When Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone, it became one of the most transformative devices of the 20th century. Of course, Apple didn’t rest on its laurels after the launch of the first iPhone model in 2007. Each successive model introduced new technologies, components, and capabilities.
Let’s break down each of the iPhone generations in detail.
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iPhone — 2007
The original iPhone set the standard for today's modern smartphone, featuring a 3.5-inch display and up to 16 GB of storage. While its original specs don’t hold a candle to later iPhone generations, in 2007, the two-megapixel rear camera, multitouch interface, and 128 MB of RAM made this a revolutionary device in more ways than one.
iPhone 3G — 2008
Next came the iPhone 3G, which made significant strides in connectivity over the previous iPhone’s 2G capabilities. This leap forward enabled faster internet browsing, smoother video streaming, and more efficient app usage, propelling mobile internet usage into a new era. It also featured geotagging capabilities. However, it did not have any improvements in terms of storage, memory, or camera functionality. Still, it sold like hotcakes — with 1 million phones sold in the first weekend of its release.
iPhone 3GS — 2009
The iPhone 3GS was a noticeable improvement focusing on improving speed. It boasted a more powerful processor and 256 MB of RAM — leading to considerably faster app launches, web browsing, and overall performance than its predecessor. The 3GS introduced video recording capabilities and voice control, laying the groundwork for the voice-activated features we see today. Its improved three-megapixel camera with autofocus and the ability to edit videos directly on the device were standout features, making multimedia creation and consumption more seamless and dynamic on a smartphone.
iPhone 4 — 2010
The iPhone 4 was released to general acclaim. Introducing iOS 4 alongside a sleek, flat-edged design, the iPhone 4 offered a whopping 512 MB of RAM and a five-megapixel camera with up to 32 GB of storage. Its sleek, flat-edged design combined stainless steel and glass, while the debut of a front-facing camera enabled FaceTime, revolutionizing video communication. Additionally, the A4 chip boosted performance, and a new gyroscope enhanced motion-sensing for gaming and augmented reality.
iPhone 4S — 2011
The iPhone 4S marked a turning point for the iPhone series. Here, we start to see the iPhone evolve into the modern iPhones we know today. Sporting the biggest jump in camera quality to date — from five to eight megapixels — it also had an option for 64 GB of storage, though RAM was capped at 512 MB. Users could finally record video at 1080p resolution. The iPhone 4S also saw the release of Siri, Apple’s digital assistant.
iPhone 5 — 2012
The iPhone 5 sold 5 million models within the first week. The four-inch display, eight-megapixel camera, and one GB of RAM helped boost sales, which also saw the launch of the lightning connector to facilitate faster recharging. For the first time, the screen size also increased, reaching four inches to maximize the space users had to play with.
iPhone 5C and 5S — 2013
2013 saw the release of two different iPhone devices for the first time, enabling Apple fans and smartphone lovers to choose the device that best suited their needs.
The iPhone 5C was the more affordable of the two iPhone types and was available in four bright colors. It featured up to 32 GB of storage and an eight-megapixel camera with one GB of RAM.
The more expensive iteration of the iPhone 5 was the 5S, with one gigabyte of RAM, an eight-megapixel camera, and up to 64 GB of storage. More importantly, this iPhone model featured touch ID, dual flash camera functionality, slow-motion video recording, and other features that made it a technological breakthrough for the iPhone line.
iPhone 6 and 6 Plus – 2014
The iPhone 6 and 6 Plus continued the trend of releasing two devices in a year and allowed Apple customers to choose either a more powerful device or an affordable one with fewer features.
The core iPhone 6 came with a 4.7-inch display and an eight-megapixel camera, plus up to 128 GB of storage space. One gigabyte of RAM and a retina HD display resulted in millions of models sold within the first weekend of release.
iPhone 6 Plus
The iPhone 6 Plus included all those features, plus a larger 5.5-inch screen and a slightly thicker case. Ultimately, the higher price of the Plus didn't deter buyers.
iPhone 6S and 6S Plus — 2015
The iPhone 6S and 6S Plus looked the same as the iPhone 6, but its under-the-hood upgrades allowed Apple to postpone bringing out the new iPhone 7 for another year.
The iPhone 6S came with a 12-megapixel camera, improving Apple devices' photography capabilities. It retained the iPhone 6's 4.7-inch screen and boasted two GB of memory and up to 128 GB of storage space.
Notably, both the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus models came with 7000 series aluminum cases and 3D touch capabilities, both of which were revolutionary for the time.
iPhone 6S Plus
The 6S Plus had a larger 5.5-inch screen and a slightly thicker case. Like the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, the big difference between the 6S and 6S Plus was the display and size of the device.
iPhone SE, 7, and 7 Plus — 2016
Apple continued its trendsetting momentum with the iPhone SE, then the 7 Series — all three launched in 2016.
The iPhone SE was a small, compact iPhone that lacked 3D touch capabilities but included all the specs and power of the iPhone 6S. This was the first time Apple introduced a more affordable yet powerful option for budget-minded consumers outside the standard generation sequence.
