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The birth of the iPhone

The birth of the iPhone
The iPhone was released for sale on June 29, 2007. (AFP)
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Updated 18 May 2020

The birth of the iPhone

The birth of the iPhone

The smartphone first announced by Jobs has evolved to become a staple of everyday life


On Jan. 9, 2007, Apple’s Steve Jobs unveiled the iPhone, a revolutionary three-in-one music player, phone and internet device that changed the way the world works and plays. It was released for sale on June 29, 2007.

Jobs, whose biological father was born in Syria and studied at the American University of Beirut, made Apple the world’s leading technology company. Seven years after his death in 2011, Apple became the first public company valued at $1 trillion.

LONDON: On Jan. 9, 2007, Apple’s co-founder and former CEO Steve Jobs unveiled the iPhone, describing it as a three-in-one device combining an iPod, a phone and an internet communicator. With a 3.5-inch screen, a 2-megapixel camera and 16 gigabytes of storage, it did not even support third-party apps back then, yet life has not been the same since its launch.


This was not the first mobile “smartphone” with a large touchscreen and internet connectivity, but it was the most elegant, putting user experience at the heart of usability and design. Today, more than 5 billion people worldwide use mobile services, according to GSMA Intelligence. A whole generation does not know what life was like before the iPhone.

The extent to which this revolutionary device took the world by surprise 13 years ago was reflected in the fact that in its issue of Jan. 11, 2007, Arab News covered the iPhone’s launch not on its front page but on page 18, in its Economy section. It did so, however, with a prescient headline. The iPhone, it proclaimed, was “like the internet in your pocket.”

“To demonstrate, (Jobs) accessed Google maps satellite imaging and within seconds zoomed in on the Washington Monument, then the Eiffel Tower, and finally checked Apple’s rapidly rising stock. He also phoned a local coffee bar and jokingly ordered 4,000 lattes for his assembled guests.”

From an AFP story about the Apple announcement at the Macworld Conference and Expo in Arab News’ Economy section on Jan. 11, 2007

Nowadays, everything can be done through a smartphone, including work, communication, shopping, traveling, finances and entertainment. This Apple product has made our lives simpler since its inaugural release in 2007. Its features and apps have replaced CDs and DVDs, and changed the way we watch TV. News channels have had to keep up with it, launching digital services for a generation of picky and selective audiences.

Jobs, whose biological father was born in Syria and studied at the American University of Beirut, made Apple the world’s leading technology company through the iPod, the iPhone and the iPad. He also kept every other industry on their toes, forcing them to try to adapt to the fast-changing world that he had created.

Without his creation, influencers would not have had platforms through which to influence. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, TikTok and many more would not have succeeded the way they did had they not been on smartphones. The iPhone enabled its users to play an active role in collecting, reporting, analyzing and disseminating news and information. Apple gave every user the ability to be a reporter.

Citizen journalism has exposed corruption, violence and repression worldwide, especially in the Middle East, leading to uprisings past and present. Student Neda Agha-Soltan was shot dead during protests in Iran in 2009. Her killing was filmed on a mobile phone and was seen worldwide on YouTube, making her a symbol of the protest movement.

Thanks to mobile phones, Iran topped Twitter trends in 2009. This was the moment I decided to make “technology for advocacy” the subject of my thesis for my master’s degree in digital media.

The Egyptian revolution in 2011 was another momentous development for mobile phone users and social media platforms, as the government at the time had to shut down all communication networks in order to hinder the gathering and movement of protestors.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan made a FaceTime call to a Turkish TV network during the attempted coup against him in 2016. Some say the call saved him.

Since the 2000s, we stopped making regular calls and moved to wifi calls, before getting hooked on texting. The first iPhone specifications seem primitive today. An upgrade came with the iPhone 3G, to which Apple added critical new capabilities such as a GPS sensor for location monitoring, support for 3G networks and faster performance.

Jobs, whose biological father was born in Syria and studied at the American University of Beirut, made Apple the world’s leading technology company through the iPod, the iPhone and the iPad.

Arkan Aladnani

It was the App Store that transformed the iPhone, from simply a device able to access the internet, to a computing platform. Today, the store hosts more than 2 million apps, setting the stage for startups and creating a whole economy around it, from Snapchat and Instagram to Uber.

There were further refinements with the iPhone 3GS, such as a better camera and longer battery life. The iPhone 4 came in 2010, representing the first major redesign of the iPhone since its launch. The iPhone 4S introduced Apple’s digital voice assistant Siri. More gadgets and accessories — such as the Apple Watch, the Mac and the HomePod — have been introduced to support the iPhone.

A page from the Arab News archive showing the news on Jan. 11, 2007.

The iPhone 5 was the first Apple smartphone to come with the Lightning charging port. It was followed by the iPhone 5S, the first Apple product with the Touch ID fingerprint sensor. The 5C was a cheaper option that lacked a fingerprint sensor. With the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus came the larger-screen iPhone that competed with larger-screen Android smartphones. The iPhone 6 also introduced a faster processor and larger storage options.

The iPhone 7 and 7 Plus required headphones to be connected through the Lightning slot. AirPods — wireless earbuds — were introduced with it. The iPhone X was launched alongside the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus. They were Apple’s first smartphones to include a nearly edge-to-edge OLED screen, support for facial recognition and no home button.

The iPhone 11, with its relatively low $700 price point and wide range of color options, is essentially Apple’s successor to the iPhone XR. It features a new dual-camera system that includes an ultra-wide-angle camera, support for night mode, a faster processor and a higher-resolution front-facing camera. Apple’s pricier iPhone 11 and 11 Max are its first iPhones with a triple-lens camera, and include a new matte finish and camera sensor.

  • Arkan Aladnani, global head of operations at Arab News, remembers waiting in line for the first iPhone in New York.