Steve Jobs made history in 2007 when he unveiled Apple’s first iPhone to the world. Not only did it have the best features that hardware could possibly have, but the iPhone completely redefined what a mobile phone could be. Prior to its introduction, the market was led by the Nokia 1200, a basic phone with a physical keyboard and a 1.5-inch display capable of taking and receiving calls. There was also the Motorola Q, which was a slim, stylish smartphone with a physical QWERTY keyboard. Nobody could have predicted the original iPhone’s impact on propelling the industry forward.
Since then, the device has evolved into a Pro machine with cutting-edge features and technology — a far cry from what was initially available. We take a look back at how the iPhone has evolved since 2007, highlighting the biggest successes — and the odd feature — along the way.
The orignal iPhone
The original iPhone represented a significant advancement in the smartphone industry. It was introduced as a hybrid of three products: an iPod (Apple’s media player), a phone, and an internet-ready device. The iPhone had a 3.5-inch multi-touch display with a pixel density of 320 x 480. It was a full-touch device with a home button beneath the screen to return to the home screen and an on/off switch on the phone’s side. The phone was slim and had a dual-tone black and gray color scheme.
According to the company, it was capable of running 2G networks and Wi-Fi for seamless internet connectivity, based on the brand’s own user interface, iOS. The iPhone had a full-fledged in-display QWERTY keyboard with predictive texting for SMS and general typing, which was ahead of its time. Shooting videos and taking photos on the iPhone became popular due to its two-megapixel rear camera and integrated photo management system. Apple stated that these files could be easily synced with a Mac or a PC.
In addition to pre-installed iOS apps like the weather app and Apple’s own internet browser, Safari, the iPhone included third-party apps like YouTube and Google Maps. Apps that were not on the device’s pre-installed list, however, could not be installed. The first-generation iPhone had two storage options: a 4GB variant for $499 and an 8GB variant for $599. (via Apple).
Apple released the iPhone 3G just one year after the iconic iPhone was released. It was a refined version of the original iPhone that was designed to feel much better in users’ hands. Although the body was the same size as the first generation, the sides were more tapered, making the iPhone 3G slimmer than its predecessor. The phone’s back was finished in black plastic, and the 3.5-inch display was made of glass (via Apple).
The iPhone 3G supported faster 3G connectivity (hence the name), allowing users to load web pages more quickly in Safari. It also supported GPS tracking for the first time, which could be easily synced with Google Maps. According to the company’s release, the most significant feature of the iPhone 3G was the fact that it now supported third-party applications. This was the first iPhone to include the App Store, a collection of apps in categories such as gaming, health, travel, news, and more. The iPhone 3G had an upgraded storage variant of 16GB for $299, or 8GB for $199 — half the price of the original iPhone.
Soon after, the iPhone 3GS was released, with the “S” representing “speed.” The iPhone 3GS was an improved version of the iPhone 3G with improved specifications. According to Apple, it ran iOS 3.0, had double the RAM, and a significantly improved battery life with up to seven hours of media playback.
The iPhone 4 was released in 2010 with a completely new design. The new design featured a stainless steel frame and an aluminosilicate glass screen (via GSM Arena). It was flat on the back and sides, and it was one of the thinnest phones on the market at the time. The iPhone 4 felt quite elegant in the hand, and while it was initially only available in black, a shade of white was later added to the production.
Aside from the design changes, the phone also had a new display. The iPhone 4 featured Apple’s 960 x 640 pixel Retina display, which was by far the most advanced display Apple had ever included in an iPhone (via Apple). Everything on the screen appeared to be extremely sharp and crisp. Along with the display, Apple debuted a front-facing selfie camera, which enabled video calling for the first time on an iPhone. The rear camera has been upgraded to 5 megapixels (mp) with autofocus and 4 zoom.
According to Apple’s release notes, the iPhone 4 featured Apple’s A4 silicon chip, which made the phone incredibly fast compared to its predecessors. Along with 500MB of RAM, multitasking was added, allowing you to switch between apps without closing the first. The iPhone 4 was released with Apple’s most recent user interface, iOS 4, and a new storage variant of 32GB. The cost was $299.
The iPhone 4S was a minor “S” upgrade over the original iPhone 4. In terms of design, the iPhone 4S was identical to the previous generation iPhone 4 and maintained the glass-build and metal frame design. On the inside, however, significant changes were made. This was the first iPhone to include Apple’s own voice assistant system, Siri, which went on to become a key feature in all subsequent iPhones.
The iPhone 4S was built on Apple’s new and improved dual-core A5 silicon, which increased speed and performance. Other notable enhancements included a new 8MP rear camera system for more detailed photos and videos, as well as iCloud, Apple’s cloud storage system for data backup. According to the company’s release, it also had two antenna bands on the sides of the body that improved the calling networks.
