The History of
the Apple® iPhone

The History of the Apple iPhone®   

Many facets of the mobile phone have changed since the release of the Motorola DynaTAC in the 1980s and the first text message conversation in 1992. Cell phones have become smart, integral parts of our daily lives, with much more in common with a pocket-sized computer than the boxy devices of decades ago. The Apple iPhone is easily a consumer favorite brand, increasing releases from once a year to multiple models throughout the year, each packed with new features and technology.

Let's take a look at the iPhone through the years, including where it started and where it may go in the future.


The First iPhone

The first iPhone was released in 2007. Steve Jobs announced the first iPhone ever at the San Francisco MacWorld convention, and it went on sale a few months later. Despite being met with doubt from competitors and experts in the field who noted its lack of precedent and steep price, thousands of eager shoppers lined up outside Apple stores to be among the first to get their hands on the exciting new device. In just a few months, more than a million had been sold.

The original iPhone was a marvel of its time, with a flat 3.5-inch touchscreen, the ability to browse the internet through Safari and a built-in 2MP camera. It was available in 4GB and 8GB models costing $499 and $599. Each operated through 2G connectivity and a Samsung processor since Apple had yet to start producing their own internal chipsets.

One year after the iPhone was invented and released, it saw its first major upgrade — moving from a 2G network to 3G one with the new iPhone 3G.

iPhone 3G

One year after the iPhone was invented and released, it saw its first major upgrade — moving from a 2G network to 3G one with the new iPhone 3G. Although Apple wasn't the first to use 3G in a mobile phone, they were the first to popularize it in the United States and helped set the new standard for cell phones.

When the iPhone 3G came out, it could connect to the web faster and communicate more easily, with GPS and location services. Corning Gorilla Glass® with oleophobic coating protected the iPhone's screen, and models were available in either black or white. It was also more affordable than the former release, with 8GB available for $199 and 16GB available for $299.

In 2008, Apple also launched the App Store®, a hub for downloading third-party applications and games, forever changing the landscape of the mobile phone and what it could be.

iPhone 3GS

Apple released the iPhone 3GS in 2009. The 3GS was similar to the original iPhone 3G but was twice as fast and half the price. The 8GB variation was only $99, and the 16GB was $199. This was the first in Apple's lineup to include a 32GB storage option, which debuted at $299. The 3.5-inch device was available in black and white and was the first to add voice control, now standard across all smartphones.

iPhone 4

The iPhone 4's release date in 2010 marked the beginning of the FaceTime® era and was the first of Apple's smartphones with a front-facing selfie cam. The high-resolution Retina screen and newly renamed iOS 4 set a new standard for smartphones moving forward — sleeker, faster and more versatile machines. Though still only available in either black or white, the iPhone 4 had an improved metallic design with a scratch-resistant glass back panel for added durability.

Storage options expanded up to the 32GB model, which was priced at $299.

iPhone 4S

The iPhone 4S was just like its predecessor in terms of functionality, but the performance was boosted by the dual-core CPU processor and A5 chipset that allowed for hotspot connections. The glass-front, glass-back aluminum frame was scratch-resistant and available in the same black and white hues. The 16GB, 32GB and 64GB models were priced at $199, $299 and $399.

The most significant thing the iPhone 4 and 4S did was introduce the world to the first iteration of Siri®, Apple's voice-controlled assistant that's still in use today.

iCloud® launched in October 2011 and offered free storage for photos, files, documents and music with automatic wireless syncing between Apple devices. Today, cloud storage is commonplace — but in 2011, the idea of restriction-free storage on a virtual cloud shifted the way smartphones functioned.

iPhone 5

By 2012, Apple was making $156.3 billion in revenue and was a staple in smartphone technology. It was also the year they debuted the iPhone 5, still considered one of Apple's top fan-favorite phones of all time.

The iPhone 5 continues popping up on consumer lists of all-time favorite iPhone models to this day because it offered so many features and advancements without a mega price increase. The slimmer, faster 4-inch phone was the first to support LTE on each of its models. Storage options went up to 64GB for $399. The iPhone 5 still offered USB 2.0 connectivity and was the first to introduce lightning connectors for ultra-fast charging to pair with its newer, faster network speeds.

