10 Years Later: My Original Apple iPhone First Impressions

Posted on June 28, 2017 by Paul Thurrott in iOS, Paul with 34 Comments

10 Years Later: My Original iPhone First Impressions

Ten years ago this week, the original iPhone arrived and I was lucky enough to be among the earliest users. Here’s a look back at my first impressions article, along with photos I took of the device.

Apple iPhone First Impressions
by Paul Thurrott
July 1, 2007

Well, it’s here. And while we can safely ignore the first round of quickie non-analytical “I-love-it- I-love-it- I-love-it” reviews from all the usual suspects, Apple’s eagerly awaited iPhone is indeed a historic event for the industry, an iconic milestone that marks a new era in computing mobility. Here’s one bit of Steve Jobs PC hyperbole that I completely agree with: The iPhone will do to mobile computing user interfaces what the Mac did to desktop PCs in the early 1980s. This is the line in the sand, folks. You either get it or you don’t.

Then again, one you get past the gorgeous UI, the typically elegant Apple design flourishes, and the unnecessary but attention-grabbing on-screen transitions, the iPhone is flawed, man-made technology. The more you use it, the more the device’s problems and missing functions become apparent. In fact, the iPhone is a paradox. One the one hand, it has completely elevated the bar for mobile computing to epic, almost dizzying heights. On the other hand, once you’ve experienced what the iPhone does right–and it certainly is successful in many ways–you become all the more frustrated by what it gets wrong. In other words, its sheer excellence makes you start expecting more.

I’ve got a lot to say about the iPhone, but I’ll save most of it for my review. For now, I’d like to examine how Apple has fared in delivering against the three key attributes that the company itself has identified as the iPhone’s most important.

Phone

As a smart phone that must compete in a market full of keyboard-enabled MMS and SMS devices, the iPhone Thinks Different: Instead of a hardware keyboard of any kind, the device uses touch-enabled software-based keyboard and keypads. In my admittedly limited testing, using the virtual keyboard was just as difficult with my gorilla fingers as is using the Lilliputian hardware keyboard on the Motorola Q for the past several months. For those with more normally sized fingers, the iPhone is more difficult, especially at first, and I’ll need some time with it to decide whether constant use minimizes this problem. I will say this: The virtual keyboard tracking is horrible, and this is a complaint I’ve heard from a few iPhone users already: You often end up selecting the key to the right of the one you meant to hit, causing you to manually aim a bit to the left. Not good.

The iPhone supports SMS-based text-messaging, but not MMS photo or video sharing or any kind of instant messaging. It also does not support any kind of VoIP functionality. These all seem like big mistakes for a communications device. There’s no GPS or GPS add-on, either, which is becoming a common feature on modern smart phones.

The iPhone supports syncing with Outlook, Yahoo!, and Windows Contacts-based contacts, but not Gmail contacts, Hotmail/Windows Live contacts, Thunderbird contacts, or any of the many other Windows-based solutions for managing contacts. As with any other smart phone, making calls is much easier when you have the number in your address book. However, the onscreen virtual keypad for manually entering numbers is big and easy to tap. This is vastly superior to the method I must use on my Q, where I must tap the tiny number keys that co-exist within the built-in keyboard.

For calendaring sync, you get one choice: Outlook. That really stinks, especially now that Windows Vista includes a wonderful iCal-based application called Windows Calendar, while many users simply use online calendars from Google (like I do), Hotmail, or Yahoo!. This is very limiting, and even more so when you realize that the iPhone can only sync with the default calendar in Outlook: It won’t work on any other calendar you may have configured or subscribed to.

Some of the phone functionality is quite elegant. If you are playing music or a video and receive a call, the media mutes for the duration of the call and then comes back up when you’re done. This is a good example of the integration Apple is famous for. On the other hand, Apple blows it in some obvious places too: You can’t download ringtones or use your own iTunes-based songs as ringtones. There are no voice features at all, so you can’t record audio or “tell” the phone to dial a particular contact.

iPod

Apple invented the iPod, so it’s no wonder that the iPhone is, in some ways, the best iPod yet, with a cool cover flow view that displays automatically when the phone goes into landscape mode and, unlike on the PC, it actually works quickly. One gets the idea that Apple purchased the cover flow technology specifically for the iPhone; it’s just a natural.

