The Evolution of the iPhone: Every Model from 2007–2020

What was the first iPhone? Did it have a camera? How many versions of the iPhone are there? We'll answer these questions and many more.

What was the first iPhone to come out? When did the first iPhone come out? We have the full history of the iPhone right here. This article will cover the evolution of iPhone models throughout the years, and discuss the notable changes made with each release. Apple has released a total of 29 iPhones over the years, including the latest iPhone 12 line and the iPhone SE (second generation). Here is a complete look at each iPhone evolution, starting when Steve Jobs unveiled the original iPhone in 2007.

Jump To:

iPhone: June 29, 2007

Can you believe 16 GB is all you could put on the original iPhone? Granted, there wasn't nearly as much data to put on the iPhone yet and certainly no App Store. But you had access to the internet on a screen you could actually see it on, unlike the flip and slider phones of the time. And it could only handle 128 MB of memory. The camera was 2.0 megapixels— so, terrible. But a phone with a camera! Holy moly!

iPhone 3G: July 11, 2008

As far as internal specs go, the iPhone 3G wasn't much different than the original iPhone. But now there was an App Store! This iPhone got its moniker for its 3G connectivity, which meant access to internet you could actually use without wanting to throw the iPhone across the room.

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iPhone 3GS: June 19, 2009

Apple introduced the 32 GB storage option with the iPhone 3GS, doubling it from the first iPhone. Clearly, introducing the App Store changed things quickly. Between photos, music, and apps, 16 GB just wasn't going to cut it. The camera got an upgrade to 3 MP and added video recording. Apple also added Voice Control, although we’d have to wait a couple more years before the introduction of Siri.

iPhone 4: June 24, 2010

Now we’re getting somewhere. The iPhone 4 was the first iPhone to have a front-facing camera. Little did Apple know, selfies would take over the world. The iPhone 4 also got a Retina display. With 512 MB memory, it was equipped to handle a lot more than even the iPhone 3GS, which only had 256 MB of memory. You can see the technology was beginning to look a little more familiar, but 32 GB was still the maximum amount of storage the iPhone could hold.

iPhone 4S: October 14, 2011

Talk about a huge difference between the iPhone 4 and the iPhone 4S: the camera went from 5 MP to a whopping 8 MP. Now, that’s an upgrade. Apple also introduced the 64 GB storage option but kept the memory at 512 MB. Video could then be recorded in 1080p. Oh, I can’t forget— hello, Siri! Apple sold four million units of the iPhone 4S in its first week.

iPhone 5: September 21, 2012

Apple sold 5 million units of the iPhone 5 in its first week. The camera stayed the same but memory was boosted all the way up to 1 GB. You thought 3G was cool? Psh, the iPhone 5 had LTE connectivity. Hello, internet everywhere! Apple also introduced the Lightning connector with the iPhone 5. And for the first time, the screen got bigger! All previous generations' displays were 3.5 inches, but the iPhone 5 was 4 inches.

iPhone 5s & iPhone 5c: September 20, 2013

Between the iPhone 5s and the iPhone 5c, Apple sold nine million units in the first week of sales. The iPhone 5c was meant to be slightly more affordable and had a plastic shell. It was available in four different colors, but not too much else was different. The iPhone 5s, on the other hand, introduced Touch ID, dual flash, and slow-motion video. Plus, it included the M7 motion coprocessor, which opened a new realm of possibilities and also helped save battery life.

iPhone 6 & 6 Plus: September 19, 2014

Apple tends to make larger leaps between the original model and the S edition than it does from the S edition to a new model. The iPhone 6's internal specs were very similar to those of the iPhone 5s. The biggest difference was having a significantly larger screen and offering an even larger size called 6 Plus. The Retina display became HD, and the option to get an iPhone with 128 GB of storage became available. But the amount of memory was the same, and the camera didn't see a megapixel upgrade. But it didn't matter—Apple sold 10 million units in the first week.

iPhone 6s & 6s Plus: September 19, 2015

The 6s changed everything. Well, not everything, it basically looked the same. But inside, Apple upgraded the iPhone 6s quite a lot. The camera made a huge leap forward going from 8 MP to 12 MP. The memory was also doubled from 1 GB to 2 GB. After the iPhone 6 had some bending issues (#bendgate), Apple gave the iPhone 6s 7000 series aluminum to make sure that never happened again. Last but not least, 3D Touch was introduced.

iPhone SE: March 31, 2016

Don’t think I’ve forgotten the iPhone SE. It had all the awesome internal specs of the iPhone 6s in a small package and without 3D Touch. But overall, the iPhone SE was introduced as a more affordable option that people really loved.

