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The Evolution of the iPhone

It’s hard to remember what life was like before the smartphone. Yet, there was a time when the smartphone did exist before the invention of the iPhone. At the time, brands like Blackberry had the market cornered. Even then, smartphones were a luxury for the average consumer and had rather clunky interfaces. Those were the days when a physical keyboard was considered a premium feature.

And then, overnight, Apple unveiled its newest product. The iPhone added much-needed polish to the emerging versatility of the smartphone. With an extremely responsive touch screen, Apple boldly did away with a keyboard. They also made the daring move to lose the myriad of buttons plaguing many phones, instead, going with something they called a “home button”. It may seem commonplace now (and even antiquated) but it was revolutionary in 2007.

Since then, Apple has sustained its momentum with its iPhone line. Many iterations later and they’re still innovating. The iPhone has evolved quite a bit since its release in 2007.

The Original iPhone

The original iPhone

Released on June 28, 2007

The original iPhone is over a decade old if you can believe it. It was first unveiled by Steve Jobs during an Apple Keynote. Steve famously quipped, seemingly at the end of his presentation “…one more thing”, only to blow the minds of his audience and the rest of the world with the unveiling of Apple’s first foray into the smartphones.

Notable Features:

  • Multitouch control—a revolutionary way to interact with a touch screen at the time.
  • Accelerometer—detects if the iPhone was being held horizontally or vertically and adjust rotate the screen.
  • Ambient light sensor & proximity sensor—the iPhone could reduce its brightness automatically and could even sense when it was against your ear to turn off the screen.

iPhone 3G

Released on July 11, 2008

While it wasn’t the 3rd iPhone in Apple’s series, it was aptly named the “iPhone 3G” to tout its most notable upgrade—a 3G cellular connection. We may scoff at those speeds today (and they may even be slower now than they were when we all used 3G) but at the time it felt like science fiction to browse the internet on a cell connection at the speeds achievable with 3G.

Notable Features:

  • 3G Connectivity—3G speeds were lightning fast compared to what consumers were used to in 2008.
  • iOS App Store—believe it or not, the original iPhone did not have an App Store. You simply used the few apps that came with the iPhone. With the app store, users could finally expand the iPhone’s functionality.

iPhone 3GS

iPhone 3Gs

Released on June 19, 2009

The iPhone 3GS began the long-running trend of the “S” iPhone, which filled the two-year gap between significant iPhone releases. The iPhone 3GS was a solid iPhone with a similar form factor to the 3G.

Notable Features:

  • 32GB Storage Option—with the advent of the App Store and the prolific use of the camera, Apple realized they needed to increase their max storage from 16GB to 32GB.
  • Video Recording—now the camera on your iPhone could take video as well as still photos.

iPhone 4

iPhone 4

Released on June 24, 2010

With the iPhone 4 came a change in the physical design of the phone. With a beautiful (yet fragile) glass back and elegantly chamfered aluminium edges, the iPhone 4 suddenly looked like an exotic luxury item. With the physical changes came significant internal changes—a front-facing camera, a retina display that looked unrealistically crisp, and more memory.

Notable Features:

  • Front-facing Camera—it’s hard to believe there once was a time when a selfie was unheard of. Unfortunately, June 2010 marked the beginning of the end of that paradigm.
  • Retina Display—Apple’s retina display was extremely high resolution, almost to the point where you couldn’t detect individual pixels with the naked eye.

iPhone 4S

Released on October 14, 2011

The iPhone 4S was a solid upgrade even if it didn’t get its own number. Apple introduced its first white iPhone and unveiled everyone’s favourite personal assistant, Siri, which could tell you the time, send a text message, or even tell you a joke. The iPhone 4S could also shoot 1080p video and, related to that feature, Apple expanded its storage options to include a 64GB model.

Notable Features:

  • Siri—a personal assistant on a phone!? It was unheard of and made quite a few waves back in 2011.
  • 1080 video recording—the ability to record high-resolution video was huge. Many consumers realized that it was possible to film a movie on an iPhone. Many did just that.

iPhone 5

Released on September 21, 2012

The iPhone 5 was exciting—it finally gave consumers LTE speeds, which felt impossibly faster than 3G. Notably, Apple finally increased the iPhones internal memory from 512MB to 1GB. Most importantly, the dreaded 30-pin connector was finally removed in favour of Apple’s “lightning connector”, which was faster and could be plugged in from either side.

Notable Features:

  • Taller Display—Apple lengthened its 3.5” display to a full 4”, making the iPhone 5 half an inch longer than any other iPhone.
  • LTE Connectivity—miles faster than what 3G could provide, LTE connectivity finally gave consumers what seemed like effortless, streamlined access to the internet and video streaming.

iPhone 5s & 5c

Released on September 20, 2013

The 5s and 5C were Apple’s first embankment on multi-releases. To put it simply—the iPhone 5S was meant to be a true upgrade from the 5 while the 5C was more derivative of the 5 (and more budget-friendly) but with a fresh coat of paint. The 5C came in a myriad of bright colours, which was unique to the mostly muted palette of the iPhone.

