Phil Schiller Says iPhone Was 'Earth-Shattering' Ten Years Ago and Remains 'Unmatched' Today

To commemorate the tenth anniversary of the iPhone, Apple marketing chief Phil Schiller sat down with tech journalist Steven Levy for a wide-ranging interview about the smartphone's past, present, and future.

original-iphone
The report first reflects upon the iPhone's lack of support for third-party apps in its first year. The argument inside Apple was split between whether the iPhone should be a closed device like the iPod, or an open platform like the Mac, a discussion that Schiller said was ultimately "shut down" by then-CEO Steve Jobs.

Steve Jobs shut down the discussion, Schiller recalls. “He said ‘We don’t have to keep debating this because we can’t have [an open system] right now. Maybe we’ll change our mind afterwards, or maybe we won’t, but for now there isn’t one so let’s envision this world where we solve the problem with great built-in apps and a way for developers to make web apps.”

Levy suggested that the iPhone's great moment was when the App Store launched a year later, creating a world where for "every imaginable activity" there was "an app for that." Schiller, perhaps unsurprisingly as Apple's marketing chief, said that belief undermines how truly "earth-shattering" the iPhone was at the time.

“That undervalues how earth-shattering the iPhone was when it first came to market, and we all first got them and fell in love with them,” he says. “iPhone made the idea of a smartphone real. It really was a computer in your pocket. The idea of real internet, real web browser, Multi-Touch. There were so many things that are core to what is the smartphone today, that created a product that customers fell in love with, that then also demanded more stuff on them, more apps.”

iphone-full-lineup
Nowadays, some critics are wondering whether Apple is playing it safe as of late, arguing that recent iPhone models have only incremental improvements rather than revolutionary new features. But, again, Schiller downplayed this notion and said the changes in more recent iPhones are "sometimes even bigger now."

“I actually think the leaps in the later versions are as big and sometimes even bigger now,” he says. “I think our expectations are changing more, not the leaps in the products. If you look through every version—from the original iPhone to the iPhone 3G to the 4 to the 4S, you see great changes all throughout. You see screen size change from three and a half inch to four inch to four point seven and five point five. You see cameras going through incredible change, from the first camera that couldn’t shoot video, to then having both a front and a backside camera, to now three cameras with the stuff we’re doing, and with live photos and 4K video.”

Schiller positioned the iPhone as a top smartphone. "The quality is unmatched. The ease of use is still unmatched. The integration of hardware software is unmatched. We’re not about the cheapest, we’re not about the most, we’re about the best."

In a press release yesterday, Schiller said Apple is "just getting started" with the iPhone, while CEO Tim Cook promised "the best is yet to come." Building upon those comments, Schiller told Levy that he hopes in 50 years, people will indeed look back and realize how much was yet to come.

Schiller hopes that 50 years people will look back at this point and say, “Wow, they didn’t realize how much was to come — in fact, others missed it because they were busy running around looking for other things. Everyone has their opinions at this point, but it could be that we’re only in the first minutes of the first quarter of the game,” he says. “I believe this product is so great that it has many years of innovation ahead.”

Levy, however, went on to question "whether a pocket-sized device like the iPhone will still be as relevant decades hence," particularly as "a lot of observers have been saying we are at the start of the era of the conversational interface."

amazon-alexa
At CES last week, for example, a number of reputable publications said Amazon's Alexa platform "stole the show" or offered similar accolades, after companies showed off everything from new cars and robots to fridges and laundry machines integrated with the voice-controlled assistant, which launched in late 2014.

Apple itself had an early lead in this artificial intelligence space when it debuted Siri on the iPhone 4s in 2011.

Schiller opined that "the best intelligent assistant is the one that's with you all the time," such as the iPhone. Schiller added that "people are forgetting the value and importance of the display," which he said is "not going to go away."

“I'm so glad the team years ago set out to create Siri — I think we do more with that conversational interface that anyone else. Personally, I still think the best intelligent assistant is the one that’s with you all the time. Having my iPhone with me as the thing I speak to is better than something stuck in my kitchen or on a wall somewhere.”

“People are forgetting the value and importance of the display,” he says. “Some of the greatest innovations on iPhone over the last ten years have been in display. Displays are not going to go away. We still like to take pictures and we need to look at them, and a disembodied voice is not going to show me what the picture is.”

Full-Length Article: Phil Schiller on iPhone’s Launch, How It Changed Apple, and Why It Will Keep Going for 50 Years

Top Rated Comments

(View all)
Avatar
46 months ago
Unmatched? Is he taking the piss?
Score: 84 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
46 months ago
Schiller is right about the "earth-shattering" comment. However, he is no longer right about "unmatched."

The iPhone is still incredible. But everyone else has caught up.
Score: 81 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
46 months ago
Schiller and Cook....all talk, no products.
Score: 76 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
46 months ago
Unmatched, this is exactly what is wrong with Apple today. They think just because it says "Apple" on the box that it is innovative and unmatched. What a crock.
Score: 71 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
46 months ago
Phil sounds like a retired auto mechanic boasting about how good he was at fixing carburetors.
Score: 53 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
46 months ago
"I'm so glad the team years ago set out to create Siri -- I think we do more with that conversational interface that anyone else..."

