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September 12, 2017

The iPhone 10 years in: Everything that’s changed from 2007 to 2017

by John_A

Few times of the year are as thrilling for gadget buffs as an Apple launch event, and tomorrow the company is expected to pull back the curtain on a trio of new iPhones. While some incredibly specific leaks this weekend might have spoiled the surprise, there’s no denying just how important the iPhone is to Apple’s business; Apple is the most valuable company in the world thanks mostly to this product line. With new iPhones upon us, we thought we’d take a look back at Apple’s history in smartphones to remind ourselves how they’ve matured into the market-leading machines they are now.

iPhone (2007)

Smartphones have essentially looked like glass-and-metal slabs for years now, so it’s easy to forget how distinct the original iPhone looked. Remember, 2007 was the year the BlackBerry Curve debuted to rave reviews, and people were thrilled about the dual-sliding powerhouse that was Nokia’s N95. Suffice to say, the iPhone was nothing like them. It was a device with a 3.5-inch capacitive touchscreen, a rounded aluminum body, a plastic butt and very few actual buttons to speak of. At the time, you could pick up a model with either 4GB or 8GB of internal storage for $499 and $599, respectively. Considering most phones in the US were sold on-contract, the iPhone was much more expensive than its competitors, and Apple later tried to address this by dropping the 4GB model altogether and making the 8GB model $399.

Apple’s engineering prowess meant the phone was as well-built a smartphone as you could get at the time, and that aesthetic would soon drive other OEMs to embrace multi-touch displays. Still, some of the original iPhone’s design and engineering features were pretty questionable. Remember the recessed headphone jack? The one that required people to use an adapter with existing headphones they liked, or use the lousy pack-in earbuds? Yeah, not great. What’s more, the cellular radio inside the phone only supported Cingular’s EDGE data network, and not its newer, faster 3G network. Steve Jobs defended the decision by claiming that those early 3G-capable chipsets were bigger, with a tendency to drain a phone’s battery.

Where the iPhone really shined was its software. Even in its infancy, iOS felt remarkably different from any other smartphone OS. Its early, WebKit-based browser was a joy to use compared to the alternatives found on other devices, and the way the phone allowed for multi-touch gestures effectively changed the way people expected to interact with their smartphones. That’s not to say the software was perfect: It couldn’t connect to most corporate email servers, which meant business users got burned. And that seemingly lovely virtual keyboard? You had to make sure you didn’t accidentally type too fast because it could only recognize one finger tap at a time. The iPhone didn’t have the ability to send rich MMS messages either, so sending pictures to friends only ever worked through email, or unofficial apps available to jailbroken iPhones.

The original iPhone remains an icon in the annals of computing history, but there was much more to come.

IPhone_PSD_White_3G.png

iPhone 3G (2008)

After the first iPhone launched, Apple pursued progress on two fronts: It had to build a second-gen phone, and also make sure people could get more done with it. In March 2008, nine months after the first iPhone went on sale, Apple released a software development kit, while a prominent Silicon Valley VC firm announced a $100 million fund to help spur iPhone software development. Four months after that, the iPhone 3G debuted with iOS 2.0 and the App Store, which only contained around 500 apps at launch. While users were pleased with the prospect of squeezing new features out of their new phones, one of the most notable changes about this new phone was how it looked.

With the 3G, Apple ditched its original, mostly aluminum chassis in favor of glossy polycarbonate. The 3G was available in black and white, and both versions could be had with either 8GB or 16GB of storage. While that change in materials was meant to improve signal strength and reception, the polycarbonate shells were prone to cracking, particularly around the 30-pin dock connector. The iPhone 3G’s modified curvature was more comfortable to hold, but it also meant all those docks that came with the original iPhone were essentially junk. Otherwise, the phone’s key features, including its screen and camera, remained the same.

Apple gave the phone its name for a reason, though: The addition of a 3G radio meant AT&T customers could finally use the carrier’s higher-speed data network. This paved the way for snappier browsing, not to mention the ability to talk and browse at the same time. The 3G also included a GPS radio, though it was still fairly limited; while it could locate you with help from a cell tower triangulation scheme, it would be a while before the first apps with true turn-by-turn navigation appeared.

Although Apple and its carrier partner sold the original iPhones at full price, the 3G was the first to be sold with contract subsidies — remember the days when signing two years of your life away meant hefty discounts? In this case, the 8GB 3G sold for $199 and the 16GB model went for $299, both dramatic drops that helped spur mass iPhone adoption.

Pricing $499, $599 (on contract) $199, $299 (on contract)
Dimensions 115 x 61 x 11.6mm (4.5 x 2.4 x 0.46 inches) 115 x 62.1 x 12.3mm (4.55 x 2.44 x 0.48 inches)
Weight 135g (4.8 ounces) 133g (4.7 ounces)
Screen size 3.5 inches (88.9mm) 3.5 inches (88.9mm)
Screen resolution 480 x 320 (163ppi) 480 x 320 (163ppi)
Screen type 18-bit LCD 18-bit LCD
Battery 1,400 mAh 1,150 mAh
Storage 4 / 8GB (16GB released 2008) 8 / 16GB
Rear camera 2MP 2MP
Front-facing cam None None
Video capture None None
GPS None Yes
NFC None None
Bluetooth v2.0 v2.0
Radios GSM/GPRS/EDGE: 800, 900, 1800, 1900 GSM/GPRS/EDGE: 800, 900, 1800, 1900
UMTS/HSDPA: 850, 1900, 2100
SoC Apple APL0098 Apple APL0098
CPU 412MHz 412MHz
GPU PowerVR MBX Lite 3D PowerVR MBX Lite 3D
RAM 128MB 128MB
WiFi 802.11b/g 802.11b/g
Operating system iPhone OS 1.0 iPhone OS 2.0
Ports 3.5mm headphone jack, 30-pin connector 3.5mm headphone jack, 30-pin connector

iPhone 3GS (2009)

