History of the iPhone: How Apple's signature smartphone has changed over the years

A lineup of iPhones 12 in different colors.
Brett Molina

Apple unveiled its latest lineup of iPhone models including the iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 Mini on Tuesday, during a virtual presentation from its California headquarters.

Apple touted improved battery life on all the new models; for instance, 2½ hours more per day on an iPhone 13, compared to iPhone 12. And the higher-end models, the iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max, will get an increase in storage up to 1 TB.

It's hard to imagine, but it has been 14 years since Apple launched the iPhone, drastically altering the cell phone landscape and introducing the world to mobile phones reliant on touchscreens.

Here's how the iPhone has changed since its debut:

►From iPhone OS 1 to iOS 15:A history of the system that powers your Apple smartphone

►iOS 15 is arriving soon:Here's what we know about the iPhone's upcoming update

SAN FRANCISCO - JUNE 29:  A customer holds the original iPhone June 29, 2007 in San Francisco, California.


Co-founder and CEO Steve Jobs revealed the original iPhone for the first time at the 2007's MacWorld expo. Jobs said the phone was inspired by computers, only instead of using a mouse to point and click on an application, we use our fingers. It only had basic apps such as Mail, a camera, a mobile version of the Safari browser, and the YouTube app. A 4 GB model sold for $499, while the 8 GB model sold for $599 when they launched in the U.S. in June 2007.

iPhone 3G

Launched in 2008, the second generation iPhone marked a significant step. It supported 3G wireless technology, so it performed faster. It also was the first phone to feature Apple's App Store, which allowed owners to download applications from Apple and third-party developers. It was priced at $199 for the 8 GB model (back when you paid for phones through monthly bill fees instead of upfront), and $299 for the 16 GB model.

iPhone 3GS

The 2009 model of iPhone boasted a big boost in battery life, a 3-megapixel autofocus camera, hands-free voice control and streamlined controls for shooting video. It also got a bump in storage, with 16 GB and 32 GB models. The corresponding update to iOS delivered several notable features including the ability to use the keyboard while holding the phone sideways (landscape mode).

An AT&T customer tries out an Apple iPhone 4 at an AT&T store in Palo Alto, Calif., in this Jan. 11, 2011 file photo.

iPhone 4

An important release for multiple reasons. First, Apple ditches the curved body for more distinct edges that the company claimed at the time was the "thinnest smartphone ever." There was also a new Retina display for sharper images and video and a 5-megapixel camera with LED flash. The phone introduced iPhone owners to FaceTime. Also, it was the first iPhone available beyond AT&T subscribers, as Verizon finally landed the coveted smartphone.

However, several users reported issues with reception on the phone, supposedly linked to gripping the phone in a way that blocked the antenna on the device. In July 2010, Apple put out a statement saying it was due to the iPhone not displaying the correct number of bars signaling good reception.

iPhone 4S

In 2011, Apple released a new iPhone with an upgraded chip to make the smartphone a lot faster compared to earlier models. The 4S included an 8-megapixel camera with custom lenses and an advanced hybrid IR filter to create sharper images and videos. You could also take pictures directly from the lock screen, or use the volume button to snap a picture. This release also marked the debut of Siri.

iPhone 5

While the S models delivered subtle upgrades, the newly numbered versions of iPhones provided meatier updates. Most notable, the body of iPhone 5 in 2012 was 20% lighter and 18% thinner than the 4S, along with a 4-inch Retina display, larger than the 3.5-inch screen on the previous model. This was also the first smartphone to support the new Lightning connector for charging.

iPhone 5S and iPhone 5C

In 2013, Apple unveiled two versions of the iPhone: the standard upgrade in 5S and a budget version in the 5C. The 5S included a more powerful processing chip, an 8-megapixel iSight camera, and the addition of Touch ID, allowing users to log in to their smartphones with their fingerprints. The 5C contained the same guts as the 5, but was available at a lower price and in five colors: blue, green, pink, yellow and white.

