Today, the best-selling product in history turns 10 years old. On June 29, 2007, the original iPhone went on sale and changed the world forever. Even though Apple has sold more than 1 billion iPhones over the past 10 years, not all of the current iPhone users were consumers from the start. But I was. Here’s what I remember from buying the first iPhone 10 years ago and how my fascination with the iPhone and the future of computing became the driving force behind me becoming an iOS developer.
10 years ago today
I remember this day like it was yesterday- I was just your normal high school student with a peaked interest in technology. I was waiting in line at the AT&T store because the Apple store line was way too long, and my dad gave out doughnuts to everyone in line. Then it was finally my turn. Once I activated the phone, which was a non-trivial process, I just sat there in amazement, playing with the system animations. Nothing like it had ever existed. This was a historic moment for the industry and forever changed computing.
Looking back on the first generation iPhone, it didn’t do much. It didn’t have a good camera, an App Store or an SDK. There was no official way to develop iOS apps except for developing a third-party web app. But, there were two amazing things it did do: the auto-rotate feature and the intuitive multi-touch screen. The auto-rotate feature was like magic, and it was immediately obvious with the intuitive touch interface that this device was the future. And since that day, I knew I wanted to become an iOS developer.
An overview of Apple’s innovative decade
Over the past 10 years, Apple has accomplished some incredible things that changed how iOS developers build apps and how consumers use these devices. One of the biggest things is the release of Swift in 2014. Swift is a modern language that lets developers like me write more clean and elegant code. The inclusion of Touch ID and the Secure Enclave in the iPhone 5S forever changed how secure apps and devices are and was a huge leap toward allowing these devices access to our most important personal information. Also, the launch of the App Store and release of the original iPhone SDK in 2008 was one of the most historic moments in the iPhone’s timeline.
Though Apple has some historic moments, there was usually not mind-blowing updates every year. Apple has been delicate and deliberate with its hardware and software upgrades, focusing its efforts on improving the core functionality of a few features each year. The four things that have consistently gotten better and has ultimately made this phone invaluable are the processor, camera, screen and networking.
Each year, the processor in the iPhone has consistently improved giving developers more opportunities to create better and more complex apps. The A10 CPU, along with a 6-core GPU in the iPhone 7, is now capable of using complex machine learning algorithms for things like facial recognition in real time. In the early versions of the iPhone, we couldn’t even conceptualize this idea or capability. Now, the iPhone 7 is 120x faster in CPU and 240x faster in GPU processing than the original iPhone, both heavily outpacing Moore’s law.
Regardless of what phone you had, we can all remember how horrible the cell phone cameras used to be. But over time, Apple has invested in continuously making the camera more sophisticated and advanced to the point that now most people who have newer iPhones won’t even bother with a non-DSLR camera because it is just not as good. A perfect example of this is the iPhone 7 Plus with dual cameras and portrait mode. I have no doubt that the camera will continue to become more incredible in the future.
The iPhone screen is another important feature that has changed over time. The screen has increased four times starting with the original size of 320×480 then to the 640×960 Retina display of the iPhone 4, to the slightly taller 640×1136 iPhone 5, and then the iPhone 6 at 750×1334 and iPhone 6 Plus at 1242×2208. If rumors are correct, the next generation iPhone will be at 1125×2436.
Though offering these multiple sizes is great for consumer preference, it is more work for a developer. When I first became a developer, it was easy to write code and design an interface for one size. The move to retina meant I needed @2x assets, but that wasn’t a big deal. But now when these different sizes come into play including iPad development, a lot of extra design consideration and coding to make sure users get an amazing, pixel perfect experience on every device.
Like I mentioned earlier, compared to a modern iPhone, the original iPhone didn’t do much, especially if you weren’t connected to Wi-Fi. If a consumer tried to load a video on YouTube (which was an original third-party application) or a web page, the load time was unbearable. Then a few years later came 3G, which made things a little better. Users could browse Safari, but videos still took a while to load. Then with the creation of 4G, things were looking up. Now with LTE support, users will usually opt out of connecting to a slow Wi-Fi network and use cellular data because it’s so much faster. One of the most fundamental transformations in society is allowing customers to always be connected to the Internet, and the iPhone was a driving force behind this.
What the future looks like for the tech giant
This day 10 years ago changed my life. I began my currently decade-long tradition of buying the new iPhone every year, and this day ignited the spark to start learning and writing code. Throughout all these years as I’ve watched the gradual evolution of the iPhone, I could see the future of computing, and each year the future has become more present. And if the rumors are true, Apple is building a phone that will continue that trend, and I can’t wait for September when the tech giant will unveil the 10th anniversary iPhone. Over the years, Apple and its developers have amazed me, inspired me to work harder and transformed me into the passionate developer I am today. I can’t wait for the next 10 years to see what comes next.