Remembering the original Apple iPhone: A phone that really was ahead of its time

Just over 11 years ago, we witnessed the announcement of what is arguably the most revolutionary phone ever to be imagined and brought to life – the original Apple iPhone. It was a phone way ahead of its time – and one that defined what a modern smartphone should look and feel like. Brands that followed its example remained relevant on the market. Those who didn’t, faded into obscurity. But what exactly made the first iPhone so remarkable for its time? Join us for a trip down memory lane to find out.

A huge display and a revolutionary new form factor

First and foremost, it’s almost baffling how Apple, a newcomer in the mobile space at the time, managed to do the impossible by popularizing the all-touch form-factor that’s become the standard to this present day. Yes, there were other touchscreen smartphones prior to it, but Apple’s interpretation was a totally impressive reimagination that simplified things. Rather than boasting a clunky appearance, much like the smartphones with landscape sliding QWERTY keyboards at the time (Windows Mobile and Palm smartphones for example), Apple’s straightforward design resulted in cleaner appearance with very few buttons. In fact, there was only a single home button fashioned below the display – complementing the typical power and volume controls it also offered.

Touchscreens were around a long time before the iPhone’s arrival, but they employed resistive technology instead, which meant interacting with them largely required the help of a stylus – rather than the simple touch of a finger. Sure, it was still possible to interact with resistive touchscreens with your finger, but they weren’t as responsive or accurate as the capacitive technology employed by the original iPhone. We’ll have to credit Apple for popularizing touch interaction with our actual fingers, seeing that the capacitive touchscreen on the iPhone was significantly more intuitive. This may not seem all that ground breaking when we think about it now, however, it was a big deal back then because it eventually introduced us to gestures. And speaking of gestures...

A powerful web browser with pinch to zoom

The iPhone revolutionized our interaction, seeing that it brought forth this new idea of gestures. Even the simplest one, swiping your finger from one part of the screen to another, was a totally mind-blowing concept that wasn’t quite practical on resistive touchscreens. For many people back then, the iPhone’s simple “swipe to unlock” feature was astounding. It was something that just blew away many people, partly for its simplicity and ease. The other advantage of capacitive technology was its ability to register multiple fingers touching the screen, something that was again not feasible with resistive touchscreens.

This was new idea of multi-touch was really highlighted by the pinch to zoom gesture that was implemented in a variety of applications throughout the iPhone. Not only did it work for things like zooming in the picture gallery, but its usefulness was really exemplified within its new web browser – mobile Safari. This new gesture allowed users to zoom in/out by performing these pinch gestures, which were undoubtedly far more intuitive than how other browsers performed. For comparison, Microsoft’s mobile Internet Explorer performed the same functions, but required tapping on the screen to zoom, or alternatively, selecting the zoom level from the drop-down menu. Again, Apple’s interpretation just made more sense, which why it was often greeted as a revolutionary thing with surfing the web.

On top of that, mobile Safari redefined our expectations because of its impressive level of fluidness – thanks in part to this new “kinetic scrolling” concept that the iPhone introduced. The new terminology entered our tech vocabulary, and has since stuck on because of mobile Safari’s superior performance over other web browser at the time. We may take for granted to silky smooth movements with today’s modern web browsers, but before the iPhone’s introduction, scrolling from the top of a page to the bottom wasn’t the most intuitive thing – mainly because users often had to rely on scroll bars to achieve that. Apple’s approach focused more on being mobile friendly with kinetic scrolling, which brought that tight responsiveness by flicking or swiping with our fingers.

Quite frankly, the experience of web browsing was redefined by the iPhone.

A simple, user-friendly OS

When it was released, the software running on the phone was referred to as simply iPhone OS. Even though there was very little in the way of personalizing the user interface, which rival platforms like Windows Mobile did manage to offer at the time, the iPhone showed us that smartphones could be really speedy and responsive with their overall performance. Just like desktop PCs that could be bogged down by low memory and other junk, smartphones running Microsoft’s Windows Mobile were also prone to sluggish performances. With the iPhone, however, it retained a consistent performance!

Part of the reason why the iPhone managed to keep a tight overall performance was largely due to its simple, user-friendly operating system. The iPhone’s grid-like layout, which is still in use with today’s iPhones, made it easy for just about anyone to get acquainted with the iPhone – even if it was their first time! Want to send a text message? Easy, you just click on the icon on the homescreen and you’re in it. Want to go back to the home screen? That’s achieved by just a quick press of the physical home button. The simplicity of iPhone OS made it unbelievably intuitive over other smartphone platforms. Gone were the days of menu driver interfaces, redefined by the iPhone’s straightforward approach!