Unfortunately, it was the final phone introduced by Apple co-founder and CEO Steve Jobs, the man behind the iPhones (via The New York Times). He died on October 5, 2011, the day after the iPhone 4S was released. Tim Cook, then the company’s Chief of Logistics, took over as CEO and continues to do so to this day (via Apple).
iPhone 5 Series
Apple maintained the same 3.5-inch display size until the iPhone 4S. When Android competitors released phones with larger displays, Apple was forced to change the size of the iPhone’s display to compete (via inews). This occurred with the release of the iPhone 5 series, which included three distinct models: the iPhone 5, the iPhone 5S, and the iPhone 5C.
Although larger, the iPhone 5 series’ screen was not significantly different: the screen size increased from 3.5 inches to 4 inches, with an aspect ratio of 16:9. According to Apple, the iPhone 5 ran iOS 6, which, when combined with Apple’s A6 silicon and 1GB RAM, provided improved performance and faster multitasking. Another significant update was the replacement of the pin connector with the lightning connector, which is still used in every iPhone model to this day.
The iPhone 5S was released as an upgrade to the iPhone 5, this time with an upgraded A7 Apple chip, a new 8MP iSight camera setup with TrueTone flash, and, most importantly, Touch ID. The traditional home button had been replaced by the most advanced biometric-ID system in its class. It also included the most recent iOS 7, which included features such as AirDrop, the control center, and the notification center. According to Apple, the iPhone 5C was eventually introduced, which was essentially an iPhone 5 but was available in five different color finishes.
iPhone 6 and 6 Plus
In September of 2014, Apple released the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, which were by far the most significant design breakthroughs since the original iPhone. The body was completely redesigned, with curved sides all the way around (via Apple). The phones were made entirely of aluminum and were significantly thinner than previous models. The iPhone 6 had a 4.7-inch LCD Retina display with a screen resolution of 1334 x 750 pixels and a 38% larger viewing area than the iPhone 5. The 6 Plus, on the other hand, featured a 5.5-inch LCD retina display with a screen resolution of 1920 1080 pixels and 88 percent more viewing area than previous iPhones.
On the inside, both phones were nearly identical. They were equipped with the company’s latest A8 silicon chip and 1GB of RAM. The latest iOS 8 made the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus much more user-friendly and intuitive to use. New features such as the Health App, Family Sharing, and Apple Pay — at the time, a sophisticated system for payments of physical goods as well as in-phone purchases — were introduced.
According to TechCrunch, the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus were an instant success around the world, with over 10 million units sold on the first weekend.
iPhone 6S and 6S Plus
Following the huge success of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, Apple released the “S” model upgrade in 2015. In terms of looks and design, the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus were identical to the previous year’s iPhones, but with improved build quality and better internal specs. The new models’ bodies were now made of reinforced 7000-series aluminum, similar to that used in the aerospace industry. Apple claimed to have used the toughest glass available on the market for the LCD Retina display to make it more durable (via CNET).
According to Tom’s Hardware, both new models are based on the A9 chip, Apple’s most advanced silicon with 64-bit processing that improves CPU and GPU performance. With the release of iOS 9, Apple introduced a game-changing feature: 3D Touch. It was a force-sensitive mechanism that allowed users to do things simply by pressing down on something. For example, by pressing the URL repeatedly, users can see a preview of a web page without having to open it. According to Apple, apps that supported 3D Touch provided a number of quick menus when force-touched on the icons.
Concerning the camera system, the rear end featured a 12MP camera capable of recording 4K videos. The front-facing camera was a 5MP unit with improved low-light photography for higher-quality video calls and selfies. Other features included rear optical image stabilization and the TrueTone flash system (via Apple).
While the world of smartphones became obsessed with large displays and large form factors, there were still those who admired the efficiency of a small and portable phone. Apple released the iPhone SE, a special edition mid-cycle in the iPhone lineup with the latest internals packed in a compact form factor, to target these people (via Apple).
In terms of design and body, the iPhone SE is nearly identical to the iPhone 5, with the same physical dimensions, though it was released in four different color finishes — Space Gray, Silver, Gold, and Rose Gold. In terms of internal hardware, the phone was outfitted with Apple’s most recent 64-bit A9 chip and was initially available in two storage variants — 16GB and 64GB. In 2017, 32GB and 128GB variants were added. The camera setup is identical to that of the 6S and 6S Plus, with a 12MP rear camera capable of 4K (2160p) video recording. It does not, however, have optical image stabilization.
