The iPhone was the first mobile phone to use multi-touch technology. Since the iPhone’s launch, it gained larger screen sizes, video-recording, waterproofing, and many accessibility features. Up to iPhone 8 and 8 Plus, iPhones had a single button on the front panel with the Touch ID fingerprint sensor. Since iPhone X, iPhone models have switched to a nearly bezel-less front screen design with Face ID facial recognition, and app switching activated by gestures. Touch ID is still used for the budget iPhone SE series.
The iPhone is one of the two largest smartphone platforms in the world alongside Android, and is a large part of the luxury market. The iPhone has generated large profits for Apple, making it one of the world’s most valuable publicly traded companies. The first-generation iPhone was described as a “revolution” for the mobile phone industry and subsequent models have also garnered praise. The iPhone has been credited with popularizing the smartphone and slate form factor, and with creating a large market for smartphone apps, or “app economy“. As of January 2017, Apple’s App Store contained more than 2.2 million applications for the iPhone.
Development of an Apple smartphone began in 2004, when Apple started to gather a team of 1,000 employees led by hardware engineer Tony Fadell, software engineer Scott Forstall, and design officer Jony Ive, to work on the highly confidential “Project Purple”.
Then-Apple CEO Steve Jobs steered the original focus away from a tablet (which was later revisited in the form of the iPad) towards a phone. Apple created the device during a secretive collaboration with Cingular Wireless (later renamed AT&T Mobility) at an estimated development cost of US$150 million over thirty months. According to Jobs in 1998, the “i” word in “iMac” (and thereafter “iPod”, “iPhone” and “iPad”) stands for internet, individual, instruct, inform, and inspire.
Apple rejected the “design by committee” approach that had yielded the Motorola ROKR E1, a largely unsuccessful “iTunes phone” made in collaboration with Motorola. Among other deficiencies, the ROKR E1’s firmware limited storage to only 100 iTunes songs to avoid competing with Apple’s iPod nano. Cingular gave Apple the liberty to develop the iPhone’s hardware and software in-house, a rare practice at the time, and paid Apple a fraction of its monthly service revenue (until the iPhone 3G), in exchange for four years of exclusive U.S. sales, until 2011.