Join us for a techie time-lapse as we review the fascinating evolution of the iPhone.

Unlike you and I, who’ve evolved slowly and painfully from a single cell over the course about 2.1 million years, iPhone burst into existence as recently as 2007. And in the years that followed, it has taken on new shapes, learnt new behaviours and conquered new heights.

The latest models, iPhone XR and iPhone Xs/Xs Max, are to the original iPhone what the Ford Model T is to the Tesla Model S. Extremely outdated.

But the journey from the first iPhone 1 (1st generation) to the latest didn’t happen overnight; to date, Apple have reimagined no fewer than 20 new iPhone devices – all more advanced than the previous.

To fully appreciate today’s level of iPhone sophistication, on iPhone Xs, you have to take yourself back to where it all began, with the very first generation…

iPhone Model List

  • iPhone 1 / 1st Generation (2007)
  • iPhone 3G (2008)
  • iPhone 3GS (2009)
  • iPhone 4 (2010)
  • iPhone 4S (2011)
  • iPhone 5 (2012)
  • iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c (2013)
  • iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus (2014)
  • iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus (2015)
  • iPhone SE (Special Edition) (2016)
  • iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus (2016)
  • iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus and iPhone X (2017)
  • iPhone Xs, iPhone Xs Max and iPhone XR (2018)

iPhone (1st generation)

Introduced all the way back in 2007, the original iPhone unequivocally revolutionised the smartphone industry.

During his keynote address where it was first unveiled, Steve Jobs claimed that ‘Apple is going to reinvent the phone’. Jobs certainly had visions of grandeur, and it turned out that he found an actual recipe for grandeur, too.

1st Generation iPhone from Apple

iPhone offered users an unprecedented hybrid of three different devices, namely a ‘widescreen iPod with touch controls’; a ‘revolutionary mobile phone’’; and a ‘breakthrough Internet communicator’.

At the time, iPhone was certainly the best looking mobile phone on the market, with very little competition really. It was minimalistic, fairly compact and built with premium components.

This iPhone featured a 2-megapixel camera, a state-of-the-art 3.5-inch display with a 480 x 320 resolution, a pretty intuitive user interface and a processor that almost clocked at 500MHz.

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iPhone in its entirety. Since it was the first of its kind for Apple, it quite literally transformed the tech company into one of, if not, the most progressive and influential mobile phone manufacturer in the world. Jobs memorably iterated, “it just works”.

iPhone 3G

Following on from the overwhelming success of iPhone (1st generation), iPhone 3G model launched in 2008. In terms of its design and internal components, it was by and large the same as its forerunner; however, it boasted some pretty important hard- and software upgrades, as well as some additional features.

Front, back and side view of Apple iPhone 3G

These included 3G data speeds (the clue’s in the name), assisted GPS, iOS 2.0 and, of course, the App Store.

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The App Store itself marks a highly momentous milestone for iPhone 3G, as it allowed users to install third-party apps on their device. Prior to this, Apple’s native apps were the only source of recreation and productivity.

iPhone 3GS

Since the release of iPhone 3GS, Apple has adopted an intermittent structure of incremental improvements to this model (embodied by ‘s’ variants, e.g. 3GS, 4S, 5s) and more significant updates (embodied by a new number, e.g. 4, 5, 6).

Front, back and side view of Apple iPhone 3GS

Whilst iPhone 3GS brought with it some great features like video recording, multimedia messaging, voice control, a faster processor and much improved battery life, the handset itself was a small, but noticeable jump from iPhone 3G.

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The 3-megapixel camera with a ‘Tap to Focus’ feature. Users could point their iPhone 3GS model towards a subject, tap an area in shot as displayed on the screen, and the device would quickly focus on it and adjust the colour, contrast, white balance and exposure.

iPhone 4

iPhone 4 introduced a whole new design concept by Apple, with Steve Jobs going so far as to claim it was the thinnest smartphone around, at the time.

Scrapping the slightly dated, protuberant body that the previous three generations possessed, its iPhone 4 model was much trimmer, with glass panel faces and a premium metal frame.

