Eight years ago today, Steve Jobs unveiled the first ever iPhone at the 2007 MacWorld conference, ending years of speculation regarding whether or not Apple was working on a mobile phone.
Given how ubiquitous the handsets have become in the years since (the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus sold upwards of 10 million handsets in their first weekend alone), it’s easy to forget just how revolutionary the device was upon its launch, popularizing capacitive touch screens and multi-touch gestures.
“As soon as I swiped the screen for the first time, I knew a radical shift in technology had taken place,” says an Apple employee, who joined the company shortly before the phone’s release.
Like any truly great technology, the iPhone’s impact wasn’t just technical, however. The iPhone changed our idea about what a smartphone should be: from a cellphone that could carry out some computing functions, to a portable computer that also makes phone calls. It transformed the world of easy mobile Internet search, which in turn set companies like Facebook on the road to being “mobile first” businesses.
The iPhone also democratized the world of software development with the arrival of the iOS App Store, which has since paid out more than $25 billion to app-makers.
Not everyone was initially a fan, of course. “Apple should pull the plug on the iPhone,” wrote MarketWatch’s John C. Dvorak in 2007, joining a long line of doubters about new Apple products. (To his credit, Dvorak later admitted he was wrong.)
A more high-profile doubter was Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. “$500 fully subsidized with a plan?” he scoffed. “That is the most expensive phone in the world—and it doesn’t appeal to business customers.”
Certainly, the iPhone had its faults early on. As Fred Vogelstein observed in his book Dogfight, at the time Steve Jobs first demoed the iPhone on stage, it barely worked at all–dropping phone calls at random, losing its Internet connection, freezing, and inexplicably shutting down.
While those problems were fixed by the time the device landed in stores, Apple has had to endure other challenges in the years following, such as the so-called “Antennagate” incident, competition from rivals like Samsung, and—most recently—reports that the larger iPhone 6 Plus bends in the pocket of users.
The iPhone of today is a very different device to the one first shown off eight years ago by Apple. It is larger, thinner, and less locked-down than Jobs’ original concept. But it’s also a phone that very much follows in the footsteps of its predecessor, as do the majority of smartphones, circa 2015.
Happy birthday, iPhone.