iPhone 7 & 7 Plus: September 16, 2016

Apple finally dropped the 16 GB base model option, with iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus base models starting at 32 GB of storage and going up to 256 GB. Apple also introduced a new shiny Jet Black color. The iPhone 7 Plus proved to be more popular than previous Plus models due to its new dual camera, which made a significantly improved zoom feature possible, and Portrait mode, a software update that let iPhone 7 Plus users take impressive photos using Depth of Field. Perhaps the most controversial feature of the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus was the one Apple removed: the headphone jack. The new iPhones shipped with EarPods that plugged into the Lightning port and an adaptor for traditional headphones. Apple introduced its wireless AirPods at the same event it announced it was eliminating the headphone jack. 

iPhone 8 & 8 Plus: September 22, 2017

The iPhone 8 and 8 Plus introduced us to wireless charging with the glass cover on the back on the iPhone. The camera was awesome, with upgraded tools for editing and filtering our images. The true-tone display improved the viewing experience by automatically reducing blue-light exposure. Users eventually (mostly) got used to not having a headphone jack and began adapting to the wireless lifestyle. 

iPhone X: November 3, 2017

Speaking of awesome cameras, the iPhone X included an extra front-facing camera that let us take amazing selfies in Portrait mode. Sure, other iPhones let us take cool looking photos, but the iPhone X included Portrait mode for the front-facing camera, and we fell in love at first aperture.

iPhone XS & XS Max: September 21, 2018

Skipping right over the iPhone 9, Apple announced the XS and XS Max at its September 2018 event in the Steve Jobs Theater. These models were well named, as they were definite upgrades along the lines of the iPhone X. Both models had the front-facing camera for Portrait-mode selfies. The displays were edge to edge, and it all looked great with the Super Retina HD display. The biggest upgrade might be the smallest; the A12 bionic chip increased the processing power while decreasing battery drain.

iPhone XR: October 26, 2018

The iPhone XR was also announced at the September 2018 event, but wasn't available right away. Because it was the cheaper of the new models, quite a few people decided to wait for the XR to be available. These iPhones were smaller than the XS and XS Max (but still bigger the 7 and 8 Plus). The display was not as crisp as the XS and XS Max, but with the Liquid Retina HD display, the difference wasn't too noticeable. This model also had the front-facing camera and came in way more colors than the XS or XS Max. 

iPhone 11: September 20, 2019

newest iphone

The iPhone 11 is the least expensive of Apple's annual line, but still has enough new features to be in the running for 2019's most popular iPhone. The device features a 6.1-inch Liquid Retina display, and comes in six crisp colors. The most exciting addition may be the second camera on the back of the 11, both 12 MP, and offering wide and  ultra-wide lenses. 

iPhone 11 Pro: September 20, 2019

iphone 11 pro

For Apple customers looking for a smaller phone with a top-of-the-line display, the iPhone 11 Pro is for you. The 5.8-inch Super Retina XDR display is Apple's most crisp, and clear to date. This phone features not two, but three, 12 MP HDR camera lenses, offering wide, ultra-wide, and telephoto lenses. The color options are more muted than the iPhone 11, but there's always the option to add a flashy case!

iPhone 11 Pro Max: September 20, 2019

iphone 11 pro max

Apple's largest and most expensive phone of 2019 is the iPhone 11 Pro Max. The display is Apple's Super Retina XDR, as with the 11 Pro, but sized at 6.5-inches. The Pro Max features the same, three-lens camera setup as the 11 Pro, as well as the same color choices, making size nearly the only difference between the devices. 

iPhone SE (second generation): April 24, 2020

iphone se second generation 

The 2020 iPhone SE is the second of its kind, and is loved by those who prefer smaller iPhones. Apple takes a few cues from the past with this throwback iPhone. The 4.7-inch Retina HD display and Home button with Touch ID harken back to the original iPhone SE, and with a similarly low price. The second-generation SE offers many of the features of Apple's most expensive iPhones, including an A13 Bionic chip, advanced camera system with Portrait mode and Depth Control, high-definition video, wireless charging capability, and long battery life.

iPhone 12 mini: November 13, 2020

iPhone 12 mini

The iPhone 12 mini is a surprisingly small but still very powerful addition to the iPhone family. This thin and incredibly light smartphone measures in at just 5.4 inches and includes the new, powerful A14 Bionic chip for a considerable boost in performance over previous models. It also features Apple's latest Super Retina XDR OLED display and a host of camera upgrades, but still comes with a dual-lens arrangement. The only notable differences between the iPhone 12 mini and the iPhone 12 are that the mini is smaller and has an estimated battery life that's 2 hours shorter than that of the larger iPhone 12.

