A retrospective: here's how the Apple iPhone evolved over the past 8 years


On January 9, 2007, former Apple CEO Steve Jobs made a historical product announcement. The device he introduced to the world was a revolutionary new phone, a widescreen iPod with touch controls, and a powerful internet communicator. These were not separate devices, however; the first-gen iPhone was all that, all the while looking great in its metal-made outfit. And we're pretty sure you know what happened next. The iPhone didn't only become a smashing hit. It single-handedly defined what a modern smartphone should look and feel like. It is, without a doubt, today's most highly desired smartphone, and the announcement of each new model is an event anticipated by millions of fans. 

Speaking of iPhone announcements, the iPhone 6s and the iPhone 6s Plus are expected to be made official at the September 9 Apple event. The time seems ideal for a quick retrospective on the iPhone's evolution, so without further ado, let us embark on a journey through the history of Apple's iconic smartphone.

The iPhone that got it all started


In June 2007, Apple released its new phone exclusively on AT&T/Cingular and got the ground-breaking ball rolling. Unlike most other phones at that time, the first iPhone relied on a touchscreen interface. It had a large (for the time) 3.5-inch display, and the only button found on its front panel was the home key. And unlike most other smartphones at that time, the iPhone needed no stylus as its capacitive touchscreen and user interface were optimized for use with a finger. Apple's competitors were quick to dismiss the iPhone as a product with no potential due to its lack of a physical keyboard, but the market thought otherwise. The iPhone didn't only sell well. It paved the way for a revolution.



The iPhone 3G: now with App Store, push notifications, and GPS


The first iPhone did shake the smartphone market, but it did leave plenty of room for improvement. And improvements were what Apple delivered soon after the iPhone's debut. The iPhone 3G came out in 2008, bringing along a slight external redesign. It had a plastic back instead of a metal one to pick up radio signals better. But the really significant changes concerned the phone's internal hardware and software. As its name implied, the iPhone 3G offered 3G data connectivity for much faster mobile data rates (its predecessor was limited to EDGE connectivity only). A GPS radio was also added. And on the software side of things, Apple introduced the App Store, where users could download third-party applications from. In addition, push notifications and Exchange support were implemented into the operating system. A whopping one million iPhone 3G units were sold during its launch weekend.



The iPhone 3GS, where "S" stands for speed


In June 2009, Apple announced the iPhone 3GS, which packed more processing power than its predecessor. The original's 412MHz processor had been replaced with a 600MHz chip alongside a faster GPU, and the RAM was doubled to 256MB. This allowed the new iPhone to deliver a smoother user experience – apps launched faster, games ran better, the UI was more responsive. The camera was treated to an upgrade as well. First and foremost, its resolution was bumped to 3MP for more detailed images. Also, the camera now had auto-focus, and the camera app allowed the focus area to be set with a tap. The phone came with a new version of the iPhone operating system which included voice controls, internet tethering, and turn-by-turn navigation.



The iPhone 4: resolutionary screen, iconic design


The iPhone 4 was a notable upgrade over the iPhone 3GS. First and foremost, it brought along an incredibly (for the time) pixel-dense display. While its 3.5-inch diagonal size was already nothing extraordinary, it packed a whopping 326 pixels per inch, and it took quite a while for another phone maker to beat that figure. Under its hood ticked an 800MHz Apple-designed A4 SoC, alongside 512MB of RAM. The iPhone 4 was also quite different from its predecessor in terms of design. Its front and back sides were made of glass while the frame surrounding the device was made of metal. This metal frame was actually part of the antenna system, which seemed like a clever solution, yet led to some serious reception issues. Remember the infamous "Antennagate" scandal? For those needing a refresher, the iPhone 4 would lose signal strength when held in a particular way. Nevertheless, the iPhone 4 was another success in Apple's book, and eventually, an upgraded model came along.



The iPhone 4s: same on the outside, new on the inside


At a glance, the iPhone 4s didn't seem any different from the iPhone 4. It did not suffer from the aforementioned antenna issues, however, and introduced quite a few hardware improvements. These included a faster, dual-core processor inside the A5 SoC and an 8MP camera which turned out to be one of the best at the time. As a matter of fact, it paved the way for the iPhone 4s to become the most popular camera on Flickr. People loved it for its speed and for the great images that it was capable of taking with minimum effort on the user's side. Plus, it could capture great video at 1080p resolution.



