2007 was the most important year in the evolution of mobile technology: it was the year when the smartphone as we know it was born. Apple’s first-generation iPhone was an innovative product that started a revolution, and not only in the way smartphones are built but also in the way they are used. Today, people use smartphones for so many things, from seeking out the top casino app to keeping in touch with their friends and relatives, making payments, reading the news, and tracking their health. Over the last decade, the hardware under the smartphones’ hood has evolved at a rapid pace. Let’s take a look at the 10 generations of iPhones that have been released over the last 10 years.
(Although Apple has released more than 10 models in the last decade, we’ll consider the system-on-a-chip as the factor to distinguish between the generations)
The iPhone – the 1st generation
The first generation iPhone was released on June 29, 2007. It was a state-of-the-art handset for its time – it was powered by Samsung’s S5L8900 System-on-a-Chip with a single-core ARM 11 CPU running at 412 MHz, a PowerVR MBX Lite 3D GPU, just 128MB of RAM, and a very slow internet connection (GPRS/EDGE) by today’s standard. What it lacked in mobile broadband (not that the networks were much faster back then) it made up with its built-in WiFi, and its huge screen by the time’s standards – a 3.5″ touchscreen with a 480 × 320 pixel (HVGA) resolution and an 18-bit color depth.
The iPhone 3G shared most of its specs with the first iPhone, coming with extra features like Assisted GPS and support for Tri-band 3.6 Mbps UMTS/HSDPA (850, 1900, 2100 MHz) networks.
The second generation of the iPhone came with a faster CPU (Samsung’s S5PC100 ARM Cortex-A8 based SoC), a faster GPU (PowerVR SGX535), twice as much RAM, faster mobile internet, a better camera, and more color depth for its screen. It was considered by many one of the best iPhone models ever.
The iPhone 4 has maintained the same screen size – 3.5″ – as its predecessors but it has worked on the resolution (960 × 640 px DVGA). Under its hood, it hid an Apple A4 ARM Cortex-A8-based SoC running at 800 MHz. It has used the same GPU as the 3GS, yet clocked faster (PowerVR SGX535 at 200MHz), and once again doubled the amount of RAM on board, to 512MB. The iPhone 4 was the first one to introduce a front camera for FaceTime.
The iPhone 4S was a big step ahead due to its 800 MHz dual-core ARM Cortex-A9-based Apple A5 SoC and its 200MHz dual-core PowerVR SGX543MP2 GPU, both of them giving a massive boost to its performance. Among its new and improved features, there’s the faster mobile internet (14.4Mbps HSDPA), a better main camera (8MP), and such. Its screen size and resolution have remained the same as in its predecessor.
iPhone 5 & 5C
The iPhone 5 was the first model to have a bigger (4″) screen with a high (1,136 × 640 px WSVGA) resolution. It has also improved its processing power a lot, pairing its 1.3 GHz dual-core Apple-designed ARMv7s Apple A6 SoC with a triple-core 266 MHz PowerVR SGX543MP3 GPU and 1GB of RAM. It has also improved its mobile broadband speed, adding HSDPA+ and LTE support to the mix.
The iPhone 5S got a new SoC (1.3 GHz dual-core Apple-designed ARMv8-A 64-bit Apple A7), a quad-core 450 MHz PowerVR G6430 GPU, and faster RAM. It was also the first iPhone model to have a fingerprint sensor, and colors beyond the usual white, black, and silver. The iPhone 5S is the first entry to our list that is still supported – it has received the iOS 10.3 update.
iPhone 6 & 6 Plus
The two iPhone 6 models released in September 2014 were the first ones to have screens bigger than 4 inches in diagonal. They also came with a new SoC (1.4 GHz dual-core Apple-designed ARMv8-A 64-bit Apple A8) and a new GPU (PowerVR GX6450 quad-core, 450 MHz) but with the same 1GB of RAM. They have also improved their connectivity speed, and came with added support for NFC, making them fit for use with Apple Pay.
iPhone 6S, 6S Plus & iPhone SE
Released in 2015, these three models improved on their predecessors by introducing the 1.85 GHz dual-core Apple-designed ARMv8-A 64-bit Apple A9 SoC with an embedded M9 motion coprocessor. All of them were equipped with the PowerVR GT7600 (hexacore, 450 MHz) GPU and 2GB of RAM. The iPhone 6S and 6S+ also came with support for Apple’s 3D Touch technology. The two “6” models came with large screens, while the SE returned to the 4″ screen diagonally to appeal to “traditional” iPhone lovers. All three models came with a 12MP back camera with loads of features.
iPhone 7 & 7 Plus
The newest iPhone currently available on the market was released in September 2016. Both models come with a 2.33 GHz quad-core Apple-designed 64-bit Apple A10 Fusion with embedded M10 motion coprocessor, a hexacore GPU, 3GB of LPDDR4 RAM, and further improvements in their cameras, their connectivity speeds, and features.
iPhone 8 rumors
Apple prepares for the release of its tenth generation iPhone this year. With no information available on the new models yet, let’s see what the rumors say about them.
Insiders expect the new iPhone to be radically redesigned, with an edge-to-edge display, doing away with the top and bottom bezels. The Touch ID and the front camera are rumored to be built right into the phone’s display. Processor-wise, it’s rumored to have the Apple-built 10 nanometer A11 SoC, both faster and more efficient than its predecessors. Among the other features rumored to show up in the new model, we find wireless charging, better water resistance (IP68 rating), and possibly a USB-C port replacing the previous models’ Lightning.
We’ll have the final details when the phone launches this fall – until then, keep an eye out for rumors about the tenth generation of iPhone to be released a decade after the launch of the original.