The very first iPhone was unveiled ten years ago, on 7th January 2007. While it wasn’t the first smartphone, it leapfrogged far beyond the competition and launched the mobile revolution, and the world has never been the same since.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

The very first iPhone was unveiled ten years ago, on 7th January 2007. While it wasn’t the first smartphone, it leapfrogged far beyond the competition and launched the mobile revolution, and the world has never been the same since. 

By James lu. Art Direction by Orland Punzalan.

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The iPhone put the internet in everyone’s pocket

When Steve Jobs unveiled the first iPhone, he described it as “a revolutionary mobile phone,” a “widescreen iPod with touch controls” and a “breakthrough Internet communications device.” While the first iPhone didn’t even have 3G connectivity, its webkit-based internet browser made it one of the first smartphones to deliver a smooth and optimized mobile internet experience. When the second-generation iPhone 3G rolled out with both 3G connectivity and, more importantly, the App Store, there was no longer a need to sit at your desktop computer or laptop to access the internet, everything was available on your phone.

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The iPhone turned everyone into a photographer

Photographer Chase Jarvis once said, “the best camera is the one you have with you.” For millions of people, the iPhone became their go-to camera, always within reach to capture the perfect moment. While the iPhone started with just a 2-megapixel rear camera, and no front camera, it was enough to almost single-handedly kill the digital compact camera market.

The iPhone’s internet connectivity and the simultaneous rise of social media apps like Instagram and Twitter in turn, gave people a place to share their photos. According to market research firm, KeyPoint Intelligence, 1.2 trillion digital photos will be taken this year, and 85 percent of those will be with a smartphone. That’s up from 400 billion digital photos taken in 2011.

More and more software developers have shifted their focus to app development rather than traditional computer software.
More and more software developers have shifted their focus to app development rather than traditional computer software.
The iPhone revolutionized software development and distribution

The App Store was launched in 2008 alongside the secondgeneration iPhone 3G. At launch, it had 500 apps. There are now 2.2 million apps on the App Store and there have been more than 180 billion downloads in the past decade. Together with Google’s Google Play store, apps have created endless possibilities for smartphones, turning them into gaming devices, flashlights, barcode scanners, digital maps, music players, image and video editors and more.

More and more software developers have shifted their focus to app development rather than traditional computer software. In the first quarter of 2017, the combined publisher revenue for downloads and in-app purchases in the App Store and Google Play store grew to US$10.5 billion. The App Store also paved the way for indie and solo developers to publish their work. Vietnamese developer, Dong Nguyen is a famous example of a solo developer achieving success on the app store. At one point Nguyen’s game Flappy Bird was earning US$50,000 a day in in-app advertising.

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The iPhone changed mobile gaming

Prior to 2007, mobile gaming required a dedicated handheld device, and was dominated by Nintendo and Sony. Individual games were expensive and required a physical cartridge to play. The iPhone completely changed that. You no longer needed a dedicated handheld console, you already owned everything you needed, and games could be downloaded at a fraction of the cost, often just 99 cents or even for free.

This ease of accessibility has created an entire new generation of gamers, who would previously never have been exposed to gaming. Consider this: Niantic’s Pokémon Go has been downloaded over 750 million times. Contrast that with Nintendo’s entire Mario franchise lifetime sales of just over 500 million.

The iPhone even created an entire new category of touchbased gameplay, eventually persuading even long-time holdouts like Nintendo to come aboard with mobile games based on its iconic franchises like Super Mario Run.

Games could be downloaded at a fraction of the cost, often just 99 cents or even for free.

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Before smartphones, if you wanted to watch a TV show you sat in front of the TV, and if you wanted to watch a movie, you went to a cinema. You might have been able to download a show, but you would still have to sit in front of your computer screen. When the iPhone was launched, Apple created the perfect platform for mobile video delivery, capable of letting people watch video anytime and anywhere, and since 2007 every major movie and TV studio has been forced to expand their distribution methods to include downloaded and streaming services to mobile devices.

Today, video services like Netfiix, Amazon and Hulu off er thousands of movies and shows on demand. According to a recent report from Netfiix more than 50 percent of its content is viewed on some type of mobile device.

2007 START


The very first iPhone was announced on 9th January 2007. It had only 4GB or 8GB internal storage, made mostly of aluminum and introduced many features of the modern smartphone including icon grids, the home button, and a multi-touch display instead of physical keypad.

iPhone 3G

Unveiled on 9th June 2008, the secondgeneration iPhone was available in glossy black or white polycarbonate, and had 8GB or 16GB storage capacities. The iPhone 3G added 3G data connectivity, GPS and most importantly, was the first iPhone to feature the App Store.

iPhone 3GS

The first ‘S’ model iPhone was unveiled on 8th June 2009 setting the tone for Apple’s alternate year release cycle of design and hardware improvements respectively. Its 600MHz ARM Cortex-A8 processor was said to be twice as fast as the iPhone 3G. It was also the first iPhone with a 32GB storage option.

iPhone 4

The first major redesign of the iPhone unveiled on 7th June 2010. The squarer, minimalist metal and glass design is still copied to this day. Introduces the high resolution (326ppi) “Retina Display”, named after the assertion of maximum detail human retinas can perceive.