One year later and the iPhone 3G was back, more or less. Apple announced the new iPhone 3GS in June 2009, where Phil Schiller casually mentioned the “S” stood for “speed” — he wasn’t kidding, either. The iPhone’s fundamental performance hadn’t changed in two years, so when the 3GS showed up with an updated processor and double the RAM of its predecessors, it ran roughly twice as fast. That improved performance was great to have, but it didn’t change the fact that the iPhone 3GS looked exactly like its predecessor. As you might’ve guessed from the name, this is the phone that inaugurated Apple’s “tick-tock” update schedule. One year you’d get new features wrapped in a new design; the next, a phone with the same body but with better performance.

Performance isn’t the only improvement, though. Among the biggest additions were an improved 3-megapixel camera with autofocus that could finally shoot video, and, err, a compass. Software additions like VoiceOver (which read on-screen elements as you dragged your finger over them) helped make the iPhone a more suitable device for the visually impaired, but the rest of the improvements were modest. Consider the 3GS’s 3.5-inch screen: It ran at the same resolution, but Apple fitted it with an oleophobic coating to help prevent the display from getting too smudgy. Bluetooth performance also improved slightly, and the battery got a minor bump in capacity to help the phone cruise on 3G networks for a little longer. There’s no doubting that the 3GS was a solid phone for the times, but since many purchased the iPhone 3G with a two-year contract, the 3GS could be easily skipped.

Pricing $199, $299 (on contract) $199, $299 (new customers on contract)
$599, $699 (existing customers on contract)
Dimensions 115 x 62.1 x 12.3mm (4.55 x 2.44 x 0.48 inches) 115.5 x 62.1 x 12.3mm (4.55 x 2.44 x 0.48 inches)
Weight 133g (4.7 ounces) 135g (4.8 ounces)
Screen size 3.5 inches (88.9mm) 3.5 inches (88.9mm)
Screen resolution 480 x 320 (163ppi) 480 x 320 (163ppi)
Screen type 18-bit LCD 24-bit LCD
Battery 1,150 mAh 1,220 mAh
Storage 8 / 16GB 16 / 32GB (8GB released 2010)
Rear camera 2MP 3MP
Front-facing cam None None
Video capture None VGA (640 x 480) at 30fps
GPS Yes Yes
NFC None None
Bluetooth v2.0 v2.1
Radios GSM/GPRS/EDGE: 800, 900, 1800, 1900
UMTS/HSDPA: 850, 1900, 2100
GSM/GPRS/EDGE: 800, 900, 1800, 1900
UMTS/HSDPA: 850, 1900, 2100
SoC Apple APL0098 Apple APL0298
CPU 412MHz 600MHz
GPU PowerVR MBX Lite 3D PowerVR SGX535
RAM 128MB 256MB
WiFi 802.11b/g 802.11b/g
Operating system iPhone OS 2.0 iPhone OS 3.0
Ports 3.5mm headphone jack, 30-pin connector 3.5mm headphone jack, 30-pin connector

iPhone 4 (2010)

While the iPhone 3GS was busy racking up sales, Apple was working on a radical iPhone redesign behind closed doors. Then some guy lost a prototype in a bar, and the internet exploded as the leak of a lifetime gave us our first look at Apple’s vision. Up until 2010, iPhones were known for their contoured plastic shells, but no more. The iPhone 4 was covered with flat glass on both the front and back, separated by a stainless steel band that ran around the phone and acted as its antenna. The aesthetic was a stunning departure from earlier iPhones, but Apple’s design had a serious flaw: Holding the phone just right (or wrong) would cause cellular coverage to plummet. Welcome to Antennagate.

Apple remedied the issue by offering free bumpers and cases to iPhone 4 owners, but critics had a field day with the company’s massive blunder. Though Antennagate’s cultural pervasiveness was difficult to avoid (“you’re holding it wrong” became a catchphrase unto itself) the iPhone 4 still offered several major improvements to the long-standing iPhone formula. In fact, the most important was impossible to miss: Though Steve Jobs might have overstated exactly how crisp it was, the iPhone 4’s 960 x 540 Retina display was essentially unmatched in clarity. It didn’t just blow away older iPhones, the screen blew away all other phones, period.

To this point, iPhones never had particularly great cameras, but the iPhone 4’s 5-megapixel rear shooter was the best Apple had made to date (it helped that our prayers for a LED flash were answered). Apple also saw fit to include the iPhone’s first front-facing camera, a must for vain selfies and the new FaceTime feature built into iOS 4.

The new A4 chipset (the first mobile processor Apple designed itself) with 512MB of RAM was another huge step over its predecessor, and this jump in performance was absolutely necessary. The launch of iOS 4 also meant the introduction of true multitasking on an iPhone; even after all these years, it’s still surprising that it took Apple as long as it did to cook up a solution that worked. A quick double-tap of the home button would bring up your running apps, and that was that. The updated iOS also added folders for better app management and finally let people leave audio running the background while they used other apps. While the iPhone 4 was the most powerful smartphone Apple had built up to that date, it almost paradoxically had better battery life than before thanks to a more capacious cell stuck inside.