It seemed as though iPhone 4 was all about aesthetics. It pioneered Apple’s ‘Retina’ display, which was marketed as having the maximum amount of detail that the human eye can distinguish.

Front, back and side view of Apple iPhone 4

Its pixel arrangement was far denser than ever before, with a resolution of 960 x 480. Compare this to iPhone 3GS, which had a resolution of 480 x 320 and the same sized screen, and it becomes immediately visible just how revolutionary this advancement in technology was.

iPhone 4 was the first to house a front-facing camera and with it, this smartphone introduced FaceTime – video calls with friends and family over WiFi (this service can now be used over your data connection too).

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iPhone 4’s pièce de résistance was most certainly its ‘Retina’ display. At the time, Apple asserted users simply would not be able to notice any pixels from the typical distance you hold your phone at (considered to be around 12 inches from the eye).

iPhone 4S

In 2011, Apple launched its second ‘S’ variant of the iPhone, which looked identical to its precursor.

Many were expecting iPhone 5, with an all-new approach to design and functionality, so they may have been somewhat disappointed with what was actually served to them. That being said, whilst iPhone 4S was another fairly incremental renewal to the iPhone models, it did boast some great hardware upgrades.

First and foremost, the camera on iPhone 4S was distinctly superior to the one housed on iPhone 4. At 8-megapixels, it was a whole 3-megapixels better. It was also equipped with larger capacity pixels and a new lens that significantly reduced motion blur and allowed much more light in shot.

Front, back and side view of Apple iPhone 4S

iPhone 4’s comparably listless A4 processor was replaced by a much speedier and more efficient A5 chipset, with an impressive seven times the graphical processing power.

The user experience has always been conspicuously slick on iPhones, partly down to their chipset and partly down to the seamless nature of iOS, but iPhone 4S was leagues above any other iPhone to date.

Other new features made their debut on iPhone 4S, including iMessage, iCloud, Reminders, the Notification Center and, of course, everyone’s favourite virtual assistant – Siri.

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Offering a substantial improvement over its forerunner, we would have to pick the 8-megapixel camera. Images produced on iPhone 4S were much sharper, brighter and truer to life than they ever had been.

iPhone 5

Finally, Apple fans were given what they had been demanding for two years – iPhone 5. Was it worth the wait? Hell yeah it was.

The form factor of iPhone 4S had evolved, becoming taller, thinner and lighter. At a meager 112g, iPhone 5 was actually 20% lighter than 4S, and a lot of its competitors too. Despite a much leaner build, iPhone 5 was actually more durable than ever, with a new and robust aluminium body that was considerably less vulnerable to damage.

iPhone 5 side view

Other than the new design, the most evident change was the much-needed increase in screen size, from 3.5-inches, to a larger 4-inches. Naturally, the resolution increased with it, but the pixel density remained more or less the same.

With the creation of extra screen space, the general user experience was enhanced, and iPhone 5 was also able to feature another row of icons.

Front and back view of iPhone 5 in black and white colour

Apple upgraded the processer, once again, from the A5 to the A6 chip. This state-of-the-art chipset was “twice as fast” and “22% smaller” than the one before it, delivering streamlined graphics at lower power consumption rates. Speaking of which, the battery life itself was notably better than it was on iPhone 4S.

The 8-megapixel iSight camera was in essence the same as that found on iPhone 4S, however it boasted some nice speed improvements when capturing photos. The front-facing 1.2-megapixel Facetime HD camera was capable of capturing 720p, improving video calls significantly.

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The über stylish and über lightweight design of its iPhone 5 model was an outstanding illustration of Apple’s creative innovation, and was positively its biggest shout.

iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c

Its 2013 launch seemed, for Apple, to be all about breaking the mould. The tech company from Cupertino unveiled two iPhone models (iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c), in place of the traditional solo one.

