When the iPhone was first released it made more than a bit of a splash – it practically caused a tidal wave and pretty soon everyone either had one, wanted one, or decidedly to stubbornly align themselves against it.
When you look at what the iPhone did though, in many ways it wasn’t much different from other devices. I used to own an XDA Exec before the iPhone went global which ran the old Windows CE operating system and on there I had a working DOS emulator with an old version of Word running, I had the full included productivity suit, I had games as impressive looking as Tomb Raider, I had a (Wifi only) browser, and I had an mp3 player. In fact it could do some stuff that Apple’s new gadget couldn’t – it had a file manager for instance, could be used as 3D storage, had infra red for changing television channels and had a full Qwerty Keyboard. But I still wanted an iPhone and still I had to take notice of this upstarter of a gadget. Let’s look at why, and at what Apple did to set themselves apart early on…
Eschewing Physical Buttons: Going for a touch screen was nothing new – my XDA and previous HP PDAs (with phone capabilities) could all do that. However what was really brave was in making the interface entirely touch screen and including only one physical button. Apple saw touch gestures as the future, and thought a big beautiful screen would be more of a selling point – most people don’t create powerpoint presentations on their phones, but they loved watching films, playing games and reading on them. Still though, some people at Apple must have been nervous at the idea of completely removing those apps all together…
The App Store: The app store was incredibly innovative in two important ways. For one, it created an instant shop with a pre-defined infrastructure to allow anyone to instantly get cheap software for their phone (rather than having to go online and install everything) and for another it meant opening up development to the community that would instantly grow around the device – meaning thousands of apps in no time at all, many more innovative than any corporation could hope to come up with on their own.
Hand-Holding: Another way that the iPhone was obviously different was in it’s ‘hand holding’. This was a smartphone so essentially a computing device, but for some reason it never really felt like that. My Windows CE devices weren’t something that my Mum would be able to use easily, and installing that aforementioned DOS emulator took me about a week. With the iPhone on the other hand, apps installed themselves and files synced between your computers. There was no option to access your system files, and no need to set any of the options yourself meaning that you would never really see anything go wrong with your system. The interface reflected this too, being made up of large colourful icons and lots of white space – all of which greatly increased the potential market for the device an ensuring that pensioners and Mums were just as likely to jump on board and get Tweeting.
Style: The iPhone had a highly unique sense of style that made it more than just a computing device. Thanks to the large icons, screen real estate and easy interface, Apple were able to play around with the way everything looked and this quickly meant a stylish look that took advantage of Jobs’ background in calligraphy – even if you didn’t care about the GPS or the gyroscope or the 3G you still wanted this device and the premium price only made it more desirable.
Robbie Crowe is a tech freak who has shared iphone 4 unlock details through his blogs.