Apple's iPhone has been around in one form or another since 2007. A lot's changed since then, but how well do you know your iPhone history?
Apple’s iPhone changed everything. No matter where your mobile allegiances lie, this much is undeniably true. It may be difficult to remember now, but before the original iPhone landed the mobile market looked so vastly different that simple things like ‘swipe to unlock’, ‘pinch to zoom’ and ‘auto-rotate screen’ were brand new – and thoroughly mind blowing.
iPhone kick-started a hardware and software design revolution, then – one from which we’ve been gifted a sea of devices that do more, work smoothly and actually look pretty, rather than utilitarian. And at every step of the Apple iPhone’s evolution, there’ve been refinements of this formula.
With iPhone XS, XS Max and iPhone XR now a reality, we thought there’d be no better time to take a retrospective look at every major era of iPhone since 2007, and to highlight just how far we’ve come…
1. Apple iPhone | 2007
Got 45 minutes to spare? It’s well worth watching the original iPhone announcement keynote to see an in-his-prime Steve Jobs, and to remind yourself just how many of the core principles of a touchscreen smartphone Apple got right on its first try. Some of the things that we now think are the most basic functions and interface ideas were outright revolutionary at the time, with some rivals on record as saying they didn’t believe it would be possible for Apple to actually bring such a ‘magical’ product to the market.
And what’s more, a lot of the original iPhone’s software design choices are still mainstays of iPhone – the columns of uniform app icons, the ever present dock and much of iOS’s general navigation haven’t changed a bit, which suggests that Apple still believes that it had struck gold from the off.
But there was room for improvement. Looking back there were a few areas in which the original iPhone could improve. First up: the headphone jack, which was recessed in such a way that it only accepted Apple’s own white earbuds. Then there was the inbuilt connectivity, which only supported 2G networks rather than the speed offered by the then-burgeoning 3G revolution. That meant that its best feature – the ability to properly surf the web – was at the mercy of slower mobile data speeds. Oh, and there were no third party apps and no App Store at launch, which is kind of a big deal by today’s standards…
2. iPhone 3G / iPhone 3GS | 2008/2009
iPhone 3G is arguably where Apple’s handset really got into its stride. With 3G on board, owners could get online and stream content as nature intended: without delay. What’s more, Apple chose iPhone 3G as its launch vehicle for the App Store, opening up the phone to third party developers, and allowing them to inject it with everything from social networking apps to games and more.
Again, it’s easy to underestimate the importance of this, but the App Store’s influence in the world of mobile is massive. Prior to its arrival, phones at large were only able to perform whichever tasks they came pre-programmed with (aside from the odd simple Java game which could be downloaded by texting a code).
The App Store changed that by allowing the phone you bought and the phone you ended up with to become two wildly different things. It paved the way for blockbuster mobile games like Angry Birds, for mobile-only social networks like Snapchat, and for a whole new level of productivity with mobile versions of established software like Word, Photoshop and WordPress.
With iPhone 3GS in 2009 (Apple’s Phil Schiller has said that the ‘S’ originally stood for ‘Speed’), Apple took this winning DNA and supercharged it, adding a more powerful processor, a better 3-Megapixel camera, and basic voice control for calling contacts and playing songs.
3. iPhone 4 / 4S | 2010/2011
A lot of people’s first memory of iPhone 4 was seeing its metallic, monolithic design leaked online ahead of launch when a prototype was left in a San Francisco bar. But however you first saw it, know this: many consider the Apple iPhone 4 to be a design classic. It’s sleek aluminium and glass curves and edges were the height of smartphone class when it launched in 2010, with Apple design guru Jony Ive borrowing the ‘less, but better’ aesthetic ethos pioneered by his design hero Dieter Rahms.
Specs-wise, iPhone 4 was the first iPhone to introduce the Retina Display with a resolution of 326 pixels per inch, putting previous iPhone displays – and many of its rivals – to shame.
A year later in 2011 the iPhone 4S debuted, once again upping the internal specs (including the bespoke Apple A5 chipset and an 8-Megapixel camera), and bringing a big new addition to iOS’s main feature set: Siri. Out of the box, Siri could help you dictate messages and notes, tell you the weather, answer general knowledge questions, organise your calendar and even tell the odd joke, and (s)he (depending on your settings) has only gotten smarter over time…
4. iPhone 5 / 5S / 5C | 2012/2013
My how you’ve grown. In September 2012 iPhone 5 landed on store shelves and in our pockets, marking the first time in the range’s lifespan that the screen had changed shape and size. With Android phones getting bigger and bigger – and more popular as a result – Apple’s answer to the trend was to grow the iPhone’s screen vertically, taking it from a dinky 3.5-inch display to a 4-inch one, but without expanding the width.
