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Sunday, January 08, 2012, 09:01 pm PT (12:01 am ET)

Five years of iPhone


iPhone 3G: iPhone OS 2

For its second year of iPhone, Apple's iPhone 3G adopted a new plastic hardware design that enabled the company to sell it for significantly less. It also added support for two of the most valuable missing features of the original: 3G wireless networking and GPS location.

Apple marketed it as "twice as fast for half the cost." While the new, cheaper hardware enabled Apple to sell to a broader audience, the main new features of the iPhone in 2008 came from its 2.0 software update, which was also made available to original iPhone users.

iPhone3G


Most notably, "iPhone OS 2.0" added support for native third party software in addition to basic web apps (above) through the new App Store within iTunes. The kinds of games Apple's new iPhone SDK resulted in were not on the level of previous mobile software platforms.

As an example, Sega's Super Monkey Ball, a popular $10 game for the iPhone in 2008, was at least $20 for the sidetalkin' NGage (Nokia's failed attempt at delivering a hybrid game console and mobile phone), but NGage reviewers still complained, "The choppy animation and lack of analog controls really suck the fun out of the game."

The same game cost $40 on the Sony PSP and $20 on the Nintendo DS. The game's graphics on the iPhone (below middle) were similar to the PSP console version (below bottom) rather than being in the league of other smartphone games of the day, like the NGage (below top left) or the simplified "Super Monkey Ball Tip N Tilt," $10 mini-game version (below top right) that worked on regular Symbian smartphones such as the Nokia N95 (a model once frequently compared to the iPhone).

iPhone3G


The second generation of iPhone software also enabled MobileMe push messaging and Exchange ActiveSync support for Mail, Contacts and Calendar along with other enterprise features that made Apple's emerging mobile platform more attractive to corporate users.

iPhone 3G


iPhone 3G


iPhone competitors: 2007 - 2008

Apple certainly didn't invent the touchscreen phone; before it, Palm, Windows Mobile and others had delivered PDA-type devices with mobile features. However, the emerging consensus in the market by 2007 was that users wanted BlackBerry-like keypads, a trend followed by the most popular Palm Treo, Windows Mobile and Symbian phones.

LG's Prada smartphone delivered a similar form factor to the iPhone, but used Adobe's Flash Lite to construct a simplistic user interface that lacked any of the rich, animated and desirable aspects of the iPhone. It also lacked a functional web browser, iPod-like functionality, rich email, and so on. After accusing Apple of copying the Prada, LG then began creating a series of lookalike iPhone clones.



After arguing throughout most of 2007 and 2008 that Apple was wrong and what the public really wanted were more button-oriented phones ("that's what all the kinds want these days!") and either a tether to proprietary enterprise systems run by RIM or a promise of an open platform with less security than even Windows, all of Apple's competitors slowly began to roll out devices that looked and worked increasingly like the iPhone, to the point where today, all of the models in the running against the iPhone look like direct copies of the iPhone.

iPhone 3G


One step along that path attempted to employ Microsoft's Windows Mobile 6.1 platform. At Mobile World Conference in early 2008, Samsung introduced its flagship Omni and Sony Ericsson unveiled its XPERIA X1, with both companies betting that WiMo could help them catch up to the iPhone experience Apple had introduced. They lost the bet.

In late 2008, RIM introduced its touchscreen BlackBerry Storm, which its fans assumed would be like a black iPhone with more serious Enterprise credentials. What they really got was a terrible phone that wasn't ready for prime time, oddly lacking support for even basic features such as WiFi. The phone signaled the beginning of the end for RIM, which saw its dominant position among Verizon smartphones rapidly whither away in favor of Android in 2010, and then the iPhone itself last year.

Around the same time, Google and HTC collaborated to deliver the T Mobile G1, a keyboard-based phone patterned after the Danger Sidekick. The phone was rushed to market with such haste that it could not be officially supported even by the next 2.0 version of Android released a year later.

That "lack of foresight in design" trend would continue for Android, as well as with other mobile platforms that systematically abandoned new phones as quickly as they could deliver new updates. At the same time, Android shifted direction dramatically in 2009 to focus on essentially producing iPhone clones.

History of Android


At CES in early 2009, attention dramatically shifted to the Palm Pre, which claimed that it would best Apple's second generation iPhone 3G and take back smartphone sales for Palm and its new webOS. Instead, just as it launched in June Apple released the iPhone 3GS, a model Apple still sells (and supports in the latest iOS 5). Palm barely remained alive, barely finished its webOS, and after being bought up by HP, even its remaining group didn't survive long enough to see the iPhone's fifth birthday.

On page 3 of 5: iPhone 3GS, iPhone OS 3.0 and competitors 2009 - 2010