iPhone through the ages: just how much has it changed?

8th Sep 2014 | 15:23

iPhone through the ages: just how much has it changed?

The brilliance and the missteps

The birth of Apple's superphone

It was January 2007 when Steve Jobs took to the stage of the Moscone Center San Francisco to announce the arrival of the iPhone, which went on sale worldwide later that year.

If you find it difficult to remember that far back, Leona Lewis was number one in the UK with A Moment Like This and people were flocking to the cinema to get teary-eyed at Will Smith in The Pursuit Of Happyness.

While our pop music and movie choices may not have improved much, smartphones were changed forever: from that point on, touchscreens, apps and digital media were the way forward.

iPhone 1 (first generation)

Launched: June 2007 (US), November 2007 (UK)


Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone as three devices in one: a touchscreen iPod, a revolutionary mobile phone, and a truly mobile web browser.

Now we take touchscreens, digital media playback and Web access for granted, but in 2007 the iPhone was unlike anything that had appeared before. Its 3.5-inch screen had a 320 x 480 pixel reoslution (one of the best displays of the time), with a 2MP camera built-in, and up to 8GB of storage.

Third-party apps were not yet allowed on "iPhone OS". In the TechRadar review, we noted that despite several shortcomings, the phone had "changed the mobile device landscape... multitouch will prove to be a model for interfaces in the future."

iPhone 3G (second generation)

Launched: July 2008

iPhone 3G

High-speed connectivity was big news in 2008, which is why the second generation iPhone included 3G in its moniker (rather confusingly, as this was the second generation iPhone). It also brought with it a thinner shape, a plastic back and - crucially - support for the newly launched App Store.

The app store model worked so well you'll now find it replicated in everything from your smart TV to your Windows 8 laptop, and the change helped Apple's phone really start to gain traction.

We said in our iPhone 3G review promised that buyers would be "amazed by the function and feel of this handset." The iPhone era had begun in earnest.

iPhone 3GS (third generation)

Launched: June 2009

Video recording came to the iPhone with the launch of the 3GS model.

The iPhone 3GS upgrade was viewed as disappointingly minor at the time, but look at the detail and a different picture emerges: as well as faster performance, the new handset offered a better 3.2MP camera (that could now record video as well as take photos), extra storage options and voice control (the precursor to Siri).

The display was the same 3.5-inch 320 x 480 screen, and the device's appearance remained largely unchanged from the 3G model. TechRadar's take on the unit praised the multimedia and internet capabilities while still finding niggles with the camera, call quality and battery life – this was the first of the more iterative updates to the iPhone but did enough to keep users happy.

iPhone 4 (fourth generation)

Launched: June 2010

The iPhone 4 transformed the look and display of Apple's flagship device.

If the 3GS was a minor upgrade, the iPhone 4 was a serious step up - a new, flat design with an integrated antenna (although questions were raised about how you held the device) a high-resolution Retina display (640 x 960 pixels) that showed the rest of the world how it was done and a superior 5MP camera (featuring HD video recording) on top of internal performance improvements.

The competition was catching up, and Apple had responded in brilliant fashion. We were certainly impressed, despite some reservations about the high price, saying "it's intriguing to see record-breaking numbers queuing up to pick up this device - but after playing with it for a few days, you can see why."

iPhone 4S to now

iPhone 4S (fifth generation)

Launched: October 2011

iPhone 4S

Apple pulled out the "S" tag again for the fifth generation handset, indicating a minor upgrade rather than a major overhaul.

The design of the iPhone 4S was the same, but inside was Apple's new A5 processor, vastly improved graphics capabilities and an 8MP camera with 1080p video recording. iOS was evolving at the same rate as the hardware, of course, and Siri began life as an iPhone 4S exclusive.

The improvements were enough to persuade us to describe it as "the best thing Apple has ever created" in the official TechRadar review.

iPhone 5 (sixth generation)

Launched: September 2012

iPhone 5

Six handsets later, Apple finally decided it was time to tweak the iPhone's screen size and aspect ratio.

Coming in at 20% lighter than its predecessor, the 2012 iPhone adopted a 4-inch screen running at 640 x 1136 pixels.

Otherwise, despite the usual speed bump and a stronger antenna, it was very much business as usual in terms of the design and capabilities.

Our biggest gripe in our iPhone 5 review was with the aging iOS, but with iOS 7 arriving on September 18 that issue is very much negated, which will please a number of iPhone 5 users who've been holding onto the handset for nearly a year.

iPhone 5S/5C (seventh generation)

Launched: September 2013

iPhone 5S

The big step in the seventh stage of the iPhone's evolution was the arrival of the iPhone 5C, a slightly cheaper, plastic-backed model to help battle Android in the busy mobile middle market. The signs were there already — remember Apple kept the iPhone 4 and 4S on sale during the iPhone 5 era.

Apart from the plastic shell and larger battery though the iPhone 5C was a carbon copy of the iPhone 5 in terms of specs - which was retired to make way for the two new handsets.

As for the flagship iPhone 5S, it was a case of under-the-hood improvements again: more power, a better camera, and a fancy fingerprint reader hidden under the home button. The bigger changes arrived with iOS 7, the most radical revamp of the mobile operating system since the App Store arrived back in 2008.

iPhone 6/6L

Launching: September 2014

iPhone 6

Which brings us to now, the eve of the next Apple handset - or should that be handsets?

We're at that familiar point in the cycle where it feels like everything about the next iPhone has been leaked. The standard iPhone 6 is expected to come with a 4.7-inch display packing a 1334x750 resolution, which may come built from scratch-resistant sapphire.

But it's the new design that we're most intrigued by: if the leaks are to be believed then the iPhone 6 will be slimmer with curved edges, while the power button has been moved from the top to the side of the handset.

Inside we're betting on a new 64-bit Apple A8 processor, a better motion co-processor, either 1 or 2 GB of RAM, and possibly storage options up to 128GB.

When it comes to the camera things are a little less certain: some people claim that Apple's sticking with an 8MP snapper, while others claim it's bumping up to 13MP. We'd say the latter is more likely.

Meanwhile a bigger handset, arriving with a behemoth 5.5-inch display, is believed to be arriving hand in hand with the smaller sibling. The specs may be given a slight boost, they might not. What we have heard, however, is that the big iPhone will offer a one-handed mode for easier use, and may even take some interface cues from the iPad.

We're currently referring to it as the iPhone 6L as that's what Apple is rumoured to be calling it, but its final moniker could be just about anything. Place your bets now.

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