iPhone 12: October 23, 2020

iPhone 12

The 6.1-inch iPhone 12 has exactly the same features, camera specs, and processing capabilities as the 12 mini, except that it's estimated to have a 17-hour video playback compared to the iPhone 12 mini's 15 hours. This mid-range model also includes the dual-lens camera, which is good enough for everyday users. However, Apple did include some impressive upgrades to their higher-end iPhone 12 Pro and Pro Max phones for those who choose their iPhones for their camera capabilities,

iPhone 12 Pro: October 23, 2020

iPhone 12 Pro

The iPhone 12 Pro boasts some very fancy camera and color upgrades as compared to the 12 and the 12 mini, but comes in the same 6.1-inch screen size as the iPhone 12 and includes all of the baseline features present in the budget models. New camera features introduced in 2020 include a triple-lens arrangement like we saw with the iPhone 11 Pro models, but with LiDAR scanning, improved Night Mode, and enhanced zoom range and lens functions. Both iPhone 12 Pro models include the fastest aperture ever used in an iPhone. Apple has added RAW photos for superior pro editing capability, and has included Dolby Vision up to 60 frames per second in the Pro models.

iPhone 12 Pro Max: November 13, 2020

iPhone 12 Pro Max

The iPhone 12 Pro Max, features all of the benefits of the 12 Pro, but with some upgrades and a considerable size difference. The 6.7-inch Pro Max claims an 87 percent improvement on the way it functions in low light over the iPhone 11 models and features 5x zoom, which is a big deal for those who use their iPhones for professional or near-professional photography projects. The most distinguishing characteristic of this iPhone is its screen size.

iPhone Generations to Come

As you can see, the iPhone has gone through a lot of changes, from a 16 GB web-browser to a 512 GB all-in-one camera, workspace, and entertainment center. We loved learning about the history of the iPhone, and we hope you did too! Be sure to check back in and stay up-to-date with all the newest models as the iPhone continues to evolve and grow.

Evolution of the iPhone FAQs

1. How Many Versions of the iPhone Are There?

As of the beginning of 2021, there have been a total of 12 series of the iPhone, and most releases included multiple models. In total, there have been 29 different iPhone models so far, up to and including the iPhone 12 line that was released late in 2020.

2. The Evolution of the iPhone Camera

Did the first iPhone have a camera? It sure did, though not an especially powerful or clear one. Still, it was better than a disposable camera! The first iPhone also gave users access to just 16 GB of storage at most, and 4 GB on the low end. Can you imagine? 

The cameras built into iPhones have always been a major draw for the devices, and Apple has shown a company initiative to continue improving upon iPhone cameras with each release. These days, you can enjoy incredible detail and professional-level finishing just with the stock camera and photo editing options included with your iPhone!

3. When Should I Upgrade My iPhone?

For the most part, upgrading your iPhone is a personal decision. Most users make the choice based on the need for more storage space, the need for more current features or ability to use current software, and the availability of great price incentives to upgrade or switch phone service providers. If you're asking "when can I upgrade my iPhone," that's something you'll need to ascertain via your current provider, based on their rules for upgrade eligibility.

4. How Many iPhones Does Apple Release Each Year?

In the early days, Apple released one iPhone per year. That gradually changed as the releases of new models got closer and closer together from 2010 to 2013. With the September rollout, though, Apple released both the iPhone 5s and the iPhone 5c, ushering in an era of two iPhone releases per year. 2017, 2018, and 2019 each saw the release of three more iPhone models, and then in 2020 the tech giant shocked the world. Not only did they release the iPhone SE (second generation) in April, they also rolled out another four iPhones in their delayed fall announcement, rounding out their to-date collection with the iPhone 12 lineup. 

5. Why Did Apple Skip Some iPhone Numbers?

Did you know that there isn't an iPhone 2? After Apple created the first generation iPhone, the one that came after that was all about 3G internet connectivity, so the iPhone 2 was skipped. Why wasn't there an iPhone 9? Well, Apple skipped right over that as well and went straight into the iPhone X, a decision made based on it being released in the 10th year after the very first iPhone release. Apple is known for doing things according to the company's own way, so frankly we're not surprised. 

Image Credits: Youtube / Greg Wyatt 

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Author Details

Conner Carey's picture

Author Details

Conner Carey

Conner Carey's writing can be found at conpoet.com. She is currently writing a book, creating lots of content, and writing poetry via @conpoet on Instagram. She lives in an RV full-time with her mom, Jan and dog, Jodi as they slow-travel around the country.