Other new inclusions were more subtle, like a second microphone for improved noise cancellation and a gyroscope that allowed for (among other things) more precise motion controls in games and apps. Apple stuck with the standard 8GB, 16GB and 32GB storage variants, and they only came in black at first; it took time for Apple to ensure the white finish offered enough UV protection, so white iPhone 4s weren’t available until April 2011. Color choices may have been limited, but at least carrier choice wasn’t. After years of AT&T exclusivity, the 4 was the first iPhone available on a carrier other than AT&T — in this case, Verizon.

Pricing $199, $299 (new customers on contract)
$599, $699 (existing customers on contract)
$199, $299 (on contract)
$599, $699 (off contract)
Dimensions 115.5 x 62.1 x 12.3mm (4.55 x 2.44 x 0.48 inches) 115.2 x 58.6 x 9.3mm (4.54 x 2.31 x 0.37 inches)
Weight 135g (4.8 ounces) 137g (4.8 ounces)
Screen size 3.5 inches (88.9mm) 3.5 inches (88.9mm)
Screen resolution 480 x 320 (163ppi) 960 x 640 (326ppi)
Screen type 24-bit LCD Retina IPS LCD
Battery 1,220 mAh 1,420 mAh
Storage 16 / 32GB (8GB released 2010) 16 / 32GB (8GB released 2011)
Rear camera 3MP 5MP
Front-facing cam None 0.3MP
Video capture VGA (640 x 480) at 30fps 720p at 30fps
GPS Yes Yes
NFC None None
Bluetooth v2.1 v2.1
Radios GSM/GPRS/EDGE: 800, 900, 1800, 1900
UMTS/HSDPA: 850, 1900, 2100
GSM/GPRS/EDGE: 800, 850, 900, 1800, 1900
UMTS/HSDPA: 800, 850, 900, 1900, 2100
SoC Apple APL0298 Apple A4
CPU 600MHz 800MHz
GPU PowerVR SGX535 PowerVR SGX535
RAM 256MB 512MB
WiFi 802.11b/g 802.11b/g/n (2.4 GHz)
Operating system iPhone OS 3.0 iOS 4
Ports 3.5mm headphone jack, 30-pin connector 3.5mm headphone jack, 30-pin connector

iphone4profile.jpg

iPhone 4S (2011)

Apple’s press fete for the iPhone 4S was unlike any other — for one, it was the first hosted by then-new CEO Tim Cook, a supply chain whiz picked by Jobs to take over. (Jobs, sadly, died the day after the announcement.) It was also one of the first iPhone announcements that really seemed to disappoint some, thanks to endless rumors about a thinner, redesigned iPhone 5 coming in 2011. While that sleeker, slimmer iPhone was still a year off, the iPhone 4S offered up plenty of helpful and notable updates.

The iPhone 4’s A4 chipset gave way to the dual-core A5 (first used in the iPad 2), which kept the same 512MB of RAM but still made for a nearly two-fold improvement in general performance. Meanwhile, the rear camera was bumped to eight megapixels and gained the ability to record 1080p video. To help store those larger files, Apple introduced a new 64GB storage tier alongside the standard 16GB and 32GB options. And while Apple recycled the iPhone 4’s design, it used the CDMA version of the device as a template for the 4S; its improved antenna setup eliminated lingering Antennagate concerns.

The iPhone 4S launched with iOS 5 on board, making it the first new iPhone to pack support for Apple’s new iCloud storage system and iMessage’s now-ubiquitous blue bubbles. We can’t talk about the 4S without talking about Siri, though. Originally a voice assistant app spun out from research at SRI International, Siri came to the iPhone 4S by way of a multimillion dollar acquisition before its creators could build versions of the app for rival platforms. At launch, users could ask it to make calls, create reminders, interact with calendars and more, all with conversational language instead of specific commands. Siri felt novel and capable in ways other apps at the time didn’t, but it would take time before Apple’s first digital assistant became more than just an interesting gimmick.

Pricing $199, $299 (on contract)
$599, $699 (off contract)
$199, $299, $399 (on contract)
$649, $749, $849 (off contract)
Dimensions 115.2 x 58.6 x 9.3mm (4.54 x 2.31 x 0.37 inches) 115.2 x 58.6 x 9.3mm (4.54 x 2.31 x 0.37 inches)
Weight 137g (4.8 ounces) 140g (4.9 ounces)
Screen size 3.5 inches (88.9mm) 3.5 inches (88.9mm)
Screen resolution 960 x 640 (326ppi) 960 x 640 (326ppi)
Screen type Retina IPS LCD Retina IPS LCD
Battery 1,420 mAh 1,430mAh
Storage 16 / 32GB (8GB released 2011) 16 / 32 / 64GB (8GB released 2012)
Rear camera 5MP 8MP, f/2.4
Front-facing cam 0.3MP 0.3MP
Video capture 720p at 30fps 1080p
GPS Yes Yes
NFC None None
Bluetooth v2.1 v4.0
Radios GSM/GPRS/EDGE: 800, 850, 900, 1800, 1900
UMTS/HSDPA: 800, 850, 900, 1900, 2100
GSM/GPRS/EDGE: 800, 850, 900, 1800, 1900
UMTS/HSDPA: 800, 850, 900, 1900, 2100
CDMA/EV-DO Rev. A: 800, 1900
SoC Apple A4 Apple A5
CPU 800MHz 1 GHz
GPU PowerVR SGX535 PowerVR SGX543MP2
RAM 512MB 512MB
WiFi 802.11b/g/n (2.4 GHz) 802.11b/g/n (2.4 GHz)
Operating system iOS 4 iOS 5
Ports 3.5mm headphone jack, 30-pin connector 3.5mm headphone jack, 30-pin connector

iPhone 5 (2012)

When the iPhone 5 was revealed in 2012, people got the design overhaul they were waiting for. Apple traded stainless steel for aluminum and shaved nearly two millimeters off the existing iPhone 4S design. The end result: the thinnest, sleekest and arguably most beautiful iPhone to date. More importantly, Apple finally saw fit to pack a taller, 4-inch Retina display into the iPhone 5, a move meant to counter the rapidly growing screens found in popular Android devices. Building a bigger, thinner iPhone came at a cost, though: Apple ditched its classic, 30-pin connector in favor of the reversible Lightning connector. The decision meant generations of existing iPhone docks and accessories became obsolete almost instantly, but the world eventually moved on.