The iPhone SE came with the brand’s most recent iOS 9.3 and included all of the exclusive features from the iPhone 6 Series, such as Siri, Apple Pay, and Live Photos, though 3D Touch was missing. The iPhone SE is essentially a 5-series era phone that packed all of the updated features of the lineup’s latest flagships, and it was well-received by people who wanted the latest Apple perks but preferred a compact design, according to Apple.
iPhone 7 and 7 Plus
The iPhone 7 series, which debuted in 2016, represented a significant upgrade to Apple’s lineup since the release of the iPhone 6. (via Apple). The 7 and 7 Plus introduced a slew of “firsts,” including the first dual-camera setup on the latter model. In terms of shape and size, both models were similar to the 6 and 6 Plus, though there were noticeable differences in the design. They had a larger camera bump, especially on the Plus model, and the 3.5mm headphone jack was gone (thank you, AirPods), replaced instead by a secondary speaker grille. The iPhone 7 and 7 Plus were released in six distinct colors: black, jet black, gold, rose gold, silver, and red.
The camera system received the most significant upgrade on the inside, according to Apple. Both models included a 12MP primary lens with a wider aperture of f/1.8 and a True Tone quad-LED flash. The plus model added a 12MP telephoto lens with an aperture of f/2.8 and 2 optical zoom, but no optical image stabilization. The front-facing cameras have been upgraded to 7MP and can shoot in 1080p.
Along with iOS 10, these models were now based on the most recent A10 Fusion chip, and while the iPhone 7 had 2GB of unified memory, the iPhone 7 Plus had 3GB RAM. Furthermore, these models were the first IP67 Water and Dust certified water-resistant iPhones (via Apple).
iPhone 8 and 8 Plus
According to Apple, the camera system received the most significant internal upgrade. Both models came with a 12MP primary lens with an f/1.8 aperture and a True Tone quad-LED flash. The plus model added a 12MP telephoto lens with an f/2.8 aperture and 2 optical zoom, but no optical image stabilization. The front-facing cameras have been upgraded to 7MP and support 1080p video recording.
These models, along with iOS 10, were now based on the most recent A10 Fusion chip, and while the iPhone 7 had 2GB of unified memory, the iPhone 7 Plus had 3GB RAM. These models were also the first IP67 Water and Dust certified water-resistant iPhones (via Apple).
While the high-resolution display on the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus was retained, Apple added a new TrueTone technology that, when activated, automatically adjusted the white balance of the display in accordance with the ambient light around the phone to achieve a more natural viewing experience. The 8 series’ camera system was more advanced than ever, with improved 12MP camera sensors and a new Apple-designed image signal processing unit that delivered more accurate colors and brighter photos even in low-light conditions. The primary camera could record 4K video at 60 frames per second, as well as Slo-Mo videos at 1080p and 24 frames per second, making it the highest-quality shooting ever offered by an iPhone.
Each camera on both models was custom-tuned for AR with the help of the new A11 Bionic chip. Developers can now use the new AR platform to create AR-based software and games for a more interactive experience. According to Apple, these were also the first iPhone models to support wireless charging.
To commemorate the iPhone’s tenth anniversary, Apple released the iPhone X, an iconic model that completely altered the future of iPhones. The phone was a major breakthrough in terms of appearance and features, launching a new design language in the world of iPhones (via Apple).
Apple stated that the iPhone X was made of glass and surgical-grade stainless steel, giving it an industrial appearance. The typical front bezels (including the home button) were almost gone, leaving a 5.8-inch bezel-less display with a 60hz OLED panel and a prominent notch at the top. Although critics were divided about the notch, it did include the all-new face-recognition system (Face-ID), ambient light sensors, and the earpiece.
The iPhone X came with the latest iOS 11, which was redesigned to complement new features like Face ID and the phone’s larger display. The removal of the home button resulted in the introduction of new swipe gestures for navigating the screen. This was also the first non-plus model to include a dual-camera setup on the back, with the primary and wide-angle lenses both rated at 12MP. The front-facing camera was the same 7MP camera from previous models, which improved the Face ID system. The iPhone X was powered by the A11 Bionic chip and had 3GB of RAM. This release, available in 64 and 256 GB variants, was priced at $999 — the highest iPhone price tag to date, according to Apple.
iPhone XS, XS Max and XR
Apple released the iPhone XS and XS Max in 2018, two new models that were significant upgrades over the previous year’s iPhone X. While both phones were top-tier flagship models with hefty price tags, Apple introduced a third model, the iPhone XR, to balance out the flagship models with a lower price but updated features (via Apple).