The iPhone 5 brought a larger screen, a slimmer design, and LTE connectivity


The iPhone 5 was announced in September of 2012. Unlike all previous iPhone models, it came with a 4-inch screen instead of a 3.5-inch one, all while retaining the 326ppi pixel density of its predecessor. Its design was improved as well. As a matter of fact, the iPhone 5 was the slimmer and ligher iPhone we had seen until that day. Under the hood was placed an even faster processor. The camera resolution still stood at 8MP, but a better DSP allowed it to take clearer images and more stable 1080p videos. Plus, this is when Apple added sweep panoramas to its camera app. We must also mention that the iPhone 5 was the first iPhone to support 4G LTE connectivity.



iPhone 5s: faster processor, Touch ID, iOS 7.0


Along with the iPhone 5s, Apple launched its seventh major iOS release. Its flat, colorful looks made it quite different from previous iOS versions, and reviews were mixed at the time, but eventually, people got accustomed to the platform's new look. Besides, it was made better than before, with the handy Control Center and 64-bit support. As for the iPhone 5s, it did not bring only the mandatory hardware upgrades, among which was a faster A7 processor. It introduced us to Touch ID – a fingerprint scanner embedded in the home screen. Also, this was the first iPhone to come in gold, in addition to white and black. The camera resolution was not altered, but the flash was improved by adding a second, warm LED that helped to produce more natural light in dark shots.



iPhone 5c: for the colorful


At the very same event, Apple also introduced the iPhone 5c – a plastic-made iPhone that was available in 5 fun colors. On a hardware level, it was pretty similar to the iPhone 5, save for its improved front-facing camera. This particular iPhone didn't grow quite as popular as other iPhone models, and we have yet to see a proper successor to it.



iPhone 6: bigger, bolder, faster


Eventually, the inevitable happened – Apple released a bigger iPhone in 2014. The iPhone 6 bumped the screen size to 4.7 inches and the resolution to 750 by 1334 pixels to maintain the 326 ppi figure. At the same time, it is even thinner than the iPhone 5s, at only 6.9 millimeters. To no surprise, the iPhone 6 also brings improvements under the hood, including a faster Apple A8 SoC and an even better 8MP camera with super-fast auto-focus. On the software side of things, the refined iOS 8 has been running the whole show since launch, but is about to be replaced by iOS 9 in the coming days.



iPhone 6 Plus: for those who won't settle for any less


And speaking of bigger iPhones, we have the iPhone 6 Plus, which got announced alongside the 4.7-inch iPhone 6. The Plus is an even larger model, sporting a 5.5-inch, 1080p display. On a hardware level, it is more or less identical to the iPhone 6, the only differences being its optically-stabilized camera, the bigger battery, and the higher display resolution. 


iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus: what to expect from the newest iPhones


So, what is Apple going to announce on September 9? Rumor has it that successors to the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus are to be announced. These might be called the 6s and the 6s Plus, should Apple choose to stick with its current naming scheme. The two phones are highly likely to retain the size, looks, and design of their respective predecessors, but on the inside, the hardware is expected to be given a serious boost. The camera of choice, for example, is rumored to be a 12MP unit with 4K video support. The new SoC will probably be accompanied by 2GB of RAM instead of just one gig. The housing of the handsets is said to be made of 7000-series aluminum, which is tougher. And the display could be given Force Touch abilities, the kind of which we first saw on the Apple Watch. The two phones' commercial release is extremely likely to coincide with the rollout of iOS 9. For more of what we think we know about the two, feel free to explore our iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus rumor round-up


Size comparison: all iPhones - from the first generation to the 6 Plus


Apple iPhone

Apple iPhone

Dimensions

4.5 x 2.4 x 0.46 inches

115 x 61 x 11.6 mm

Weight

4.80 oz (135 g)

Apple iPhone 3G

Apple iPhone 3G

Dimensions

4.5 x 2.4 x 0.48 inches

115.5 x 62.1 x 12.3 mm

Weight

4.70 oz (133 g)

Apple iPhone 3GS

Apple iPhone 3GS

Dimensions

4.5 x 2.4 x 0.48 inches

115.5 x 62.1 x 12.3 mm

Weight

4.76 oz (135 g)

Apple iPhone 4

Apple iPhone 4

Dimensions

4.5 x 2.31 x 0.37 inches

114.3 x 58.6 x 9.3 mm

Weight

4.83 oz (137 g)

Apple iPhone 4s

Apple iPhone 4s

Dimensions

4.54 x 2.31 x 0.37 inches

115.2 x 58.6 x 9.3 mm

Weight

4.94 oz (140 g)