Also new to the iPhone 5 was Apple’s dual-core A6 chipset and 1GB of RAM — double the amount of memory found in the iPhone 4 and 4S. As usual, the new phone generally exhibited performance that was around twice as fast as the previous model, and in certain benchmarks, we saw even bigger performance gains. The iPhone 5’s camera didn’t change dramatically along the way, but its 8-megapixel sensor was swathed in sapphire crystal rather than glass for extra protection. Thanks to the A6’s increased horsepower, the camera was noticeably quicker too — photo capture speeds were faster than in earlier iPhones. And speaking of speed, Apple built an LTE radio into the iPhone 5, making it the first to support the next generation of high-speed wireless data networks.

The iPhone 5 was a big step forward in terms of design, but changes on the software side weren’t as dramatic. iOS 6 officially went live just days before the iPhone 5 went on sale, making the 5 the first new iPhone to support digital tickets in Passbook and the new, oft-maligned Apple Maps. A handy Do Not Disturb mode was also added to the fold, as well as the ability to make FaceTime calls over cellular connections and native Facebook integration. All told, it felt like Apple was going back and ticking software feature requests off a checklist, but that makes sense — the company was working on a big redesign behind the scenes.

Pricing $199, $299, $399 (on contract)
$649, $749, $849 (off contract)
$199, $299, $399 (on contract)
$649, $749, $849 (off contract)
Dimensions 115.2 x 58.6 x 9.3mm (4.54 x 2.31 x 0.37 inches) 123.8 x 58.6 x 7.6mm (4.87 x 2.31 x 0.30 inches)
Weight 140g (4.9 ounces) 112g (3.95 ounces)
Screen size 3.5 inches (88.9mm) 4 inches (101.6mm)
Screen resolution 960 x 640 (326ppi) 1,136 x 640 (326ppi)
Screen type Retina IPS LCD Retina IPS LCD
Battery 1,430mAh 1,440mAh
Storage 16 / 32 / 64GB (8GB released 2012) 16 / 32 / 64GB
Rear camera 8MP, f/2.4 8MP iSight, f/2.4
Front-facing cam 0.3MP 1.2MP
Video capture 1080p 1080p at 30fps
GPS Yes Yes
NFC None None
Bluetooth v4.0 v4.0
Radios GSM/GPRS/EDGE: 800, 850, 900, 1800, 1900
UMTS/HSDPA/HSUPA: 800, 850, 900, 1900, 2100
CDMA/EV-DO Rev. A: 800, 1900
GSM/GPRS/EDGE: 850, 900, 1800, 1900
UMTS/HSDPA+/DC-HSDPA: 850, 900, 1900, 2100
CDMA/EV-DO Rev. A and Rev. B: 800, 1900
LTE: 1, 3, 13, 25
SoC Apple A5 Apple A6
CPU 1 GHz 1.3 GHz dual-core
GPU PowerVR SGX543MP2 PowerVR SGX543MP3
RAM 512MB 1GB
WiFi 802.11b/g/n (2.4 GHz) Dual band, 802.11a/b/g/n
Operating system iOS 5 iOS 6
Ports 3.5mm headphone jack, 30-pin connector 3.5mm headphone jack, Lightning connector

iPhone 5s (2013)

touch-id12314.jpg

As usual, Apple largely left the iPhone 5’s design alone when it built the iPhone 5s in 2013. Its home button looked a little different though — it lost the trademark squircle and gained a shiny metal ring instead. That signified the inclusion of Touch ID, Apple’s first fingerprint sensor, for unlocking the phone and authenticating iTunes purchases. Oh, and it was hard to miss the new gold and slate gray color options, the first changes to Apple’s hardware palette since white iPhones hit the scene years earlier.

The rest of the 5s’s hardware changes are harder to see: The faster A7 chipset inside was the first 64-bit sliver of silicon in an Apple smartphone, and next to it was a new motion coprocessor called the M7 to help manage data from the phone’s myriad sensors. The 8-megapixel camera was updated with larger pixels and a larger aperture, too, though people were more likely to notice how the camera could record video slow-motion footage at up to 120 frames per second.

The iPhone 5s’s software, meanwhile, looked hardly anything like the versions that came before it. iOS 7 traded Apple’s classic skeuomorphic design elements for a flatter, cleaner aesthetic that persists to this day. Beyond that, iOS 7 saw the addition quick settings shortcuts in the Control Center, as well as a revamped Notification Center and AirDrop for rapidly off-loading files from iOS devices.

iPhone 5c (2013)

When Apple launched the iPhone 5c alongside the 5s, it effectively drove a nail into the iPhone 5’s coffin. Reports suggested that Apple whipped up this model to keep costs down — the colorful polycarbonate bodies were less expensive to manufacture at scale than carefully chamfered aluminum.

