Apple iPhone: 10 years on, why it remains the benchmark for smartphones
Ten years ago, the first iPhone was unveiled by Steve Jobs. The smartphone market has not been the same since, whether one likes the iPhone or not
On this day, at the Macworld 2007 event in San Francisco, Apple co-founder and then chief executive officer Steve Jobs introduced the first-ever iPhone to the world. It was, at that time, pitched as three products in one—a widescreen iPod with touch, a mobile phone and an internet device. The phone went on sale later that year.
Ten years on, the more things change, the more they have remained the same. The iPhone, over the past 10 years and at almost every step, has been the benchmark phone that redefined the smartphone market in terms of the hardware and software, and seen its shares of major and minor evolutions. Why else is it that everything the likes of Google, Samsung, Microsoft, HTC, LG and others do even today is with the unshakeable “iPhone beater" obsession? If someone had given us a dime for every shabby imitation over the years, we’d probably be able to retire with a villa next to Lake Como in Italy.
While it is hard to compress almost a decade worth of highlights, we attempt a look at the standout moments in the iPhone’s journey so far.
The very first iPhone, it was indeed revolutionary at its time. Touchscreen phones were nowhere on the consumers’ radar at that point—this phone had a 3.5-inch multi-touch display. And then there was the fact that 6.1 million iPhones were sold in the first year itself. Now that Nokia is struggling to make another worthwhile comeback, the company’s troubles started off when it reportedly dumped the touchscreen phone concept a few years before the first iPhone was launched.
Also read: Which iPhone should you buy?
iPhone 3G (2008)
Just as the name suggested, the big addition was the 3G mobile network capability, as well as the GPS capabilities for location tracking and navigation. But what the iPhone 3G is fondly remembered for is that it was the first iPhone with an App Store and third-party apps, as well as push-email. The iPhone craze was at its peak when the iPhone 3G was launched, and 1 million units were sold in the first week of launch. Even now, the likes of Nokia, BlackBerry and Microsoft continue to underestimate the impact the iPhone was having—one of the biggest examples of this misunderstanding was the Nokia 5800 XpressMusic phone, which was designed to take on the iPhone’s all-touchscreen assault.
iPhone 3GS (2009)
This is the first time that Apple genuinely focused on putting powerful specifications of the iPhone, perhaps the starting point for all hardware battles that we witness today in the smartphone ecosystem. “The fastest, most powerful iPhone yet," this packed in a more powerful processor and included more RAM and storage space. The design didn’t change much though. This iPhone also sold close to 1 million in the first week of launch. With iOS 3, Apple finally introduced several features that were conspicuously missing from iPhones so far, including the ability to cut, copy and paste text.
iPhone 4 (2010)
The fourth-generation iPhone saw a completely new design language, with a stainless steel frame, flat sides and glass on the front and back. This was also the first iPhone to support the CDMA mobile networks, in different countries. Performance remained in focus—the RAM was increased to 512MB (the iPhone 3GS had 256MB RAM) to allow better app performance. The iPhone 4 featured the first Retina display in smartphones.
iPhone 4S (2011)
A lot changed under the hood in the iPhone 4S, but on the outside it looked identical to the iPhone 4. This phone was announced a day before the passing away of Steve Jobs. It had an updated processor as well as a better camera. Along with the iOS 5 operating system, the iPhone 4S introduced the world to voice recognition assistant Siri as well as cloud storage service iCloud, both unique propositions at the time.
iPhone 5 (2012)
The iPhone 5 ushered in a lot of stuff which remains a part of the latest line-up of Apple iPhones as well—the Lightning connector for charging and data transfer (the iPhones till now had used a wider 30-pin connector) and the earbuds. A design refresh also included a screen size increase from 3.5 inches to 4 inches and a thinner aluminium chassis. Support for LTE mobile networks was also introduced. More than 5 million were sold during the first three days of hitting the shelves.
iPhone 5S and iPhone 5C (2013)
It was the first time that Apple unleashed two different iPhones in the same year, with the same screen size. The 5s was the logical successor to the 5, and retained the same design and dimensions. But under the hood was a 64-bit processor (for the first time in a smartphone), an improved camera, touch ID fingerprint scanner integrated into the home button and the M7 “motion co-processor", which allowed fitness tracking. The 5C was pushed as a more affordable iPhone, with a polycarbonate shell, but it didn’t set sales charts on fire.
iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus (2014)
This time around, it was the first-time Apple introduced two iPhones with different screen sizes, with the iPhone 6 getting a 4.7-inch screen and the iPhone 6s plus rocking a phablet-esque 5.5-inch screen. The design was completely changed, which made for even thinner phones. For the first time, 128GB storage options were on offer as well. There was, however, the entire “Bendgate" furore after some users reported the iPhone 6 Plus bending a bit, under pressure at certain angles.
iPhone 6S and iPhone 6S Plus (2015)
Following the trend of the “s" line-up over the years, the 6s and the 6s Plus were more powerful updates of the 6 and 6 Plus. The design remained the same, as well as the screen size. A newer processor, better camera and the stronger 7000 series aluminium alloy chassis were the major changes. For the first time, the Rose Gold colour option was made available—something that has been shamelessly replicated by a lot of Chinese smartphone makers since.
The devices also introduced the 3D touch technology for the phone’s display, which detects the differing pressure of your touch on the iPhone’s screen and allows the users to access app menus and execute certain tasks quicker. The Touch ID hardware was improved as well, which reduced the fingerprint scan time.
iPhone SE (2016)
The SE, to be honest, was a bit unexpected. Apple pushed the “smaller screen size" positioning. The SE indeed rewound the clock back to the times of the iPhone 5 and 5s, and the 4-inch display. The design was also very like the iPhone 5, so much so that the same accessories such as cases will work on SE too. The internals were top-notch though, and exactly replicated the iPhone 6s, which was the latest hardware combination at the time.
Also read: Review: Apple iPhone 7 Plus
iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus (2016)
A lot changed with the 7 series of the iPhone. The 3.5mm headphone jack has finally been given a send-off in both phones, they are water resistant, each display is 25% richer as well as the ability to reproduce more colours than the predecessor and the 7 Plus also gets the dual camera and optical zoom. The Jet black (glossy) and black (matte) colour options have been well received. In terms of performance, it is very likely that your laptop will recede into the background, with an overpowering sense of inadequacy, with any comparisons.