Becoming the ultimate music-listening gadget

And lastly, it wasn’t necessarily the most grandiose thing that the iPhone introduced, but doubling as an iPod surely cemented its position in being a celebrated music-listening device in history. Indeed, it wasn’t a totally new concept listening to music with a smartphone, but its integration with iTunes, the premier music service at the time, made it easy for any iPod user to quickly adapt to the iPhone. Considering that Apple had already amassed a huge following thanks to the success of the iPod and iTunes, their seamless integration with the iPhone just added to the phone’s immense arsenal. There was also cover flow! It brought this visual experience unseen before when scrolling through your music catalog.

A true redefining masterpiece

We can go on and on about the iPhone’s legacy, but without a doubt, it was a phone that was ahead of its time. Revolutionary is what it’s commonly referred to by many people, which makes total sense because it was and still is one of those generation defining gadgets of our time. Many of the things it introduced 11 years ago are still quite relevant today, so it’s a testament that Apple’s pride and joy continues to receive acclaim.

Most impressive of all is how it transformed Apple as a company, who as we mentioned earlier didn’t have any prior direct experience in the mobile hardware landscape. Many of its rivals brushed them off, believing that they would be an afterthought, but as history has shown all of us, the iPhone revolutionized the phone beyond our wildest imaginations. And that’s why it’s a phone that was well ahead of its time!

Related phones

  • Display 3.5" 320 x 480 pixels
  • Camera 2 MP
  • Storage 16 GB
  • Battery 1400 mAh(8.00h talk time)



1. Sakeem

Posts: 862; Member since: Sep 05, 2012

I remember wanting the original Iphone but I wasn't on AT&T. I didn't want to switch either. I was content with waiting until it came to VZW.

9. darkkjedii

Posts: 31310; Member since: Feb 05, 2011

I left Sprint immediately, after being with them for 7 years.

2. bucknassty

Posts: 1353; Member since: Mar 24, 2017

could you do an article on the LG Prada?

15. rouyal

Posts: 1583; Member since: Jan 05, 2018

No one cares about the Prada

4. notfair

Posts: 755; Member since: Jan 30, 2017

Tbh the only innovative thing was the touch screen, everything else was way outdated. There were phones out there at that time that boasted with features. The original iPhone had a very bad camera and no video recording, it took apple 2 years to add video recording, shame.

5. AfterShock

Posts: 4147; Member since: Nov 02, 2012

Hell copy and paste alluded them for a long time too.

12. worldpeace

Posts: 3135; Member since: Apr 15, 2016

They didn't invent capacitive touch screen, they isn't even the first one that use it

16. rouyal

Posts: 1583; Member since: Jan 05, 2018

You kids these days need to re-watch the original iPhone unveiling. There is more to a phone than hardware.

25. strategic_developer

Posts: 1627; Member since: Jul 17, 2018

Without hardware there is no phone. Software needs hardware to a tally exist, hardware does not need software to exist. Yes there is more to a phone than hardware, but the. Eat hardware makes software better. And very good software can make crappy hardware seem better. Like the iPhone as an example.

30. rouyal

Posts: 1583; Member since: Jan 05, 2018

It’s like you wanted to argue what I said, but couldn’t, so you just typed out nonsense.

18. BlackhawkFlys

Posts: 925; Member since: May 07, 2014

The only good thing about the original iPhone was the iOS. It had a bad camera, no video recording, no proper way to share things with friends, no Bluetooth, no 3G. How come a phone that was ahead of its time had no 3G? I loved the novelty of using those amazing pinch to zoom gestures etc but it was very much like a prototype.

20. Phullofphil

Posts: 1822; Member since: Feb 10, 2009

I had phones back then. I followed all smart phones for years befor that. At the time I had one of my windows mobile phones. This iPhone was innovative in every wsy possible. From image of the project. The capacitive touch screen being glass. Not resistive. One button on front and a a couple on the side. It was easy to use. The App Store that came out when it was ready. The camera sucked compared to now. But it was great compared to the windows mobile phones back then or the palm. It was an all around device that did it all. This phone was groundbreaking. Apps were cheap. You idiots have no clue what this device started. It put windows mobile and palm and Nokia among others out of business. It made android happen way faster or if at all. Samsung tipped off the design on there a model and now have a huge phone market with followers that think there a religion. None of you no what your talking about. Seriously I doubt any of you were into smart phones as much as I was since early 2000s and I was so an anti apple guy well into the time when Verizon finally got an iPhone. But they are a great phone and you either were not there or just talking nonsence

22. Whitedot

Posts: 831; Member since: Sep 26, 2017


28. ShadowSnypa786

Posts: 593; Member since: Jan 06, 2017

"Samsung tipped off the design on there a model and now have a huge phone market with followers that think there a religion" Pot. Kettle. Black.

