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13 Early Criticisms, Doubts, and Disses About the iPhone

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By the time the iPhone was released on June 29, 2007, Apple was already in the midst of an incredible decade-long revival under Steve Jobs. Entering a crowded mobile phone market was a risk, but their new product outperformed even the most optimistic predictions and it would eventually help Apple become the richest company in the world (going by market cap).

Most technology experts knew the iPhone was going to be a hit even before they got their hands on it when it was first announced earlier that year. Small issues were noted (like its high price and the fact that it was only available through one wireless carrier) but, by and large, the hype and excitement drummed up by the media turned out to be appropriate in hindsight.

In the wrong hands, however, hindsight can be a dangerous tool. It can, for example, be used to find the few people who publicly poo-pooed the iPhone when it first came out. It's almost unfair, then, that these doubts about the most popular consumer electronics product of the past half-century can be itemized in a neat little list some eight years after they were expressed. Even more cruel is that this can be done by someone like me, who loudly called the iPhone "stupid" to anyone who would listen back in 2007. However, I didn't have a platform to publish those views at the time (and if I did, they weren't archived), so I am exempt from any retroactive chuckles.

Here are 13 of them.

1. "The iPhone doesn't go on sale until June in the U.S. and possibly not until next year here, so why worry, if you need a phone now? BlackBerry Pearls are mighty fine."

2. "Apple's decision to make the iPhone a closed system that third parties won't be allowed to write software for is stupid."

—Stephen Ballantyne, writing in New Zealand's National Business Review.

3. "Is it really as stuffed with innovative features as Steve Jobs made it sound from the stage at Macworld Expo last week? Nah. Most of those features have been around in one form or another for years. Apple just put them all together."

4. "Widescreen pocket media player? Been done. Handheld Web browser? Been done. Quad-band GSM phone? Been done, in almost every way imaginable. Camera? Wi-Fi? Bluetooth? Old news. Even the all-touch-screen phone interface Jobs gushed over ('We're going to use the best pointing device in our world—we're born with 10 of them, our fingers') has been around since 2001."

5. "But does Apple know what users will actually do with the iPhone? Nope."

—Frank Hayes in Computerworld.

6. "Apple's real problem may be that the new iPhone, like its namesake, is a solution in search of a problem."

7. "If Jobs tied a couple of tin cans together with a string and called it a telephone, a million Macolytes would call him a 'visionary minimalist' and shell out $500 for it."

8. "The more gadgets you cram into one package, the more things there are to go wrong—and the more likely it is that something will ... Do you really want your business communications dependent on the health of your music player?"

—Mike Himowitz, writing in the Baltimore Sun. Himowitz was not helped by the headline Newsday decided to use with this syndicated piece: "New Multifeature iPhone Not Likely to be a Huge Hit." (It was "Steve Jobs Has More Selling to do on iPhone" in the Sun).

Himowitz had one more crack at the iPhone after he had tried it out for "a few weeks" and conceded that "the iPhone is, indeed, a fantastic gadget—a stunning example of industrial design that borders on art." Still, he wasn't convinced...

9. "The iPhone has two serious flaws. First, it's awkward to handle. At 4 1/2 by 2 3/8 inches, it's half an inch wider than my regular cell phone—too wide to hold comfortably. And the iPhone is slippery—too easy to drop."

10. "The on-screen keyboard was too small for my big fingers and lacked the tactile feedback that makes the tiny, thumb-based keyboards on other PDAs usable. A stylus with handwriting recognition software would be a great addition to future models."

11. "I still wouldn't buy one for everyday use. In fact, most of us can get the iPhone's most important bennies from a newer Apple toy that's a better value—the iPod Touch."

—From "Stunning iPhone, Alas, Has Big Flaws", published October 25, 2007 in the Baltimore Sun.

12. "To summarize: the iPhone is expensive and fails miserably at its primary function of making telephone calls, but other than that it's really great. Sign me up!"

—Kevin Drum in Washington Monthly, quipping on an aside from a separate (positive) review of the iPhone.

13. "We like our strategy. We're selling millions and million and millions of phones a year. Apple is selling zero phones. In six months they'll have the most expensive phone by far ever in the marketplace."

—Microsoft CEO Steve Balmer talking about whether or not the iPhone will be a worthy competitor to the Windows Phone in an interview with CNBC.

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The iMac Was Almost Called the MacMan
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After breaking out with its Macintosh line of personal computers in the 1980s, Apple was in a slump. Sales had flagged as Microsoft's Windows operating system made waves. In 1998, the company was set to unveil a product that it hoped would reinvigorate its brand.

And they almost blew it.

According to Ken Segall, the advertising genius behind their "Think Different" campaign, Apple founder Steve Jobs was expecting the iMac to reverse the company's ailing fortunes. Where older Macs had been boxy, beige, and bland, the iMac came in an assortment of colors and had a transparent chassis that showed off its circuitry. The problem, as Segall writes in his new book, Insanely Simple, was that Jobs didn't want to call it the iMac. He wanted to call it the MacMan.

"While that frightening name is banging around in your head, I'd like you to think for a moment about the art of product naming," Segall writes. "Because of all the things in this world that cry out for simplicity, product naming probably contains the most glaring examples of right and wrong. From some companies, you see names like 'iPhone.' From others you see names like ‘Casio G'zOne Commando' or the ‘Sony DVP SR200P/B' DVD player."

According to Segall, Jobs liked the fact that MacMan was slightly reminiscent of Sony's Walkman branding concept for its line of cassette players. (Later, Sony had a Discman, Pressman, and Talkman.) But Segall, who named products for a living, feared the name would take away from Apple's identity as being original. It was also gender-biased, and alienating an entire demographic of consumers was never a good thing.

Instead, Segall suggested "iMac," with the "i" for internet, because the unit was designed to connect easily to the web. Jobs "hated" the idea, along with other suggestions, even though Segall felt the iMac could provide a foundation to name other devices, just as Sony's Walkman had. Segall kept suggesting it, and Jobs eventually had it printed on a prototype model to see how it would look. After encouragement from his staff, he dropped MacMan. With this key contribution, Segall made sure no one would be lining up to buy a PhoneMan 10 years later. 

[h/t FastCoDesign]

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Big Questions
What Are Those Tiny Spots on Apples?
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The little pinprick spots on apples, pears, and potatoes are called lenticels (LEN-tih-sells), and they’re very important.

Plants need a constant stream of fresh air, just like people, and that “fresh air” means carbon dioxide. Flowers, trees, and fruit all take in carbon dioxide and give off oxygen. But unlike people, plants don’t have nostrils.

That's where a plant's lenticels come in. Each little speck is an opening in the fruit or tuber’s skin or the tree’s bark. Carbon dioxide goes in, and oxygen comes out. Through these minuscule snorkels, a plant is able to “breathe.”

Like any opening, lenticels are vulnerable to infection and sickness. In an apple disease called lenticel breakdown, a nutrient deficiency causes the apples’ spots to darken and turn into brown pits. This doesn’t hurt the inside of the fruit, but it does make the apple look pretty unattractive. In the equally appealing “lenticel blotch pit,” the skin around the apple’s lenticels gets patchy and dark, like a weird rash. 

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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