Aside from this major cosmetic change, the 5c is essentially the same phone as the standard 5, from the A6 chipset to the screen. The camera assembly was tweaked somewhat and the 5c supported more LTE bands, but the real reasons to own this phone were its modest price tag and its five color options. Popular perception of the 5c was that it was a flop, but it went on to sell more than 24 million units in its time on the market. It wasn’t quite the loser people expected, and it’s not hard to see how the 5c influenced devices like the iPhone SE.

Pricing $199, $299, $399 (on contract)
$649, $749, $849 (off contract)
$199, $299, $399 (on contract)
$649, $749, $849 (off contract)
$99, $199 (on contract)
$549, $649 (off contract)
Dimensions 123.8 x 58.6 x 7.6mm (4.87 x 2.31 x 0.30 inches) 123.8 x 58.6 x 7.6mm (4.87 x 2.31 x 0.30 inches) 124.4 x 59.2 x 8.97mm (4.9 x 2.33 x 0.35 inches)
Weight 112g (3.95 ounces) 112g (3.95 ounces) 132g (4.66 ounces)
Screen size 4 inches (101.6mm) 4 inches (101.6mm) 4 inches (101.6mm)
Screen resolution 1,136 x 640 (326ppi) 1,136 x 640 (326ppi) 1,136 x 640 (326ppi)
Screen type Retina IPS LCD Retina IPS LCD Retina IPS LCD
Battery 1,440mAh 1,560mAh 1,510mAh
Storage 16 / 32 / 64GB 16 / 32 / 64GB 16 / 32GB (8GB released 2014)
Rear camera 8MP iSight, f/2.4 8MP iSight, f/2.2 8MP iSight, f/2.4
Front-facing cam 1.2MP 1.2MP 1.2MP
Video capture 1080p at 30fps 1080p at 30fps 1080p at 30fps
GPS Yes Yes Yes
NFC None None None
Bluetooth v4.0 v4.0 v4.0
Radios GSM/GPRS/EDGE: 850, 900, 1800, 1900
UMTS/HSDPA+/DC-HSDPA: 850, 900, 1900, 2100
CDMA/EV-DO Rev. A and Rev. B: 800, 1900
LTE: 1, 3, 13, 25
GSM/GPRS/EDGE: 850, 900, 1800, 1900
UMTS/HSDPA+/DC-HSDPA: 850, 900, 1700/2100, 1900, 2100
CDMA/EV-DO Rev. A and Rev. B: 800, 1900
LTE: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 8, 13, 17, 19, 20, 25
(bands vary by model)
GSM/GPRS/EDGE: 850, 900, 1800, 1900
UMTS/HSDPA+/DC-HSDPA: 850, 900, 1700/2100, 1900, 2100
CDMA/EV-DO Rev. A and Rev. B: 800, 1900
LTE: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 8, 13, 17, 19, 20, 25
(bands vary by model)
SoC Apple A6 Apple A7 Apple A6
CPU 1.3 GHz dual-core 1.3 GHz dual-core 1.3 GHz dual-core
GPU PowerVR SGX543MP3 PowerVR G6430 PowerVR SGX543MP3
RAM 1GB 1GB 1GB
WiFi Dual band, 802.11a/b/g/n Dual band, 802.11a/b/g/n Dual band, 802.11a/b/g/n
Operating system iOS 6 iOS 7 iOS 7
Ports

iPhone 6/Plus (2014)

Beset by the popularity of big Android phones, Apple launched two new, larger iPhones in September 2014: the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. The former featured a 4.7-inch display with a 1,334 x 750 resolution, while the super-sized Plus model instead used a 5.5-inch screen running at 1080p. Apple aficionados had long suspected the company would split its most important product line up like this, and many welcomed the seemingly overdue change. Unsurprisingly, the smaller of the two iPhones was easier to hold and use for long periods of time — the larger Plus model could be difficult to grip compared to its big-screened contemporaries.

The design modifications didn’t end there, either. If the iPhone 5-series looked like sleek slabs, the 6 and 6 Plus were rounder and friendlier in a way that evoked Apple’s first phones. Since both devices were notably longer than the iPhones that came before them, Apple moved the power button to the devices’ right edges for easier access and trimmed a few fractions of a millimeter to make both versions of the iPhone 6 slimmer than the iPhone 5s. Apple’s focus on crafting trim bodies took its toll, though: Both versions of the phone were supposedly susceptible to bending under pressure. Apple only received a handful of reports about bent units in the wild, but no matter: Bendgate became a thing regardless.

Inside, both devices were nearly identical. Each sported improved A8 chipsets and 1GB of RAM, and Apple chose this year to drop the 32GB storage option in favor of a more spacious mid-range choice. While the most basic iPhone 6 and 6 Plus still came with 16GB of storage, customers could step into 64GB and 128GB for $100 and $200 extra, respectively. Naturally, both phones shipped with iOS 8, which added third-party keyboard support, cross-platform features like Continuity and a handful of new health-focused features. With so much crossover when it came to performance and software, most would-be iPhone owners made their choice based on size.

Of course, that isn’t to say that size is the only area where these phones differed. Both phones packed updated 8-megapixel rear cameras, but only the Plus’s shooter came with optical image stabilization (another first for iPhones). And while both phones used what Apple called “Retina HD” displays, the higher pixel density found on the bigger display meant text and images appeared crisper.

