Mobile Technology

Comparing the original iPhone to the iPhones 6 and 6 Plus

Comparing the original iPhone ...
Gizmag takes a look back at the original iPhone, to see how it compared to today's models
Gizmag takes a look back at the original iPhone, to see how it compared to today's models
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App Store (at launch)
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App Store (at launch)
Battery
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Battery
Build
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Build
Cameras
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Cameras
Colors
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Colors
SoC
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SoC
Dimensions
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Dimensions
Display (size)
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Display (size)
Gizmag takes a look back at the original iPhone, to see how it compared to today's models
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Gizmag takes a look back at the original iPhone, to see how it compared to today's models
Starting price (full retail)
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Starting price (full retail)
Starting price (on-contract)
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Starting price (on-contract)
RAM
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RAM
Release dates
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Release dates
Software
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Software
Storage
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Storage
Weight
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Weight
Mobile data (maximum supported)
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Mobile data (maximum supported)
Touch ID
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Touch ID
Display (resolution)
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Display (resolution)

Normally we compare smartphones to help you make the best buying decision. But this time we're going to line up the original 2007 iPhone with Apple's latest handsets, the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus – because, hey, isn't it fun to see how far we've come?

Release date

Release dates
Release dates

We're looking at more than seven years of mobile evolution here, so adjust your expectations accordingly.

For some pop culture perspective, the number one Billboard song when the first iPhone hit store shelves was Rihanna's "Umbrella." The number one movie at the US box office was Ratatouille.

Size

Dimensions
Dimensions

If you want an illustration of how smartphones have changed in the last 7+ years, look no further. The original iPhone is tiny even compared to the iPhone 6 – and next to the 6 Plus it's downright puny.

Another standout spec is just how ridiculously thick that first iPhone was. It's 63 percent thicker than the 6 Plus, and 68 percent beefier than the iPhone 6.

Weight

Weight
Weight

Despite being a much smaller device, the original iPhone is 5 percent heavier than the iPhone 6.

Build

Build
Build

You could say that the three things that best describe Apple products today are "light," "thin" and "aluminum." Back in '07, the company only had one out of three covered.

... though, even then, the first iPhone's backing had a plastic bar on its lower end. For its next two iPhones (3G and 3GS), Apple went all plastic. For the two after that (4 and 4s) it used a glass back with stainless steel edges. From late 2012 to today, it's been all aluminum.

Colors

Colors
Colors

Apple didn't start offering different color options for iPhones until the iPhone 3G arrived (you had the option of buying strange black front/white back options). You couldn't buy an iPhone with a different front color until the white iPhone 4 arrived in early 2011.

Display (size)

Display (size)
Display (size)

Here's another visual that tells us a lot about the evolution of smartphones. The original iPhone's screen was 60 percent as big as the iPhone 6's – and only 44 percent as big as the iPhone 6 Plus'.

This is one change that didn't happen so gradually though. Apple stuck with the first iPhone's 3.5-in screen until late 2012, and even then it was still a relatively small 4 inches. These latest models gave us by far Apple's biggest leap forward in screen size.

Display (resolution)

Display (resolution)
Display (resolution)

Those were some pixelated devices we were staring at in 2007! Apple didn't give us the "Retina Display" (Apple's branding for "sharp enough that most people won't notice any pixels") until mid-2010.

Cameras

Cameras
Cameras

All the first iPhone got you was a 2 MP rear-facing camera. At the time this was considered pretty solid for a phone camera, but you wouldn't want to snap any pics with that sucker today.

Front-facing cameras didn't start showing up until the iPhone 4 in 2010. Today the iPhones not only have much higher-resolution sensors, but they also have dual-LED flashes, good low-lit performance and, in the case of the iPhone 6 Plus, Optical Image Stabilization. That's a lot of ground covered in less than eight years.

Battery

Battery
Battery

This original iPhone was only rated for about 6 hours of internet use. Today's iPhones are rated for up to 10 hours over 3G or 4G networks and up to 11 hours over Wi-Fi.

App Store

App Store (at launch)
App Store (at launch)

It's easy to forget, but the App Store didn't launch until 2008, after this first iPhone had already been around for a year. It did receive the update then, but for that first year, early adopters were limited to web apps (remember those?).

