It is almost thirteen years since Apple changed the phone world by launching the first iPhone. The period since has seen the iPhone acquire almost mythical status in the tech world. It is the only one of its kind for a variety of reasons, but that is another story (one which we intend to write as well, relax). However, while every iPhone set benchmarks for the competition, some were just that little bit extra special. So even as we get ready for the latest iPhone, here is a look back at seven iPhones that we found special:
1. iPhone (2007) – “We call it the iPhone”
All right, this one HAD to be there. The very first iPhone was a design wonder because it simply was the first time someone had fit a large touchscreen (hey, 3.5 inches was massive in 2007!) into a relatively compact form factor. What’s more, it was the first time a large touchscreen phone had been made which did not need a stylus – it actually would NOT work with the styluses – and the interface was dead cool too. Of course, as it came from Apple so it HAD to look spanking premium, all the way from the (mainly) aluminum back to the curved sides to the beautifully crafted spherical home button. Phone design and indeed touchscreen phones themselves would never be the same again!
2. iPhone 4 (2010) – The first design reinvention
The first three iPhones were broadly cut from the same design cloth, with curved sides and a slightly rounded form factor. The iPhone 4 now was a very different iPhone. The curved sides were replaced by straight ones. The plastic back (yes, the iPhone did have a plastic back for a while – just check the 3G and 3GS) was replaced by glass, and the volume buttons became round ones. The frame now had steel in it and was sandwiched between two gorgeous glass layers. Yes, the antennagate controversy would take some of the shine away from its aura, but once again, Apple had pretty much introduced a whole new take on phone design. It also marked the iPhone’s entry into the camera phone wars with a 5.0-megapixel camera that was far closer to the competition than its predecessors were!
3. iPhone 5S (2013) – Making the fingerprint scanner a thing!
The iPhone 5 was the first iPhone to move to a slightly larger display – it had a four-inch display as compared to the 3.5-inch ones seen on its predecessors, but in terms of broad design, it was rather similar to the iPhone 4/4S with straight sides and round volume buttons. The iPhone 5S for all means and purposes seemed to be an exact clone of the iPhone 5, but there were very significant differences. For one, the 5S saw the home button also double up as a fingerprint scanner, and for another, it was the first smartphone to be powered by a 64-bit processor. Add a dual-LED flash to the back, and although the 5S looked familiar, it performed very differently, and marked Apple suddenly grabbing the lead in the processor speed wars!
4. iPhone SE (2016) – Small remains beautiful
This was the iPhone that literally came out of nowhere. As Apple had launched the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus in September 2015, many were not expecting an iPhone as early as March 2016. Well, along came the iPhone SE at just that time. It marked a sort of blast from Apple’s compact phone past, as it came with a display that was of the same size as the iPhone 5S (4 inches), much smaller than the displays of the iPhone 6 (4.7 inches) and 6 Plus (5.5 inches) as well as its successors the iPhone 6S (4.7 inches) and 6S Plus (5.5 inches). It, however, had the same processor (A9) as the 6S and 6S Plus and also a very similar 12-megapixel rear camera sensor. It did not have 3D Touch, its fingerprint sensor was a generation older, and its front camera was frankly best for video calls rather than selfies, but the iPhone SE for many was THE iPhone simply because, in a world obsessed with massive phones, it proved that small could still be beautiful. And perform just as well.
5. iPhone 7 Plus (Black) (2016) – Goodbye, 3.5 mm audio jack; hello, portrait mode
The iPhone 7 Plus did not look too different from the iPhone 6 Plus and 6S Plus, its predecessors, but once again, significant changes lurked below a very similar surface. The home button became a capacitive one, which meant that it no longer moved physically when you pressed it, and significantly, it (and the iPhone 7, its small brother) was the first iPhone to be both water and dust resistant. More significantly, Apple also entered the dual-camera race with the iPhone 7 Plus, and of course, with more cameras came more iPhone terminology – portrait mode and telephoto lens were duly added to the phone photography lexicon. The phone also saw Apple make a return to a “glossy” finish with its black avatar – it got smudged easily, but after two relatively routine looking iPhones, we finally had an iPhone that made heads turn!
6. iPhone X (2017): A notch above…literally
The iPhone X was perhaps the “most different iPhone ever” in terms of both design and functionality. And in best iPhone tradition, not everyone liked the changes. The “notch,” a slim panel that seemingly cut into the display at the top and contained sensors that enabled face unlock as well as selfies, was roundly cursed by pundits and made fun of by rivals, the latter of whom then promptly copied it. The X also saw Apple do away with the home button, minimize bezels and move to a very gesture oriented interface. There was more – the iPhone X was the first to feature an AMOLED display and of course, Apple put its own spin on it, making it a far cry from the supersaturated AMOLED displays seen on some of its rivals. Yes, it was also crazy expensive but once again, the iPhone had set a benchmark for everyone else to follow.
7. iPhone XR (2018): Not THAT affordable, not THAT well-specced, still a hit …
Few iPhones have taken the sort of hammering that the iPhone XR did when it was launched. Everyone had expected it to be ‘the affordable iPhone’ as compared to the super expensive XS and XS Max. And well, it was relatively more modestly specced – its 6.18-inch display was not even full HD and an LCD, rather than an AMOLED one, and it also did not have dual cameras. What it DID bring to the party, however, were some snazzy colors, the same processing power and notch with sensors that its XS and XS Max brothers had, a very good (if single) camera, and well, surprisingly good battery life (easily the best ever seen on an iPhone). We were cynical too, but the display was surprisingly good (making one wonder if full HD, leave alone 4K, was really necessary), the camera was superb, and the battery life made one wonder if this was really an iPhone! The result: at the time of writing, it was the bestselling phone of the year.
(Akriti Rana contributed to this article)