In 2010, Steve Jobs memorably dismissed the idea of large phones, saying that “no one’s going to buy a big phone.” He was referencing a range of devices that ranged from 4- to 5-inches in size, and went so far as to call them “Hummers.”
How times have changed. Just this week, Apple announced the iPhone 6 and the iPhone 6 Plus, which have screen sizes of 4.7- and 5.5-inches respectively. Not only are these screens larger than what has come before, but they’re sharper and more visually impressive with a pixel density of 326ppi and 401ppi respectively.
By comparison, the first iPhone, which was launched in 2007, was graced by a 3.5-inch screen with a pixel density of just 163ppi. Perhaps even more surprising is that this phone, released just eight years ago, had a 2 megapixel camera and no front-facing camera. Many smartphones released today have a 2 megapixel camera just for taking selfies. It may have had humble specs by today’s standards, but it was a ground breaking device. The iPhone sold 1 million units within 74 days and was dubbed Time Magazine’s Invention of the year.
The major talking point surrounding the release of the iPhone 3G was the introduction of the App Store. Yes, that App Store that we know, love and spend a great deal of time on shopping for bargains and new releases. The iPhone 3G, as the name implies, was able to avail of third generation mobile broadband and this, in conjunction with the launch of the App Store, made the iPhone a device to be reckoned with. Customers agreed and more than 1 million iPhone 3G handsets were sold on the first weekend.
One year later, Apple toyed with the idea of a larger screen with the release of the iPhone 3GS, but the difference was subtle. The iPhone 3GS’ screen was fractionally larger at 3.565-inches, but someone looked closely enough to spot that difference. This device brought additional functionality, such as the ability to record video, and voice control.
The iPhone 4, launched in 2010, was the first iPhone to go to space. Two iPhone 4 handsets were taken to the International Space Station to be used in a number of experiments, utilising sensors and a dedicated app. The iPhone 4 introduced the front-facing camera to the series and, while it was just 0.3 megapixels, it opened up new possibilities.
The FaceTime app, which is now an integral part of the iOS experience, was launched to take advantage of this front-facing camera and made video calls easier than ever. Meanwhile, the iPhone 4 ushered in the age of the Retina display. Its screen had a 326ppi pixel density, which has become the standard. The iPhone 4 also marked the most drastic shift in overall design to date. The traditional rounded plastic back and silver frame were replaced by a full pane of glass on both sides, and a distinctive steel band wrapped around the entire edge of the handset.
Siri announced her presence to the world when the iPhone 4s was released in 2011. She provided users with information, assistance for various tasks, and could also be called on for entertainment thanks to her quick-witted sense of humour. Just try asking her what the best phone is, for example. Siri, along with the improvement to specs all round and an eye-catching design, resulted in the iPhone 4s shipping 4 million units in just three days.
The iPhone 5, released in 2012, bucked Apple’s trend of 3.5-inch screens. While Steve Jobs maintained that a 3.5-inch screen was the sweet spot, the taller iPhone 5 with its 4-inch screen enabled 16:9 viewing. And while the handset was taller, the device was both thinner and lighter. The iPhone 5 featured a matte aluminium for a premium look and moved some ports around for added convenience. It also saw the introduction of the new Lightning connector. Apple could do no wrong and the iPhone 5 sold over 5 million units in three days.
In 2013, Apple once again surprised onlookers by releasing two very different iPhone devices. The iPhone 5s was pitched as the more premium offering with its distinctive and stylish colour options and a Touch ID fingerprint sensor. It wasn’t just the exterior that received some attention. The release of iOS 7 gave the iPhone’s interface a touch-up with new typography, icons, and transitions.
Alongside the aluminium-framed 5s, Apple announced the iPhone 5c as a more affordable option for those who wanted the iPhone experience, but didn’t want to be left with the previous year’s device. And, of course, it was most notable for its range of vibrant coloured shells. It was the first time that a plastic material was used on an iPhone since the 3GS in 2009.
That brings us to Apple’s latest announcements, the iPhone 6 and the iPhone 6 Plus. While they are significantly larger than what Steve Jobs may have envisioned, they are incredibly thin. The iPhone 6 is just 4.7-inches, making it the thinnest iPhone that Apple has produced, while the iPhone 6 Plus is 7.1mm thick. And, as you’d expect, they are beautiful devices.
Yet, Apple has again revitalised the aesthetic appearance of its trademark handset. Gone are the sharp edges, replaced by a completely smooth and continuous surface as the aluminium body seamlessly meets with the glass display on the front. As with the iPhone 5s, you’ll be able to choose from three distinctive colours: silver, space gray or gold.
The iPhone’s design may have changed significantly, particularly in recent years, but certain aspects have remained the same. It is still a much sought-after device, it has retained its quality standards, and Apple continues to produce a device that looks stunning. The iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus are a new size with new features and specs, but at their core, they are still iPhones. While Steve Jobs may not have envisioned the large smartphone and phablet revolution, Apple has broken away from its trademark in order to give its users what they want.