On the other hand, because the iPhone offers limited storage—4 or 8 GB, depending on the version you purchase—many music and video lovers will find themselves in iPod nano land, having to create playlists that represent subsets of their full collection. While my iPod can handle all the music, TV shows, movies, and podcasts I’ve ever downloaded, I was forced to create iPhone-friendly playlists for some of these entities, or simply manually select the content I wanted to sync. The same issue applies to photos, and unless you’ve taken a super-simple approach to photo management (i.e. all photos are found directly in My Pictures/Pictures or only one folder level below that), the iPhone won’t even the seem them. Sigh.

The iPhone (left) and the phone it replaced (right)

That said, the iPod functionality is largely excellent. However, don’t believe claims that the iPhone’s screen is widescreen, as it is actually much closer to 4:3 than it is to true 16:9 or 16:10. By default, the iPhone crops widescreen movies so they fill the screen, but if you double-tap the screen, you’ll see the correct aspect ratio and realize you’re missing a lot of the action otherwise. Compared to the iPod with video, the iPhone screen is palatial and beautiful. Compared to the Zune, however, the screen is about the same width but maybe a centimeter taller, so it’s a bit bigger (but much nicer looking).

Internet

Here’s where the iPhone really falls apart. Yes, Apple should be applauded for bringing a real, PC-like Web experience to a mobile device as its done by providing a near-full-featured version of Safari on the iPhone. And yeah, the zooming and display stuff is top-notch, absolutely. But it’s Safari, a second-rate Web experience at best, and of course, the iPhone version is lacking compatibility with key Internet technologies like Java and Flash.

Further problematic, all of this happens over AT&T’s tragically slow EDGE network, which has the dubious distinction of reminding more than a little of dial-up. EDGE is no EV-DO, I can tell you that, despite rumors that the service was sped up a bit for the iPhone. (My guess is that this is wishful thinking. It’s horrible.)

The iPhone’s Wi-Fi capabilities make up for this somewhat, assuming you regularly visit an area with free access, and the iPhone’s other Internet features range from interesting to pointless. While much has been made of the native Google Maps application, it’s really just a slightly improved version of the Mobile Google Maps site I can already access from the Q’s Web browser. (All it really adds is support for the iPhone’s cool zooming technologies.) And YouTube is one of the few applications bundled with this thing? Spare me.

Beyond that, you get POP email access to Yahoo! Mail, Gmail, and AOL mail, plus you can manually configure any other POP- or IMAP-based email account. And by the way, shame on Apple for actually listing Exchange as an option in the Mail application, as the iPhone is decidedly not compatible with Microsoft’s Exchange Server. When you select this option, it actually tells you that Exchange must be configured for IMAP support for this feature to work. Doy.

If you use POP, you’re in luck. If you don’t, not so good. I use Gmail extensively, and I’ve taken advantage of its labeling and filtering features to bend the service to my needs, so POP access is completely useless to me. (I’ve actually disabled POP access on my account to prevent me from accidentally downloading mail off the server.) So the inclusion of a Gmail choice in the list of compatible email services is a bit of a misnomer: By default, any POP-compatible email application can work with Gmail. The iPhone is not Gmail compatible. It’s POP compatible. I’d love to see a native Gmail application that actually worked with the data up on the server. This isn’t it.

Other Internet-related features include a weather widget, a stock tracking application, and, well, that’s it. This thing is crying out for more Web services integration, it really is. I’d love to see real Google support on this thing, from Gmail to Google Calendar to Picasa. There’s just so much that can be done here.

Not-so-final thoughts

So I’ve pointed out some issues and you’re probably thinking I’m done on the iPhone. That’s not the case. The iPhone is indeed revolutionary, if flawed. It’s expensive, too, and I think that it needs to be more consistent, more functional, and more extensible to justify that price. My wife, an infamous cheapskate, finds the iPhone interesting and attractive, but said it was worth about $200 to her. When I asked her why so little, she said that she gets a new phone for free anytime she wants, albeit at the cost of re-upping her two-year contract. She’d only pay $200 over the freebie phones to get an iPhone. This is a lot more pragmatic than most people who’ve discussed this device, but then she’s never gotten starry-eyed over technology. By contrast, my friend Chris will likely get one, even though he found the lack of a Back key problematic after using it for only 10 seconds. I guess different people have different reactions to the iPhone’s feature set and price point. And of course, different people have different needs.

I’ll keep using the iPhone over the next month and prepare a lengthier review that’s based on real-world use and not first impressions. For now, my feelings about this device are as contradictory as they are obvious: The iPhone is nicest mobile device ever made, but it’s also deeply flawed. I’m not sure that the sum of the whole justifies the price. But I’m going to find out. Stay tuned.

 

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Comments (34)

34 responses to “10 Years Later: My Original Apple iPhone First Impressions”

  1. PincasX

    Okay, I actually laughed at Flash comment. In retrospect the Flash drama is even more mind numbing now than then.