As with all previous incarnations, this model also outstripped its predecessors for speed and power, but it was also a lot lighter (despite its extra screen estate), and it was the first iPhone to ditch the 30-Pin connecter used since the original iPod days, favouring instead the now-standard and completely reversible Lightning connector – a boon for people who always seem to put the connector in the wrong way round.
The following year, Apple released not one, but two new iPhones. iPhone 5S was the flagship, introducing the even faster Apple A7 chipset and Touch ID, which placed a fingerprint scanner underneath the home button to let you log in and pay for apps and other products securely. iPhone 5c, meanwhile, took the specs and innards of 2012’s iPhone 5 and put them inside a selection of bright, polycarbonate plastic cases, as a way of being able to provide top notch specs at a lower price.
Both of these handsets also brought access to 4G to Vodafone UK’s iPhone lineup for the first time, which was great timing as our 4G network launched in August 2013 – a month before they hit store shelves. That meant that iPhone owners could browse, stream and download even faster than before.
5. iPhone 6 and 6 Plus | 2014
Last year Apple proved that iPhone wasn’t done growing just yet. In September it unveiled two brand new models – both jostling for equal footing on the flagship shelf. iPhone 6 redesigned the wheel with a curved chassis and a larger 4.7-inch Retina Display, while iPhone 6 Plus took things even further, proffering a huge 5.5-inch screen.
Aside from the obvious growth spurt, both new iPhones came out of the gates sporting new processors and improved cameras, while iPhone 6 Plus benefited from optical image stabilisation, allowing budding movie-makers to capture steadicam-style video. iPhone 6, meanwhile, holds the record for the thinnest iPhone Apple’s ever made, at just 6.9 millimetres.
Both phones also benefited from NFC, paving the way for the new Apple Pay contactless payment service, and all that combined has proved to be a winning mix: pre-orders for both handsets exceeded a whopping 4 million in under one day, breaking all of Apple’s previous records.
6. iPhone 6s, 6s Plus, and iPhone SE | 2015/2016
2015’s ‘S’ refresh imbued the iPhone lineup with a few new features and a much more powerful chipset than anything we’ve seen before. Its Apple A9 chipset is supposedly 70% faster than its predecessor, with up to 90% better graphical performance, while Apple upped the RAM to a hearty 2GB.
Aside from the specs bump, the iPhone 6s range was the first to come in rose gold, but its standout feature was 3D Touch. Using an amazingly smart touch-sensitive display, the 6s and 6s Plus can ‘feel’ how hard you’re pressing and proffer different options based on how much you push. A great example is in the Instagram app, where ‘3D Touching’ a photo from a stack will pop it out into view temporarily – from there you can either let go, or push even harder to load it fully. Another top use for this tech is that you can push down hard on the keyboard to use the whole thing as a trackpad, helping you go back to fix typos.
Is that everything? Nope, not quite. The iPhone 6s and 6s Plus may have been state of the art updates, but in early 2016 Apple proved it wasn’t quite finished surprising us – in March we were treated to yet another addition to the family, in the form of the dinky little iPhone SE. The SE took the 4-inch body of the much-loved iPhone 5/5s and stuffs it full of almost identical tech to what you’ll find in its larger flagships, making it perfect choice for lovers of smaller handsets who don’t want to compromise on speed. Now that’s what we call a powerful family.
7. iPhone 7 and 7 Plus | 2016/2017
Announced in September last year, the iPhone 7 range sports a couple of real stunners, with a host of upgrades to their name. First up, these iPhones sported brand new designs, with refined antenna lines, machined camera housings, and new aluminium finishes in duo of new colours: black and jet black. The infamous iPhone home button, meanwhile, was given the Force Touch treatment, meaning it doesn’t actually click, but vibrates in such a way as to trick your brain into thinking it has.
The iPhone 7 and 7 Plus kept the screen dimensions from prior models, but were 25% brighter with a wider, cinema standard colour gamut, while both iPhone 7 models (as was rumoured prior to launch) ditched the headphone jack. That means the Apple ‘Earpods’ headphones that come in the box connect via the iPhone’s Lightning port. Got a pair of 3.5mm headphones you love already? There’s an adapter in the box, too. Oh, and the iPhone 7 range boasts dual front facing stereo speakers for the first time.
But it’s what inside that counts, right? Luckily, iPhone 7 and 7 Plus have processing brunt in spades. They’re each powered by Apple’s A10 Fusion chip, which is a 64-bit quad-core chipset that’s 40% faster than what’s found in the 6s range, and 240 times faster than the original iPhone.
