Revisiting the “Original” iPhone X

    Something wonderful happened when I tried to provide fellow StrataGear writer Or Grunebaum with an unlocked phone to use while travelling. I opened my drawer of wires, charging bricks, socket adapters and old tech, rummaged through only to be greeted by the goofy silhouette of a BlackBerry Q10. Many of our more youthful readers might not know what a BlackBerry is, but back in the late aughts, BlackBerry was the dominant force of the smartphone world. It was a pioneer of smartphone technology that lost its way after failing to innovate and keep pace with its Android and Apple-created rivals. BlackBerry all but disappeared from carrier shelves, and the Q10 was the first in a line of phones that were intended to be the company’s rebirth. While that rebirth hasn’t happened, and BlackBerry was left to switch its focus to software, offering its expertise in security and business to the open Android platform, the Q10 introduced gesture controls to touchscreen smartphones. This is not insignificant. The iPhone X, Apple’s most innovative and expensive smartphone make use of awfully similar gesture controls, which makes the Q10 its direct spiritual predecessor. That, and being the nostalgic tech-nerd that I am, left me with no choice but to spend a few days playing around with the Q10.

    There is a widespread belief in the smartphone world that Apple does not innovate so much as integrate and provide the proper way to utilize certain smartphone features. This can be seen in Apple lagging behind its competitors in introducing customizable home-screen wallpapers, copy-and-paste, and more recently, fast charging and wireless charging. Indeed, it is a curious paradox that the company most associated with thinking differently and innovating spends most of its time inserting features its competitors have long incorporated. Such an adaptation included abandoning a dedicated home button, opting instead for a full-body display. While Android devices have often made due with virtual buttons that pop up from the bottom of the display on contact, Apple chose to utilize gestures as the primary way to interact with the iPhone X.

    I will admit, when I first picked up and played with an iPhone X, I didn’t even remember the Q10 that faithfully spent 8 months as my daily driver back in 2015. But here I am, half a year later, with a five year old Q10 in hand, performing the same swipe from the bottom to show my running apps, swiping from the top to open up a notification shade and control panel, holding apps to make them dance and have the option to delete them appear on the device.

    What’s the implication? That Apple stole these gestures? No. They’re incredibly intuitive and actually fun to play around with. The real implication is that the Q10 suffered from BlackBerry’s horrible reputation at the time of its release. It’s actually a great smartphone, suffering from a lack of optimized applications and a decomposing software platform. Imagine if BlackBerry had embraced Android fully instead of merely dipping their foot in the water. Imagine if the BlackBerry Keyone and Priv used these same gestures whilst armed with all of the applications and features of full Android. It’s a classical what-could-have-been. For the rest of us, there’s an iPhone X. Until Android P, at least. Thank you, BlackBerry. Even in your death you helped breathe life into the most innovative Apple product in years. Your sacrifice was not in vain.

    Dennis Khaiter
    Dennis Khaiter
    I write about tech, psychology, Formula 1 -- basically, anything.

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