In terms of design, the iPhone XS and XS Max were identical to the iPhone X, with the latter model featuring a 6.5-inch Super Retina Display — the largest screen in iPhone history. Both models were now built with the latest A12 Bionic silicon and the next-generation Neural Engine, which provided blazing-fast Face-ID and an immersive stereo sound experience. Faster sensors were provided by improved camera systems, and Smart HDR technology provided crisp photos with high detailing. Portrait Mode has been significantly improved with a better bokeh effect and more depth of field thanks to advanced machine learning. According to Apple, the iPhone XS and XS Max were available in 64, 256, and 512 GB variants.
The iPhone XR included the majority of the flagship features at a low price. The phone had a 6.1-inch LCD display and slightly thicker bezels than its sister models. The phone had an aluminum frame rather than a stainless steel frame, and it was available in six different colors, including blue, yellow, and coral. The phone’s internal specifications were the same as the flagship models, though it only had a single 12MP camera setup, according to the company.
iPhone 11 Series
Apple launched the iPhone 11 series in 2019 with three models: iPhone 11, 11 Pro, and 11 Pro Max, continuing the trend of revealing multiple models. For the first time, Apple designated a model as “Pro,” indicating its most advanced features. Apple’s latest A13 Bionic chipset was used in all three models (via Apple).
The iPhone 11 was essentially the Xr’s successor, with a dual-camera setup. It had the same 6.1-inch LCD display, an aluminum frame, and was available in a variety of colorful finishes. The dual-camera system included a 12MP primary sensor with optical image stabilization as well as a 12MP ultra-wide sensor for the first time. According to Apple, the new iOS 13 introduced Night Mode, which significantly improved low-light photography.
The pro models, on the other hand, had a new frosted glass back with a stainless steel frame and, for the first time in iPhone history, a triple camera setup at the back. A 12MP telephoto lens joined the club, in addition to the ultra-wide and wide-angle lenses found in the non-pro model. Both models had a Super Retina XDR display, but they were different sizes. The 11 Pro had a 5.8-inch OLED display, while the Pro Max had a 6.5-inch display. The A13 Bionic chip, combined with the latest iOS 13, improved the phone’s performance and battery efficiency significantly. According to Apple, the Pro models were available in four different finishes, as well as a new ‘Midnight Green’ edition.
iPhone 12 Series
Along with the existing regular and pro models, Apple introduced the all-new mini model with a compact design with the iPhone 12 series. The iPhone 12 mini has a 5.4-inch Super Retina Display and an edge-to-edge design, delivering the signature iPhone user experience in a much more portable package. The regular iPhone 12 has the same display with a 6.1-inch screen as the previous generation’s non-pro model, but with a higher screen-to-body ratio. Both the iPhone 12 and 12 mini are made of aluminum and feature the industry-leading A14 Bionic chip from the time. The rear dual-camera setup has been improved for better image processing (via Apple).
The Pro variants-12 Pro and 12 Pro Max are made of premium materials such as glass and stainless steel, and the sides now have a flat-edge design. The existing triple camera setup included a new f/1.6 aperture wide-angle lens with improved low-light photography, as well as an improved ultra-wide lens with a 120-degree field of view for those breathtaking landscape shots. The telephoto camera had a 52 mm focal length lens with 4 optical zoom for portrait shots. In addition, a LiDAR scanner was installed in the rear camera bump, which improved the AR applications for a more immersive experience. Both Pro models had the same Super Retina XDR display with improved brightness that peaked at 1,200 nits.
iPhone 13 Series
The iPhone 13 Series is the most recent iPhone lineup, which debuted in September 2021. In terms of design, it is nearly identical to the previous generation’s models, with the exception of a new, smaller notch. The cameras on the non-professional models are now arranged diagonally. The latest industry-leading A15 Bionic chipset with impressive battery life is found in all four models. They have also significantly improved their camera systems, particularly in the Pro models (via Apple).
According to Apple, the iPhone 13 and 13 mini have the most advanced camera system in the non-pro family, with extensive image processing for sharper details. The all-new Cinematic mode provides an immersive shooting experience by adding more depth of field while recording videos by automatically shifting its focus across different subjects.
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For the first time, the Pro models include a ProMotion display that supports dynamic refresh rates ranging from 10 Hz to 120 Hz, depending on the content being played. The 13 Pro and 13 Pro Max’s camera systems, as well as the Cinematic Mode, are the most advanced on any iPhone. The sensor size has increased significantly, allowing more light to enter for ultra-bright shots. According to Apple, the A15 Bionic chip’s advanced machine learning provides multi-frame image processing with the most accurate colors, adding more life to the pictures.
All of this makes the iPhone 13 Series the most powerful lineup in Apple’s history, and the evolution from the original iPhone has been quite a journey.