Notable 5S Features:

  • Touch ID—unlock your iPhone or conjure up a saved password using your fingerprint.
  • Dual Flash—give your photos more natural lightning with a dual flush.
  • Slow-mo video—see what things look like in slow motion.

iPhone 6 & 6 Plus

iPhone 6 Release

Released on September 19, 2014

With the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus came Apple’s biggest change in their iPhone form factor yet. Gone was the back glass, replaced instead by a matte aluminium back. The iPhone 6 and 6 Plus began the obsession with big for Apple—even the standard 6 was a whopping 4.7” and the 6 Plus was 5.5”. Unless you’re a basketball player, holding the 6 Plus is one hand was nearly impossible. Yet, consumers loved the large display—it seemed to be a compromise between the smartphone and the tablet. Beyond the form factor, not much was changed from the 5S.

Notable Features:

  • Retina HD Display—Apple upgraded its retina display to be even clearer.

iPhone 6S & 6S Plus

Released on September 19, 2015

While it may be an “S” release by Apple, the iPhone 6s and 6S Plus were major upgrades from the 6. Apple’s motto for the 6S series rang true, “The only thing that’s changed is everything.” With an upgraded camera, double the internal memory, and a hardier aluminium frame, the 6S series was smarter and tougher than any other iPhone before it.

Notable Features:

Better Camera—Apple upgraded their iPhone camera from 8MB to 12MB, which seemed to truly bridge the gap in mobile photography.

3D Touch—depending on what you did with your thumb or fingers; iOS would respond differently giving you a myriad of new ways to interact with your iPhone.

iPhone SE

Released on March 31, 2016

The iPhone SE was a bit of an outlier. To put it simply, it contained the guts of an iPhone 6S inside the form factor of an iPhone 5. Apple released this iPhone to maintain a budget-friendly option for consumers.

iPhone 7 & 7 Plus

Released on September 16, 2016

Rest in peace, headphone jack. Gone the way of the floppy drive and the CD drive, Apple finally ditched the headphone jack, opting instead to emphasize their versatile lightning connector and Bluetooth. But who wants to dongle a dongle just to listen to some earbuds? Sometimes it seems that technology moves too fast for its own good. With the iPhone 7 Plus, Apple began the trend of releasing a “beefier” more premium version of their iPhone alongside a lesser iPhone. The iPhone 7 Plus touted two cameras for better photography while the iPhone 7 only had one.

Notable Features:

  • No Headphone Jack—More of a non-feature than a feature, but Apple finally axed the headphone jack, making it just a little bit more frustrating to listen to music.
  • 16GB Option Dropped—finally Apple gets with the program—even back in 2016 consumers were struggling to make a 16GB smartphone work for them.
  • (7 Plus Only) Dual Camera—two camera lenses mean better zooming and overall better photography.
  • WATERPROOF!—the first iPhone to be rated IP67 (waterproof).

iPhone 8 & 8 Plus

Released on September 22, 2017

Apple’s particular brand of neuroticism can be a sight to behold sometimes. The glass backing comes back to us for wireless charging support. The camera is much improved, even on the single lensed 8. And yes—only the Plus version sports two cameras, just like with the 7 Series.

  • Faster Camera Sensor—a faster sensor lets in more light, giving you clearer photos.
  • Wireless Charging—with wireless charging you can charge your iPhone by laying it on a charging surface—no plugs needed.

iPhone X

Released on November 3, 2017

If the iPhone 8 seemed too derivative of the 7 that’s because it wasn’t the star of the show. Instead, Apple announced the iPhone X, which would be available to purchase a little later than the iPhone 8. With the X, Apple wanted to stand away from the usual numbering system—this wasn’t just any old release, it was to mark 10 years since the unveiling of the original iPhone. And the iPhone X celebrated that effort by breaking the mould with a brand new form factor and a plethora of new features.

Notable Features:

  • Edge-to-edge display—other than the notorious “notch” the iPhone X is the first of its kind to sport a display that reaches every edge.
  • No Home Button—Apple is serious about their real estate, and removing the home button gives them an extra inch of display.
  • Facial Recognition—with a high res front-facing camera, the iPhone X can use facial recognition to authenticate you.

iPhone XS & XS Max

Released on September 21, 2018

The iPhone XS series was a nice upgrade from the iPhone X while remaining mostly the same. The XS series featured a faster processor and optimized battery use.

Super Retina HD Display—what could be better than an HD Retina display? That’s right—add super to the title (and increase the resolution and quality of your screen).

iPhone XR

Released on October 26, 2018

Announced alongside the XS series, the iPhone XR was a confusing yet colourful addition to Apple’s lineup. With a total of 3 new iPhones to choose from, plus the last generation, a lot of consumers were scratching their heads when it came to choosing. To put it simply, the XR was a budget option that didn’t quite compare to the XS series but was a little easier on the wallet.

Notable Features:

  • Many Colors—red, blue, dark red, yellow, white, black—not since the iPhone 5C did you have so many color options.

iPhone 11

Released September 20, 2019

With the iPhone 11, Apple did away with its use of Roman numerals but kept the colourful options they created with the iPhone XR. The iPhone 11 is the cheaper but still very formable option if you’re looking at the newest iPhone.

iPhone 11 Pro & Pro-Max

iPhone 11 Release

Released September 20, 2019

Apple’s announcement of the iPhone 11 Pro lineup god a lot of attention. What was clear to consumers was that Apple’s 11 Pro series was meant to be their “luxury line” of iPhones, with sophisticated, never-before-seen colour options and three (3!!!) camera on the back to take photographs that look like they could have come out of a professional’s portfolio.

Notable Features:

  • 3 Cameras—wide, ultra-wide, and telephoto lenses give you photographic capabilities as yet unheard of in a smartphone.
  • Longer Battery Life—with a better battery and more sophisticated software handling, Apple touts the longest performing iPhone ever.