Evolution of the iPhone: from the iPhone to the iPhone 5S and the 5C

By Sameer Mitha | Updated Sep 11 2013
Evolution of the iPhone: from the iPhone to the iPhone 5S and the 5C

With the launch of the iPhone 5S and the 5C last night, here is a quick look at the evolution of the smartphone that has made headlines each time a new iteration has hit store shelves.

“Today we are introducing three revolutionary products of its class. The first is a wide screen iPod with touch controls. The second is a revolutionary mobile phone. And the third is a breakthrough Internet communications device. Three things - an iPod, a phone and an Internet communicator. Are you getting it? These are not three separate devices. This is one device and we are calling it – iPhone. Today Apple is going to reinvent the phone. And here it is.” –Steve Jobs

When Steve Jobs took the stage to unveil the first generation iPhone back in 2007, it was probably one of the biggest nerdgasms ever. The way in which the device was presented and unveiled was just phenomenal. It’s not that we didn't know what Apple would announce. It’s just that no one really knew what the device looked like. The anticipation and the lack of knowledge about the product made the grand unveil even more interesting and exciting.

Last night, Apple introduced the world to the iPhone 5S and the iPhone 5C. Just like the iPhone 5 before it and the iPhone 4S before the 5, we knew everything there is to know about the smartphone before it was unveiled. Sure it is a market trend to flood the Internet with leaks, which may or may not be done by the companies themselves but the fact that everything leaked turns out to be spot on is a bit bizarre and something that has disappointed us greatly.

Remember how Steve Jobs went all crazy when Gizmodo revealed what the iPhone 4 looks like? That’s the kind of secrecy we like when it comes to revealing “the best iPhone yet”. It's not that the product unveiled last night were bad; not at all. They showcase an array of interesting features and we’d like to see the devices in action.

Nonetheless, the evolution of the smartphone has been quite a journey. The table below gives you a glimpse of the evolution of the iPhone and what new features each iteration brought

iPhone 3G iPhone 3GS
iPhone 4
iPhone 4S iPhone 5 iPhone 5S iPhone 5C
Year of Launch 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2013
Thickness 11.6mm 12.3mm 12.3mm 9.3mm 9.3mm 7.6mm 7.6mm 9mm
Weight 135gms 133gms 135gms 137gms 137gms 112gms 112gms 132gms
Display Size 3.5-inch 3.5-inch 3.5-inch 3.5-inch 3.5-inch 4-inch 4-inch 4-inch
Display Type TFT capacitive touchscreen TFT capacitive touchscreen TFT capacitive touchscreen LED-backlit IPS Retina display LED-backlit IPS Retina display LED-backlit IPS TFT Retina display
LED-backlit IPS TFT Retina display
LED-backlit IPS TFT Retina display
Display Resolution 480X320 480X320 480X320 960x640 960x640 1136x640 1136x640 1136x640
PPI 165 165 165 330 330 326 326 326
Built-in Storage 4/8/16 GB 8/16 GB 8/16/32 GB 8/16/32 GB 16/32/64 GB 16/32/64 GB 16/32/64 GB 16/32 GB
Expandable Storage NA NA NA NA NA NA NA NA
Rear camera 2MP 2MP 3.15MP 5MP 8MP 8MP 8MP 8MP
Video recording NA NA VGA @ 30fps 720p @ 30fps 1080p @ 30fps 1080p @ 30fps 1080p @ 30fps 1080p @ 30fps
Front camera NA NA NA VGA 480p @ 30fps VGA 480p @ 30fps 1.2MP 1.2MP 1.2MP
OS iPhone OS, upgradable to iOS 3.1.3 iOS upgradable to iOS 4.2.1 iOS 3 upgradable to iOS 6 iOS 4 upgradable to iOS 6 iOS 5 upgradable to iOS 6 iOS 6 iOS 7 iOS 7
CPU 412 MHz ARM 11 412 MHz ARM 11 600 MHz Cortex-A8 1 GHz Cortex-A8 Dual-core 1 GHz Cortex-A9 Dual-core 1.3GHz Dual-core (clock speed unknown) Dual-core 1.3GHz
64-bit architecture No No No No No No Yes No
GPU PowerVR MBX PowerVR MBX PowerVR SGX535 PowerVR SGX535 PowerVR SGX543MP2 quad-core graphics quad-core graphics quad-core graphics
RAM NA 128MB 256MB 512MB 512MB 1GB 1GB 1GB
Chipset NA NA NA Apple A4 Apple A5 Apple A6 Apple A7 Apple A6
Battery NA NA NA 1420mAh 1432mAh 1440mAh 1440mAh unknown


