Apple iPhone Through The Ages: Just How Much Has It Changed?


Apple Inc.'s new iPhone 7 isn't a major upgrade on the previous version, despite its various updates and features-and the well-flagged news that the smartphone has no headphone jack.

That said, the iPhone has been a game-changer.

It helped Apple become the world's most valuable company and has swept aside many a rival device over its lifespan, contributing to the decline of household names from BlackBerry to Nokia.

Here's a look at its evolution over the years.


iPhone 1 - 1st generation

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 resolution (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 - 2nd generation

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 that buyers would be "amazed by the function and feel of this handset." The iPhone era had begun in earnest.

iPhone 3GS - 3rd generation

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 - 4th generation

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 - 5th generation

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 - 6th generation

After six handsets, 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 - 7th generation

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, in terms of specs, a carbon copy of the iPhone 5 – 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 6/6 Plus - 8th generation

After the smaller changes that came with the iPhone 5C and iPhone 5S, Apple was back to its revolutionary best with the following generation, as the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus brought the biggest alterations in design and features since the leap from the iPhone 4S to the iPhone 5.

The most striking change the eighth generation iPhones ushered in was undoubtedly the screen size, with the iPhone 6's display leaping from the iPhone 5's 4 inches to 4.7 inches. Apple also upped the resolution from the 1136 x 640 of previous iPhones to 1334 x 750. This meant that the larger screen still had a high pixel density of 326ppi (pixels per inch), so image quality was incredibly sharp and detailed.

iPhone 6S/6S Plus - 9th generation

So what can you expect from Apple's ninth generation smartphone? As the names suggest the 6S and 6S Plus don't exactly bring the changes. Rather they build on the solid base provided by the 6 and 6 Plus from 2014.

They keep the same 4.7-inch and 5.5-inch displays, with the same resolutions, and there's nothing new in the design department with Apple sticking with the well received look of its eighth generation devices. There is however a new color, with rose gold joining silver, gold and space grey. Lovely.

The big talking point here though is Apple's new 3D Touch technology. This allows the display on the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus to monitor how much pressure you're applying to it.

iPhone SE - 10th generation

iPhone SE took a lot of features from the iPhone 5S and brought them into a phone ready to face the market of 2016.

It's the perfect choice for you if you're looking for a smaller iPhone as it comes with a 4-inch screen. The body looks much like the iPhone 5S and while the design may seem a little tired, it still feels premium to the touch.

Plus the iPhone SE comes with a 12MP rear-facing camera, a 64GB storage option and iOS 9 software.

The screen technology on the iPhone SE is a little out of date but the iPhone SE is the cheapest Apple phone you can buy right now and it offers up a better battery life than any other iPhone you can buy today.

iPhone 7/7 Plus - 11th generation

The iPhone 7 is a break from Apple's two-year upgrade cycle, with the size and shape almost unchanged from its predecessor.

It sports a better camera, faster performance and, in a new twist, gets rid of the headphone jack.

We don't need to give you more information about the specifications and features of it -simply because you probably already know better than us!

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