The iPhone: The Dawn of a New Era
The very first signs of the premiere iPhone iteration began to surface in April 2003 when Steve Jobs expressed interest in designing a mobile platform, though he would immediately deny any speculation that Apple was working on a tablet PC or PDA.
At the time, he believed that the demand for smarter cell phones was on the rise, and that what cell phones needed was improved synchronization software, presumably with a service such as iTunes.
In September of 2005, Apple and Motorola would release the ROKR E1, the first mobile phone to support compatibility with iTunes. Jobs, however, was disappointed with the ROKR, stating that working with a third-party hardware manufacturer prevented Apple from fully implementing its own design philosophies.
One year later, Apple would abandon support for the ROKR, followed by the release of a new version of iTunes that contained references to an upcoming mobile communications device that would incorporate picture and video display functionality.
Nonetheless, it wouldn’t be until January of 2007 that Steve Jobs would formerly announce iPhone in an inspiring keynote held at that year’s Macworld convention in San Francisco (that inspiring video below).
For better or worse, the iPhone was promised to innovate in ways that previous devices, such as the Blackberry and Palm Treo had failed to do. Jobs was on a mission, and that mission couldn’t be obstructed by physical keyboards. Rather, the iPhone hardware would be made up almost entirely of its patented multi-touch screen display, which would allow for flexibility on behalf of software developers.
Despite being controversially exclusive to Cingular Wireless – which would eventually be consumed by AT&T – the first-generation iPhone still managed to sell 6.1 million units over five quarters. The success of the iPhone was a direct result of Apple clearly demonstrating their earlier slogan, “Think Different”.
Instead of simply improving concepts that were conceived long before the iPhone, Apple had forever changed the mobile phone industry, similar to the revolution Mac had sparked in the computer industry, and how iPod had strikingly impacted the music industry.
The iPhone 3G: The First Phone to Beat the Original iPhone
During his 2007 keynote speech, Steve Jobs quoted world renowned computer scientist Alan Kay who famously said, “People who are really serious about software should make their own hardware”.
The original iPhone was developed from the ground up using a modified version of OSX which, at the time, was referred to as iPhone OS. The follow-up to iPhone would bring iPhone OS 2.0 to the forefront, likewise being developed with its software in mind.
Internally, the iPhone 3G wasn’t much different from its predecessor. It sported the same processors and the same amount of memory, but the functionality of the first device had been improved. Assisted GPS, 3G data, and tri-band UMTS/HSDPA were just a few key features that were added to the iPhone 3G.
More importantly, though, was the introduction of the App Store in iPhone OS 2.0. When developing hardware that was optimized for its software, Apple had realized that adding even more software support would have to become a crucial aspect of their next handset.
Unsurprisingly, Apple was right, and surely enough, the App Store would become a central hub for digital distribution, allowing third parties to publish applications on the store in exchange for 30% revenue, which would be given to Apple directly.
The iPhone 3GS: Having the Need for Speed
Apple’s third-generation cellular handset, the iPhone 3GS, was announced on June 8th, 2009 during Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) held at the Moscone Center in San Francisco. Unlike the iPhone 3G, hardware performance was upgraded this time around.
The iPhone 3GS featured a blazing fast 600 MHz ARM Cortex A-8 processor and 256 megabytes of eDRAM. The performance upgrades featured in the iPhone 3GS fittingly led to the device’s title.
As Apple’s Senior Vice President of Marketing Phil Schiller notably declared when introducing the iPhone 3GS, “The ‘S’ simply stands for speed because this is the most powerful, fastest iPhone we’ve ever made”. Apple formerly proclaimed that the iPhone 3GS was up to twice as fast as the iPhone 3G.
Additionally, the company boasted that certain applications would be exclusive to the iPhone 3GS, such as Video Camera, Voice Control, and Digital Compass, though third-party alternatives were commonly found on the App Store with support for the iPhone 3G. The native first-party software from Apple, however, would eventually be ported to future iPhone installments as well.
The iPhone 3GS was positively received by tech critics, with Joshua Topolsky of Engadget praising the performance upgrades, but also stating that the few feature introductions just weren’t compelling enough.
Walt Mossberg of The Wall Street Journal admired the additions of video recording, a compass, and a speed boost, but criticized the software’s lack of exclusivity, saying that many users would likely be just as content to keep their current iPhone 3G devices with the latest iPhone OS upgrade.
The iPhone 4: The Thinnest Smartphone in the World
Like the iPhone 3GS, its successor was also announced at the Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco on June 7th, 2010.
It introduced a brand-new hardware design, which CEO Steve Jobs claimed was the thinnest smartphone in the world. Its uninsulated stainless steel frame doubled as an antenna, and it touted Apple’s high-resolution “retina display”, which is said to have a pixel density so high that the human eye is unable to perceive individual pixels at a typical handling distance.
The iPhone 4 introduced Apple’s own A4 system-on-chip, along with iOS 4, which abbreviated the operating system previously known as iPhone OS. iOS 4 notably featured multitasking functionality as well as the new FaceTime video chat service, Apple’s answer to Skype.
In order to properly support the software, the iPhone 4 also sported a 0.3 megapixel front-facing camera as well as a 5 megapixel rear camera.
To most consumers, however, the best aspect of the iPhone 4 didn’t lie in software or hardware. Rather, the device’s success lied in its accessibility, as it was the first iPhone to abandon the exclusivity deal with AT&T in the United States.