Apple iPhone 5

Apple iPhone 5

Dimensions

4.87 x 2.31 x 0.3 inches

123.8 x 58.6 x 7.6 mm

Weight

3.95 oz (112 g)

Apple iPhone 5s

Apple iPhone 5s

Dimensions

4.87 x 2.31 x 0.3 inches

123.8 x 58.6 x 7.6 mm

Weight

3.95 oz (112 g)

Apple iPhone 5c

Apple iPhone 5c

Dimensions

4.9 x 2.33 x 0.35 inches

124.4 x 59.2 x 8.97 mm

Weight

4.66 oz (132 g)

Apple iPhone 6

Apple iPhone 6

Dimensions

5.44 x 2.64 x 0.27 inches

138.1 x 67 x 6.9 mm

Weight

4.55 oz (129 g)

Apple iPhone 6 Plus

Apple iPhone 6 Plus

Dimensions

6.22 x 3.06 x 0.28 inches

158.1 x 77.8 x 7.1 mm

Weight

6.07 oz (172 g)

Apple iPhone

Apple iPhone

Dimensions

4.5 x 2.4 x 0.46 inches

115 x 61 x 11.6 mm

Weight

4.80 oz (135 g)

Apple iPhone 3G

Apple iPhone 3G

Dimensions

4.5 x 2.4 x 0.48 inches

115.5 x 62.1 x 12.3 mm

Weight

4.70 oz (133 g)

Apple iPhone 3GS

Apple iPhone 3GS

Dimensions

4.5 x 2.4 x 0.48 inches

115.5 x 62.1 x 12.3 mm

Weight

4.76 oz (135 g)

Apple iPhone 4

Apple iPhone 4

Dimensions

4.5 x 2.31 x 0.37 inches

114.3 x 58.6 x 9.3 mm

Weight

4.83 oz (137 g)

Apple iPhone 4s

Apple iPhone 4s

Dimensions

4.54 x 2.31 x 0.37 inches

115.2 x 58.6 x 9.3 mm

Weight

4.94 oz (140 g)

Apple iPhone 5

Apple iPhone 5

Dimensions

4.87 x 2.31 x 0.3 inches

123.8 x 58.6 x 7.6 mm

Weight

3.95 oz (112 g)

Apple iPhone 5s

Apple iPhone 5s

Dimensions

4.87 x 2.31 x 0.3 inches

123.8 x 58.6 x 7.6 mm

Weight

3.95 oz (112 g)

Apple iPhone 5c

Apple iPhone 5c

Dimensions

4.9 x 2.33 x 0.35 inches

124.4 x 59.2 x 8.97 mm

Weight

4.66 oz (132 g)

Apple iPhone 6

Apple iPhone 6

Dimensions

5.44 x 2.64 x 0.27 inches

138.1 x 67 x 6.9 mm

Weight

4.55 oz (129 g)

Apple iPhone 6 Plus

Apple iPhone 6 Plus

Dimensions

6.22 x 3.06 x 0.28 inches

158.1 x 77.8 x 7.1 mm

Weight

6.07 oz (172 g)

To see the phones in real size or compare them with other models, visit our Visual Phone Size Comparison page

FEATURED VIDEO

38 Comments

1. Subie

Posts: 2424; Member since: Aug 01, 2015

Maybe it's just me but I still like the original. Nice little communications device.

33. TSMan2

Posts: 363; Member since: Aug 20, 2015

Yup The only iPhones that matter are first iPhone and iPhone 4 (well we could count the sequel S too but it's 4 that made it) Everything else is BS and propaganda.

2. iphonexus

Posts: 130; Member since: Jan 04, 2015

I ... Got all except the first iPhone, 5c and iPhone 6

15. Finalflash

Posts: 4063; Member since: Jul 23, 2013

In our family we have owned every single model at some point, other than the 5 I think.

20. darkkjedii

Posts: 31596; Member since: Feb 05, 2011

Same here.

3. Arthurhkt

Posts: 727; Member since: Apr 19, 2012

Not a big fans of iOS/iPhone users, but I own a iPhone 4s and really love the hardware design, the front and back glass look really sexy, which is why I end up fall in love with the Nexus 4.

5. Wiencon

Posts: 2278; Member since: Aug 06, 2014

4S owner here too! :D Sexy as hell device, 5S looks better IMO but even today's phones look cheap compared to 4S.

18. KeyserSoze

Posts: 387; Member since: Oct 06, 2014

Tiny is not sexy, just ask your woman.