6. Yahiagalhoum

Posts: 8; Member since: Aug 27, 2018

Steve jobs masterpiece

7. 14545

Posts: 1835; Member since: Nov 22, 2011

I normally stay away from these, but HAHAHAAHHAA. Ummmm, no. Not even close. At all. Windows mobile, and WEBos were "ahead" of their time. iOS has always been behind times. ALWAYS. It just "works" (allegedly) and that's what made people love them. Now, the App Store, that's another story. They revolutionized content *delivery,* and that is where they won the game.

8. darkkjedii

Posts: 31310; Member since: Feb 05, 2011

I was thoroughly blown away by it, and have to have one. My fav feature was the cover flow album art. The 3GS did it for me though, with video recording, MMS, and video editing.

10. OneLove123

Posts: 1189; Member since: Aug 28, 2018

Never was in to the hype or waiting in line for a year over a phone.

11. Crispin_Gatieza

Posts: 3151; Member since: Jan 23, 2014

The huge 3-1/2" touchscreen was done 4 years prior by HP with the H6300 iPAQ series. There was no copy & paste and no MMS. Many others were on 3G and the iPhone was stuck in EDGE hell. Even PalmOS had Google Maps back then, just look at the picture of the Treo 755p and you'll see the icon on the bottom right corner. Face it, the ONLY innovation the iPhone brought was capacitive display. The App Store was a game changer but that came later.

14. scarface21173

Posts: 700; Member since: Aug 17, 2014

Apple built there buisness on repackaging old tech. And still do it.

19. thxultra

Posts: 457; Member since: Oct 16, 2014

Disagree, The original iphone also brought visual voicemail which was huge at the time. Also the web browser was huge at the time. Another huge part is it brought everything to one phone. This phone was your media player, You could watch youtube on it, It had maps for directions. Remember when I got mine what a huge upgrade it was to my blackberry. You didn't bother to surf the web on the blackberry it was completely useless.

29. Crispin_Gatieza

Posts: 3151; Member since: Jan 23, 2014

I'm sorry you were stuck with a legacy non-touchscreen BlackBerry. You missed out on quite a few features others had, particularly Palm. VVM was an AT&T exclusive at the time and my Treo had it. The feature everybody under 25 was all gaga about was messaging bubbles which was also a Palm first. It's no wonder the Centro was such a success with the younger crowd. Real Player was light years ahead of iTunes as you could play any file format and it was the default player on most handsets those days and Palm used the Kinomi Player which was a full-featured media player at that time. Windows Mobile had WMP which was a shrunken down version of what was on your PC. As I mentioned before, capacitive display was the only true innovation the OG iPhone brought. Pinch-to-zoom naturally came with it.

13. worldpeace

Posts: 3135; Member since: Apr 15, 2016

"A phone that really was ahead of its time" But can't record video, Didn't have 3G, no app store.

17. XDAdam

Posts: 276; Member since: Feb 03, 2016

I remember how to get back the unlimited data plan from AT&T when they no longer offered it... you had to get the original iPhone and sign up for unlimited data and then it would automatically add it to your account.

21. cjreyes666

Posts: 81; Member since: Oct 23, 2012

So much ahead, that didn't offer MMS support. Remember those days when angry people called AT&T and blame the carrier for it.

23. JMartin22

Posts: 2372; Member since: Apr 30, 2013

Yes, it was 5 years ahead of its time, 11 years ago.

24. mike2959

Posts: 696; Member since: Oct 08, 2011

I tried for years. To buck Apple. Starting with the Samsung Omnia 2. All the way to the Note 9. Couldn’t do it anymore. To old for the aggravation. To tired to make the excuses. I love the iPhone XS Max.

26. strategic_developer

Posts: 1627; Member since: Jul 17, 2018

I wanted the original as well. But I wasn't gonna leave VZW for it as I hated ATT. So since VZW didn't get it until the 4, either did I. But before it I did have the 3rd and 4th Gen iPod Touch. I actually liked the Touch over the iPhone. But Apple kept gimp ing it by giving it lackluster specs versus its 3G sibling. After 4 and 4S I was bored and got tired of jailbreaking. Also other oems were already working on the same. Apple just did it first to have an all s Reem phone.

27. ShadowSnypa786

Posts: 593; Member since: Jan 06, 2017

And yet it couldn't video record unlike the Samsungs, Nokia's and other devices out there.

31. epdm2be

Posts: 824; Member since: Apr 20, 2012

"...A phone that really was ahead of its time..." Vastly exaggerated! The original iPhone was nothing more than an MP3-player with a phone attached that had a simple webbrowser build-in. It's only "futuristic" part was that capacitive screen. It was only available in the US. The reason why resistive screens were used for so long was that Windows Mobile/Pocket PC OS was heavily on pen-input and character recognition which was not possible on capacitive screens. I doubt that even today devices like the Note (which is the only device with some form of pen-input) have proper character-recognition at the same advanced level that those old devices had. Alas pen-input appears now to be the wrong choice for user-input. Funny though, that many PNA's still use them.

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