A shopper tries out the new Apple iPhone 6 at the Apple Store on the first day of sales of the new phone in Germany on September 19, 2014 in Berlin, Germany.

iPhone 6

As Samsung ascends in popularity with its big-screen smartphones, Apple joined the party with the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus in 2014. The iPhone 6 featured a 4.7-inch display, while the 6 Plus had a 5.5-inch display. Along with the typical upgrades in performance and camera, the 6 models were also the first to feature Apple Pay, a way to make payments using your smartphone.

iPhone 6S

The trend of standard and plus-sized smartphones continued in 2015, but this one mattered because it would be the last flagship model to include a headphone jack. The devices also used 3D Touch, a feature where users could perform different tasks based on the amount of force placed on the touchscreen. For example, pressing lightly or pressing and holding would provide different options for users.

iPhone SE

The rare time Apple would launch an iPhone in the spring happened in 2016. The SE appealed to customers who wanted a newer smartphone but at a lower price and a size smaller than the big-screen iPhones. It featured the same processing power as the iPhone 6S, and included touches such as a 12-megapixel iSight camera, 4K video support, Touch ID and Apple Pay. Last year, Apple launched a second-generation model running the same processing power as iPhone 11 with a 4.7-inch display.

Customers check out the new Apple iPhone 7 at the Apple Store at the Grove in Los Angeles on Friday, Sept. 16, 2016.

iPhone 7

The 2016 model returns to its rounded body roots, ditching the cleaner edges introduced in iPhone 4. The device also featured stereo speakers and was the first iPhone to be resistant to dust and water. This is also the first model requiring users to plug in wired Apple earbuds using the Lightning connector, since the headphone jack was removed. The 7 Plus model was the first to use dual cameras on the back of the phone.

iPhone 8

In 2017, Apple introduced iPhones with new glass and aluminum designs, updated cameras capable of supporting augmented reality and Portrait Mode (if you had the iPhone 8 Plus), as well as support for wireless charging. And, of course, the typical boosts to performance, battery life and cameras.

The new iPhone X is displayed at an Apple Store on November 3, 2017 in Palo Alto, California.

iPhone X

Who was ready for a $1,000 smartphone? The iPhone X provided glimpses at where the look and feel of the iPhone was headed. Released the same year as the iPhone 8, it had a 5.8-inch display that covered nearly the entire front of the phone, with the exception of a notch where the front-facing camera resides. It also ditched the Home button, requiring you to either swipe up or use Face ID to log in. You could also create animated emojis, clearly the most important thing you want in a $1,000 phone.

iPhone XS/XS Max

If you were still using an iPhone 8 or older, you were about to get a huge upgrade in screen size with the iPhone XS and Max models. The XS featured a 5.8-inch display, while the Max boasted a 6.5-inch screen. And similar to the 5S/5C launch, Apple rolled out an XR model of iPhone available in multiple colors and a lower price. It had similar power to the XS but with a 6.1-inch display. It also only had one rear camera. This launch also meant an end to the Home button.

iPhone 11

Apple finally delivers a dual-camera smartphone as its baseline model. It featured ultra wide and wide cameras, the 6.1-inch display from the XR, and was available for purchase in six colors. If that wasn't enough phone, you could have upgraded to the iPhone 11 Pro or the Pro Max, both of which featured a three-camera system, better battery life, and more storage (up to 512 GB).

The iPhone 12 and the iPhone 12 mini side by side.

iPhone 12

When three models of iPhone just won't do, Apple launched the iPhone 12 in four varieties in 2020: standard, Pro, Pro Max and the new Mini with a 5.4-inch display. The iPhone 12 also once again proved everything old is new again by returning to the hard edges on the body of the device made popular by iPhone 4. These were also the first models to support 5G wireless.

►Apple's newest iPads:Here's how to pre-order the new iPad and iPad Mini

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iPhone 13

Apple is again going with a four-pronged iPhone approach for its newest lineup, available for preorder Friday and due in stores Sept. 24.

iPhone 13 models retain the same display sizes as their iPhone 12 predecessors: the iPhone 13 Mini (5.4-inch display, price starts at $699 before trade-in), iPhone 13 (6.1-inch display, $799), iPhone 13 Pro (6.1-inch display, $999), and iPhone 13 Pro Max (6.7-inch display, $1,099).

Among the highlighted new features for the devices: improved cameras for better low-light images and a Cinematic mode for videos with automatic focus.

New on the iPhone 13 models is Cinematic mode, which provides auto focus while shooting video. Focus can also be changed during and after shooting. For instance you can tap on another person in the frame to also focus on them.

Contributing: Mike Snider

Follow Brett Molina on Twitter: @brettmolina23.