The iPhone 4 launched in five different countries on June 24th, 2010 and was widely met with critical acclaim. This time around, Walt Mossberg of The Wall Street Journal referred to the iPhone 4 as “the best in its class”, and Engadget listed it as the best smartphone on the market in the month of its release.
The iPhone 4s: The Most Amazing iPhone Yet
Revealed on October 4th, 2011 at Apple’s campus in Cupertino, California, the iPhone 4s boasted a slew of miniscule hardware modifications, including the upgrade to the Apple A5 chipset and an 8-megapixel rear camera with the ability to capture video footage in full 1080p.
The external design, however, remained nearly identical to the iPhone 4, with the exception of the added SIM card slot on the 4S. Sadly, media coverage of this announcement was shortly followed by the death of Apple’s co-founder and former CEO Steve Jobs who passed away on October 5th, 2011.
Despite a lack of clear design upgrades from the previous model, the iPhone 4s was able to succeed due to strong marketing tactics surrounding its brand new killer app, an intelligent personal assistant named Siri. The application would remain exclusive to the iPhone 4s until the introduction of its successor.
Siri, initially available on Apple’s App Store, was eventually announced to be implemented in Apple’s then upcoming iPhone 4s as a defining feature. Conveniently, the iPhone 4s was announced on October 4th, 2011, Siri’s birthday, where it was revealed that a new version of Siri would be integrated into iOS, and would allow for conversational interaction with a myriad of built-in iPhone applications.
Shortly after this announcement, however, the previous rendition of Siri was removed from the App Store and a new phenomenon was born.
Critical reception to the iPhone 4S was widely positive.
Joshua Topolsky of The Verge was quoted saying that “if [the iPhone 4s] were a car, it would be a Mercedes” and praised Siri for being “probably one of the most novel applications Apple has ever produced. Engadget’s Tim Stevens also reacted positively, but cited that while the iPhone 4s did everything better than the iPhone 4, it simply didn’t do anything “substantially different.”
The iPhone 5: The Biggest Thing to Happen to iPhone Since iPhone
On September 12th, 2012 – just more than 5 years after the announcement of the original iPhone – Apple held a press event in San Francisco where they would finally announce the first iPhone to feature 4G LTE support.
The iPhone 5 featured many major design changes, such as a taller 4-inch display with a 16:9 aspect ratio while retaining the same pixel density Apple had prided themselves on since the introduction of the iPhone 4’s retina display. Its aluminum shell was thinner, lighter, and more durable than previous models while the new Apple A6 chipset introduced speeds up to twice as fast as the iPhone 4s.
Despite the controversial new Lightning connector having replaced the Apple 30-pin proprietary connector, which had been in use with many Apple devices since the third-generation iPod was introduced in 2003, the iPhone 5 was met with mainly positive critical reception and outstanding commercial reception.
On September 14th, 2012, Apple had begun taking pre-orders in which over two million were received within 24 hours. Demand for the device had exceeded the supply, and pre-orders were said to have sold twenty times faster than its predecessors.
Tim Stevens of Engadget praised the iPhone 5’s high resolution screen for surpassing that of the iPhone 4s, which he considered to have one of the best mobile phone displays on the market. Nonetheless, he was disappointed with the Lightning connector as it wasn’t compatible with previous Apple devices.
This was a widespread problem among critics, with many having expected support for mini USB connectors, such as those used with most other portable devices. On the other hand, David Pogue of The New York Times admired the Lightning connector for its size and durability.
The iPhone 5s and 5c: You’re More Colorful than You Think
On September 10th, 2013, for the first time in history, Apple had announced two new smartphones at the same event.
The iPhone 5s would serve as their high-end option, whereas the iPhone 5c was developed to replace the tradition of discounting older iPhone models following the reveal of a new handset.
The iPhone 5s retained a similar design to the iPhone 5, but was available in Silver, Space Gray, and Gold variants. Additionally, the home button featured a laser-cut sapphire cover encompassed by a metallic ring.
The most notable addition, Touch ID, was a fingerprint recognition system, which allowed users to quickly and securely unlock their devices, as well as make purchases on iTunes and the App Store.
The iPhone 5s also introduced the Apple A7 dual-core processor, the first-ever 64-bit processor to be used in a smartphone. Additionally, the camera was refined with a larger aperture and dual-LED True Tone flash, which allows for much more realistic color when flash is enabled. As expected, it was also announced alongside iOS 7, which featured a much more intuitive and modern user interface in addition to new features like Pandora competitor, iTunes Radio and improved multitasking capabilities.
The iPhone 5c, on the other hand, is an inexpensive iPhone 5 redesign that shares many of the same internal components. Its primary distinction from the iPhone 5 lies in its five vibrant color options as well as its battery life being slightly improved for optimal use with iOS 7.
The $99 iPhone 5c would replace the iPhone 5 on the market as a mid-range alternative to the iPhone 5s, which is still sold alongside the iPhone 4s, which is available for free with a service plan upgrade.
While the usual announcement frame of September is still four months away, it’s never too early to start preparing for the reveal of a new iPhone.
The rumored iPhone 6 has been speculated to release in two different size variants, both of which will sport larger displays than previous models, meaning that resolution is likely to increase as well in order to meet retina requirements.
Other sources have pointed out that sapphire seems to be a feasible solution to the horrid cracked screens that often infiltrate devices.
Judging from what is released later this year (if anything at all), we may just be updating this post in a few months … and in September 2015 … and in September 2016 when bigger, thinner, better iPhones are released.
So stay tuned iPhone fans.