The iPhone turned 15 yesterday.

How nuts is that?

I was 26 when the first iPhone hit the shelves and I wanted one, badly. Alas, it was way beyond my budget. This was, clearly, something for those with lots of disposable income.

Back then, smartphones were still very experimental. They were chunky, clunky, and suffered from dreadful battery life. Owning a ‘normal’ phone was therefore far more desirable, hence the continued success of devices like the Motorola Razr.

But the iPhone was so desirable – aspirational, even. Clearly, Apple had hit on something – they’d made a smartphone that looked like it had real potential.

My iPhone journey isn’t particularly unique, but it does reveal what this little device means to me.

My first iPhone

I told my Discord crew last night that my first iPhone was the 3G. It wasn’t – I’ve just realised that it was, in fact, the iPhone 3GS.

Prior to that, I had treated myself to an iPod touch, which was essentially an iPhone without the phone bit included. It was my gateway to actually being an iPhone owner. But it still wasn’t an iPhone, and finally getting my hands on the latter was quite an experience.

I vividly remember sitting in a pub somewhere with the iPhone 3GS nestled in my pocket. I’ve actually got an iPhone, I thought. That thing in my pocket isn’t an iPod touch – I can actually use it to text and ring people. It’s an iPhone.

I have very little memory of actually using the iPhone 3GS (this is no slight on the device itself – my memory is just dreadful), but I do remember thinking that I’d never need to own any other kind of phone ever again.

That’s what the iPhone did when you first got your hands on it back then. Suddenly, everything made sense. The absence of a physical keyboard and the presence of an operating system that was a joy to use removed all of the frustrations I’d felt with my previous smartphones. There was no barrier to entry, everything ‘just worked’, and it was a pretty little thing, to boot.

A brief departure

Fast-forward four years and my love for the iPhone had clearly waned a little.

In 2014, I bought myself a Moto G. I can’t remember my exact reasoning behind the purchase, but, clearly, I wanted to try something different.

I genuinely enjoyed my first flirtation with Android. The device itself was fantastically affordable, speedy, and not a bad looker, either. It was the first example of a budget smartphone that wasn’t a pile of trash, and I wanted to give it a shot.

I’ve always enjoyed experimenting when it comes to tech; I’m fascinated by what takes place across the fence. I want – and need – to broaden my horizons, both for the benefit of my audience, but also for my ability to cast judgement on these devices. It’s why I traded my Apple Watch for a ’normal’ watch for a month, and why I still have a Google Pixel 4a never far from reach.

But my brief flirtation with the Moto G didn’t last very long. Later that year, I was in London on business and decided to nip into the Apple Store on Regent Street to kill a bit of time.

While there, I picked up an iPhone 6 Plus. And, immediately, I wanted one.

I have no idea how Apple does this so consistently, but they reigned me back in, immediately. That huge screen (which, ironically, is about the same size as the iPhone 13 mini’s screen), buttery smooth OS, and cold-to-the-touch aluminium forced me back into their world.

A month or so later, the Moto G was placed into early retirement, making way for my brand-new iPhone 6 Plus.

I was back in the game.

Finding love again

After getting my hands on the iPhone 12 Pro in 2020, I suggested that we’d hit “peak smartphone”. As lovely as that thing was, it bored me to tears.

I’d become rather fed up with endless camera upgrades and the lack of any real innovation in iOS. More importantly, I was becoming increasingly interested in the flipping and folding competition, which appeared to be far more adventurous than Apple’s slab of rectangular aluminium.

Then, in 2021, I got my hands on the iPhone 13 mini, and everything changed. Again.

The iPhone 13 mini is still a rectangular smartphone. It doesn’t bend, fold, swivel, or do anything particularly interesting. And it’s still powered by iOS which, for all the smart changes Apple has made to its capabilities and performance, remains the most primitive smartphone operating system, visually.

But there’s something about the iPhone 13 mini. The one-handed operation, amazing camera (ok, Tim – you’ve got me on that one, finally), and sheer portability make it a delight to own and use.

I still have my eye firmly on the competition, but the iPhone 13 mini has reignited my love for a device that has genuinely changed my life.

What does it mean to you?

Tech can change your life. The iPhone proved this from the day it was launched. It was aspirational, magnetic, and put the user first.

There are some downsides, of course. Head out into the world and, no matter where you are, most people within your immediate vicinity will be glued to their smartphone. The iPhone caused this; it made these tiny pocket computers so easy to use and addictive, that we can’t help but pick them up as soon as a spare second or two presents itself.

That’s troublesome; we should be more present. I’m guilty of picking up my phone more than I should. But I’m also acutely aware that the iPhone ushered in an era of devices that make our lives easier, safer, and more productive. It really is a balancing act.

No matter how many times I’ve strayed into ‘the dark side’, Apple somehow always brings me back to their most successful product ever. They know exactly what they’re doing.

What about you? What was your first iPhone, and what does Apple’s smartphone mean to you today?