Today is the tenth birthday of Apple’s App Store, which is hard to believe. It makes me feel my age just a bit as I type this. On the one hand, it’s hard to remember the world of mobile devices and smartphones before it, because it is so much a part of everyday life today. On the other hand, I also remember the Summer of 2008 like it was yesterday.
I clearly recall the leadup to the launch of the iPhone 3G and what was then called iPhone OS 2.
When Apple announced the App Store as part of an iPhone OS 2 preview event in March of 2008, I decided to buy an iPhone and make the switch from Windows Mobile. I already had one foot out the door, carrying an iPod Touch with me everywhere I went, but this was the final straw. The last push. The App Store is what sold me on switching over to Apple full time. Considering the lack of an App Store and the fact that I was leaving a lot of mature and very useful apps behind, this was a big deal.
I didn’t have that original iPhone for too long before WWDC came around, with rumors of the imminent release of a new iPhone. I decided to prepare in advance so that I would be ready to preorder with a moment’s notice, and I jailbroke and sold my iPhone on eBay a couple of days before the Keynote. I downgraded to an old Nokia Symbian phone until I could go pre-order my new iPhone. Oops. The announcement was on June 9, but the iPhone 3G wouldn’t be released until July 11. That was a looooooong month.
I also remember the first day of the iPhone 3G and the App Store. It was a disaster. I was stuck teaching a training class for work until 4 PM, so I wasn’t sure if I would be able to get a phone on release day. When I got to my local Apple Store, I was greeted by a long line, very hot temperatures, and lots of frustration. Apple’s activation servers were crashing left and right, so only a handful of people had actually purchased and left with their iPhones all day. Many of the people inside the store had been there for several hours. I didn’t bother waiting around.
However, I was ready to go on day two. It was a Saturday, so I showed up early with coffee and a lawn chair and got the second spot in line. I didn’t buy the original iPhone at launch, so this was my first “Apple line,” and actually one of only two times that I have done the familiar line dance. It was actually fun. The people around me were very nice and we all talked for the three or four hours that we waited. The Apple Store staff brought us coffee and water. You know, all the usual stuff that we take for granted now. It still felt very new in 2009.
Thankfully, Apple’s server issues were resolved, the heat wasn’t bad early in the morning, and I was able to get in and out of there with my new toy fast. I had my laptop waiting in the car, so I was able to activate the iPhone while driving home, and I was off and running. And I haven’t looked back.
As much as I loved the original iPhone and its fresh, new touch-based interface, it was the App Store combined with the 3G’s faster mobile Internet speeds that unlocked the true potential of the smartphone for me. Bear in mind that I had owned smartphones dating back to Symbian and Windows Mobile devices in 2004 and 2005, and had been carrying a PDA since 1998. I was a grizzled veteran of mobile computing by 2009, but I could still see that this was big. This was something new and different. Apple took what made iTunes great for music, made it universal, and made it truly mobile. They directly connected us with developers in a way that had never been done before.
Many have tried, but no other company since has been able to catch lightning in a bottle the same way that Apple did with the App Store. Happy tenth, and here’s to many more birthdays to come.