It may not seem like that now, but back in 2007, the iPhone had one of the slimmest form factors available. It was a full touchscreen phone that didn't make you miss a physical keypad or a stylus. Put simply, it was the dawn of the touchscreen smartphone era. On the negative side however, the device didn't support 3G in a market dominated by the technology and the camera wasn't the best in the business. The iPhone had a great iTunes interface and also supported Google Maps.

iPhone 3G:
As the name suggests, the iPhone 3G brought connectivity to the smartphone. The look and feel of the iPhone 3G was the same as its predecessor with some tweaks internally to improve the battery life. The second-generation smartphone ditched the 4GB variant and the smartphone now supported third party apps.

iPhone 3GS:
The addition of the “S” was for speed as even though the look and feel of the smartphone was the same as the iPhone 3G, the specifications of the device were bumped up. The 3GS marked the dawn of the “S” era for the iPhones. From then on, every alternate iPhone launched has held the “S” tag. Put simply, the looks and dimensions of the “S” iPhones is the same as its predecessor. The upgrade comes in the form of hardware and performance.

The 3GS had better Bluetooth, better 3G supported faster 3G speeds, better camera and finally, video recording capabilities. One of the biggest criticisms of all the iPhones3GS was that there was no copy-paste option and that was fixed in an update that came to the 3GS.

iPhone 4:
Considered as the most radical design change to the iPhone this was the last Apple smartphone unveiled by Steve Jobs. The design was leaked online and the tech world was a buzz with mixed feelings about the industrial look and feel of the phone. The device also brought with it some impressive specifications under the hood the highlight being the Retina Display. It took the competition almost two years to come close to the pixel density of the iPhone 4 (today, of course there are smartphones that have crossed the Retina Display in terms of the pixel density). Other additions to the features of the phone included iBooks, folders and the ability to rearrange app icons as you please. FaceTime too made its debut with the iPhone 4.

But all wasn’t well for the tech giant. The iPhone 4 was met with great reviews but faced an antenna issue that caused voice calling issues. Steve Jobs held a conference to show the world “how to hold the iPhone” and also issued free cases to consumers to help tackle the problem. Another woe with the iPhone 4 was the manufacturing issues Apple faced with the white version of the smartphone.

iPhone 4S:
The iPhone 4S was extremely anticipated and hyped. Overwhelmed with the radical change brought about by the iPhone 4, people were expecting similar improvements. But they were left disappointed by the iPhone 4S. This was also one of the first events hosted by Tim Cook and not Steve Jobs. The design was the same as the iPhone 4, identical. The biggest difference was the power under the hood, the better camera and a voice controlled personal assistant called Siri.

iPhone 5:
Apple launched the iPhone 5 with a redesign and a much needed larger display. The smartphone also showed of LTE connectivity. Under the hood, the device was powered by the A6 chipset. Apart from the change in form factor, the iPhone 5 also showed off a new dock connector called Lightning. It was 80% smaller than the 30-pin dock connector. Apart from the new design, the iPhone 5 improved in all aspects when compared to its predecessor and with the larger display, users got an extra line of icons on the home screen.

iPhone 5S:
Staying true to the leaks Apple finally unveiled the iPhone 5S last night. The device is the same in its appearance as the iPhone 5 (which has now been discontinued) but runs on the all-new A7 chipset, which is 64-bit, a first for smartphones. There is also the new M7 motion coprocessor that gathers data from the accelerometer, gyroscope and compass to offload work from the A7, for better battery life. The smartphone also houses a fingerprint scanner in addition to the new hardware and improved camera.

iPhone 5C:
Apple said that they’d never make a cheap iPhone and yet, here we have the iPhone 5C that was unveiled alongside the iPhone 5S last night. According to Apple, C stands for colour and the device is available in green, blue, yellow, red and white. The hardware specifications of the 5C are identical to the iPhone 5, which is probably why Apple discontinued the 5. The 5C also comes with a bunch of fancy cases. The 5C has a unibody design and a polycarbonate shell and its hard not to compare the smartphone to Nokia’s colorful Lumia series. The smartphone doesn’t showcase fingerprint recognition or the redesigned home button found on the 5S.

So there you have it, the journey of the smartphones that defined the touchscreen era and is still a great smartphone despite its shortcomings. Do you think the iPhone is still the granddaddy of all smartphones? Let us know in the comment section below!

Sameer Mitha

Sameer Mitha lives for gaming and technology is his muse. When he isn’t busy playing with gadgets or video games he delves into the world of fantasy novels.

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