The cameras received a big upgrade, too. The iPhone 7 sports a sensor which lets in up to 50% more light than before, is 60% quicker, and which uses machine learning to balance colours and light. The iPhone 7 Plus, on the other hand, boasted a dual-camera setup for the first time, with two rear cams that shoot together to bring more details to your shots, while also offering both optical zoom and bokeh-like effects. Both phones sport new 7-Megapixel selfie cams, too.
And to cap it off, both phones were dust and water-resistant, meaning you no longer needed to worry about rain or accidental drops in the kitchen sink – iPhone 7 can survive being under a metre of water for 30 minutes. All in all, 2016’s iPhone 7 range was a huge update to the iPhone family.
8. iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus and iPhone X | 2017/2018
In 2017 – to mark ten years since the very first model – Apple imbued us with not two, but three shiny new iPhones.
Continuing the tradition of offering two display size options, the two iPhone 8 models came in 4.7 and 5.5-inch sizes, with that well-honed design seen in previous iterations now just about perfected.
So what was new? Well, both 8 models benefitted from the power of Apple’s A11 Bionic processor, a lightning fast 64-bit chipset made for powering through anything you throw at it – including augmented reality games and apps built on Apple’s ARKit framework.
Both phones came with either 64GB or 256GB of storage, featured even louder front-facing stereo speakers, and – for the first time – had wireless charging capabilities. Both models also featured improved 12-Megapixel camera sensors, with the iPhone 8 Plus once again boasting a dual camera setup. All in all? The 8 is the perfect evolution of the classic iPhone lineup.
…And then there’s the Apple iPhone X. Designed to showcase the very bleeding edge of tech coming out of Apple’s Cupertino R&D teams, and to mark 10 years since the original iPhone, the X is still an absolute corker of a phone.
The first thing you’ll notice is the lack of bezels. Apple took a sledgehammer to the top and bottom of the display to provide a near edge-to-edge experience all the way round (save for a tiny lip housing the front-facing camera and sensors). This also made it the first ever iPhone without a home button on the front of the device.
To work around this, iPhone X adapted iOS 11’s interface to make exiting apps (and multitasking) as simple as swiping up from the bottom of the screen. TouchID, meanwhile, was replaced on iPhone X with the all new Face ID. Face ID uses the front-facing camera to take a three-dimensional scan of your smiling visage, for use when unlocking your phone and filling in passwords. It’s lightning fast and super reliable.
The screen itself is a 5.8-inch OLED Super Retina Display, which melts into every corner of the phone, offering amazing contrast and deep blacks.
As with the other two iPhone 8 models, iPhone X boasts wireless charging, 64 or 256GB of storage, the A11 Bionic processor, and the same new dual camera setup found in the 8 Plus. It also offers a battery that, according to Apple, will last two hours longer than the one found in the iPhone 7.
All three iPhones landed with iOS 11 out of the box, which brought a raft of new features and improvements across the board.
9. iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, and iPhone XR
2018’s iPhones mark a firm move into the new design language first seen on the iPhone X, removing the home button and top and bottom bezels for good. To that end, we were treated to three new iPhones, all sporting edge-to-edge displays: iPhone XS, XS Max and XR.
iPhone XS and XS Max are ostensibly the same device apart from one big, obvious difference: screen size. iPhone XS boasts a 5.8-inch Super Retina display, while XS Max sports an incredible 6.5-incher – the biggest screen on an iPhone ever.
Choosing either, however, will land you with some properly high-tech specs. Both devices are powered by the new A12 Bionic processor, which is a seriously powerful piece of Apple-designed hardware that uses a machine learning ‘neural network’ to speed up just about everything you task the phone with, from photography to gaming.
Elsewhere there are new tricks like Dolby tuned stereo speakers, enhanced dual cameras and extra photo-snapping tricks, like the ability to alter the depth of field – increasing or decreasing background blur – after you’ve taken each shot.
As with the iPhone X, there’s still water and dust-resistance, wireless charging, and FaceID, with a battery life that’ll go even longer, and storage all the way up to 512GB.
And then there’s iPhone XR, the third part of Apple’s 2018 handset lineup. It takes its design cues from iPhone XS and XS Max, but wraps things up with a few subtle tweaks that allow for a lower price tag.
Instead of the Super Retina OLED displays found on its flagship brethren, iPhone XR features a 6.1-inch ‘Liquid Retina’ LCD panel that’s still incredibly detailed and sharp. Round the back, meanwhile, the XS’ dual camera setup is swapped out for a single 12-Megapixel snapper – albeit one that’ll take amazing photos.
You needn’t worry about the XR’s processing chops, either; it has the same A12 Bionic chipset as the XS range, meaning it’ll play the latest games, run the greatest apps, and keep up with even the busiest of workloads.
Overall? Another year, another stellar lineup of iPhones!
Grab yours here! Head over to Vodafone.co.uk to register your interest in iPhone XS.