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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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A Rare Apple Lisa 1 Computer Is Up for Auction on eBay
Dave Jones, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
Dave Jones, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

For superfans of vintage Apple products, a working Apple Lisa 1 is the holy grail of collector's items. First released in 1983, the pioneering computer (the first to feature a graphic interface and a mouse) was a commercial failure and only sold 100,000 units, very few of which survived to the present day. But an eBay seller is offering up the super-rare opportunity to own one, as DesignTAXI reports.

The computer in question, selling for more than $55,000 as of January 8, is in mint condition. According to the listing, it has only been turned on a few times.

A Lisa 1 computer
professorinschubert, eBay

As you can see in the video below, everything seems to be in working order.

The seller estimates that there are only 20 to 100 Lisa 1s left in the world. And even for a Lisa 1, this one is a rare machine. Lisa computers, reportedly named after Steve Jobs’s daughter (though there have been some other theories about the name), were the only machines Apple released with its doomed Twiggy disk drives—a faulty format that turned out to be incredibly unreliable, leading to the product’s downfall. Apple then released the Lisa 2 with standard 3.5-inch floppy disk drives, offering customers free upgrades for their Lisa 1 Twiggy drives.

Since most customers jumped at the chance to make their $10,000 computer ($24,700 in today's dollars) run properly, Lisas that still have their original Twiggy drives are incredibly hard to find. The Lisa 1 on sale still has its twin Twiggy drives though, and they work, at least as well as the drives ever worked.

Whether the seller will actually get his $55,000 is questionable. In 2010, a similar Lisa 1 sold for just $15,000. But the model seems to have gained a lot of value since then, since one sold for $50,000 in November 2017.

[h/t DesignTAXI]

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Big Questions
Why Do Honeycrisp Apples Cost So Much?
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Apples to apples is no longer a valid comparison. As gastronomic writer Sarah Jampel at Food52 has observed, shoppers who prefer a premium fruit experience by opting for Honeycrisp apples can pay up to four times as much as they would for other varieties. When did Granny Smiths become the RC Cola to Honeycrisp’s Coke?

According to Jampel, the answer invokes the old law of supply and demand. There’s plenty of demand for the apple, but prices get engorged when there isn't enough to go around.

The scarcity is a result of the Honeycrisp’s eccentric nature. Introduced commercially in 1991 after being invented by University of Minnesota scientist David Bedford, who cross-pollinated seeds to create a more durable and winter-resistant apple, the Honeycrisp tree demands very specific soil and maintenance requirements. The fruit can ripen at various times, necessitating more frequent harvests; the skin is thin and delicate, so they must be trimmed off by hand. Many of the trees are so delicate they require a trellis [PDF] to support their branches.

All the extra labor means more time and money—the latter of which is passed along to the consumer.

Growers who didn’t anticipate the surging popularity of Honeycrisps were also caught off-guard. As trees can take up to six years to bear enough fruit for commercial purposes, the number of trees currently producing isn’t really proportionate to the level of demand.

That will change as more are planted, although it might be a little while before the Honeycrisp proves to be on the same economic footing as its Red Delicious counterpart. Before you celebrate a cheaper version, remember that growers looking to feed the market might opt to grow the apple in less-than-perfect conditions that could affect its famously crunchy taste. Enjoy it while you can.

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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