The iPhone 7 came later in 2016, offering up to 256 GB of storage space and a new jet-black exterior color. This was the first iPhone iteration that lacked a headphone jack. Another first was the iPhone 7's dust and water resistance.
iPhone 7 Plus
The iPhone 7 Plus’s significant improvements over the standard 7 included a dual camera mode, an improved zoom feature, a portrait mode, and a massive software update. Like the iPhone 7, the 7 Plus was also built to resist dust and water. This pricier iPhone model proved to be highly popular with consumers.
iPhone X, 8, and 8 Plus — 2017
The iPhone X and 8 Series brought major hardware and software changes and improvements.
iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus
The iPhone 8 and 8 Plus were largely overshadowed by the release of the iPhone X. Storage size started at 64 GB, and both phones benefited from fast charging and download speeds. But the old-school look of these phones didn't attract forward-thinking consumers.
The iPhone X was named for its release 10 years after the original iPhone. It included an extra front-facing camera and a revamped portrait mode. Three GB of RAM and a 12-megapixel camera rounded out its exceptional features list.
iPhone XS, Max, and XR — 2018
iPhone considerably revamped the look and feel of its phones with the release of the XS and XS Max models, then took another big swing with the XR.
The iPhone XS saw major improvements to the front-facing camera and portrait mode. More importantly, it included an edge-to-edge display, which went well with the Super Red HD display. An A12 Bionic chip boosted processing power while decreasing battery drain.
iPhone XS Max
The big difference between the XS and Max is the screen size. The latter had a 6.5-inch screen to take advantage of the edge-to-edge display design.
Toward the end of 2018, Apple released the iPhone XR, a smaller phone compared to the XS iterations. It also featured a Liquid Retina HD display with a front-facing camera and far more colors compared to previous iPhone varieties.
iPhone 11, Pro, and Pro Max — 2019
Apple kicked things up again in 2019 with yet another line of iPhone devices.
The iPhone 11 was inexpensive and had a 6.1-inch Liquid Retina display with six available colors. It also came with a second camera on the back, and both the front and back cameras were 12 megapixels.
iPhone 11 Pro
The iPhone 11 Pro had a 5.8-inch Super Retina XDR display and three 12-megapixel HDR camera lenses for even better photography options.
iPhone 11 Pro Max
The most expensive of this flagship line was the Pro Max, with a 6.5-inch display and a three-lens camera setup. The size was the only big difference between the Pro and Pro Max.
iPhone 12 and 12 Pro — 2020
In 2020, Apple continued with another flagship line of iPhone 12 devices.
The iPhone 12 had a 6.1-inch screen and 17 hours of video playback. As a mid-range model, it had a dual-lens camera and upgrades to its software for better app functionality and processing performance. The iPhone 12 Mini operated on the same LTE networks but had a smaller OLED display and a lower price overall.
iPhone 12 Pro
The iPhone 12 Pro had extra camera and color upgrades, plus RAW photo functionality and up to 60 FPS recording.
iPhone 12 Pro Max
Another iteration of the 12 series, the iPhone 12 Pro Max used an updated version of iOS and came with other benefits like a telephoto camera and an ultra-wide camera.
iPhone 13 and 13 Pro — 2021
The iPhone 13 and its upgrade introduced a 20% smaller notch compared to previous generations of the iPhone.
The iPhone 13 saw a lot of improvements over its earlier counterparts, including the above-mentioned smaller notch, the A15 bionic chip, and better battery life.
iPhone 13 Pro
The iPhone 13 Pro had a 6.1-inch Super Retina XDR display with ProMotion photography and recording. A LiDAR scanner for Night Mode photography and up to one TB of storage space make this arguably the best iPhone for recording and snapping low-light photos.
iPhone 13 Pro Max
The iPhone 13 Pro Max included features like Apple iPhone face ID and revamped home buttons. Its defining feature was the 6.7-inch OLED screen and up to one TB of storage.
iPhone 13 Mini
The iPhone 13 Mini included most of the series’ best features in a compact five ounces. Like the iPhone 13, storage options maxed out at 512 GB.
iPhone 14, 14 Pro, 14 Pro Max, and 14 Plus — 2022
As of the writing of this article, the iPhone 14 Series is still widely available in several different iterations.
iPhone 14 and 14 Plus
iPhone 14 Pro
The iPhone 14 Pro, meanwhile, has a 6.1-inch display and the same safety features mentioned above. But it also has a Dynamic Island feature to complement the much smaller notch. The Always On display and the phenomenal 48-megapixel camera make this a favorite smartphone for techies.
iPhone 14 Pro Max
The iPhone Pro Max didn’t upgrade its screen size but it has a whopping 29-hour video playback battery life and arguably the clearest, brightest iPhone display ever made.
iPhone 15 and 15 Plus — 2023
2023 marked the release of the new iPhone 15 models, including the iPhone 15, iPhone 15 Plus, iPhone 15 Pro, and iPhone 15 Pro Max. New features include the much-awaited USB-C port and extra colors like blue, green, and red.
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