5 things you couldn't do on the first generation iPhone that we can't live without now

Source: AP
Source: AP

Jan. 9, 2017 marks the 10-year anniversary of the announcement of the first Apple iPhone, a device which changed mobile technology forever. The product of a grueling two-year development process, the iPhone was much more advanced than most competitors and made features like full touchscreen displays the default among modern smartphones. Its initial success paved the way for a decade-defining stretch of market dominance, and it took its competitors (like those running on Google's Android platform) years to catch up.

But for all the hype at the time, the initial 2007 iPhone has inevitably become as much of a throwback as that year's chart-topping hit

Here's some of the things you can do with a modern iPhone or one of its innumerable competitors that the original model didn't have going for it.

Find your way around with GPS

Steve Jobs announcing the iPhone 3G in 2008.
Source: 
Paul Sakuma/AP

Whether they live in a city, drive often, ride public transportation or even just don't know where they're going, the modern smartphone user is more or less in total thrall of their GPS. But the first generation iPhone lacked access to the GPS network and instead worked with a rough positioning system reliant upon cell phone towers and WiFi network locations. It wasn't very accurate, it was slow, and its feature set was limited.

One year after the original release date, the iPhone 3G came out, with a much more robust mapping system that really could lead owners to fried chicken at 4:00 a.m. Years later, Apple cut Google out of the loop and officially switched to its own proprietary Maps program — though it took even longer to iron out the bugs.

Browse the Internet quickly on the go

An original iPhone in Germany.
Source: 
Joerg Sarbach/AP

It's hard these days to imagine a smartphone which can't access the internet on the go, but the original iPhone lacked 3G connection capability — Apple founder Steve Jobs justifying its 2G-only connection by noting it also could connect to WiFi. Multiple reviews at the time noted the 2G connection was painstakingly slow on the web, retrospectively paling in comparison to the convenience of most current cell phones with 3G or 4G connections. 2G might as well be dialup compared to lightning-fast 5G, which won't enter most mainstream phone models for years.

Read the fine print

An iPhone next to an iPhone 3G.
Source: 
Paul Sakuma/AP

The original iPhone debuted with a 4.5 x 2.4 inch size screen — and what would now generally be recognized as an ultra-pitiful 320 x 480 pixel resolution. The current generation iPhone 7 isn't a contender for highest screen resolution, but it would still be able to display multiple original iPhone's worth of screen thanks to its upgraded 730 x 1334 pixel screen.

Play complex 3D video games

While the original iPhone did have an extensive library of games, the vast majority were 2-dimensional or had simple, clean graphics.

Canabalt, an early-generation iPhone game.
Source: 
Pocket Gamer

Today's phones are capable of much more; the iPhone 5 was capable of playing 2012 strategy game X-COM: Enemy Unknown, while newer models of iPhones and Androids are capable of playing games that would look impressive on a TV or computer.

Store a lot of stuff — or even ditch the iPod

While the current generation iPhone 7 comes with a minimum of 32 GB of storage and maxes out at an astonishing 256 GB, the original iPhone was only capable of holding up to 16 GB of data. Eventually, growth in the phone's storage size as well as enhanced streaming capabilities from the multiple upgrades to the iPhone's connectivity spelled doom for the once-ubiquitous iPod, just as it was for all of the iPod's MP3-playing competitors.

"The single-use device is gone — and with it, the very notion of cool that it once carried," Wired's Mat Honan wrote. "The iPhone is about as subversive as a bag of potato chips, and music doesn't define anyone anymore."

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Tom McKay

Tom is a staff writer at Mic, covering national politics, media, policing and the war on drugs. He is based in New York and can be reached at tmckay@mic.com.

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