Apple’s (AAPL) iPhone is the most important consumer technology product since the home computer. It’s revolutionized everything from the way we communicate, date, eat and shop to how we travel, read, watch movies and more. Whether you love the iPhone or can’t stand it, there’s no denying the incredible influence it’s had on our society.
Now Apple is gearing up to release its 10th anniversary edition iPhone. But before the iPhone 8, or whatever Apple ends up calling it, makes its big debut, let’s take a look back at how the device that turned Apple into a Wall Street behemoth has evolved over the last decade.
When Steve Jobs introduced the first iPhone in 2007, he presented it as three devices in one: An iPod, a phone and an internet communications device. The handset had a 3.5-inch display, which by today’s standards is downright tiny. What’s more, the phone cost a staggering $599 at the time, though it was dropped to $399 and customers received $100 of in-store credit. Available only on AT&T (formerly Cingular), the iPhone offered just 4GB or 8GB of onboard storage — the 4GB model was discontinued shortly after introduction — and a 2-megapixel camera.
It may sound like a ridiculously underpowered device now, but when it debuted, the first iPhone was in a class all its own.
A year after customers spent $399 on the first iPhone, Apple announced the second-generation phone, the iPhone 3G, for the soon-to-be familiar price of $199 for an 8GB model. More importantly, the 3G brought along faster 3G connectivity, making for easier internet access, as well as the launch of the App Store, which would change everything for Apple.
The original store launched with 500 apps, which is still impressive for a new app store. Of course, that’s nothing compared to the more than 2 million apps currently available for iPhone users.
This third iPhone was the first of Apple’s “s” variants, which are generally the versions Apple designates for internal upgrades. The 3Gs was roughly twice as fast as the original iPhone thanks to its improved processor and received an upgraded 3-MP camera. Apple also boosted the phone’s base storage to 16GB and added a 32GB model to accommodate the apps and photos consumers were packing into their phones.
First there was the loss of a prototype at a bar, which Gizmodo famously purchased much to the annoyance of Steve Jobs. Then there were the infamous signal display issues, which Apple discovered was actually a problem with how it was displaying the phone’s connection status. Yes, the iPhone 4 was one of the most publicized devices ever.
The handset was notable for its new more angular design and glass coatings on its front and rear panels. It also served as the first of Apple’s phones to get the company’s Retina display, though it was still just 3.5 inches. A 5-MP camera also improved the iPhone’s photo capabilities. Notably, the 4 was also the first iPhone to run on Verizon’s network.
The last iPhone to debut before the death of Apple CEO and co-founder Steve Jobs, the iPhone 4s was important for its introduction of Apple’s Siri voice assistant, the first such service to gain popularity. The handset also served as the launch platform for Apple’s iCloud cloud storage service. The first iPhone available for Sprint, the 4s got an upgraded 8-MP camera and faster processor.
After years of sticking to its 3.5-inch form factor, Apple finally decided to stretch the iPhone’s Retina display to 4 inches. It was a huge change at the time and put Apple’s handset in line with competing Android devices. The tech giant also unveiled an improved 8-MP iSight camera for the 5, as well as a thinner body and the new Lightning connector. The 5 was the first iPhone to work with T-Mobile and the last phone Jobs worked on.
The iPhone 5s was another internal upgrade for Apple’s line of handsets, receiving an improved processor and the first implementation of the company’s Touch ID fingerprint reader. The 5s also came equipped with an updated 8-MP iSight camera with True Tone Flash and the new M7 motion coprocessor for capturing more accurate movements.
Apple’s first low-cost iPhone, the 5c featured a plastic body that was made available in a variety of colors. Packing all of the features found in the iPhone 5, the 5c started at just $99 for a 16GB model and $199 for a 32GB model. The handset was Apple’s first attempt to get its devices into the hands of more budget-conscious consumers.
iPhone 6 and 6 Plus
The iPhone’s biggest makeover to date saw Apple release the 4.7-inch iPhone 6 and the 5.5-inch iPhone 6 Plus. The 6 also included the introduction of Apple Pay, Apple’s mobile payment service. The 6 Plus was the largest smartphone Apple created. Initially, consumers were transfixed by the so-called “bendgate” controversy, which revolved around the potential for the newly elongated phone to bend or deform when subjected to pressure in users’ pockets.
iPhone 6s and 6s Plus
Apple didn’t change much with the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus on the outside, but it built out the inside with a new 12-MP iSight camera, 5-MP FaceTime camera and the company’s new 3D Touch interface that let users press harder on the screen to access additional app menus. The technology came over from Apple’s recently released Apple Watch.
Another take on the low-cost iPhone option, the 4-inch SE packed many of the features found in the iPhone 6s, with the exception of 3D Touch, into a smaller package. Apple said the handset was designed for people who didn’t like larger displays.
iPhone 7 and 7 Plus
The 7 and 7 Plus were the first water-resistant iPhones, as well as the first with solid-state Home buttons. The 7 Plus also had the first dual-lens camera. Both phones were the first to infamously ditch the headphone jack. The lack of a headphone jack, which Apple replaced with the Lightning port, and the 7 and 7 Plus’ seemingly unchanged designs, had consumers questioning Apple’s decisions. Still, both handsets sold well for the company.
iPhone 8 and 8 Plus
Apple’s 10th anniversary iPhones, the 8 and 8 Plus, are expected to see drastic changes including edge-to-edge displays, new dual-lens cameras, better water proofing and facial-recognition technology. They could also lose the iconic Home button. We’ll find out more on Sept. 12 when Apple holds its first event at its new “spaceship” campus in Cupertino, California, to launch the new phone.
More from Dan:
- The most important iPhone features ever
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- Fitbit’s Ionic smartwatch is here to take on the Apple Watch
- Galaxy Note 8 preview: Samsung’s big bet
Email Daniel at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him on Twitter at @DanielHowley.