26. TechieXP1969

Posts: 14967; Member since: Sep 25, 2013

Which phonnes from today? Be specific!

4. redmd

Posts: 1948; Member since: Oct 26, 2011

I might switch sides. Lol

6. Zack_2014

Posts: 677; Member since: Mar 25, 2014

I thought my browser had issues loading this page as I was seeing the same phone over and over again while scrolling down.

12. tedkord

Posts: 17463; Member since: Jun 17, 2009

It really has changed very little over the years.

22. UglyFrank

Posts: 2194; Member since: Jan 23, 2014

PA thought it would be a good idea to make an article about IPhones that you will struggle to view on all iOS devices except for the Air 2. Sent from my Air 1

7. foreverjin08

Posts: 73; Member since: Sep 10, 2013

The first one looks much better than any other successors. Apple is really bad at smartphone design.

11. gaming64 unregistered

iPhone 5s was gorgeous though.

13. tedkord

Posts: 17463; Member since: Jun 17, 2009

It was very nice looking, but I personally think the 4s looked better. The should have kept it's accents on the 5s.

14. gaming64 unregistered

Yeah but the stainless steel framing on the 4s was so heavy and the glass was such a fingerprint magnet. But still, both are very gorgeous.

17. tedkord

Posts: 17463; Member since: Jun 17, 2009

I'm just talking about the aesthetics. Keeping the external antennas silver/metallic regardless of the phone color. That just looked classier.

21. darkkjedii

Posts: 31596; Member since: Feb 05, 2011

5S was the best looking to me.

28. TechieXP1969

Posts: 14967; Member since: Sep 25, 2013

100% agree!

37. AlikMalix unregistered

Yea 5s is my favorite design and not just among the iPhones. 6 looks worse than 5s and 4/4s.

27. TechieXP1969

Posts: 14967; Member since: Sep 25, 2013

Seeing as they didnt even design the first model, should tell you that.

8. gaming64 unregistered

It went from 3..5 inches to 5.5 inches. Simple as that. Man phoneArena is really taking iHype way too overboard.

16. BLUEBLASTER

Posts: 945; Member since: Feb 23, 2014

What iphone is the best though?

23. robocopvn

Posts: 504; Member since: Mar 10, 2010

the top and bottom bezels stay the same after 8 years. What a evolution !!

24. javy108

Posts: 1004; Member since: Jul 27, 2014

Even If Im an android lover, I must admit that iOS is a really optimizated OS, only error= too closed.

31. TechieXP1969

Posts: 14967; Member since: Sep 25, 2013

Only? How about it crashes more apps than any mobile OS EVER!? Optimized? You mean because it has direct hardware access unlike Android? Java sucks! It always has. Even Microsoft felt they could do better and did. But then they got sued over Java so they had to drop it. The makers of Android simply took the easy way out when they made Android. Here is why a VM is such a lame copout. The VM will run the same no matter how much hardware you throw at it. Because it doesnt even run on the hardware at all. Even todays PC VM's have limited access to the hardware. Usually nothing more than the CPU and RAM. The Java code makes even business application which dont even depend on graphics to look cheap and crappy. I use Android too, but it could be loads better. In fact if they wrote it in the same language as iOS, when something as simple as a benchmark is done, the score would be 4 times higher than what Apple achieves. if apps were made to actually use more cores, an 8 core phone would obviously be 4 times faster than a dualcore phone. Android or iOS arent totally bad, both could be substantially better. But Android really needs to drop Java and not be a VM. I know the latest Android uses ART, but honestly I dont see any difference.

34. Cyberthing

Posts: 127; Member since: Nov 18, 2014

I think the iPhone 4 is the best in the overall looks but I think the back of the iPhone 5s had the best looking back of them all especially the gold version. I really hate the looks of the 6/6+; the back is horrid. However, the feel of the 6/6+ is superb, with that seamless screen meets body. I'm torn between the iPhones design-wise. I'm looking forward to what they do with the iPhone 7.

38. KeyserSoze

Posts: 387; Member since: Oct 06, 2014

The iPhone6 design is long in the tooth, it looks ancient and monotonous in late 2015. Samsung's S6 Edge+ and Note5 design has far surpassed Apple in physical beauty and class. iPhone6's flat curveless slab looks quite boring in comparison to the likes of Samsung, Motorola, and other Chinese smartphones these days.

39. wando77

Posts: 1168; Member since: Aug 23, 2012

Those bezels are a joke...... surely?

* Some comments have been hidden, because they don't meet the discussions rules.

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