Pricing $199, $299, $399 (on contract)
$649, $749, $849 (off contract)
$199, $299, $399 (on contract)
$649, $749, $849 (off contract)
$299, $399, $499 (on contract)
$749, $849, $949 (off-contract)
Dimensions 123.8 x 58.6 x 7.6mm (4.87 x 2.31 x 0.30 inches) 138.1 x 67 x 6.9mm (5.44 x 2.64 x 0.27 inches) 158.2 x 77.9 x 7.3mm (6.23 x 3.07 x 0.29 inches)
Weight 112g (3.95 ounces) 129g (4.55 ounces) 192g (6.77 ounces)
Screen size 4 inches (101.6mm) 4.7 inches (119.38mm) 5.5 inches (139.7mm)
Screen resolution 1,136 x 640 (326ppi) 1,334 x 750 (326ppi) 1,920 x 1,080 (401 ppi)
Screen type Retina IPS LCD Retina HD, IPS LCD Retina HD, IPS LCD
Battery 1,560mAh 1,810mAh 2,750mAh
Storage 16 / 32/ 64GB 16 / 64 / 128GB 16 / 64 / 128GB
Rear camera 8MP iSight, f/2.2 8MP iSight, f/2.2 12MP iSight, f/2.2
Front-facing cam 1.2MP 1.2MP, f/2.2 5MP FaceTime HD, f/2.2
Video capture 1080p at 30fps 1080p 4K at 30fps
GPS Yes Yes Yes
NFC None Yes Yes
Bluetooth v4.0 v4.0 v4.2
Radios GSM/GPRS/EDGE: 850, 900, 1800, 1900
UMTS/HSDPA+/DC-HSDPA: 850, 900, 1700/2100, 1900, 2100
CDMA/EV-DO Rev. A and Rev. B: 800, 1900
LTE: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 8, 13, 17, 19, 20, 25
(bands vary by model)
GSM/GPRS/EDGE: 850, 900, 1800, 1900
UMTS/HSDPA+/DC-HSDPA: 850, 900, 1700/2100, 1900, 2100
CDMA/EV-DO Rev. A and Rev. B: 800, 1700/2100, 1900, 2100
LTE: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 8, 13, 17, 18, 19, 20, 25, 26, 28, 29
TD-LTE: 38, 39, 40, 41
TD-SCDMA: 1900 (F), 2000 (A)
(bands vary by model)
GSM/GPRS/EDGE: 850, 900, 1800, 1900
UMTS/HSDPA+/DC-HSDPA: 850, 900, 1700/2100, 1900, 2100
CDMA/EV-DO Rev. A and Rev. B: 800, 1700/2100, 1900, 2100
LTE: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 8, 13, 17, 18, 19, 20, 25, 26, 28, 29
TD-LTE: 38, 39, 40, 41
TD-SCDMA: 1900 (F), 2000 (A)
(bands vary by model)
SoC Apple A7 Apple A8 Apple A9
CPU 1.3 GHz dual-core 1.4 GHz dual-core 1.8GHz dual-core
GPU PowerVR G6430 PowerVR GX6450 PowerVR GT7600
RAM 1GB 1GB 2GB
WiFi Dual band, 802.11a/b/g/n Dual band, 802.11a/b/g/n/ac Dual band, 802.11a/b/g/n/ac
Operating system iOS 7 iOS 8 iOS 9
Ports 3.5mm headphone jack, Lightning connector 3.5mm headphone jack, Lightning connector 3.5mm headphone jack, Lightning connector

iphone6spair.jpg

iPhone 6s/Plus (2015)

By the time the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus rolled around in 2015, Apple’s tick-tock update cadence was well understood. It was no surprise, then, that both would use the improved A9 chipset with 2GB of RAM and look exactly like the models that came before them. Thankfully, Apple didn’t just carry over the original iPhone 6 and 6 Plus bodies — the 6s and 6s Plus were reinforced to prevent the possibility of bending under pressure (it definitely didn’t need another Bendgate-level debacle to deal with). This was also the year Apple added rose gold to its list of standard phone finishes, and we haven’t been able to escape it since.

Apple also ditched its stockpile of 8-megapixel sensors and instead built 12-megapixel cameras into the 6s and 6s Plus. The added resolution was a welcome touch, and so was the ability to record video in 4K — after all, Android phones had been able to shoot at this super-high quality for some time. Also new to the photographic fold: Live Photos, which sprung to life as you swiped through your camera roll. The marquee feature this time was 3D Touch, which took advantage of the 6s’s new pressure-sensitive screens to offer users shortcuts and context with a forceful press. In its early days, the feature didn’t always feel that useful, but seeing a company implement a novel new way for us to interact with our smartphones without too many hiccups was impressive nonetheless.

As was often the case with S-series iPhones, software provided much of the excitement. The 6s and 6s Plus shipped with iOS 9 onboard, and with it came a smarter, more contextually aware version of Siri and a whole new portal for Apple’s News. Search was dramatically improved too, as it could peer directly into apps installed on the 6s and 6s Plus, and Apple’s Maps finally started to understand how the subway worked. While the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus were huge sellers, the 6s and 6s Plus were proof that biennial refreshes didn’t need to be dull.

iPhone SE (2015)

Apple faced a bit of a conundrum after launching two bigger smartphones — what would it do for people who still liked compact devices? The answer was straightforward: The company essentially took the guts of the iPhone 6s and squeezed them into an iPhone 5s’s body.

That didn’t sound like it would work very well, but to our surprise, the iPhone SE was a remarkably capable little machine for small phone fans. The A9 provided excellent performance, and battery life was generally impressive, but our biggest gripe had to do with the limited storage options available at launch. Originally, Apple produced the SEs with either 16 or 64GB of internal storage; It has since shifted to selling 32GB and 128GB models instead.