Apple started to play with color a little bit with the iPhone 5, though still far from the colors we see today. Instead of plain black or white, devices were black with slate or white with silver accents.

iPhone 5S and 5C

In 2013, the iPhone 5S and 5C updated the iPhone 5 with various fun color options, a faster processor chip with motion data processing and an all-new feature — TouchID®. The built-in fingerprint sensor would change the face of smartphone security and lead to even more advanced biometrics in the future like Apple's current face unlock feature.

The iPhone 5S was aluminum and offered a $199 16GB version in either space gray, white with silver or the all-new gold. The iPhone 5C had a plastic back and frame with a glass front. Its 16GB model cost only $99 and was available in brighter colors, including a lime green, yellow, bright blue or red.

iPhone 6 and 6 Plus

2014 saw the introduction of ApplePay®, which cemented the smartphone's status as a necessary product for day-to-day life.

The 4.7-inch iPhone 6's new ApplePay feature accepted Visa, Mastercard and Amex certified payments, leading the way to today's more comprehensive digital wallets. The A8 processor was faster, and LTE network coverage supported the new turn-by-turn Apple Maps navigation and FaceTime, which had only been accessible on Wi-Fi. The 6 also featured camera upgrades and ion-strengthened glass.

The 5.5-inch iPhone 6 Plus cost $100 more than the standard 6 and was available in the same space gray, silver or gold color options. It was fast and modern — one of the most high-tech options at the time. Both devices continued implementing TouchID security.

Both the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus operated on an A9 chipset, with 3D touch display enabled and extensive internal upgrades throughout, including iOS 9.

iPhone 6S and 6S Plus

Apple's 2015 lineup extended its 2014 iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus releases with the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus.

Both the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus operated on an A9 chipset, with 3D touch display enabled and extensive internal upgrades throughout, including iOS 9. The 5 MP FaceTime camera now had Retina Flash, and it was possible to shoot 4K video. Photos were available as Live Photos, as well as still shots, simplifying smartphone photography. Both models were available in space gray, silver or a new rose gold hue, appropriate for trends at the time.

iPhone SE

The iPhone SE release in 2016 was Apple's first upgrade in frame size since the iPhone 5S, with a compact 4-inch Retina display and smooth, matte edges. Color options included gray, silver, gold and rose gold, with TouchID, 4K video, a 12MP camera and a battery life that could last up to 13 hours on a single charge. The 16GB sold at $399, and the 64GB sold at $499, marking another move toward slightly pricier devices, despite the smaller design.

iPhone 7 and 7 Plus

The iPhone 7 and 7 Plus each had an A10 Fusion quad-core processor and dual-camera setup, with a haptic home button and IP67 dust and water resistance to protect against 1 meter of submersion for up to half an hour. Color options included jet black, matte black, silver, gold, rose gold and red.

Apple made two important changes that would become permanent — eliminating the small 16GB storage size option and the audio jack. Size options now included a 32GB, 128GB and 256GB version, and Apple introduced the Airpods® for wireless listening.

iPhone 8 and 8 Plus

In 2017, the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus introduced a new glass and aluminum design, available in space gray, silver, red or a fresh take on the now-classic gold option. The body was sleeker and more durable than before, weighing in at 5.22 ounces for the 8 and 7.13 ounces for the 8 Plus. TrueTone® technology helped the screen adjust its white balance automatically to its surroundings for a more seamless user experience.

Each operated on the A11 chip, which supported augmented reality (AR) optimization and a six-core CPU. Camera improvements included a new slow-motion feature, while the speakers for video playback were 25% louder with increased bass depth.

iPhone X

Apple skipped the iPhone 9 and went straight for the iPhone X to commemorate the iPhone's tenth birthday in 2017. The X had a 5.8-inch Super Retina display screen with an OLED panel, a TrueDepth® dual-lens camera system, FaceID®, navigational gesturing and a new edge-to-edge display. The phone also featured Dolby Vision® with HDR10, auto image stabilization and a stainless steel body available in silver or space gray. This was also the first phone with fun Animjoji features.

iPhone XR, XS and XS Max

2018 built on 2017's decade-marking iPhone X with the release of the XR, XS and XS Max.

