One year ago, yesterday (June 29, 2007), the Apple iPhone was introduced to the US, making it one of the most hyped and coveted pieces of technology quite possibly in our lifetime. It was touted as being revolutionary, a smart phone that was multi-touch, an advanced voicemail system, a beautiful interface. And it was.
I was one of those suckers (I like to say "early adopters" but let's get real, I was a sucker) that had to get it the first month it was out. Love at first sight, I tell you. Just like my MacBook Pro, I don't know how I would now get along without it. Full web browsing rocks my world.
I read this article way back when in Wired magazine
about the story behind its release. Great story.
Here are my favorite excerpts:
"After a year and a half of secret meetings, Jobs had finally negotiated terms with the wireless division of the telecom giant (Cingular at the time) to be the iPhone's carrier. In return for five years of exclusivity, roughly 10 percent of iPhone sales in AT&T stores, and a thin slice of Apple's iTunes revenue, AT&T had granted Jobs unprecedented power. He had cajoled AT&T into spending millions of dollars and thousands of man-hours to create a new feature, so-called visual voicemail, and to reinvent the time-consuming in-store sign-up process. He'd also wrangled a unique revenue-sharing arrangement, garnering roughly $10 a month from every iPhone customer's AT&T bill. On top of all that, Apple retained complete control over the design, manufacturing, and marketing of the iPhone. Jobs had done the unthinkable: squeezed a good deal out of one of the largest players in the entrenched wireless industry. Now, the least he could do was meet his deadlines.
But as important as the iPhone has been to the fortunes of Apple and AT&T, its real impact is on the structure of the $11 billion-a-year US mobile phone industry. For decades, wireless carriers have treated manufacturers like serfs, using access to their networks as leverage to dictate what phones will get made, how much they will cost, and what features will be available on them. Handsets were viewed largely as cheap, disposable lures, massively subsidized to snare subscribers and lock them into using the carriers' proprietary services. But the iPhone upsets that balance of power. Carriers are learning that the right phone — even a pricey one — can win customers and bring in revenue. Now, in the pursuit of an Apple-like contract, every manufacturer is racing to create a phone that consumers will love, instead of one that the carriers approve of.
One insider estimates that Apple spent roughly $150 million building the iPhone.
Through it all, Jobs maintained the highest level of secrecy. Internally, the project was known as P2, short for Purple 2 (the abandoned iPod phone was called Purple 1). Teams were split up and scattered across Apple's Cupertino, California, campus. Whenever Apple executives traveled to Cingular, they registered as employees of Infineon, the company Apple was using to make the phone's transmitter. Even the iPhone's hardware and software teams were kept apart: Hardware engineers worked on circuitry that was loaded with fake software, while software engineers worked off circuit boards sitting in wooden boxes. By January 2007, when Jobs announced the iPhone at Macworld, only 30 or so of the most senior people on the project had seen it.
The iPhone cracked open the carrier-centric structure of the wireless industry and unlocked a host of benefits for consumers, developers, manufacturers — and potentially the carriers themselves. Consumers get an easy-to-use handheld computer.
It may appear that the carriers' nightmares have been realized, that the iPhone has given all the power to consumers, developers, and manufacturers, while turning wireless networks into dumb pipes. But by fostering more innovation, carriers' networks could get more valuable, not less. Consumers will spend more time on devices, and thus on networks, racking up bigger bills and generating more revenue for everyone. According to Paul Roth, AT&T's president of marketing, the carrier is exploring new products and services — like mobile banking — that take advantage of the iPhone's capabilities. "We're thinking about the market differently," Roth says. In other words, the very development that wireless carriers feared for so long may prove to be exactly what they need. It took Steve Jobs to show them that."
My favorite feature? I love Google Maps. (This will only get better with GPS added on).
Good job, Steve. You made a GREAT product. Keep them coming. Looking forward to July 11th. Just don't make me feel like a sucker again, please. :)