On the occasion of the US sales start 15 years ago, former and current Apple managers remember the iPhone launch. They didn’t foresee some things either.
Together with smartphones from other manufacturers the iPhone in particular has fundamentally changed the everyday life of many people. In some cases, apparently not even those responsible at Apple were aware in advance of what would be the impact. On the occasion of the 15th anniversary of the US sales launch of the first iPhone, they recalled the beginnings in a series of interviews.
In the early days of the iPhone, people at Apple were particularly convinced that the now discontinued iPod as an independent device will lose out in the future. The trend towards “all in one” was also unmistakable in view of the efforts of other manufacturers. No one assumed that people would want to carry various electronic devices with them in the future. But when it came to finding the right formula for success, there were doubts. Initially, Apple faced scorn and ridicule from Blackberry and Microsoft, who quickly stopped laughing at the success.
Continuous use and improvements
A foretaste of the continuous use of technical devices triggered by smartphones However, devices were already available from Apple during the internal test phase, remembers Tony Fadell, who was significantly involved in the development of the iPod and the first iPhone at the time. “The culture within Apple changed when we were able to be always available and constantly texting and checking things,” says the future founder of digital thermostat maker Nest in a Wall Street Journal video documentary -Editor Joanna Stern. Those who tested the iPhone before it went on sale rarely put it down in conferences.
It wasn’t until much later, with Screen Time in iOS 12 in 2018, that Apple introduced tools to “Moderate” use of the device, as marketing chief Greg Joswiak puts it. Fadell, on the other hand, expressed his shock in the fourth year of the iPhone, in 2011, when he observed surfers vacationing in Hawaii being more concerned with framing their vacation spot for photos than enjoying the surroundings themselves . Fadell released a book in May sharing anecdotes and stories from his time at Apple.
Surprises: App Store and selfies
Societal impact wasn’t the only development that surprised Apple. Individual functions or services were also initially underestimated.
These include the App Store, which was introduced in the second iPhone year, 2008. Although there were loud calls from developers after the iPhone launch that they wanted to contribute not only web apps but also native programs, Apple didn’t expect an onslaught of apps to begin with. “We thought maybe we would get 50 apps, that would be a good start,” said Greg Joswiak. Instead, the App Store started with 500 apps. And by April of the following year, Apple was already counting 25,000 apps being submitted for approval each week. Even Steve Jobs was assuming billions in business back then, but underestimated the potential.
Similar to the success of the front camera, which Apple bosses saw as a suitable tool for video telephony. However, it was surprising that many users mainly use it for selfie photos. As a result, Apple improved the image quality over the years, because the first camera in the iPhone 4 (2010) had a resolution of 0.3 megapixels, which was significantly worse than the main camera’s 5 megapixels. In the current iPhone 13, the front and main cameras on the back both take photos with a resolution of 12 megapixels.
Steep learning curve with the App Store
Although Apple’s App Store and the option of loading programs onto the iPhone , were strictly regulated from the outset, there were also some surprising findings here.
One of them is the so-called “Mylie” rule, which owes its name to the then five-year-old daughter of the chief auditor Philipp Shoemaker. He was surprised by an app store bill in the hundreds of dollars when his daughter made a hefty in-app purchase of virtual money in a Smurfs game app. One consequence of this was that Apple henceforth made in-app purchases more secure, so that adults had to approve them with a password.
Shoemaker and his colleagues also got to know the inventiveness of app developers from another side.In addition to sexual content, for example, an app was submitted for approval that should offer a hand warmer function by overheating the electronics. These and other products never made it into the App Store.