It's been over 12 years since the iPhone debuted — look how primitive the first one seems today

APThe iPhone was unveiled on January 9, 2007.

More than 12 years ago, Steve Jobs revealed the first iPhone to the world.

It was a revelation.

Before the iPhone 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 all 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:

WSJSomething the first iPhone and the modern iPhone share: an insanely high price.

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


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


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

Mike Mozart/flickrApple’s exclusivity deal with AT&T only lasted a few years.

There was no App Store when the iPhone launched. That means no Instagram, no “Pokémon GO,” no third-party apps — that’s all the best stuff!

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.


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

The first iPhone <em>required</em> a computer to set it up. It was another five years before Apple cut the cord.


Want to text message in landscape mode? The first iPhone couldn’t do that.

ScreenshotHopefully you’re texting someone something more exciting than the word ‘test.’

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.

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.

John.Karakatsanis / Creative CommonsRemember 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.

The camera was … very weak, and not capable of taking the kind of gorgeous photos you expect out of modern iPhones. The camera also couldn’t do video.

Flickr/Carl BerkeleyIt was a measly 2 megapixels.

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.


And it cost $US499 for a 4 GB model! There was no $US200 or $US0 subsidized option.

ScreenshotIf you thought your $US200 iPhone 7 with a contract was too high a price, you should know that the price has actually come down since the first iPhone.

So what?

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 favourite 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.

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.