Who Invented the iPhone?

Learn How Apple's First Smartphone Came to Be

Illustrated timeline of the iPhone's history
ThoughtCo.

In the long history of smartphones—cell phones that behave like palm-sized computers—no doubt one of the most revolutionary has been the iPhone, which made its debut on June 29, 2007. While the technology was state-of-the-art, we still can't point to a single inventor because over 200 patents were part of its manufacture. Still, a few names, like Apple designers John Casey and Jonathan Ive stand out as instrumental in bringing Steve Jobs' vision for a touchscreen smartphone to life.

Precursors to the iPhone

While Apple had produced the Newton MessagePad, a personal digital assistant (PDA) device, from 1993 to 1998, the first concept for a true iPhone-type device came about in 2000. That's when Apple designer John Casey sent some concept art around via internal email for something he called the Telipod—a telephone and iPod combination. 

The Telipod never made it into production, but Apple co-founder and CEO Steve Jobs did believe that cell phones with a touchscreen function and access to the internet would become the wave of the future of information access. Accordingly, Jobs set a team of engineers to tackle the project. 

Apple's First Smartphone

Apple's first smartphone was the ROKR E1, released on Sept. 7, 2005. It was the first mobile phone to use iTunes, software that Apple had debuted in 2001. However, the ROKR was an Apple and Motorola collaboration, and Apple was not happy with Motorola's contributions. Within a year, Apple discontinued support for the ROKR. On Jan. 9, 2007, Steve Jobs announced the new iPhone at the Macworld convention. It went on sale on June 29, 2007.

What Made the iPhone So Special

Apple's chief design officer, Jonathan Ive, is largely responsible for the look and feel of the iPhone. Born in Britain in February 1967, Ive was also the principal designer of the iMac, the titanium and aluminum PowerBook G4, MacBook, unibody MacBook Pro, iPod, iPhone, and iPad.

The first smartphone that had no hard keypad for dialing, the iPhone was entirely a touchscreen device that broke new technological ground with its multitouch controls. In addition to being able to use the screen to select, users could scroll and zoom as well with a finger swipe.

The iPhone also introduced the accelerometer, a motion sensor that allowed the user to turn the phone sideways and have the display automatically rotate to suit. While it was not the first device to have apps or software add-ons, it was the first smartphone to manage the apps market successfully.

Siri

The iPhone 4S was released with the addition of a voice-activated personal assistant called Siri. Siri is a piece of artificial intelligence that can do numerous tasks for the user, and it can learn and adapt to better serve that user as well. With the addition of Siri, the iPhone was no longer a mere phone or music player—it literally put an entire world of information at the user's fingertips.

Waves of the Future

And the updates just keep coming. The iPhone 10 (also known as iPhone X), released in November 2017, for instance, is the first iPhone to use organic light-emitting diode (OLED) screen technology, as well as wireless charging and facial recognition technology to unlock the phone.

In 2018, Apple released three versions of the iPhone X: iPhone Xs, iPhone X Max (a larger version of the Xs, and iPhone Xr, said to be built for the budget-conscious. The key enhancement for these three new phones, according to a recent review in CNET, is a better sensor and a new image processor on the A12 Bionic chip combine to enable what Apple calls "Smart HDR," an improvement on the camera.