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

Paul Dawkins Avatar
56 months ago
Unmatched? Is he taking the piss?
Score: 84 Votes (Like | Disagree)
v0lume4 Avatar
56 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)
robjulo Avatar
56 months ago
Schiller and Cook....all talk, no products.
Score: 76 Votes (Like | Disagree)
nt5672 Avatar
56 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)
BootsWalking Avatar
56 months ago
Phil sounds like a retired auto mechanic boasting about how good he was at fixing carburetors.
Score: 53 Votes (Like | Disagree)
69Mustang Avatar
56 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

apple watch ecg

Apple Watch Likely to Gain Blood Pressure, Blood Glucose, and Blood Alcohol Monitoring

Monday May 3, 2021 4:03 am PDT by
The Apple Watch may gain the ability to measure blood pressure, blood glucose, and blood alcohol levels, according to newly-revealed information about one of Apple's chosen business partners. Apple has been revealed to be the largest customer of the British electronics start-up Rockley Photonics, The Telegraph reports. Rockley Photonics has developed non-invasive optical sensors for...
tile sticker e1570533758981

Tile CEO: 'We Welcome Competition From Apple, But We Think It Needs to Be Fair'

Tuesday May 4, 2021 9:51 am PDT by
Just after Apple announced its AirTags, Tile CEO CJ Prober relayed his concerns about competing with Apple in the tracking space, and said that Tile would ask Congress to investigate Apple's business practices specific to Find My and item trackers. Prober this week did an interview with Bloomberg, where he further expanded on Tile's complaints about Apple and why he feels that Tile is...
facebook instargram updated att prompt 1

Facebook and Instagram Ask Users to Enable App Tracking in Order to Keep Services 'Free of Charge'

Sunday May 2, 2021 1:22 pm PDT by
As a way to convince users to enable tracking across other apps and websites, Facebook is deploying the tactic of telling users that they must enable tracking as part of the App Tracking Transparency framework in iOS 14.5 if they want to help keep Facebook and Instagram "free of charge." App Tracking Transparency or ATT is the newest privacy feature to come to iPhone and iPad devices as part ...
fortnite apple logo 2

Epic CEO Tim Sweeney Admits App Store's 30% Cut Is Similar to Consoles, Would Have Accepted Special Deal With Apple

Tuesday May 4, 2021 1:54 pm PDT by
Apple's legal battle with Epic Games is continuing on, and during the second day of the trial, Epic Games' CEO Tim Sweeney continued his testimony against Apple. Sweeney was grilled by Apple's lawyers, and made several points seemingly favorable to Apple. In addition to mentioning how he prefers Apple's iPhone and values Apple's privacy policies that he's aiming to dismantle, Sweeney...
Flat 2021 MacBook Pro Mockup Feature 1

Mini-LED Display Production Improving for Redesigned MacBook Pro Models Later This Year

Monday May 3, 2021 8:33 am PDT by
Apple supplier TSMT, a key vendor involved in the production of mini-LED displays in the newly announced 12.9-inch iPad Pro, has been able to address technical challenges for the production of mini-LED displays to be used in the upcoming 14 and 16-inch redesigned MacBook Pro models. As reported by DigiTimes, TSMT had initially been facing production constraints with the circuit board and...
signal instagram ads3

Signal Shares the Instagram Ads Facebook Doesn't Want You to See

Wednesday May 5, 2021 1:29 am PDT by
Encrypted messaging app Signal has had a series of Instagram ads blocked from the social media platform, after it attempted to show users how much data the Facebook-owned company collects about them and how it's used to push targeted ads. In a blog post, Signal described how it generated the ads to show users why they were seeing them, simply by declaring upfront the information that the...
Foldable iPhone 2023 Feature Yellow

Kuo: Apple to Launch 8-Inch Foldable iPhone in 2023

Sunday May 2, 2021 8:43 pm PDT by
Apple is working to launch a foldable iPhone with an 8-inch QHD+ flexible OLED display in 2023, Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said today in a note to investors that was seen by MacRumors. Based on our latest industry survey, we forecast that Apple will likely launch a foldable iPhone with an 8-inch QHD+ flexible OLED display in 2023, with SDC as the exclusive display supplier and Samsung Foundry...
iOS 14 on iPhone feature emergency

Apple Releases iOS and iPadOS 14.5.1 With Fixes for App Tracking Transparency Bug, WebKit Security Issues

Monday May 3, 2021 10:04 am PDT by
Apple today released iOS and iPadOS 14.5.1, minor security updates that come just a week after the release of the iOS 14.5 update. There is also a companion watchOS 7.4.1 update for Apple Watch and an iOS 12.5.3 update for older iPhone and iPad devices that don't support Apple's latest operating system versions. According to Apple's release notes, the update fixes a bug with App Tracking...
airtags teardown tile mat galaxy smarttag

iFixit Shares AirTag Teardown Revealing 'Impressively Compact' Design Compared to Tile Mate and Galaxy SmartTag

Sunday May 2, 2021 4:54 am PDT by
iFixit has shared the first of its two-part series in tearing down Apple's AirTag item tracker, revealing that Apple had to make impressive design decisions to achieve its small design, including rethinking the speaker layout. For comparison, iFixit compared Apple's AirTag to the Tile Mate and the Samsung Galaxy SmartTag. Compared to the competition, AirTag is the smallest in size, with the...
maxresdefault

Hands-On With Brydge's 12.9-Inch iPad Pro Keyboard With Trackpad

Tuesday May 4, 2021 11:48 am PDT by
Brydge has been making keyboards for Apple's iPads for years now, and the newest model, the Brydge 12.9 MAX+, is compatible with the third, fourth, and fifth-generation iPad Pro models, so it works even with the new mini-LED iPad Pro. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. In our latest YouTube video, we checked out the new Brydge 12.9 MAX+ to see if it's a viable...