Pricing $199, $299, $399 (on contract)
$649, $749, $849 (off contract)
$199, $299, $399 (on contract)
$649, $749, $849 (off contract)
$299, $399, $499 (on contract)
$749, $849, $949 (off contract)
$299, $399, $499 (on contract)
$749, $849, $949 (off contract)
Dimensions 138.1 x 67 x 6.9mm (5.44 x 2.64 x 0.27 inches) 138.3 x 67.1 x 7.1mm (5.44 x 2.64 x 0.28 inches) 158.1 x 77.8 x 7.1mm (6.22 x 3.06 x 0.28 inches) 158.2 x 77.9 x 7.3mm (6.23 x 3.07 x 0.29 inches)
Weight 129g (4.55 ounces) 143g (5.04 ounces) 172g (6.07 ounces) 192g (6.77 ounces)
Screen size 4.7 inches (119.38mm) 4.7 inches (119.38mm) 5.5 inches (139.7mm) 5.5 inches (139.7mm)
Screen resolution 1,334 x 750 (326ppi) 1,334 x 750 (326ppi) 1,920 x 1,080 (401 ppi) 1,920 x 1,080 (401 ppi)
Screen type Retina HD, IPS LCD Retina HD, IPS LCD Retina HD, IPS LCD Retina HD, IPS LCD
Battery 1,810mAh 1,715mAh 2,750mAh 2,750mAh
Storage 16 / 64 / 128GB 16 / 64 / 128GB 16 / 64 / 128GB 16 / 64 / 128GB
Rear camera 8MP iSight, f/2.2 12MP iSight, f/2.2 8MP iSight, f/2.2 8MP iSight, f/2.2
Front camera 1.2MP, f/2.2 5MP FaceTime HD, f/2.2 1.2MP, f/2.2 5MP FaceTime HD, f/2.2
Video capture 1080p 4K at 30fps 1080p 4K at 30fps
GPS Yes Yes Yes Yes
NFC Yes Yes Yes Yes
Bluetooth v4.0 v4.2 v4.0 v4.2
Radios GSM/GPRS/EDGE: 850, 900, 1800, 1900
UMTS/HSDPA+/DC-HSDPA: 850, 900, 1700/2100, 1900, 2100
CDMA/EV-DO Rev. A and Rev. B: 800, 1700/2100, 1900, 2100
LTE: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 8, 13, 17, 18, 19, 20, 25, 26, 28, 29
TD-LTE: 38, 39, 40, 41
TD-SCDMA: 1900 (F), 2000 (A)
(bands vary by model)
GSM/GPRS/EDGE: 850, 900, 1800, 1900
UMTS/HSDPA+/DC-HSDPA: 850, 900, 1700/2100, 1900, 2100
CDMA/EV-DO Rev. A and Rev. B: 800, 1700/2100, 1900, 2100
LTE: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 12, 13, 17, 18, 19, 20, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30
TD-LTE: 38, 39, 40, 41
TD-SCDMA: 1900 (F), 2000 (A)
(bands vary by model)
GSM/GPRS/EDGE: 850, 900, 1800, 1900
UMTS/HSDPA+/DC-HSDPA: 850, 900, 1700/2100, 1900, 2100
CDMA/EV-DO Rev. A and Rev. B: 800, 1700/2100, 1900, 2100
LTE: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 8, 13, 17, 18, 19, 20, 25, 26, 28, 29
TD-LTE: 38, 39, 40, 41
TD-SCDMA: 1900 (F), 2000 (A)
(bands vary by model)
GSM/GPRS/EDGE: 850, 900, 1800, 1900
UMTS/HSDPA+/DC-HSDPA: 850, 900, 1700/2100, 1900, 2100
CDMA/EV-DO Rev. A and Rev. B: 800, 1700/2100, 1900, 2100
LTE: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 12, 13, 17, 18, 19, 20, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30
TD-LTE: 38, 39, 40, 41
TD-SCDMA: 1900 (F), 2000 (A)
(bands vary by model)
SoC Apple A8 Apple A9 Apple A8 Apple A9
CPU 1.4 GHz dual-core 1.8GHz dual-core 1.4 GHz dual-core 1.8GHz dual-core
GPU PowerVR GX6450 PowerVR GT7600 PowerVR GX6450 PowerVR GT7600
RAM 1GB 2GB 1GB 2GB
WiFi Dual band, 802.11a/b/g/n/ac Dual band, 802.11a/b/g/n/ac Dual-band, 802.11a/b/g/n/ac Dual-band, 802.11a/b/g/n/ac
Operating system iOS 8 iOS 9 iOS 8 iOS 9
Ports 3.5mm headphone jack, Lightning connector 3.5mm headphone jack, Lightning connector 3.5mm headphone jack, Lightning connector 3.5mm headphone jack, Lightning connector

iPhone 7/Plus (2016)

Well, this was unexpected. Up until 2016, Apple had only ever kept the same design for two generations of smartphones. With the launch of the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, Apple once again kept the iPhone 6’s design language alive, albeit with several few tweaks.

Where to start? Well, neither version of the 7 featured a headphone jack, a move Apple’s Phil Schiller hilariously chalked up to “courage” during the company’s press conference. The physical home button was also replaced with a capacitive button that haptically vibrated when pressed. IP67 water and dust resistance was added, too — a first for iPhones, though Android devices had touted superior water resistance for years. Oh, and Apple added a Product (RED) model and a glossy, Jet Black finish option to its roster. That’s a lot of updates, and that doesn’t even factor in the changes in performance. The iPhone 7 and 7 Plus used Apple’s A10 Fusion chipset, a quad-core affair paired with either 2 or 3GB of RAM.