    • Daekar

      In reply to PincasX:

      I was thankful to have an Android phone just for Flash compatibility back when it mattered. iPhone users could only access a tiny fraction of the web for a very long time.

      • evox81

        In reply to Daekar:

        You and I remember that period quite differently. The promise was amazing. But Flash on Android was terrible, particularly in the early days. It didn't improve the web browsing experience, it just failed or suffered from terrible performance.

      • PincasX

        In reply to Daekar:

        I got an original iPhone a month or so after it was released and have stuck with iOS to the present. The lack of Flash support just wasn’t an issue and I could certainly access more than a “tiny faction” of the web. Flash was never used on the majority of sites. Oddly enough it did seem to be used heavily by restaurants.

      • jimchamplin

        In reply to Daekar:

        Yeah. I felt so bad that I had to wait to get home to watch Homestar Runner.

        Oh well. At least I couldn’t see Flash ads, and the damn thing didn’t kill my battery.

        A decade later and I still refuse to use Flash. Even on a desktop. Just won’t touch it.

  2. pwrof3

    The Moto Q was quite the premium handset. I remember Microsoft even showing off an early Xbox Live app running on it.

    It's amazing how archaic it looks today.

    Now that the modern smartphone is 10 years old, I wonder what will replace it? There are only so many revisions you can make to a rectangle and screen.

  3. nbplopes

    I find this review odd, extremely odd. I get that people experiences may be different, but being so different I don't get it.

    Here is a review for the 3G model. It's not much different from this one: http://winsupersite.com/article/iphone/first-looks-apple-iphone-3g-iphone-software-20-and-mobileme

    I only went for the iPhone with the 3G model. For no reason other than the fact that I stopped buying 1st gen products long before. This coupled with the fact that this was an Apple product, I've never bought an Apple product before and back than I was an Windows Guy from top to bottom.

    My last phone before the iPhone was the HTC Diamond. probably the most advanced Window Phone back than. The OS in this phone was highly customized version of Windows Mobile, trying to keep up with the iPhone original and than the 3G. I quickly sold it. For a Windows Mobile phone it was quite fast, but not fast and robust enough in comparison.

    Within this some remarks:

    "Internet ... Here’s where the iPhone really falls apart. "

    This is for me a totally illogical conclusion if we look at the phones available back than.

    Paul, for instance, why did you compared this phone Web browser with the web Browser on Windows Vista and not the IE on Windows Mobile? Is that a Motorola Q? Here is the fantastic web experience of Motorola Q.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E2HALXQNylU

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eywi0h_Y5_U

    If the Web experience of the original iPhone and the 3G (in the second review) was deeply flawed because of Safari, what would I say than regarding Motorola Q because with Internet Explorer? Should I say the word?

    For a comparison here is the web browsing experience of my Motorola Diamon, already superior to the Motoro Q, touch enabled following the queues of the original iPhone, yes including the flow thingy.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oT_IHXD4HDI

    This review is symptomatic of the deep MS problems that after a decade MS is still trying to correct. Yes MS has made great strides, but the bottom line it is still applying the same tactics back than.

    I think any experienced Apple reviewer understands that the company is not in the feature list war. A war that MS plays very, very, very, very well, even today, so much so that it seams to be getting traction once again in some circles, but does it bend?. That is basically how they eliminate te competiion. In fact, competition by feature count, FUD and presenting stuff that in practice is close vaporware is still very much the strategy today when it comes to anything Windows (There are exceptions of course, Azure is another matter, should I say even XBOX One, but this stuff is hardly about Windows really). With the exception that today, they pay more attention to the cosmetic appeal of things, but still does not get what good design is in my experience.

    Most people equate good design with beauty with cosmetic appeal. But that is not what good design. Good design its about balance of a solution between multiple forces.

    I dislike beauty over function. But features over function is just as bad.

    I get why people buying stuff per feature kilogram as much as I get why people buy beauty per kilogram. But this seams to be a misguided attempt compensate their own insecurity. One, "we never know when a feature will be needed, even if does not work that well", the other "haa, I have a beautiful something, it makes me more beautiful".

    One might choose a swiss knife to any dinner, the other some brand made beautiful fork, with a diamond on top. Either way, its pointless, dumb and would not be a good design decision. For one, it lacks context.

    Design its about how the thing works as a whole and as a whole the Web experience offered by the iPhone back than was just ... superior.