iPhone 4S

The first iPhone unveiled by new CEO Tim Cook on 4th October 2011, with Apple founder Steve Jobs passing away the next day. The 4S was the first iPhone to ship with Siri, Apple’s new virtual assistant and one of the first apps to boast conversational speech input. Storage was also bumped up to 64GB.

iPhone 5

The second major iPhone redesign was unveiled on 12th September 2012. It grew to 4-inches (despite Steve Job’s assertion that “no-ones going to buy a big phone”) and the glass back removed in favor of a lighter aluminum build. The reversible Lightning connector was introduced this year, rendering iPhone docks in hotels across the world obsolete.

iPhone 5C

2013 saw Apple introduce a new ‘budget’ iPhone. The 5C had a colorful polycarbonate shell available in five different color options that designer Jony Ive famously called “unapologetically plastic.” Internally, it mostly had the same specs as the previous year’s iPhone 5.

iPhone 5S

The 5S was released on 20th September 2013 and was the first iPhone to introduce a Gold color option and was also the first to feature Apple’s Touch ID fingerprint scanner. It was also the first smartphone with a 64-bit processor (the Apple A7) and the first to feature Apple’s motion coprocessor, the M7, which helped manage data from the phone’s array of sensors.

iPhone 6 and 6 Plus

Unable to ignore the popularity of large screen Android devices, Apple went big with two new models introduced on 9th September 2014: the 4.7-inch iPhone 6 and the 5.5-inch iPhone 6 Plus. Both phones featured a softer, curvier design and added NFC support and a new 128GB storage option.

iPhone 6s

and 6s Plus The 6s and 6s Plus unveiled on 9th September 2015 looked mostly the same as the 6. A new Rose Gold color was introduced with two big new features: Live Photos, which turned still pictures into short videos, and 3D Touch, offering advanced touch menus and context through a new pressure-sensitive screen.

iPhone SE

A surprising addition to the iPhone lineup was the iPhone SE, unveiled on 21st March 2016. The SE was a spiritual successor to the 5C, introduced as a more affordable option to the 6s series. The 4-inch iPhone had the same design as the 5S but with the same processor and rear camera found in the 6s.

iPhone 7 and 7 Plus

Introduced on 7th September 2016, the iPhone was for the first time, IP67 dust and water resistant. A 256GB storage option was introduced and the mechanical home button was replaced with a fully digital one. Apple also removed the 3.5mm headphone jack, famously calling it “courage” to do so.

iPhone 8 and 8 Plus

The iPhone 8 and 8 Plus are Apple’s newest iPhones and were unveiled on 12th September 2017. As the first iPhones with wireless charging built-in, Apple added a glass rear, something that’s been missing since the iPhone 4S. These iPhones also use Apple’s new 6-core A11 Bionic processor and sport improved rear cameras.

iPhone X (2017)

The iPhone of the future. It has a 5.8- inch edge-to-edge OLED display with a 2,436 x 1,125 resolution (~458ppi), the highest resolution display on any iPhone. The home button has been completely removed for the first time, replacing Touch ID with Face ID and gesturebased swipe controls.

The iPhone X has glass on both the front and the back to facilitate Qi wireless charging. Also new are the vertically-aligned dual 12-megapixel rear cameras, both of which have OIS (optical image stabilization). Its new quad-LED True Tone flash is also said to have twice the light uniformity of light compared to the regular True Tone flash.

It is also powered by the new A11 Bionic processor, a six-core chip with two performance cores and four high-effi ciency cores that are 25 percent and 70 percent faster (respectively) that the A10.

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The iPhone made your phone more secure

Before 2013 everyone unlocked their smartphone with a passcode or in the case of Android users, a complicated pattern. While there were already forms of fingerprint scanning out there (mostly on enterprise laptops), they were awkward to use, requiring a swiping action, and slow to authenticate. That all changed when Apple acquired biometric security firm AuthenTec in 2012, implementing its fingerprint scanning technology into the iPhone 5s’ home button as Touch ID.

With Touch ID, you simply pressed the home button to unlock your device. It unlocked instantly and its biometric authentication meant that you no longer needed to worry about people looking over your shoulder at your passcode or brute forcing it. Touch ID also paved the way for Apple Pay, one of the first mobile payment platforms, letting you conveniently and securely authorize payments with a simple tap of your thumb.

The iPhone made Apple the world’s most valuable company

Before the iPhone, Apple was known as Apple Computer. In 2007, on the same day the first iPhone was unveiled, Steve Jobs announced that the company was changing its name to Apple Inc., a company that makes much more than computers. While Apple had found great success with the iPod and Mac in the years before the iPhone, it was nothing compared to what the iPhone would do. In 2006, the year before the first iPhone, Apple reported US$19.3 billion in revenue. Last year, it generated US$215.6 billion in revenue, of which, 63 percent of its sales came from the iPhone.

The iPhone is one of the bestselling products in history, with more than one billion iPhones sold worldwide, generating more than US$800 billion in total revenue. According to Forbes’ annual list of World’s Most Valuable Brands, Apple continues to lead for the seventh year in a row, worth an estimated US$170 billion, a massive 67 percent more than second-ranked Google, who are valued at US$101.8 billion.