The iPhone XR was 6.84 ounces with a 6.1-inch Liquid Retina® display and A12 chipset. The aluminum and glass body continued to offer splash and water resistance, while fast charging options expanded to Qi wireless charging. Color options included black, white, red, yellow, blue and coral, with 64GB, 128GB and 256GB options starting at $749. This was the first of Apple's phones to have a 7-nanometer chip in its internal specs and portrait mode with depth control in the selfie cam. The XR also introduced Memoji support.

The 5.8-inch iPhone XS offered improved scratch, dust and water resistance with faster FaceID recognition, dual-SIM support and wider stereo sound. It offered the most powerful battery, promising up to an hour and a half longer battery life than the previous release. It was also the first to include an A12 chip with a second-generation neural engine and was available in space gray, silver or gold with a Gorilla Glass front and stainless steel frame. The iPhone XS Max built on these features. Its 6.5-inch display featured scratch-resistant glass and the same color options.

iPhone 11, Pro and Pro Max 

2019 was a big year for Apple as it released its complete iPhone 11 lineup.

The iPhone 11 had a 6.1-inch display with dual 12 MP ultra wide and wide cameras and a 12 MP selfie camera in the front. It could shoot impressive 4K videos up to 60 frames per second, with new slow motion selfie options and night mode for low light photography. The improved cameras could even take still photos during videos.

The battery lasted up to an hour more than the XS release for the 64GB, 128GB and 256GB options, which started at $699. The matte finish glass enclosure was available in six different pastel, neutral and bold shades — green, yellow, purple, red, black and white. The 11 Pro was smaller and available in gold, space gray, silver or midnight green, while the 11 Pro Max offered the same colors with a larger display.

iPhone 12, 12 Mini, Pro and Pro Max

The 12, 12 Pro and 12 Pro Max have ceramic shield protection and increased defense against dust, water and splash damage. The Pro and Pro Max come in silver, graphite, gold and blue options, with textured matte glass and a stainless steel frame.

iPhone 12, 12 Mini, Pro and Pro Max

Apple released the latest iPhone in 2020. The new iPhone 12 offers a 6.1-inch Super Retina® XDR display, A14 Bionic chipset and 5G network support. The dual 12 MP ultra wide and wide cameras continue to offer night mode shooting and record HDR and 4K video with Dolby Vision. The Pro and Pro Max options include a telephoto lens.

The 12, 12 Pro and 12 Pro Max have ceramic shield protection and increased defense against dust, water and splash damage. The Pro and Pro Max come in silver, graphite, gold and blue options, with textured matte glass and a stainless steel frame. The iPhone 12 Mini is available in black, white, red, green, blue and purple, with an aluminum design and MagSafe charging options.

2020 was also the first year Apple stopped including power adapters in the box to be more environmentally conscious in its manufacturing and shipping processes.

iPhone SE 2020

The iPhone SE 2020 was an updated version of 2016's popular device, featuring an A13 Bionic chip and the best single-lens camera system in any iPhone. The 4.7-inch Retina display came with an affordable, compact design, Touch ID, six portrait lighting effects and iOS 13. Color options included a black, white or red model, each with a home button covered with sapphire crystal protection.

What's Next in the iPhone Evolution?

A lot has changed since Steve Jobs' monumental announcement in 2007. Today, Apple is a globally recognized industry leader, with tech that extends far beyond smartphones, including services, wearables and home accessories, which can all be synced to the same iOS-connected account.

Apple is predicted to release its latest installment in the iPhone franchise, presumably the iPhone 13, in autumn 2021. Though details remain unconfirmed, experts predict overall improvements to the camera, a faster A15 Bionic chip processor, 120Hz display support and minor design changes. It will debut with iOS 15, Apple's latest iteration of the operating system, and SharePlay for connecting with friends and sharing content with screen sharing and FaceTime integration.

Stay Up-to-Date on Upcoming iPhone Generations With ecoATM

Stay up-to-date on all of Apple's upcoming iPhone releases, as well as information from other top manufacturers

Stay Up-to-Date on Upcoming iPhone Generations With ecoATM

Stay up-to-date on all of Apple's upcoming iPhone releases, as well as information about other top manufacturers. Have a used smartphone you're ready to unload? Find an ecoATM kiosk near you, and sell it for instant cash to put toward your next Apple purchase.

ecoATM is not affiliated with nor has it been authorized, sponsored, or otherwise approved by Apple Inc. All trademarks and company names are property of their respective owners.