    For instance, one might argue that the Surface Pro offers a better design for general productivity than say the iPad Pro and vice versa. The other might argue the other way around. IMHO neither have yet achieved a design that is balanced for general productivity, each for different reasons. Who will get the good design first, don't know yet.

    Cheers.

    • jgraebner

      In reply to nbplopes:

      The iPhone 3G was actually a pretty huge upgrade over the original iPhone. Among other things, it brought the phone onto the state-of-the-art (at the time) phone networks, added the first iteration of the App Store, and introduced more competitive, subsidized pricing. In many ways, the first iPhone was really more of a feature phone with an impressive user interface and above-average mobile browser than it was a true smartphone.


      The introduction of the App Store with the 3G (and, at the same time, via an iOS upgrade on the original phone) was really what started it down the path towards what it is now.


      I only had one fairly brief experience with a Windows Mobile device (an HTC Touch Pro 2) that I only used for about a year before switching to a Palm Pre. It wasn't a very good experience as I found Windows Mobile clunky and difficult to use and, yes, the mobile version of IE was pretty poor. Before that, I had a number of Palm OS devices and it was generally a much better mobile OS than Windows Mobile, in my experience. The iPhone UI was certainly better (thus, Palm introducing the ill-fated WebOS to try and compete), but the Palm Treos, in particular, were very usable devices.

      • nbplopes

        In reply to jgraebner:

        Yes. It was a big upgrade in many ways but not so much in the features he argues here. But here is what he wrote about the 3G version:

        "I've only spent a few hours with the iPhone 3G, and what I've seen so far is a very mild hardware makeover with few real world improvements over the original model. Once you factor out the functionality that is actually provided by the iPhone Software 2.0 upgrade (see below), the iPhone 3G differs from its predecessor in only a handful of ways, only two of which are even meaningful".

        http://winsupersite.com/article/iphone/first-looks-apple-iphone-3g-iphone-software-20-and-mobileme

        And than you goes on the usual anti anything but Microsoft rant. He even seams to argue that its a silly buy because in the end you will be using Windows in the desktop or something. So you should a Windows Mobile device instead. This in his expert opinion and honest opinion.

        Paul I guess he is much better now, but back than he looked like part of the MS sales team disguised as a technical analyst. Worst with the way he expressed himself is just another instance of the tunnel vision effect created by marketing, but in his case Microsoft, that he so much argues against when it comes from other companies.

        Has I have said, he seams to be much better now.

        PS: People that behave like this, from any company don't have the moral right to talk about fanatism pro any other company ... until day admit that well, I got the bug back than.

        The signs of the same tactics MS are already here. FUD, Feature packed stuff badly implemented that take 4 to 5 years to mature into something fluid (just as before), Vaporware (the future that gets delayed, and delayed and delayed ....), aggressive marketing towards the competition (FUD around security), so on and so forth but now packaged with a bit more cosmetic appeal and also EXPENSIVE! The last two bits are the only things that changed dramatically since those days where the tech world was almost fully under MS control (with the exception of the Web).

  4. Gareth

    this baby seen me through my teenage years before i saved and started when it finally made more sense with the 3G model

  5. glenn8878

    I love my iPhone. Certainly it is flawed. My iPhone 6 had the awful battery bug so I upgraded to the iPhone 7 Plus. Big improvement and the best one ever. My experience with Android wasn't so good. Bought the Motorola Droid. Was the worst experience ever for a large phone.

  6. Minok

    If only the thing had made some progress in the 10 years in some key areas:


    1) Music playback from my uploaded playlist is still a hot mess (resuming my normal shuffled list doesn't start where I left off the day before, and seems to repeat a bunch of songs I had just listened to, rather than working through a shuffle of the playlist until every song has been played - and then and only then repeating)


    2) Typing on the soft keyboard is still a pain for human hands - my thumb aims at the p, and gets the o almost every time. Autocorrect helps a little but hurts a lot. While it helps when it corrects a small typo, too often it replaces my mangled word with a correctly spelled totally-wrong word. Duck you Apple!


  7. pesos

    Had a Treo 700w at the time and kept it until the iphone 3g replaced it. The original iphone had no activestink support so it wasn't an option.

  8. Allen

    When the initial iPhone was first introduced, I had been trying several strategies to use electronics to bring my calendars, contacts, notes, music, etc. together and thought the it was okay, but I wasn't ready because it would mean again changing the way I was doing things. And at that time, I wasn't a particular fan of Apple anyway. With the iPhone 3GS (I think it was called) I gave into the hype made the change and, in the process, learned how good 'smartphones' could be. I changed again when the Nokia Windows Phones came out and I was able to once again be 100% windows. Unfortunately Nokia failed and I had to change once again, this time to Android. I would still prefer my Windows phone had all the apps that iOS and Android have, but am beginning to understand feel that, no matter the OS, it's the User Interface the forms my opinion of the phones usefulness and that iOS is just to restrictive to allow me to set up the UI to work the way I want, not how Apple thinks it should be.

