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Steve Jobs unveiled the first iPhone 16 years ago — look how primitive it seems today

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steve jobs unveils first iphoneThe iPhone was unveiled on January 9, 2007.

AP

  • Apple launched the first iPhone 16 years ago, in January 2007.
  • Compared to the latest batch of iPhones, the first version seems downright primitive. 
  • Here’s how it looked, and what it could do.

Steve Jobs revealed the first iPhone to the world 16 years ago.

It was a revelation.

Before Apple’s most popular product came out, smartphones were clunky devices — half keyboard and half screen. Full websites didn’t run on mobile phones, so companies were forced to build weak, mobile versions of their sites.

The iPhone changed all that.

And yet, the typical smartphone experiences we enjoy today didn’t happen overnight. It took years of Apple adding feature upon feature. By today’s standards, the original iPhone was a primitive brick.

As a reminder of how far the iPhone has come, we’ve put together this slideshow.

Jay Yarow contributed to an earlier version of this story.

Yes, the original iPhone was a revelation. Here’s what the competition looked like at the time:smartphonesSomething the first iPhone and the modern iPhone share: an insanely high price.

WSJ

That said, it’s fun to look back and see how many now-common features were missing from the original iPhone.steve jobs unveils first iphone

AP

It ran on “EDGE,” or 2G wireless, which is painfully slow. It’s basically as slow as home internet was before high-speed broadband.Turtle

nicolas.voisin44/Shutterstock

That 2G connection was extra painful because AT&T was the only carrier option available. And AT&T had its problems (like dropped calls).AT&T

Photo Illustration by Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The screen itself measured just 3.5 inches, a far cry from the 6.7-inch screen of the most advanced model so far, the iPhone 14 Pro Max.Photograph of the original iPhone

Getty Images

There was no App Store when the iPhone launched.App Store icon displayed on a phone screen is seen in this illustration photo taken in Krakow, Poland on July 18, 2021.

Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Beyond the touchscreen and sleek design, the defining concept of modern smartphones is apps. Unbelievably, when Apple first launched the iPhone it had no App Store.

Steve Jobs wasn’t sure if he wanted to have one because of his desire to totally control the experience. Eventually, he relented. And it’s a good thing he did, because Apple’s App Store set the standard for how to extend smartphone functionality. 

Hopefully you liked a black background, because that was the only choice! That’s right: You couldn’t change the wallpaper on the first iPhone.iphone 3g

AP

It took three years for Apple to add copy and paste.copy paste large

Flickr/Robert S. Donovan

The first iPhone required a computer to set it up. It was another five years before Apple cut the cord.PC free iPhone cord

Screenshot

Want to text message in landscape mode? The first iPhone couldn’t do that.iphone keyboardHopefully you’re texting someone something more exciting than the word “test.”

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Want to send a picture? The first iPhone also couldn’t do that over text message. We’ve come a long way from basic text messages to the bizarre disco that is modern iMessage.apple text messageThis wasn’t possible yet.

Apple

There were no turn-by-turn directions apps — no Google Maps! It’s not just that Apple didn’t have turn-by-turn — it didn’t let other app developers do it for years, either.gps tomtom screenRemember the Tom Tom? You may not if you weren’t driving a car in the late ’90s/early ’00s. It was a simple mapping device for drivers, before smartphones were everywhere.

John.Karakatsanis / Creative Commons

The camera was just 2 megapixels, so it wasn’t capable of taking the kind of gorgeous photos you expect out of modern iPhones. The camera also couldn’t take videos. For comparison, the iPhone 14 Pro Max has a 48-megapixel camera system.first iphone

Flickr/Carl Berkeley

There was no notification center, no Siri, and no control center. These are all complex, nuanced features that are relatively recent additions to the iPhone — but it’s still a reminder of how many huge features Apple has added since 2007.iOS6 vs. iOS7 Siri

Screenshot

And it cost $499 for a 4 GB model! The original iPhone topped out at 16 GB of storage. Today, storage on the iPhone 14 Pro Max begins at 128 GB and goes all the way up to 1 TB. (Quick reminder here that 1 terabyte is equal to 1,000 gigabytes.)iphone price 4 gb

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So what?iPhone XS

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

The point here is that technology takes time to mature.

While the iPhone was a revelation when it was released, it still had a long way to go. The next time your favorite tech company releases a new product — especially if that new product is in a new category the way, say, smartphones were in 2007 — cut them some slack. Assuming the fundamental product vision is sound, the first version is just that: a starting point.

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