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The Apple iPhone at 5: a potted history

David Price | July 3, 2012
The iPhone is five years old today. That's right: it was only five years ago that Steve Jobs turned the technology world upside down with his company's take on the smartphone. It feels like it's been around forever.

And that's before we get to Apps. Apple's App Store is the home to a staggering array of software services, and it all started with this device.

Look around now and you'll see smartphones of all flavours that resemble the original iPhone. The principal innovation the iPhone brought to the world was its use of multitouch input. It's strange to recall that many sage observers at the time Steve Jobs announced the iPhone thought it couldn't succeed without a hardware keyboard. The iPhone had then, and retains now, only a handful of hardware buttons -- and now RIM is increasingly isolated in including qwerty keyboards on its BlackBerry mobile devices.

In our review at the time, we were surprisingly equivocal about what became an outstanding success. We didn't write it off, by any means, but expressed some reservations, mainly related to the contract pricing.

"There's plenty to love, and plenty to lament about Apple's new mobile. With its solid design and a beautiful, touch-sensitive 480 x 320-pixel screen the iPhone is beautiful to look at and a joy to use. Its browser, while not as versatile as the one on a desktop or laptop, is impressive and - at a stroke - has made all other mobile internet devices look antiquated and woeful. And of course, it works fine for making phone calls.

"But there is a dark side to the iPhone: activation requires signing up for an expensive 18-month service plan with O2, the UK's largest mobile service provider. Unlike most mobile phone deals you need to pay £269 for the phone as well as a top-tier monthly contract, and there is no mention of an upgrade offer when the contract finishes. To add insult to injury the 18-month contract may well outlast the usefulness of the sealed-in battery."

1 July 2007: Apple buys for a million bucks

A million dollars is nothing compared to Apple's iPhone revenues, and in July 2007 it was reported that the company had happily shelled out a cool million on the URL, which one Michael Kovatch had presciently - or luckily - registered in 1995. now redirects to Apple's iPhone page.

5 September 2007: iPod touch is launched

Targeting more budget-minded gadget fans and those who were wowed by the iPhone's apps, touchscreen display and interface without needing the phone functionality, Apple launched the iPod touch later that year. It would go on to become a vital element in the iOS ecosystem: a sort of gateway drug that would introduce dabblers to the many pleasures of iOS - still referred to in those days, and indeed until June 2010, as iPhone OS - and downloadable apps.


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