  9. John Lockwood

    Yes the original iPhone was not perfect, nothing was and nothing is.


    However it seems a lot of people are forgetting one of the biggest revolutions it introduced. Paul Thurrott accused the iPhone of having Safari and this being an inferior browser, however Paul seems to be comparing Safari on an iPhone with (gag!) Internet Explorer on Windows. A far more relevant comparison was comparing Safari on the iPhone with all the truly awful WAP based mobile 'browsers' provided on all other so-called Smartphones of that era. I suspect most people are too young to remember WAP although I know Paul should remember this.


    Safari on the iPhone was the first time you had the 'real' web on a phone - even with its limitations. Remember Android did not yet exist. Soon after other phones started using the same webkit engine as Safari to create 'real' web-browsers including Android when it launched.


    Even basic things like call-waiting and three-way calling were orders of magnitude better on the original iPhone. I also see no mention of Visual Voicemail also pioneered by the iPhone. Unbelievably some mobile networks and phones still cannot or choose not to offer Visual Voicemail a decade later. (Cough, Vodafone, cough.)

    • jgraebner

      In reply to John Lockwood:

      The original iPhone version of Safari was unquestionably better than the typical "dumb phone" WAP browser, but Palm and Windows Mobile devices at the time did have comparable browsers, other than the pinch/zoom capability (which Paul correctly identified as a game changer). The fact that the iPhone was not compatible with the fastest networks at the time and other devices did have some limited Flash compatibility (remember that Flash was pretty much everywhere back then), did make the first iPhone's web browsing capability well below state-of-the-art. Of course, it did catch up pretty rapidly.

  10. brduffy

    Yeah this was a big moment in the mobile computing world. I was not on board and I'm really only barely on board now. I'm still using the Nokia 520 Windows Phone that Paul recommended years ago as a nice secondary device for music and the occasional text and directions. Its interesting that back then Paul was concerned about the lacking web functionality of the device. I guess it was not clear yet that apps were how people would interact online via their phones.

  11. Pbike908

    I was late to the smartphone party, but hard to refute the Iphone's impact on changing the nature of personal computing...

  12. Narg

    I was using good ol' Windows Phone variants at the time this hit the market. Didn't need a new phone at the time, and was enjoying my WP based on hacked versions of Windows CE that were easily downloaded from the internet. They were far more business capable than the first two variants of the iPhone were. I did however have an iPod Touch, so I did get a good taste of the things that were to come. Once the iPhone 3 hit the market, they were ready for Prime Time IMHO. That's when I jumped in, and I've only recently strayed on occasion. But usually end up back on my iPhone (currently a 6s Plus)

    Only thing I'd disagree with on this article is the "bad web experience" I don't blame Apple for that, but the web sites. If the web site developers had not changed their way, web browsing probably wouldn't be too different today than it was back then. I still have to deal with "full desktop" variants of web sites from time to time, and they stink today as much as they did back then on a small phone screen.

    Great article Paul! Love the retrospect. :)

  13. wshwe

    When Apple announced the original iPhone I knew instantly that the iPhone was a breakthrough device. Up until that time touchscreens were small and relatively low res. Not having a physical keyboard allowed for a much larger screen. It was great for surfing the web and for web-based apps.

  14. wbhite

    On a side note, I loved my Moto Q.

  15. wolters

    When this came out, I was going into my second year with this phone...


    And at the time, I was bragging how much more "productive" it was over the iPhone. But I so wanted "pinch/zoom." Still, played hours upon hours of Age of Empires on this sucker...

  16. Daekar

    It's funny how some things never change. Typing on a touchscreen is still just as awful an experience today as it was then, only made bearable (and then only just) by Swype/WordFlow technology.


    Seeing this article, it still makes me wonder why on earth people bought these devices. They had so little to offer, I can only conclude that emotion rather than logic was the reason for the popularity.

  17. ChipColandreo

    I was also a day-1 iPhone owner. I wasn't a day-1 iPhone USER, though, since it literally took all night for the iTunes-based activation to go through (and yes, I stayed up all night to babysit it). Between Edge and the pre-app-store limitations, the OG iPhone really felt like a muscle car with a wind-up motor.

  18. mortarm

    >...the iPhone won’t even the seem them.

    I see some things haven't changed since 2007.

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