The iPhone® name has been used for a number of products, but is best known as the smartphone line released in 2007 by Cupertino, California-based Apple Inc. Apple’s phone popularized the use of touchscreens as a primary interface for a mobile phone. Beyond the aspects standard in most smartphones such as Internet connectivity and messaging, the features of the iPhone® can be divided into three main groups: hardware, media, and applications.
The hardware on the iPhone® has been one of its biggest draws. Based around touchscreen technology, it does not have a keypad; instead, a virtual keyboard and keypad are displayed on the touchscreen when required. The removal of the physical keypad lets the screen be much larger than that of similar-sized mobile phones. An accelerometer allows the iPhone® to react and change its screen display depending on if it is being viewed horizontally or vertically. The phone also has an internal flash drive to store data. Other hardware features include a digital camera, ambient light sensor, proximity sensor, speaker, Wi-Fi™ connectivity, Bluetooth®, and, in later models, A-GPS.
Besides just being a mobile phone, the iPhone® is also a fully-functioning media player. Songs can be transferred to its internal memory from most home computers as well as the iTunes® store, allowing entire music collections to be portable. Photographs and documents can be viewed on the device’s large color screen, as can full-motion video.
Applications are technically how the iPhone® works as a media player and web browser; the term, however, is also a general one that describes the downloadable programs the phone can run. The applications are extremely varied. There are applications which allow it to act like an ocarina, show the phone’s location on a map via A-GPS, randomly choose local restaurants for the user, play games, or just display interesting images. Applications are developed both by Apple Inc. and third-parties.
The iPhone® is usually sold “locked," that is, only able to use the cellular phone service of a specified provider. Some countries do not allow locked cell phones to be sold, so unlocked versions are available legally in those areas. In addition, hackers have been able to unlock the iPhone® with limited success for use on unauthorized networks.
Apple Inc. was not the first company to release a product called an iPhone®. In 1998, InfoGear Technology Corporation sold an Internet appliance that combined telephone and Internet capabilities. Cisco also released a voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) with this name through its Linksys division in 2006.