Most of us are connected to a digital device that we keep with us at all times. It organizes our schedule, connects us with friends and colleagues, and helps us access the world’s information – with just a few clicks. However, it wasn’t that long ago that the idea of a touch screen assistant that could fit in the palm of your hand was a dream. The device that started it all – the iPhone – is celebrating its 15th birthday on January 9 – and we’re looking back at how we got from there to here.
iPhone Turns 15
In January of 2007, Steve Jobs took the stage at the Macworld Convention. What he pitched was revolutionary – a touch-screen phone with digital assistant features, entertainment features and more – pretty much everything you could dream of. Just a few months later on June 29, that dream became a reality and the first iPhone hit stores.
BankMyCell writes, “The iPhone was the first touch screen phone to have a build in MP3 player (iPod) and a fully working web browser, it really was a fantastic innovation. The iPhone sold over one billion phones in the first 9 years and made up 53.89% of Apple’s revenue in 2019.”
At the time of its release, the revolutionary device sold like wildfire. People still talk about the long lines waiting to get their iPhone and remember the inelegant and sharp-edged device fondly. But even holding that technological wonder in your hands and thinking of possibility, few people were able to imagine what iPhone would evolve into – and how far it would come in 15 short years.
The First iPhone
Before the iPhone, accessing the web (or doing much of anything) on a phone was a laborious and irritating task. Web browsers that could access the internet normally didn’t exist yet, so you were left trying to navigate a feature-lite and often buggy mobile version. They weren’t like the mobile versions of today that make them screen-friendly, they simply offered fewer features and were broken more often than not. And even if you could access a working mobile site, the phone was half keyboard and the screen was tiny.
The iPhone changed all that. That very first phone was small – with just a 3.5′ display screen. But it was still larger than peers at the time, most of whom had 2″ screens, making it seem huge by comparison. It retailed for $499 compared to competitors which didn’t exceed $299. The battery could provide up to 8 hours of talk time compared to others which only offered 4 to 5 hours. Remember – at that time, phones were still used to talk as often as they were used for anything else, so talk time mattered. Now, most people might even forget that their phone works as a phone – something Steve Jobs probably saw coming a mile away in 2007.
When the first iPhone dropped, it only ran on 2G – and yes, that’s really, really slow. AT&T was the only carrier that you could contract with, and coverage was hit or miss.
Some features we take for granted today definitely weren’t in that first skinny brick. For instance, copy and paste wasn’t available at first (you had to slowly retype everything), and there was no App store. Third party apps, which are now considered the gold standard for entertainment on any smartphone, weren’t conceived of yet. And changing your phone background? Not a chance – your first iPhone dressed in business black.
Other features were lacking, such as texting pictures – and the camera left much to be desired. But what that first iPhone represented was far more important than what it could do. It represented freedom. Unchaining from a desk and still being able to access your contacts and most of what you need to stay connected to work on the go. It meant being able to access information from your pocket and having all of the convenience of your organizer with you at all times. And even then – it meant a promise for the future. Before the first iPhone dropped, the smartphone as we know it today was unimaginable. But once that first slim clunker hit hands – the possibilities seemed endless.
Our Beloved Phones Over the Years
There have been quite a few phones between that pioneer and today, so here’s a CliffsNotes version of the evolution journey of the iPhone, per ComputerWorld:
- iPhone 3G: After the success of the first iPhone, Apple knew they had hit on something glorious. July 11, 2008, the next gen iPhone – iPhone 3G – hit the market. It used a faster internet, although it had much of the same features as the original, and a lower price point – $199 to $299. Storage also doubled from 4GB to 8GB, with an impressive 16GB version offered as well.
- iPhone 3GS: On June 19, 2009, the iPhone got even faster. Storage options included 8GB, 16GB and 32GB (whoa).
- iPhone 4: June 24, 2010, the iPhone 4 reached customers. The price pointed remained the same as previous iterations, around $199 to $299 and storage was 16-32GB. Butu this version included an option for FaceTime chatting and a far more powerful camera, paving the way for features we know and love today.
- iPhone 4S: During these years as the iPhones were rolling out, iPad had also made its debut. The iPhone 4S used the same dual-core processor as the iPad 2, making it far more powerful and nimble than its predecessors. Storage capabilities ranged from 16-64GB and prices ranged from $199 to $399.
- iPhone 5: September 21, 2021, the iPhone most people recognize hit stores. This newest phone was slimmer and faster – with a massive (comparatively) 4″ screen and impressive resolution. Storage and price points were the same as its predecessor.
- iPhone 5S/5C: September 20, 2013, the newest pair joined the market. The 5C was cheaper at only $99 and the 5S ran around $199 – both offering only 16GB storage. These phones were meant to be agile and quick, with a more powerful processor, but didn’t have the workhorse capabilities of their predecessors.
- iPhone 6, 6 Plus: September 12, 2014, this bigger and faster phone was released. With a 4.7″ screen on the 6 and an impressive 5.5″ screen on the plus – this newest iPhone also included Touch ID security and an NFC chip for Apple Pay.
- iPhone 6S, 6S Plus: September 25, 2015 the newest version of the 6 hit markets. These versions were focused on more features for security and convenience.
- iPhone 7, 7 Plus: On September 16, 2016, the iPhone camera inched closer to the crystal clear quality we know and love today. Processing speed was upped and the headphone jack disappeared – AirPods became the standard. Storage in these models ranged all the way up to 256GB.
- iPhone 8, 8 Plus: Released on September 22, 2017, this newest model got faster and sleeker. Wireless charging was added and the device was optimized for augmented reality. Price points at this time were around $699.
- iPhone X: November 3, 2017, the X hit markets. With a superior camera and focus on improved screen appearance and function, the X was a pivot from business-centric to entertainment. This impressive device started at around $1K and up.
- iPhone XR: An optimized version of the X, the XR was released October 26, 2018 and had most of the bells and whistles of its predecessor – but slimmed down to function. Camera and other features continued to improve, and the screen was 6.1″ – and crystal clear.
- iPhone XS, XS Max: Released September 21, 2018, the XS versions focused on improving external durability and audio quality.
- iPhone 11: September 20, 2019 the 11 hit the market with great fanfare. Often considered the pinnacle of iPhone technology to that point (in the past, some people remained doggedly attached to older models even as newer ones were released), the 11 was an improvement across the board – every single featured optimized and updated.
- iPhone 11 Pro, Pro Max: The 11 Pro and Pro Max followed in 2019 and were more powerful versions of the 11.
- iPhone 12, 12 Mini: Released 2020, The 12 was fairly similar to the 11 with tweaks in camera quality and resolution among other less prominent features. 5G hits the iPhone world.
- iPhone Pro, Pro Max: Also released in 2020, these were more business-friendly powerful versions of the 12.
- iPhone 13, 13 Mini: September 24, 2021, the 13 hit stores. Like the 12, it was another upgraded and optimized version of its predecessors but without any major changes. At this point, iPhone had found its niche – and was just working on tweaking improvements. Pro versions joined the family later that year.
Over the years, iPhone realized that they had perfected their market and worked on making things better, faster, clearer – and more powerful. Instead of yo-yoing between features, they’ve been able to simply optimize.
What that means for customers is that you pretty much know what you’ll get when buying an iPhone and it’s going to get better as the years go by. We wish the iPhone a happy 15th birthday and wonder – since it turns 16 next year, will it be able to drive? We wouldn’t put anything past Apple.