As always, the 7 and 7 Plus were more alike than not, and the most notable difference between the two was in their cameras. The 7 got a perfectly respectable 12-megapixel rear camera with a quad-LED flash and optical image stabilization — quite an upgrade over the prior year’s shooter. The 7 Plus, meanwhile, was fitted with a more impressive dual-camera array that allowed users to optically zoom in and out and add bokeh to the background of a photo in a Portrait Mode released later. This, along with a bigger battery and the inclusion of a little extra RAM, made the larger iPhone a more compelling option than it had ever been before.

Pricing $199, $299, $399 (on contract)
$649, $749, $849 (off contract)
$199, $299, $399 (on contract)
$649, $749, $849 (off contract)
$299, $399, $499 (on contract)
$749, $849, $949 (off contract)
$299, $399, $499 (on contract)
$749, $849, $949 (off contract)
Dimensions 138.3 x 67.1 x 7.1mm (5.44 x 2.64 x 0.28 inches) 138.3 x 67.1 x 7.1mm (5.44 x 2.64 x 0.28 inches) 158.2 x 77.9 x 7.3mm (6.23 x 3.07 x 0.29 inches) 158.2 x 77.9 x 7.3mm (6.23 x 3.07 x 0.29 inches)
Weight 143g (5.04 ounces) 138g (4.87 ounces) 192g (6.77 ounces) 188g (6.63 ounces)
Screen size 4.7 inches (119.38mm) 4.7 inches (119.38mm) 5.5 inches (139.7mm) 5.5 inches (139.7mm)
Screen resolution 1,334 x 750 (326ppi) 1,334 x 750 (326 ppi) 1,920 x 1,080 (401 ppi) 1,920 x 1,080 (401 ppi)
Screen type Retina HD, IPS LCD Retina HD, IPS LCD Retina HD, IPS LCD Retina HD, IPS LCD
Battery 1,715mAh 1,960mAh 2,750mAh 2,900mAh
Storage 16 / 64 / 128GB 32 / 128 / 256GB 16 / 64 / 128GB 32 / 128 / 256GB
Rear camera 12MP iSight, f/2.2 12MP, f/1.8 12MP iSight, f/2.2, 1.22µm pixel size Dual cameras, 12MP, f/1.8 and f/2.8
Front camera 5MP, f/2.2 7MP, f/2.2 5MP, f/2.2 7MP, f/2.2
Video capture 4K at 30fps 4K at 30fps 4K at 30fps 4K at 30fps
GPS Yes Yes Yes Yes
NFC Yes Yes Yes Yes
Bluetooth v4.2 v4.2 v4.2 v4.2
Radios GSM/GPRS/EDGE: 850, 900, 1800, 1900
UMTS/HSDPA+/DC-HSDPA: 850, 900, 1700/2100, 1900, 2100
CDMA/EV-DO Rev. A and Rev. B: 800, 1700/2100, 1900, 2100
LTE: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 12, 13, 17, 18, 19, 20, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30
TD-LTE: 38, 39, 40, 41
TD-SCDMA: 1900 (F), 2000 (A)
(bands vary by model)
GSM/GPRS/EDGE: 850, 900, 1800, 1900
UMTS/HSDPA+/DC-HSDPA: 850, 900, 1700/2100, 1900, 2100
CDMA/EV-DO Rev. A and Rev. B: 800, 1700/2100, 1900, 2100
FDD-LTE: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 12, 13, 17, 18, 19, 20, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30
TD-LTE: 38, 39, 40, 41
TD-SCDMA: 1900 (F), 2000 (A)
(bands vary by model)
GSM/GPRS/EDGE: 850, 900, 1800, 1900
UMTS/HSDPA+/DC-HSDPA: 850, 900, 1700/2100, 1900, 2100
CDMA/EV-DO Rev. A and Rev. B: 800, 1700/2100, 1900, 2100
LTE: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 12, 13, 17, 18, 19, 20, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30
TD-LTE: 38, 39, 40, 41
TD-SCDMA: 1900 (F), 2000 (A)
(bands vary by model)
GSM/GPRS/EDGE: 850, 900, 1800, 1900
UMTS/HSDPA+/DC-HSDPA: 850, 900, 1700/2100, 1900, 2100
CDMA/EV-DO Rev. A and Rev. B: 800, 1700/2100, 1900, 2100
FDD-LTE: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 12, 13, 17, 18, 19, 20, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30
TD-LTE: 38, 39, 40, 41
TD-SCDMA: 1900 (F), 2000 (A)
(bands vary by model)
SoC Apple A9 Apple A10 Fusion Apple A9 Apple A10 Fusion
CPU 1.8GHz dual-core 2.34GHz quad-core 1.8GHz dual-core 2.34GHz quad-core
GPU PowerVR GT7600 PowerVR Series 7XT GT7600 Plus PowerVR GT7600 PowerVR Series 7XT GT7600 Plus
RAM 2GB 2GB 2GB 2GB
WiFi Dual band, 802.11a/b/g/n/ac Dual band, 802.11a/b/g/n/ac Dual band, 802.11a/b/g/n/ac Dual band, 802.11a/b/g/n/ac
Operating system iOS 9 iOS 10 iOS 9 iOS 10
Ports 3.5mm headphone jack, Lightning connector Lightning connector 3.5mm headphone jack, Lightning connector Lightning connector

5873df20c4d21f6c544455dc_o_F_v1.jpg

Image credits: Justin14 (iPhone 3G render); Apple.

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