I'm a bit confused by this part of his quote. Is he somehow giving credit to Apple for creating Siri or is he giving credit to the team of devs that actually created Siri? If it's the latter, okay. Those guys did do nice work. If it's the former, then revising history is probably not the best way to make a point.

Doing more with conversational interface than anyone else? Uh, the Siri app was more functional before Apple acquired the dev team. Just my opinion, but no, Apple is not doing more than anyone else. Heck, the original dev team's new Viv is testimony that Apple isn't doing more than anyone else.
Score: 41 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

iPhone 12 Sizes Compared with iPhone SE, 7, 8, SE 2, X, 11, 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max [Update]

Tuesday July 7, 2020 6:49 pm PDT by
Apple is planning on launching the iPhone 12 this fall which is rumored to be coming in 3 different sizes: 5.4", 6.1" and 6.7". The middle size (6.1") matches up with the currently shipping iPhone 11, but the other two sizes will be entirely new. Over the weekend, there was some excitement about how well the new 5.4" iPhone 12 compares to the original iPhone SE. Those who have been hoping...

Everything New in iOS 14 Beta 2: New Calendar Icon, Files Widget and More

Tuesday July 7, 2020 11:38 am PDT by
Apple today released the second beta of iOS 14 to developers for testing purposes, tweaking and refining some of the features that are coming in the update. Below, we've rounded up all of the changes that we found in the second beta. - Calendar icon - There's a new Calendar app icon in iOS 14 beta 2, with the day of the week abbreviated rather than spelled out. - Clock icon - The clock...

Hands On With iPhone 12 Models Showing New Sizes and Design

Monday July 6, 2020 2:04 pm PDT by
Ahead of the launch of new iPhones we often see dummy models created based on leaked schematics and specifications, with those models designed to let case makers create cases for the new devices ahead of their release. We got our hands on a set of dummy models that represent the iPhone 12 lineup, giving us our first close look at the iPhone 4-style design and the different size options. Subscri ...

Developer's Visual Comparison of macOS Catalina and Big Sur Offers Closer Look at Apple's UI Redesign for Macs

Tuesday July 7, 2020 4:00 am PDT by
macOS 11 Big Sur is the next major release of Apple's operating system for Mac, and following its preview at WWDC, one of the biggest discussions has revolved around the all-new user interface redesign. Developers are still learning what the impact the new UI will have on their apps, and with that in mind, app designer Andrew Denty has compiled an extensive visual comparison of the user...

Analyst Believes iPhone 12 Pricing Will Start $50 Higher Even Without EarPods or Charger in Box

Wednesday July 8, 2020 9:35 am PDT by
Despite multiple reports indicating that Apple will not include EarPods or a wall charger with iPhone 12 models this year, one analyst believes that pricing will still increase slightly compared to the iPhone 11 lineup. In a research note provided to MacRumors, analyst Jeff Pu forecasted that iPhone 12 pricing will start at $749 for a new 5.4-inch model, an increase of $50 over the base...

14-Inch MacBook Pro With Mini-LED Display Expected to Enter Production in 2021

Wednesday July 8, 2020 7:51 am PDT by
Apple suppliers will begin competing to win manufacturing orders for new 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro models with Mini-LED displays in the first quarter of 2021, according to Taiwanese research firm TrendForce. Rumors of a 14-inch MacBook Pro have surfaced since Apple replaced the 15-inch MacBook Pro with a new 16-inch model last year. Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has previously said that...

Apple Seeds First Betas of iOS 14 and iPadOS 14 to Public Beta Testers

Thursday July 9, 2020 10:14 am PDT by
Apple today seeded the first public betas of upcoming iOS and iPadOS 14 updates to its public beta testing group, two weeks after first providing the updates to developers after the WWDC keynote and a day after seeding the second developer betas. Public beta testers who have signed up for Apple's beta testing program can download the iOS/‌iPadOS‌ 14 updates over the air after installing ...

Apple's Arm-Based Macs With Apple Silicon Chips Will Support Thunderbolt

Wednesday July 8, 2020 3:14 pm PDT by
Apple is working on Macs that use its custom Apple-designed Apple Silicon chips instead of Intel chips, but Apple has committed to continuing to support Thunderbolt, reports The Verge. In a statement, an Apple spokesperson said that Apple's upcoming machines will offer support for Intel's Thunderbolt USB-C standard. "Over a decade ago, Apple partnered with Intel to design and develop...

Apple Cuts iPhone Trade-In Values as iPhone 12 Launch Nears

Tuesday July 7, 2020 7:46 am PDT by
With just two months to go until the usual timeframe for Apple's iPhone launch events, Apple is cutting back on maximum trade-in values of previous-generation iPhones for those looking to upgrade to a new model. Maximum values on more recent models have dropped by $30–$50, while older models have generally dropped by $5–$20 with a few models seeing no change in value.iPhone XS Max: $500 to...

Some iPhone Users Report Significant Battery Drain Due to Music App Background Activity in iOS 13.5.1

Wednesday July 8, 2020 1:49 am PDT by
A significant minority of iPhone users have taken to Apple's Support Communities and Reddit to report battery drain issues largely related to the Music app and high levels of background activity. Hundreds of users, many running iOS 13.5.1 on devices both new and old, are experiencing rapid battery drain when the Music app is not in use. In some cases, the background activity occurs over...