eWEEK at 30: Apple Redefined the Smartphone as a Fun-to-Use Device

By Michelle Maisto  |  Posted 2014-02-15 Print this article Print

Its design was also revolutionary. While touch-screens weren't new to people, the idea of replacing the stylus with one's finger, along with Apple's multi-touch technology, was a new approach.

"There was little-to-no learning curve," said Narcotta. "It was made to appeal to normal people … right down to the packaging, which was something of an innovative step. Opening the box, as corny as it sounds, was like being a kid on Christmas morning. It was an experience. It made you excited about using it."

Narcotta puts the introduction of the iPhone in league with electricity or the Model T.

"It was that kind of seismic change. It completely affected everything," he said. "The phone on my desk right now is a direct descendant of the iPhone. Without the iPhone, this phone wouldn't have the user interface or the app system that it does. It wasn't just hardware that Apple changed, it was the whole way of approaching a product."

Ezra Gottheil, a principal analyst with TBR, also nodded to the Model T.

"Steve Jobs brought to smartphones what Henry Ford brought to automobiles," said Gottheil. "There were plenty of cars before the Model T, but they were hobbyist devices—you needed to know how to keep one going."

Today, of course, anyone can drive a car and anyone can use a smartphone.

iPhone Far From Perfect

The first iPhone could only interact with Web-based apps—Apple didn't introduce the App Store and the concept of letting users download third-party apps until a year later, with its introduction of the iPhone 3G. (The App Store, said Dawson, "cemented Apple's advantage in a way that hasn't completely been overcome.")

As for the features that other smartphones already offered but that Apple left out, David Pogue offered a long list in his June 27, 2007, review in The New York Times.

"There's no memory-card slot, no chat program, no voice-dialing. You can't install new programs from anyone but Apple; other companies can create only iPhone-tailored mini-programs on the Web. The browser can't handle Java or Flash, which deprives you of millions of Web videos," Pogue wrote.

"The two-megapixel camera takes great photos, provided the subject is motionless and well lighted," he continued. "But it can't capture video. And you can't send picture messages (called MMS) to other cellphones."

There was also, for a shockingly long time, no cut-and-paste feature.

"What Jobs was very good at," said Gottheil, "was understanding what would be good enough to win. When it would be light enough. When it was thin enough. When the battery life was good enough. … and then how to pull together the ecosystem to make it go over and go over big."

Jobs' other "great, great strength," adds Gottheil, was his ability to negotiate with third parties.

In Dogfight, Volgelstein tells a story of Corning CEO Wendell Weeks taking a meeting with Jobs and telling him about a super-hard glass the company had developed for fighter-jet cockpits, but that the Defense Department ultimately never used. Corning called it gorilla glass.

"Weeks told Jobs' biographer Walter Isaacson that he remains amazed at what Jobs convinced him to do," wrote Vogelstein.



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