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The iPhone turns 10: a visual history of Apple’s most important product

Ten years ago today Steve Jobs introduced the very first iPhone. He described it as three devices in one: “a widescreen iPod with touch controls, a revolutionary mobile phone and a breakthrough internet communications device.” But since its first unveiling, the iPhone has become much more than that. It’s a symbol of the tech industry, of the modern era as a whole, and has made Apple the largest company in the world in terms of market capitalization, with some people even speculating that it’s the most profitable product ever. A decade on, and it’s still making headlines. Let’s take a look at how the iPhone has changed over the years:

iPhone (2007)

10 years of the iPhone: a product history in pictures

This is the iPhone as it first appeared in 2007, laying the foundation for the modern smartphone. It introduced the classic grid-of-icons layout, the single home button, and dropped a physical keyboard in favor of a multi-touch display. It was ready for the internet and consuming media, but it still lacked a number of key features — including 3G connectivity and the App Store.

iPhone 3G (2008)

10 years of the iPhone: a product history in pictures

The next iPhone launched in 2008 with that missing piece of the puzzle: the App Store. This gave developers the chance to build their own applications, and increased the iPhone’s values as useful apps and games populated its digital shopfront. The iPhone 3G also 3G data, as well as push email and turn-by-turn GPS navigation.

iPhone 3GS (2009)

10 years of the iPhone: a product history in pictures

The first “S” model iPhone offered iterative improvements rather than big new features. Apple said it was twice as fast as its predecessor though, with the “S” standing for speed. It retained the same basic shape as earlier models, including a 3.5-inch, 480 x 320 display. Oh, and users finally got the option to copy and paste text.

iPhone 4 (2010)

10 years of the iPhone: a product history in pictures

The first major redesign of the iPhone bought stainless steel and glass to the table, as well as a new, squarer look with rounded corners. It was unveiled as the thinnest smartphone in the world and was the first Apple device to use a “Retina display.” The iPhone 4 was also the first iPhone with a front-facing camera for making FaceTime video calls, and shipped with iOS 4, which was capable multi-tasking apps for the first time.

iPhone 4S (2011)

10 years of the iPhone: a product history in pictures

In 2011, the fifth-generation iPhone looked identical to its predecessor but shipped with Siri — Apple’s voice assistant, which was ahead of its time, although a little too ambitious. The phone also came with a new, rear-facing 8-megapixel camera and redesigned antenna to fix connectivity problems that plagued the iPhone 4. It was unveiled on October 4th but was overshadowed by news of the death of Apple founder Steve Jobs the following day.

iPhone 5 (2012)

10 years of the iPhone: a product history in pictures

The second major redesign of the iPhone bought a larger 4-inch display to the device and an aluminum case that kept it tough but light. The iPhone 5 also introduced the reversible Lightning connector, replacing the 30-pin port.

iPhone 5C (2013)

10 years of the iPhone: a product history in pictures

In 2013, Apple introduced a pair of new iPhones for the first time ever. The cheaper of the two was the colorful iPhone 5C, which had similar specs to the 5S, but came with a polycarbonate shell that was famously described by designer Jony Ive as “unapologetically plastic.”

iPhone 5S (2013)

10 years of the iPhone: a product history in pictures

The 5C’s pricier cousin was the 5S, which retained a near-identical design to the iPhone 5, adding new color options instead. There were big changes though: the home button was upgraded to support Apple’s fingerprint recognition system, Touch ID, and the device featured the first 64-bit processor in a smartphone (the A7). It also shipped with iOS 7, a major overhaul of Apple’s mobile operating system that dropped various skeuomorphic design touches (like fake textures in apps) for a flatter, cleaner look.

iPhone 6 and 6 Plus (2014)

10 years of the iPhone: a product history in pictures

For 2014, Apple finally went big with the iPhone, introducing the 4.7-inch iPhone 6 and the 5.5-inch iPhone 6 Plus. Both phones featured a new, curved design, as well as NFC support for mobile payments, a faster processor, and improved cameras — which had become the iPhone’s standout feature. The larger, lighter phones weren’t as sturdy as previous models though, and “Bendgate” was the Apple scandal of 2014.

iPhone 6S and 6S Plus (2015)

10 years of the iPhone: a product history in pictures

Another S year meant another Similar-looking iPhone. The glass was tougher and the aluminum case less prone to bending on the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus, but not much else has changed. The big new features were a pressure-sensitive display (3D Touch) and short videos captured with every picture (Live Photos). A year and a half later, though, and these still feel more like gimmicks than must-haves.

iPhone SE (2016)

10 years of the iPhone: a product history in pictures

The beginning of 2016 bought a surprise: the mid-cycle iPhone SE. A $399 device that looked exactly like an iPhone 5S, but with speedy new hardware inside and a Touch ID-enabled home button. The 4-inch screen was perfect for people who didn’t quite feel ready to move on to a larger device — but it was clear Apple thought big iPhones were the future.

iPhone 7 and 7 Plus (2016)

10 years of the iPhone: a product history in pictures

And speaking of the future, that’s exactly what Apple promised they were delivering with last year’s iPhone 7 and 7 Plus. The company avoided a major redesign, but still made some significant changes — including adding a dual-camera system to the Plus, making both models water-resistant, dropping the mechanical home button in favor of a fully digital lookalike, and, yes, removing the headphone jack. Apple calls it “courage,” critics call it arrogance. Either way, there’s no going back.


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