The first iPhone was released to the public on June 29, 2007, but Apple quietly handed out four iPhones to four tech reporters to review before the general public got their hands on the device. One of those reporters, Newsweek's Steve Levy, said that the "control-freaky" Jobs would call him up just to check in on how the review was coming along. In one phone call, Jobs said the iPhone was needed because everyone hated their phones. "It's universal," Jobs said.
The consensus of the early reports on the touch screen device was that it was a revolutionary product that would forever change the smartphone landscape, but that it also had a number of flaws. Those irksome qualities included no front-facing camera, no flash for pictures, no "cut and paste" function, no video recording, not being able to send pictures as texts, Internet speeds that took 55 seconds to load the New York Times home page and availability only on AT&T's (T) network.
Despite these issues and the fact that the phone cost a then-whopping $499 with a two-year service contract(later reduced), the iPhone sold 3.7 million units in 2007 and up to 13.7 million units in its second year in 2008. Unit sales kept increasing every year thereafter until 2016, when they dipped for the first time ever. Despite this fact, July 2016 marked Apple's one billionth iPhone sold. "iPhone has become one of the most important, world-changing and successful products in history," Apple CEO Tim Cook said in a statement at the time.
In honor of the 10th birthday of the iPhone, TheStreet compiled a list of reviews of the original device from some of the top tech reporters at the time. This includes the four reporters that were given an early look at the iPhone: Newsweek's Steven Levy (now editor-in-chief of Backchannel), USA Today's Ed Baig, the Wall Street Journal's Walt Mossberg (recently retired from Recode) and the New York Times' David Pogue (now tech critic for Yahoo Finance).
David Pogue, The New York Times, June 27, 2007
"As it turns out, much of the hype and some of the criticisms are justified. The iPhone is revolutionary; it's flawed. It's substance; it's style. It does things no phone has ever done before; it lacks features found even on the most basic phones...The phone is so sleek and thin, it makes Treos and BlackBerrys look obese...But the bigger achievement is the software. It's fast, beautiful, menu-free, and dead simple to operate...Then there's the small matter of typing. Tapping the skinny little virtual keys on the screen is frustrating, especially at first... Then there's the Internet problem. When you're in a Wi-Fi hot spot, going online is fast and satisfying. But otherwise, you have to use AT&T's ancient EDGE cellular network, which is excruciatingly slow. The New York Times's home page takes 55 seconds to appear; Amazon.com, 100 seconds; Yahoo. two minutes. You almost ache for a dial-up modem."
Editors' pick: Originally published June 26.
Steve Levy, Newsweek, June 25, 2007
"And there it is: one of the most hyped consumer products ever comes pretty close to justifying the bombast...If you're looking for quibbles, flaws and omissions, you'll certainly find them in this first version of the iPhone. (I'll get to these below.) But the bottom line is that the iPhone is a significant leap. It's a superbly engineered, cleverly designed and imaginatively implemented approach to a problem that no one has cracked to date: merging a phone handset, an Internet navigator and a media player in a package where every component shines, and the features are welcoming rather than foreboding...In a sense, the iPhone has already made its mark. Even those who never buy one will benefit from its advances, as competitors have already taken Apple's achievements as a wake-up call to improve their own products."
Walt Mossberg and Katherin Boehret, allthingsd.com, June 26, 2007
"Our verdict is that, despite some flaws and feature omissions, the iPhone is, on balance, a beautiful and breakthrough handheld computer. Its software, especially, sets a new bar for the smart-phone industry, and its clever finger-touch interface, which dispenses with a stylus and most buttons, works well, though it sometimes adds steps to common functions...But the iPhone has a major drawback: the cellphone network it uses. It only works with AT&T (formerly Cingular), won't come in models that use Verizon or Sprint and can't use the digital cards (called SIM cards) that would allow it to run on T-Mobile's network. So, the phone can be a poor choice unless you are in areas where AT&T's coverage is good."
Edward Baig, USAToday, June 27, 2007
"The mania over Apple's iPhone launch has created stratospheric expectations that are near impossible to live up to. Yet with a few exceptions, this expensive, glitzy wunderkind is indeed worth lusting after...For consumers who can afford one ($499 or $599, plus the cost of a two-year wireless plan with exclusive carrier AT&T), iPhone is by far the most chic cellphone I've seen. And there are terrific reasons -- besides announcing to neighbors how cool you are -- to try to nab the device when it finally goes on sale at Apple and AT&T stores at 6 p.m. local time Friday across the country."
Kent German and Donald Bell, cnet.com, June 30, 2007
"Is the iPhone pretty? Absolutely. Is it easy to use? Certainly. Does it live up to the stratospheric hype? Not so much. Don't get us wrong, the iPhone is a lovely device with a sleek interface, top-notch music and video features, and innovative design touches. The touch screen is easier to use than we expected, and the multimedia performs well. But a host of missing features, a dependency on a sluggish EDGE network, and variable call quality -- it is a phone after all -- left us wanting more."
Brian Lam, Gizmodo, July 9, 2007
"But as the honeymoon sets, I find myself left with a phone that could be more functional...The real elephant in the room is the fact that I just spent $600 on my iPhone and it can't do some crucial functions that even $50 handsets can. I'm talking about MMS. Video recording. Custom ringtones. Mass storage. Fully functioning Bluetooth with stereo audio streaming. Voice dialing when you're using a car kit. Sending contact info to other people. Instant friggin' messaging. Sending an SMS to more than one recipient at a time. I know these minor things don't sound like much to bitch over, but the negative sum of these granular functions bite into my satisfaction; I've come to miss the little things as I live with this superphone and realize its shortcomings in the practicality department."
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