What was even more unusual was the form factor of one of said iPhones, which Apple described as “unapologetically plastic”. Instead of metal, iPhone 5c is assembled with hard-coated polycarbonate, allowing for a selection of vibrant colours, including: white, pink, yellow, blue and green.

iPhone 5c in white, pink, yellow, blue and green

Beneath its glossy, colourful shell, iPhone 5c very much mirrors iPhone 5, with the added benefits of a better battery life and an improved front-facing camera.

iPhone 5s, on the other hand, has received many noteworthy enhancements. To start with, it’s equipped with an A7 processor with 64-bit support and an M7 motion processor, which double its prowess.

The camera, like its two predecessors, shoots at 8-megapixels, however it boasts larger pixel size and larger aperture. This results in a light sensitivity increase of around 33%.

As you are surely aware, iPhone 5s introduced Apple’s Touch ID feature to the world. Artfully integrated into the home button, iPhone 5s scans your finger (or thumb) as a method of unlocking the device, as well as authorising payments in the App Store. You can register several different fingers too, so you could in theory give selected friends and family access to your handset.

Apple iPhone Touch ID

We also saw the introduction of the first gold iPhone, with iPhone 5s. Unsurprisingly, because of its pastel, understated tones, it’s actually the most popular colour variant by a considerable margin.

Most Advanced Feature (iPhone 5c)

The word ‘advanced’ would surely be a push, but the “unapologetically plastic” case is the most distinguishable feature on iPhone 5c, for sure.

Most Advanced Feature (iPhone 5s)

Touch ID, of course. It’s progressive, it’s time saving and it’s far more secure than a four-digit code that could be picked up by vigilant eyes.

Back, front and side view of iPhone 5s

iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus

When Apple unveiled its iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, a media storm ensued.

By launching a 4.7-inch iPhone 6 and 5.5-inch iPhone 6 Plus, both with a stunning ‘Retina HD’ display, Apple started to win back naysayers looking for bigger screens. It’s a simple fact of life: size matters.

iPhone 5s, iPhone 6 and iPhone 6Plus screen comparison

Its iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus models resurrected some of the same design elements that the first three generations offered. Scrapping the flat build and square(ish) edges of iPhone 5s, these models were wrapped up in a smoother, curvaceous casing, creating a more organic look and feel.

Not only did they look more attractive than anything up until that point, they were also thinner, with iPhone 6 measuring just 6.9mm, and iPhone 6 Plus 7.1mm.

iPhone 5s, iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus body thickness measurements

Often you see manufacturers release flagship smartphones with top-end specs, followed by smaller counterparts with diluted and disappointing specs. In this case, both iPhones were packed with similarly powerful components, making either a sound choice.

An A8 64-bit chipset and M8 motion coprocessor meant that iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus boasted a power enhancement of 25%. The battery life saw remarkable increases, too. iPhone 6 packed a 25% superior battery, whilst iPhone 6 Plus trumped even that at an improvement of 100%.

The camera, on the face of things, could’ve been mistaken for the same 8-megapixel unit on earlier models of the iPhone. Whereas, in truth, it was much, much better.

It featured a newer, wide-angle lens, true tone flash, f/2.2 aperture, improved facial recognition technology, better noise reduction and “Focus Pixels” that enable iPhone 6 and 6 Plus to autofocus twice as quickly.

The camcorder got better too, or slower perhaps. Users could shoot super-slow-mo footage at 240fps.

Unlike the smaller iPhone 6, the full-fat iPhone 6 Plus featured Optical Image Stabilisation – technology that allowed the camera to counter-balance against movement and shaky hands, to create steady shots.

iPhone 6 Plus optical image stabilizer (a.k.a. OIS) feature
Left: photo quality without OIS. Right: photo quality with OIS

In tandem with the launch of these two iPhones, Apple also took the opportunity to announce one of its biggest developments in the smartphone industry yet – Apple Pay.

Using NFC, this service transformed iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus into a digital wallet, and let users pay for items in retail stores by tapping their iPhone against another NFC-enabled payment machine.

Apple Pay works in conjunction with Touch ID, so users have to scan their finger when authorising a payment. Digital copies of your bankcards are stored in Passbook, so Apple Pay can process the payment. The whole process takes a matter of seconds, and renders a physical wallet completely redundant.

