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Jan. 9, 2017, 11:35 a.m.

Swipe to unlock: Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone 10 years ago today, changing journalism forever

“We’re gonna make some history together today” — he wasn’t wrong.

Ten years ago today, Steve Jobs introduced the first iPhone — and also became the first person to publicly complain about how news is presented on iPhones.

As part of his introduction to the phone’s capabilities, Jobs opened Safari and pulled up the full desktop version of the Times’ website. “We’re showing you the whole New York Times website,” Jobs said.

But he also noted: “It’s kind of a slow site because it’s got a lot of images.”

Jobs introduced the iPhone as three devices in one: a phone, a widescreen iPod, and an “Internet communications device.”

Jobs’ presentation that day focused on using Safari as the main way to access the Internet; he even rotated the phone to view the Times’ website in landscape mode. He was initially against the idea of native apps on the phone, pushing web apps as the state of the art. He likely didn’t envision that apps — and browsers within apps — would become the dominant way we access the Internet on mobile devices now.

Though the iPhone has evolved and grown enormously in power over the past decade, the device Jobs unveiled in 2007 still looks and feels familiar. While the iPhone and the competitors it spawned have changed nearly every aspect of our lives, they’ve had a particular impact on news organizations, which have spent much of the past decade optimizing their coverage for its tiny screens. And, perhaps most important of all, the app-driven model the iPhone brought to dominance meant that social platforms — Facebook above all — became the primary route for audiences to reach news on the devices we carry everywhere.

Most major news organizations now reach most of their audiences on mobile devices. Journalists — and everyday citizens — also have the ability to report live using just the phone in their pocket from nearly anywhere on the planet.

The iPhone enabled the creation of a mobile advertising industry that generated $31.6 billion in 2015, according to Pew. It wasn’t the first smartphone, but it was the first modern one; by 2022, there will be 6.1 billion mobile subscribers, and for many people globally, the smartphone is the only way they access the Internet.

The iPhone forever changed how we consume, produce, and pay for our journalism. “We’re gonna make some history together today,” Jobs said at the start of his big unveil, and it was one of the rare product debuts for which that wasn’t an exaggeration.

POSTED     Jan. 9, 2017, 11:35 a.m.
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