The original iPhone debuted back in 2007, radically changing the mobile market. It was ahead of its time in both design, with its big 3.5-inch display, and its operating system, iPhone OS 1.
We’ve had a chance to check out the hardware many times here at TechnoBuffalo, but none had the original software. Through an exhaustive search, we managed to get our hands on a rare first-generation iPhone running iPhone OS 1, and let’s just say it hasn’t aged very well.
When Apple first announced the iPhone’s software, it wasn’t called iPhone OS. It was a version of OS X stripped down into a smartphone form factor. But eventually iPhone OS became the name for the operating system and a lot has changed since then. Apple eventually changed the name again in 2010 when iOS 4.0 was announced. It’s much easier to say now and it’s become synonymous with the iPhone and iPad.
Inside the software, even more has changed. We’re now on iOS 10, so Apple has had a decade to update and add features. The very first version, however, is incredibly stale and lacks a ton of features.
Features that are normal today weren’t available back then, like an App Store, push email, multi-tasking, Spotlight, and copy, cut, paste functionality. The home screen of iPhone OS 1 was just five horizontal and four vertical rows of apps with a black wallpaper and a metallic-like dock to house your favorite apps. There was nothing you can do to customize the home screen, either; you could only rearrange the apps. In fact, changing the wallpaper wasn’t introduced until iOS 4.0, four years later.
That’s pretty much the story for iPhone OS 1—nearly every important feature you can do now wasn’t added until later generations. But that doesn’t take away from the impact this software had on the computing world.
Even for all of its downfalls, iPhone OS 1 is the basis for all current smartphone operating systems. It pushed functionality beyond what was expected of a smartphone. Today you can add widgets and have specially designed icons, but it all works essentially the same way. Every smartphone today also still employs the grid system where you have apps.
It’s still jarring to see how much Apple has developed its software. Back then there was a dedicated YouTube and Google Maps app that came pre-installed with the phone. That’s pretty hard to imagine now.
Check out our hands-on video with iPhone OS 1 up above.