone will gain significant market share. No chance. It is a USD 500 subsidized item.”
He admitted that Apple “can make a lot of money. But if you look at the 1.3 billion phones sold [sic]I’d rather have our software in 60% or 70% or 80% of them than I have 2% or 3%, which Apple could get.”
NOTE: A 2007 report by Canalys is titled “64 million smartphones shipped worldwide in 2006.”
NOTE: As of May 2022, Apple’s iOS will have a 27.22% market share†
iPhoneography and Ant Keyboards
Smartphones today, whether powered by iOS or the more popular Android platform, are more like iPhone 1.0 than previous versions from Nokia or Motorola. Touchscreen keyboards, a feature mentioned by the doubters of 2007, are now de rigueur – few prefer the ant-sized keys of previous Nokias or Blackberries.
One feature that has surpassed most expectations is the quality of the built-in mobile phone cameras. By applying computing power delivered through the phone’s processor, the software can capture and manipulate still images and video with significant effect.
We’ve moved from the grainy, potato-quality cameras in early 2000s phones to “iPhoneographyin a decade or so. Director Sean Baker shot his critically acclaimed feature film Mandarine using three iPhones. According to IMDb“The production was so low-budget that after filming, Baker sold one of them to pay his rent, while another became his own personal phone. The remaining iPhone was eventually donated to the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures.”
There was a method to Baker’s cell phone madness. “Because the entire film was shot on location with no scenery, all the background extras were not actors, but pedestrians in the city of Los Angeles captured in the film,” IMDb said. “That meant that a small, unobtrusive phone could fire continuously without curious passers-by approaching the crew and interrupting filming.”
None of the 2007-era naysayers mentioned the niche of guerrilla movies, but the technology of our current century has a way of exceeding expectations. The iPhone (and its Android-powered relatives) certainly did.
Stefan Hammond is a contributing editor at CDOTrends. Best practices, the IoT, payment gateways, robotics, and the ongoing battle against cyber pirates pique his interest. You can reach him at [email protected]†
Image Credit: iStockphoto/Karen Poghosyan
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