his year marks the tenth anniversary of the iPhone
and along with it the genesis of iPhone Life maga-
zine. As the founder of the magazine, I figured what
better time to reflect on the story of iPhone Life’s beginnings
and the product that started it all.
In the months after Steve Jobs released the original iPhone
in January of 2007, it looked like Apple’s new smash success
would doom our company for good. It was fall, 2008 at the
time. Revenue had all but stopped from our magazine that
was focused on Microsoft-based Pocket PCs and smartphones. The economy was imploding and the iPhone had
taken over the smartphone market. Nobody was buying our
Rewind a year and a half, and the email-based Blackberry, the
easy-to-use Palm Treo, and the full-featured Microsoft-based
smartphone were battling for leadership in a market not living
up to its potential. Some analysts concluded that smartphones
were destined to be a niche product. But at Apple’s 2007
Macworld keynote, late Apple CEO Steve Jobs shared a new
Today, we’re introducing three revolutionary
products…a widescreen iPod with touch controls; a
revolutionary mobile phone; and a breakthrough
internet communications device. An iPod, a phone, and
an internet communicator. An iPod, a phone … are you
getting it? These are not three separate devices, this is
one device, and we are calling it iPhone.
Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer laughed when asked
about the new iPhone. Competing companies like Palm and
Blackberry weren’t worried either. After all, the iPhone used
only one network—the unpopular and unreliable AT&T. It offered no third-party apps, no styluses, no swappable batteries,
no extra buttons, and no expandable storage. Microsoft-based
smartphones could do everything the iPhone could and more.
So, why did the iPhone win?
Apple had taken the best from competitors such as Palm,
Blackberry, and Microsoft and then perfected the apps that
appealed to most users: Phone, Safari, and Music. Best of all,
the apps were easy to use. And Jobs created such excitement
about the iPhone that it took on a life of its own.
The End of an Era
With no one buying Microsoft-based devices, it looked like
we would have to shut down our company. I cut the magazine
staff down to one editor, one ad salesperson, and myself. I
told my remaining two employees, who together had worked
for me for over thirty years, that I had no money to pay them.
But I promised that if we could successfully produce and sell
iPhone Life, I would make it right.
We made a bold decision: Rather than publishing the next
issue of Smartphone & Pocket PC, we created and mailed the
first issue of iPhone Life. Newsstand sell-through jumped by
over 20 percent. Only 15 percent of our subscribers cancelled,
and the renewal rate stayed the same.
In 2011, I semi-retired. Today, the iPhone Life team has
successfully transitioned to being a digital-first company.
Our premium subscription, iPhone Life Insider, includes daily
one-minute video tips, video tutorials, digital access to iPhone
Life archives, and direct support from an editor. The tactile,
immersive print version of iPhone Life offers respite from the
digital world and from reading on a screen. We love what we
do, and with this issue, we celebrate our ninth year in print.
The Unexpected Story of iPhone Life
Illustration by Mikaila Maidment, mikailamaidment.com
Hal, along with his wife Rita, founded iPhone Life’s original publishing company, Thaddeus Computing, in 1985. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out Hal’s
new book at meditatingentrepreneur.com.