A History of the iPhone
Apple has a rich history, and is still making history today. In fact, it has grown to become one of the world’s eminent money-makers, despite a decline in profits coming from iPhone sales. Unit sales of this flagship device have been declining steadily, from around $220 billion (₹16.3 trillion) in 2015 to about $210 billion (₹15.6 trillion) in 2017 and down to around $190 billion (₹14.1 trillion) last year. Yet, sales of higher-end but pricier iPhones, like the iPhone 11 Pro Max and the iPhone XS Max, have been rising, with sales of top-end iPhones doubling from 2016 to 2018.
This shows the appeal the iPhone holds on people, who are willing to shell out ₹50,000 or more for a premium iPhone. Apple’s latest high-ends are the iPhone 12 Pro and the iPhone 12 Pro Max, priced at ₹1,19,900 and ₹1,29,900, respectively, with an Apple A14 Bionic chipset, 128GB−512GB internal storage, a highly advanced camera system, and fast wireless charging. Incidentally, the four-model iPhone 12 series is arguably Apple’s best, which is saying a lot because Apple has been making iPhones for 13 years now.
In those 13 years, Apple deserves plenty of credit for leading the way in advancing the smartphone by leveraging advancements in various technologies, particularly in the development of printed circuit boards (PCBs). What PCBs are capable of doing has rapidly advanced since the first iPhone was created. Specifically, modern PCBs have eliminated the need for wires by routing nets with copper on multilayer boards, thereby allowing them to be used in smaller and more advanced devices. And with PCB design software continually improving, there’s no doubt Apple will continue adding to the iPhone’s long, colourful history.
An icon is born
It was in 2007 when the late Steve Jobs, Apple co-founder and former CEO, unveiled the first ever iPhone. Back then, Jobs boasted that the iPhone was “an iPod, a phone, and an internet communicator” all in one, and those words would ultimately prove prescient.
The first iPhone is widely credited for jumpstarting the rise of the smartphone, laying out a blueprint of what a mobile device ought to be. Its specifications — a 3.5-inch screen, a 2-megapixel camera, and 16GB of storage — are primitive by today’s standards, and it couldn’t even support third-party apps. That said, the original iPhone was largely ahead of its time, and its multi-touch display helped usher in the touch-based operating systems that are now the norm for smartphones, tablets, and computers everywhere.
In hindsight, it would be reasonable to surmise that Jobs was anticipating a degree of success for the original iPhone. But it’s unlikely that Jobs could’ve predicted this much success, and for it to be the game changer it has become — fundamentally changing the way people communicate, seek entertainment, and access the internet.
The original gets an upgrade
In 2008, Apple launched the iPhone 3G, which was a marked improvement from its direct predecessor. Its notable upgrades included the inclusion of 3G support and a GPS sensor for location monitoring, along with enhancements in speed. Most importantly, the iPhone 3G introduced the App Store, in effect turning it into an actual computing device rather than just a phone that could access the internet.
Then, in 2009, the iPhone 3G’s successor was launched in the form of the iPhone 3GS. This iPhone iteration is notable because it was a more polished version of the iPhone 3G, and introduced the first major upgrades to the iPhone: a 3-megapixel camera, voice control support, multimedia messaging support, cut-copy-paste functionality, and longer battery life.
The iPhone gets a facelift
The iPhone line is a case study in evolution, with Apple for the most part choosing to refine the phone rather than make drastic changes. And it seems that Apple is almost always ahead of its competition. Case in point: the iPhone 4’s biggest upgrade was its camera. Specifically, it introduced the selfie camera, along with HD video recording, which Wired describes as the ‘biggest thing in cameras since Kodak’.
The iPhone 4 is also notable for being the first iPhone to get a major redesign. This facelift made the iPhone 4 sleeker and more aesthetically pleasing, with a thinner profile and sharper shape compared to its predecessors. Its body was also made from glass supported by a stainless steel trim around its edges. Additionally, the iPhone 4 introduced Retina display, while the iPhone 4s, the iPhone 4’s direct successor, first featured the voice assistant Siri.
Getting bigger, getting better
The launch of the iPhone 5 in 2012 marked the beginning of what would be a trend that continues to this day: Apple getting bigger and better with each release. The iPhone 5’s screen size, for instance, was four inches bigger than previous iPhones, and was the first to offer the Lightning charging port still present in today’s models.
The iPhone 6 series, which included the iPhone 6, the iPhone 6 Plus, the iPhone 6S, and the iPhone 6s Plus, all sported larger screens with thinner bezels, and were the first iPhones to feature 3D touch. This line would serve as the blueprint for the next iterations of the iPhone, with each being subtly better than the previous one.
X and beyond
The iPhone’s next major upgrade was the iPhone X, which was released in 2017 along with the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus. Aside from being an improvement on the previous models, the iPhone X is also notable not only for sporting Apple’s first edge-to-edge OLED screen, but also for doing away with the home button and offering facial recognition.
Consequentially, the iPhone X provided the template for the look and feel of the iPhones that has since been released. They include the current iPhone 12 line-up, as well as last year’s iPhone 11 series, which made history by being the first Apple flagship made in India. Production of the iPhone 11 began in July 2019 at the Foxconn plant near Chennai, and marked the first time India has manufactured a top-of-the-line model (as part of the government’s Make in India program).
Having just released the iPhone 12 line, Apple is nonetheless working on adding milestones to the iPhone’s history. In fact, development of both the iPhone 13 and 14 are already underway, with the former rumoured to be sporting a 120Hz screen and soft board batteries (that will increase battery life considerably) and the latter reportedly set to debut a 4nm A16 chip.
These are exciting times for Apple and the iPhone, whose long, colourful history is testament to years of innovation, risk-taking, and trend setting from Apple. It’s the ultimate success story, and maybe something that not even Steve Jobs could’ve predicted back in 2007.