The 10th birthday of the iPhone came and went in June of 2017. Just a few months later, Apple announced the iPhone X, its most advanced device to date, which is dripping with tech that could not have been conceived of back when the first generation handset was new. The iPhone range has broken new ground with each passing year and the best way to assess its impact and influence is to look back on the changes that it has undergone.
What set the first-gen iPhone apart from the crowd was its touchscreen interface. Sure, there had been other mobiles with a touchscreen in the past, but Apple got the formula right by developing the underlying software to work with this tactile interface in mind. It may seem obvious today, but at the time the way of swiping, pinching and tapping to navigate menus and interact with onscreen elements was revolutionary.
The second iPhone brought with it 3G connectivity and enabled fast internet access on the move, without the need for Wi-Fi. But the biggest innovation was the App Store, which allowed users to download bite-sized games and programs which greatly expanded the potential of the device.
By the time the iPhone 3GS launch rolled around in 2009, it was clear that there were still some areas in which Apple’s handsets were lagging behind their competitors. The camera was a sore point, both in terms of its capture quality and additional capabilities. This was remedied in part by the addition of a three megapixel unit which could also shoot video clips for the first time, albeit at modest VGA resolutions.
The iPhone 4 arrived in 2010 and helped to boost the profile of the range even further, thanks to the addition of the Retina Display, which boasted far more pixels squeezed into the same 3.5 inch panel as its predecessors. The all-new design, with flat surfaces rather than a curved rear and an external antenna band, was similarly influential and would define the range for some time.
Every smartphone operating system now has a voice-controlled digital assistant, but when Apple introduced the iPhone 4S and Siri in 2011, it was another step forward for the industry that caused its competitors to play catch-up for years to come. Talking to your phone is commonplace today, but at the time, people wondered whether it would ever catch on.
Apple was falling behind its rivals in terms of screen size, so the move to a four inch display made by the iPhone 5 in 2012 was welcome, even if it seems somewhat poky by the standards of 2017. The design of the device was also thinner than ever, with its lighter frame making it feel impressively modern.
The first time two iPhones arrived at once was back in 2013 when the 5S and 5C entered the limelight. The 5C was also Apple’s initial attempt to court customers on a tighter budget, with its plastic exterior and different colour options setting it apart from its siblings. Meanwhile, a fingerprint scanner built into the home button helped the 5S to find its feet.
The iPhone 6 and 6 Plus marked a major change for the range once again, not only bumping up the screen size to 4.7 inches and 5.5 inches respectively, to compete with Samsung Galaxy S and Note devices, but also integrating NFC tech and marking Apple’s entrance into the world of digital payments. The 6S and 6S Plus would come a year later, with more incremental updates.
The iPhone 7 and 7 Plus stomped onto the scene in 2016 and caused controversy due to their lack of a traditional 3.5mm headphone socket. This was seen as an unhelpful move by many Apple fans and critics, but is something that other manufacturers have since embraced.