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Ranking ten years of iPhone releases

by Brandon Russell | November 1, 2017

In just a few days, Apple will release the iPhone X, a device the company describes as the future of the smartphone. We don’t yet know if it’ll live up to the monumental hype, but we do know this: It’s been a long time since there’s been this much excitement for an iPhone.

Before we head into Apple’s future, we wanted to reflect on the iPhone family as a whole. Apple’s iPhone is often regarded as one of the most important and influential the world has ever seen, helping to usher in the modern smartphone as we know it.

Over the last ten years, we’ve watched the iPhone evolve dramatically, from big redesigns to major feature introductions. First it was a higher resolution display, then it was a fingerprint sensor. All of these innovations have led to the device we’ll see on November 3.

Each iPhone that’s been released has had an impact in one way or another. We’re ranking the past ten years of iPhone releases, from the iconic first generation iPhone to the revolutionary iPhone 4.

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T3CHSMASH

10) iPhone 3G/iPhone 3GS

“The Fastest, smartest phone yet.”

The iPhone 3G acted as a first step toward perfecting the original iPhone, which was missing a lot of key features. It introduced GPS, 3G data, and push email, along with a new design that, in a lot of ways, was a visual step down. The iPhone 3GS, meanwhile, was notable for its faster speed, hence the “S” designation. All these years later, people remember the iPhone 3G and iPhone 3GS as pretty unremarkable devices—much less notable than the iPhone they succeeded. Nothing really stood out as revolutionary, unless you consider the introduction of a compass revolutionary.

9) iPhone 5C

“For the colorful.”

Is there any device more forgettable than the iPhone 5C? Apple lauded the device as “unapologetically plastic” (yes, really) and marketed the phone as a mid-range device. There wasn’t anything inherently wrong with the iPhone 5C, but it wasn’t all that remarkable, either. Even Apple noted that it overestimated demand for the device, which might speak to the fact that it launched with just 8GB of internal storage.

8) iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus

“A new generation of iPhone.”

The iPhone 8 is a really good phone. But it’s not Apple’s future, and has thus been greatly ignored by the company’s fervent fanbase. Which is this year’s biggest shame. Any Apple fans would be perfectly satisfied by the iPhone 8. But these same Apple fans seem much more interested in the iPhone X. If this launched in 2016, it would have been a phenomenal hit. Sadly, it’s just a really good phone that likely won’t get the attention it deserves.

7) iPhone SE

“A big step for small.”

This one holds a soft spot in my heart because it defied the big phone trend without skimping on specs. It’s not the most sought after phone around town—nobody can argue the iPhone SE was a commercial success, and it didn’t really impress critics. But it featured one of Apple’s most iconic designs and some really powerful specs. It was both a throwback and a nod to the future—and it fit in the palm of your hand, which you can’t say for most phones.

6) iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus/iPhone 7s and iPhone 7s Plus

“This is 7.”

Although it featured the same design as the iPhone 6, the iPhone 7 was a significant release. It ditched the 3.5mm headphone jack and introduced a dual-camera system. Meanwhile, it came with a home button that was no longer mechanical. The device also became synonymous with Apple saying it took courage to ditch the headphone jack. That’s almost more pretentious than calling the iPhone 5C “unapologetically plastic.”

5) iPhone 5/iPhone 5s

“The biggest thing to happen to the iPhone since iPhone.”

I still maintain the iPhone 5 design is the best Apple has ever made. (But that’s just me.) What made this generation so lauded was the introduction of the Lightning connector, excellent screen and fantastic camera. This generation also happened to be the last iPhone overseen by Steve Jobs before his passing, making the release even more significant.

4) iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus/iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus

“Better than iPhone.”

The iPhone 6 introduced a stellar aluminum design and pretty much typified why people loved the iPhone in the first place. When the duo went on sale, more than ten million units were sold in the first three days. The following year, Apple introduced 3D Touch, a clever but ultimately forgettable feature. During their lifespan, the iPhone 6 generation has sold more than 200 million units, making it one of Apple’s most successful ever.

3) iPhone 4/iPhone 4s

“This changes everything. Again.”

The iPhone 4 is probably Apple’s most significant releases to date, introducing a gorgeous design, high resolution “Retina Display,” and FaceTime. But it endured its fair share of controversy. Shortly after its release, consumers realized that holding the device a certain way degraded the phone’s cell reception. This led to Apple telling owners they were holding it wrong. But even before that, the device became famous after Gizmodo purchased a prototype that was left behind in a bar.

2) iPhone X

“Say hello to the future.”

Face ID, a 5.8-inch edge-to-edge display, and a dual-camera setup, both of which feature optical image stabilization. After several years where it felt like Apple had run of ideas, the iPhone X is the culmination of every iPhone from the last ten years. Apple says the iPhone X is the future of smartphones. The world will find out if it lives up to the hype when it’s released on November 3.

1) iPhone

“Apple reinvents the phone.”

There’s no denying the iPhone’s impact on the mobile market. It ushered in a new frontier of technology and helped spur an entire industry into action. Without it, we might not have the Galaxy S8 or Pixel 2 or even the iPhone X. By now, Apple’s January 2007 keynote to announce the device is legendary. Despite its age, I don’t think we’ll forget about the iPhone anytime soon, that’s how significant the device was and still continues to be. And why it remains Apple’s biggest and most important product launch in the company’s history.


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Brandon Russell

Brandon Russell enjoys writing about technology and entertainment. When he's not watching Back to the Future, you can find him on a hike or watching...Brandon Russell enjoys writing about technology and entertainment. When he's not watching Back to the Future, you can find him on a hike or watching...