Whilst only a small number of apps are compatible, Apple Pay can also be used to quickly pay for things online too, without the hindrance of long, time-consuming forms.

Apple Pay rolled out to US in October 2014, and reached out to other global markets, including the UK, in 2015. Only iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus were compatible with Apple Pay.

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Whilst these smartphones were tremendous advancements for Apple, in its entirety, Apple Pay is by far the most forward-thinking feature that they both offered users. Looking towards the future, can you really see wallets and the drawn-out chip and pin system standing the test of time? I doubt it. Apple simply pre-empted a future trend, and provided a solution to issues surrounding retail and online payments.

Apple Pay features

iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus

Now, we’ve arrived in 2015 and the next generation of iPhone models have been unveiled. And everything is about to change.

Okay, not everything, as Apple has marketed, but reams of new innovations have propelled iPhone to even greater heights than ever before. Perhaps the most exciting of which is 3D Touch – the next generation of multi-touch.

It changes the way you interact with your iPhone 6s or iPhone 6s Plus, because the display itself responds to how much pressure you apply to it, thanks to a clever sensor sat beneath the surface. This new dimension of interaction is called Peek and Pop, and lets you do things like preview content without opening it, like an email for example, or peep into a link without being directed to the destination.

peek and pop feature of iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus

3D Touch also brings quick actions to mobiles, kind of like the right click on a computer mouse. By pressing slightly harder on app icons, you can open a table of shortcuts that allow you to quickly do things like take a selfie, or get directions home.

3D Touch feature of iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus

The cameras, once again, have taken the next step in evolution, upgrading to 12-megapixel units. That means there’s 50% more detail in each and every shot, than photos taken on iPhone 6. And thanks to 3D Touch that detail comes to life as soon as your press an image. Called Live Photos, iPhone 6s captures 1.5 seconds before and after a shot, which plays back in motion at the press of a finger.

As always, the processing power has taken an exponential leap forward. The latest Apple A9 chips delivers 70% faster CPU performance, and an impressive 90% faster GPU performance. You only have to look at the graphs below to visualise how far iPhone has come in such a short space of time.

iPhone 6s performance

Other features have received tweaks to performance, too, though not as radical to the aforementioned departments. The Touch ID sensor responds about twice as quickly than the last generation. Everything from Wi-Fi to 4G LTE runs much faster. And iOS 9, somehow, feels even smoother than before.

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Apple’s new, innovative 3D Touch feature stands out as the most advanced one here. It is to mobile phones what the right click is to a computer mouse. We didn’t know we needed it… until we got it. And now 3D Touch is here, you bet you’ll see other manufacturers adopt a similar technology.

iPhone 6s

iPhone SE (Special Edition)

Launched in the same generation as the iPhone 6s, in Q1 2016 Apple announced iPhone SE.

Sporting an A9 chip, larger battery capacity, a 12-megapixel camera and 4K video, this compact iPhone packed a punch.

Dubbed at the time “the most powerful 4-inch phone ever”, and arguably one of the most successful iPhone models, iPhone SE was one of the last to also sport a 3.5mm headphone jack on an iPhone.

Launched with four colours, the model came in a 16GB or 64GB variant and ran on iOS 9.3 out the box. Still to this day, iPhone SE remains a popular choice for many iOS users.

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As well as its smaller design, that’s preferred by many, iPhone SE is super-speedy and sports an impressive 12-megapixel iSight camera, this little iPhone simply has all the gear.

iPhone SE

iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus

Showcased by CEO Tim Cook, the 10th generation launch came in the form of iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus in 2016.

Apple took a leap of faith with iPhone 7, removing the headphone jack that consumers had on previous models, making way for more stereo speaker vents. This change didn’t rock the Apple fans though, paving the way for Apple to show off its wireless AirPods, removing the need for traditional headphone jack (these models still shipped with headphone jack adapters from a Lightening to 3.5mm).

