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Science & Technology

Apple's iPhone Turns 10 Years Old


Now let's note an anniversary.


To do that, imagine a world where no one is bent over a little glowing screen.

CORNISH: Or where confronted with a question at a dinner party, no one Googles the answer right at the table.

MCEVERS: Or where you can go on a hike and not see a person taking a selfie.

CORNISH: That was the world that existed 10 years ago, before this man introduced, as he said, three new things.


STEVE JOBS: A widescreen iPod with touch controls, a revolutionary mobile phone and a breakthrough internet communications device.

MCEVERS: That, of course, is the late Steve Jobs, who was then the head of Apple.


JOBS: These are not three separate devices.


JOBS: This is one device...


JOBS: ...And we are calling it iPhone.

MCEVERS: IPhone, unveiled on January 9, 2007.

CORNISH: Steven Levy was in that audience. He's now editor of the tech publication Backchannel. He says back then, there were cell phones, even smartphones, but not like the iPhone.

STEVEN LEVY: Smartphones, at the time, weren't really all that smart.

MCEVERS: He says they couldn't smoothly browse the web, play music easily or edit photos very well.

LEVY: It was a challenge to really get things done besides making phone calls on these other phones that called themselves smart.

MCEVERS: After Jobs' famous speech, Levy went backstage to talk to the Apple CEO.

LEVY: I said, why did you do a phone? And he said, well, we did a lot of market research and, you know, talked to all the analysts and buying people and decided we can make a lot of money. And then he laughed (laughter) and he said, no, totally that's not us. And, of course, that's not the way Apple operates at all.

They do what they think is the right thing to do and assume people will follow.

MCEVERS: And people did follow. Other companies followed, too. Today it would be hard to find a smartphone that doesn't have a touch screen. Steven Levy got his first iPhone shortly after hearing Jobs' talk. He's upgraded since. He still likes the iPhone but says there's a downside to the technology.

LEVY: We are now cyborgs. We can't exist without these things. We're very dependent on them. It's like a limb. And it's a little odd to be out there where you're a very strong person with your mobile smart device but you're weaker without it.

CORNISH: Steven Levy of Backchannel. The iPhone was introduced 10 years ago today. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.