The iPhone isn’t just a phone. We use it for everything – taking pictures, sending emails, conducting searches, checking social media and so much more. The iPhone put the world at our fingertips and, like chapters in a book, each iteration builds upon the last to move the story forward.
The next chapter in the story of the iPhone is expected to drop in September. Even as excitement mounts and rumors swirl about the upcoming model, we don’t know exactly what innovative features it will bring. So, rather than speculate about the future of the iPhone (there’ll be plenty of time for that in the coming months), let’s look back at the Apple iPhone launches of years past to find out how we got here.
“Every once in a while, a revolutionary product comes along that changes everything.”
– Steve Jobs, Co-founder of Apple Inc.
The project that yielded the first-generation iPhone started as an effort to build a touch-screen tablet, but by the time Apple’s then-CEO Steve Jobs took the stage at Macworld Conference and Expo in early 2007, it became so much more.
“Every once in a while, a revolutionary product comes along that changes everything,” said Jobs. “Well, today, we’re introducing three revolutionary products of this class. The first one is a widescreen iPod with touch controls. The second is a revolutionary mobile phone. The third is a breakthrough internet communications device.”
“These are not three separate devices. This is one device. And we are calling it iPhone.”
And with that, the story of the iPhone began.
In June 2008, Apple launched the second chapter of the iPhone saga. According to Apple’s press release at the time, the iPhone 3G combined “all the revolutionary features of iPhone with 3G networking that is twice as fast as the first-generation iPhone, built-in GPS for expanded location based mobile services and iPhone 2.0 software.”
With the iPhone 3GS launch, Apple also introduced the App Store to provide users access to more than 50,000 applications in a variety of categories including games, business, news, sports, health, reference and travel.
When the iPhone 4 launched in 2010 it was the thinnest smartphone at the time – 34 percent skinnier than the iPhone 3GS. People were so excited for the iPhone 4, Apple’s website crashed while trying to handle more than 600,000 pre-orders in a single day.
The fifth generation of the iPhone included several new features like a dual-core A5 chip that drastically improved performance, and an updated camera with improved optics that allowed users to record 1080p HD resolution video. But, there was one new feature that stood about the rest. The “S” in “4S” was for Siri who was first introduced on the fifth-generation iPhone.
Unfortunately, the news of the launch was accompanied by the loss of Apple’s founder Steve Jobs the next day. His last words, spoken the day of the launch, were: “Oh wow. Oh wow. Oh wow.”
Measuring 7.6mm in thickness and 112 grams in weight with a 4-inch display, the iPhone 5 was both the thinnest and lightest iPhone that Apple had made at the time. Other than a brilliant exterior design (made entirely of glass and aluminum), the iPhone 5 was groundbreaking for a couple of reasons: it was the first iPhone Apple announced in September, setting a trend for future releases. And, it was the first iPhone Apple launched under new CEO Tim Cook.
Apple launched the iPhone 5C and 5S on the same day to plenty of fanfare. According to the company, Apple sold nine million iPhones the first weekend these devices went on sale – compared to five million iPhone 5 smartphones the previous year.
The more expensive iPhone 5S included several new and/or improved features including an 8-megapixel iSight camera with True Tone flash and Touch ID which allowed users to securely unlock their devices with the touch of a finger.
One year later, another joint release. Apple touted the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus as “the biggest advancements in iPhone history, featuring two new models with stunning 4.7-inch and 5.5-inch Retina HD displays, and packed with innovative technologies in an all-new dramatically thin and seamless design.”
Making the boss proud, the phones set an Apple record of first-day pre-orders with more than four million in the first 24 hours.
“iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus are better in every way, and we are thrilled customers love them as much as we do,” Cook said at the time.
The S versions of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus didn’t change much cosmetically compared to their predecessors. But, the phones’ new operating system, iOS 9, was a significant overhaul from the previous operating system and included deeper app integration with Siri.
Perhaps the biggest change with the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus was the addition of 3D Touch. The new interface could tell the difference between taps, normal presses and firm presses. It also included innovative ways to navigate the phone like Peek and Pop which allowed users to toggle between pieces of content without losing their place.
The SE model was more of an upgrade of a previous model than a new release (which might explain its March release date). While it followed the iPhone 6, the SE was actually a follow up to the iPhone 5. In terms of design, the iPhone SE was almost identical, so much so that iPhone 5 users could use the same phone cases when they upgraded.
Even though the iPhone SE reverted to the 4-inch screen size, it still had room for major hardware upgrades from the larger iPhone 6s. The iPhone SE used the same advanced A9 processing chip as the iPhone 6S, the same 12-megapixel camera and the same software features like Apple Pay, Siri activation and live photos.
Apple returned to its regularly scheduled release timeline with the dual launch of the 4.7-inch iPhone 7 and the 5.5-inch iPhone 7 Plus. The new phones caused some controversy with the removal of the headphone jack.
According to one less-than-flattering review from Nilay Patel of The Verge, “the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus are deeply unusual devices. They are full of aggressive breaks from convention.” Patel also remarked that the consistent design “plays against expectations.”
Unusual. Aggressively breaking from convention. Disregarding expectations. Sounds like Apple, a company that has cultivated a reputation for breaking the mold, removing the parts deemed unnecessary, adding the elements deemed lacking and tweaking it into perfection.
Apple skipped an “S” version of the iPhone 7 and moved right along to the iPhone 8 in September 2017. While the iPhone 8 models functioned as upgrades of the iPhone 7 versions, there were several significant changes including:
Apple announced the release of the iPhone X (pronounced “iPhone ten”) on the same day as the 8 and 8 Plus but waited another month and a half to release it. The iPhone X was Apple’s first attempt at an all-screen design, and they definitely stuck the landing with a 5.8-inch Super Retina display that “fills the hand and dazzles the eyes.”
Other than the all-screen display, the iPhone X included innovative features and designs like an OLED screen to deliver stunning colors, a TrueDepth camera to enable Face ID and intuitive gesture functionality to allow users to navigate the phone without the home button (which the iPhone X ditched in favor for the all-screen look).
Ready to start the next (or first) chapter in your iPhone story? Find a nearby AT&T location and bring home your new iPhone today.