Six Years Ago, The iPhone Changed Everything

You'll all have one of these soon!

Six years ago today was the launch of the iPhone. Up until the night before, I was convinced I wasn’t going to get one. It only had “2G” EDGE data speeds, and I had just switched from Verizon’s 1.5-ish Mbps EVDO network to AT&T’s faster UMTS/HSDPA network. I was using an HTC phone running Windows Mobile 2003, and I loved it. Fast speed, email and web, it was great. I didn’t think I could handle going back to slower EDGE speeds.

But the night before the iPhone launched, the excitement overcame me, and I decided to wait in line for an iPhone. I went to the AT&T store in Hillsboro about 9AM the next day (the launch was at 6PM), with a camp chair and supplies, ready to camp out. I was first in line at that store. I made it into a fun experience – I blogged and posted photos, and even managed to work for a while with my laptop. Rachel and the kids brought me lunch and stayed and played for a while. I visited with a couple of people in line near me, and the overall atmosphere was fun and exciting. As 6PM drew closer, the AT&T store staff visited with us, sharing in our excitement, and brought us bottles of water and chips. The store closed a couple of hours before 6PM, and we could see the employees inside setting up the new displays and demo phones. One guy brought the iPhone he had just unboxed over and held it up to the glass for us – it was the first time I (or anyone else there, for that matter) laid eyes on the iPhone in person. It was beautiful.

Teasing us!

When 6PM rolled around, the doors opened and the excitement hit its peaks. I was the first one in the store, and since I knew exactly what I wanted, it was a quick procedure. Activation went smoothly (lucky for me I was first, as activation delays set in later). EDIT: I remembered that wrong. A few minutes later I got to be the first iPhone owner to walk out of the store. There was no huge crowd (though I think I remember some applause and yelling), but it was a moment of supreme nerd pride and satisfaction. I was (pretty much) the first iPhone owner in Hillsboro. You can see a set of photos from that day on Flickr.

I sometimes wish I had gone to the Apple Store. The crowds were bigger, and it feels like it would have been a more “essential” iPhone experience. Next year, for the 3G launch, and the following year for the 3GS, I went back to the same store. I showed up about 4AM (it was a morning opening, unlike the 6PM launch for the original), and I was close to the front of the line, but never first again. It was fun, but never approached the atmosphere of the first one. And with the iPhone 4, I decided to pre-order online directly from Apple. I somehow got my phone a day before it officially launched (which was another bout of nerd pride). Since then, with the iPhone 4S and 5, I have always pre-ordered. It’s a little different to spend iPhone launch day at home waiting for the FedEx truck, but it’s also nice not to get up in the middle of the night and sit outside a store.

All of this probably sounds extremely indulgent and narcissistic. And it is. It’s one thing to wax nostalgic about the day a new phone came out. But the original iPhone was something special. Phones (and PCs, and tablets, and the web, and a lot of other things) were never the same again. Entire industries have been created and recreated. So as spoiled as it sounds, I think it is worth looking back, six years later, and contemplating everything that has changed because of the iPhone.


2 thoughts on “Six Years Ago, The iPhone Changed Everything

  1. I was sure that I wasn’t going to catch the iPhone bug and it didn’t seem terribly important to me when it came out, but sometime between the summer and Christmas I made the mistake of playing with one. I worked through everything to make the iPhone work on Tmobile (Including a SIMcard hack) I never switch to AT&T and it took years for Android to get even close to the iPhone. I was eventually lured over. Just now I tried to imagine the world without the iPhone. I don’t think anyone other than Apple could have produced a device that could so profoundly affect the way we live day to day. Looking at the pre-history of smartphones and mobile computing, they weren’t even close.

    There’s something visceral about waiting outside with a line of people. I did so when getting tickets for Episode I back in the day. The movie wasn’t great, but the experience of waiting for the tickets was something I’ll never forget.

  2. Tomás Ayala says:

    In a few days I might get my first iPhone, and I am excited. Josh, I enjoyed your story and I envy you because, as “vane” as it might sound, it really was part of technology history, and you were part of it helping it launch from a first row sit.


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