This iPhone model came with a different colour set too, with a popular ‘jet black’ that actually managed to sell out at one stage after launch, plus, for the first time a special edition PRODUCT(RED) in support of its AIDS fundraising campaign.

iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus in PRODUCT(RED)

Largely its design remained similar to the previous iPhone 6s models, but the iPhone 7 came with many other additions and improvements.

In terms of its spec, iPhone 7 had improved battery power, Apple’s enhanced A10 Fusion processor, as well as camera upgrades to its 12-megapixel rear-facing cameras. New optical image stabilisation and an additional telephoto lens on the iPhone 7 Plus model, giving the user improved zoom capabilities.

For the first time, we now see three size variants from Apple, giving a wider choice to consumers of both the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus models (32GB, 128GB, 256GB).

Unsurprisingly, iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus were among the best-selling mobiles of 2017!

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Without a doubt, it has to be the camera that takes the crown on iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus.

For the first time, Apple applied new and improved “True Tone” flash, a widened aperture and optical image stabilisation to both models. While opting for a dual main camera on iPhone 7 Plus, giving the user 2x optical zoom and 10x digital zoom. And of course, an upgraded selfie camera.

Black iPhone 7

iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus and iPhone X

Announced in September 2017 at the new Steve Jobs Theatre in California, iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus and iPhone X were released to the world.

For the first time, Apple released three iPhone devices in a single launch, including its anniversary special iPhone X (marking 10 years since iPhone 1st Generation). Unlike iPhone 7 release the previous year, at launch there were only two variants of these devices available, but in larger capacities (64GB and 256GB).

New features included Qi wireless charging, a faster and improved A11 Bionic processor and camera enhancements, including 4K video. With more improvements to its camera, iPhone 8 Plus also included depth-of-field and lighting effects for its Portrait Mode.

On iPhone X, we saw other advancements such as OLED screen tech for the first time on an iPhone, as well as the introduction of Face ID and Animoji (Apple’s new animated emoji feature). iPhone X sports a similar camera suite to iPhone 8 Plus.

iPhone OLED screen

All these devices launched with iOS 11 (supporting iOS 12 and above), maintaining all of Apple’s useful and innovative phone features.

With the 2017 release, we saw fewer colour options, with three variants available, and temporarily another PRODUCT(RED) edition.

iPhone 8 and iPhone X remain among the most popular iPhone models to date.

iPhone wireless charging

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Although iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus and iPhone X support similar specifications, the most notable new feature is Face ID and a new almost bezeless design on iPhone X.

Use Face ID to securely access your device, easily and simply, while you can use it with Apple Pay and open your favourite apps.

iPhone Face ID feature

iPhone Xs, iPhone Xs Max, iPhone XR

September 2018 saw Apple turn things up another ‘notch’ with its triple-threat release of the iPhone Xs, iPhone Xs Max and iPhone XR.

The bezeless look remained, this time on all the iPhone models, featuring the now dubbed ‘notch’ display. All the 2018 models sport the A12 Bionic Chip taking performance up another level, and larger OLED and LCD displays.

iPhone bigger screen

Both iPhone Xs and iPhone Xs Max are mainly separated by its size, sporting many other similarities to one another, from its cameras to the hardware. Apple’s iOS 12 comes as standard as well, featuring all the good bits from iPhone X, like advanced Face ID and HDR displays. Not to mention advanced camera tech and video features with detailed Portrait Modes and 4K video option.

Compared with iPhone Xs models, iPhone XR still has a top-end specification. Its Liquid Retina LCD display, strong selfie game and wireless charging technology, make for smartphone masterpiece.

iPhone XR was launched with six colours; black, white, blue, yellow, coral and PRODUCT(RED). We also see a return of three storage size variants for iPhone XR in 2018 (64GB, 128GB, and 256GB), giving customers more options across pay monthly deals and handset finishes.

iPhone XR

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On all of these 2018 iPhone models, Apple has raised the bar for its display and performance tech. With iPhone Xs Max you get the largest Super Retina display on an iPhone to date, sporting OLED and HDR screen tech for perfect colour and picture. iPhone XR is almost all-screen with its Liquid Retina LCD display, producing true-to-life colour.

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