Looking at iPhone

This morning I was thinking about the iPhone 5 that many of us would soon have in our hands (if not already) and I had a funny thought: I wonder if anyone who bought the original iPhone, on day one, still uses that phone? And if so, I wonder what it looks like…

I’ve seen pictures of a well worn original iPhone back, but that was so last year, what does it look like now?

All of this got me to thinking about the evolution of the iPhone and how stupid it is when people say that Apple didn’t release impressive features, because looking back at it the most impressive features made for the least impressive demos.

Let’s look at a few of those features.

The Home Button

The simple home button. Pre-iPhone if you had told me that there would be a phone with only one button to control the UI with — I would have said: “good luck with that”. Pre-iPhone just one button for UI control was a ridiculous idea, post-iPhone more than one button seems downright complicated. Just watch a long time iOS user (has iOS been around long enough to say this?) try and figure out the Android back button and right there you see why the home button is so powerful in its simplicity.

So while the home button was pretty boring demo material, it has stood the test of time and proven itself as a damned impressive feature — if not an industry shaping feature.

Oleophobic Coatings

Inventing a new screen coating that doesn’t eliminate fingerprint smudges, but that does reduce them, is also inventing something both difficult to demo and at the same time risky to demo. It’s not impressive to show a phone that gets less fingerprints in the same way it would be to show one that gets none. Yet the oleophobic coating Apple has been applying to iPhones and iPads is nothing short of fantastic.

Any pre-oleophobic iOS user can attest to not only how smudged screens used to get, but more importantly how difficult those screens were to clean. I used to clean my iPhone 3-5 times a day before this coating.

Now it’s a rare event to clean it, most of the time just the lining of my pants pocket is enough to keep the screen reasonably clean. So yes, it took Bill Nye “The Science Guy” to explain Apple’s feat on CNN, but then again we don’t need to know how it works to appreciate it. We also don’t ever need to think much about how clean our iPhone screens are.

Mobile Safari

Of these three items though, Mobile Safari is handily going to go down as one of the best features of the iPhone, period. When demoed we thought: “Hey, that looks great.” But in reality the demoes were fairly boring, because watching someone surf the web with ease is typically a pretty boring affair.

What I think none of us realized at that time was just how altering having a powerful, stable, web browser on our phones would be. For instance I don’t remember bars being particularly worried about people searching for answers on their phones pre-iPhone, but now it seems that an announcement is made every time. A small anecdote for sure, but a telling one nonetheless.

This web browser not only changed the way users use their phones, but the way the web is designed.

Go Ahead and Whine

So go ahead and whine about there not being “significant” updates to iPhones — you whine about it every year — but just keep in mind that a year from now things you thought were trivial in the iPhone 5, just may change the mobile world we all live in for the better. Just like the home button, oleophobic coatings, and full-featured mobile web browsers did before.

Originally posted for members on: September 17, 2012
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