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 even speculating 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)

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)

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 value as useful apps and games populated its digital shopfront. The iPhone 3G also had 3G data, as well as push email and GPS navigation.

IPHONE 3GS (2009)

The first “S” model iPhone offered iterative improvements rather than big new features. Apple said it was twice as fast as its predecessor, 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)

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.” It was also the first iPhone with a front-facing camera for making FaceTime video calls, and shipped with iOS 4, which was capable of multi-tasking apps.

IPHONE 4S (2011)

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 but 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 the news was overshadowed by the death of Apple founder Steve Jobs the following day.

IPHONE 5 (2012)

In 2012, the second major redesign of the iPhone bought a larger 4-inch display to the device and an aluminum case that made it durable but light. The iPhone 5 also introduced the reversible Lightning connector, replacing the old 30-pin port.

IPHONE 5C (2013)

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 last year’s iPhone 5, but came with a polycarbonate shell that was famously described by designer Jony Ive as “unapologetically plastic.”

IPHONE 5S (2013)

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 inside 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)

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.


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 had 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)

The beginning of 2016 brought 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)

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 significant changes — including a new dual-camera system for 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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