Chip

SoC
SoC

Apple didn't start naming its custom system-on-a-chip hardware until the "A4" found in the iPhone 4. With the first iPhone, we had to rely on teardowns – which told us that it was running a custom Samsung-made processor (620 MHz, but underlocked to 412 MHz).

RAM

RAM
RAM

When's the last time you saw a mobile device with 128 MB of RAM? Even most smartwatches today have 4x that.

Storage

Storage
Storage

Apple did a bit of a shuffle here during its first year. The iPhone launched in 4 GB and 8 GB options, but the 4 GB model was discontinued a couple months after launch. The company then added a 16 GB option in February of 2008, five months before the second-generation iPhone (3G) launched.

Mobile data

Mobile data (maximum supported)
Mobile data (maximum supported)

Blazing-fast 3G speeds (ahem) were still a year away back in 2007. For that first year, iPhone owners were limited to painfully slow ~2G speeds.

If you're too young to remember 2G, try driving through rural areas until your phone shows "Edge" in its signal bar. Those are the painfully slow speeds iPhone early adopters paid for.

Touch ID

Touch ID
Touch ID

Well, considering the original iPhone didn't have 3G data, an App Store or a camera that would be remotely usable by today's standards ... no, it didn't have a fingerprint sensor.

Software

Software
Software

Interestingly, Apple branded the first version of iOS as "OS X." It did share a core with the Mac's operating system, so in a way this made sense ... but a year later Apple re-branded the iPhone (and iPod touch) software as "iPhone OS."

It wasn't until after the iPad launched in 2010 that Apple started calling it iOS – retroactively making that first iPhone's software known as iOS 1.0.

This first iPhone ultimately maxed out on iOS 3.1.3, released in early 2010, a few months before the iPhone 4 launched. If you still have one of these first-gen iPhones lying around, that's the software it will be running today – and forevermore.

Starting price (on-contract)

Starting price (on-contract)
Starting price (on-contract)

Holy cow – this is what happens when you're an early adopter and the innovation you're trying to buy has no direct competitors. Apple and AT&T were charging an insane US$500 for the first iPhone – with a two-year contract! And that was only for the 4 GB version: at launch, the 8 GB model cost $600.

When Apple ditched the 4 GB model a couple of months later, the 8 GB iPhone got dropped down to a somewhat more reasonable (by today's standards) $400 – also with a two-year contract.

Starting price (full retail)

Starting price (full retail)
Starting price (full retail)

And in case you're wondering, there was no option to buy that first iPhone without a contract. Reports from back in '07 say the 8 GB iPhone was selling for around $1,000 on eBay and Craigslist.

Going back to the original iPhone would be a pretty unbearable experience today, but we still can't overstate how much of a breakthrough it was. Even before the App Store arrived, its multitouch interface was a mobile innovation like no other, ushering in the modern era of smartphones – all of which owe an immeasurable debt to Apple's thick, slow and pixelated $500 on-contract handset.

For a time capsule look at the innovation that was eight years ago, you can read Gizmag's original iPhone coverage from January of 2007 ("knockout," indeed).

Correction: We originally stated that different color options didn't arrive until 2011, but the iPhones 3G and 3GS had models with different colored (white) backs.

5 comments
Brett Nelson
Interesting read from someone who has followed it since the beginning. Though I couldn't use the first few due to being on Verizon. One quick note though: "Apple didn't start offering different color options for iPhones until April of 2011 (delayed from the white iPhone 4's mid-2010 announcement)." The iPhone 3Gs came in white when it was released in June 2009. And before that, the 16GB iPhone 3G had a white model as well in 2008. http://support.apple.com/kb/SP495 Just sayin :)
foghorn
The iphone 3 and 4 chassis were the right size. I want a phone sized object in my pocket, not a tablet sized phone.
Lewis M. Dickens III
Thanks Will! Really nice history, beautifully presented as usual. As an early adopter to the HP 41CX I have loved these handhelds. And when Antonio Lagana, the Quantum Physicist from Adelaide, updated that and made is available only on the iPhone (How's that for Loyalty?) those two things have made life much more easy to deal with. Fun to compare that APP with the horrible TI crap that all the "Educators" are thrusting down the Parent's throats. In reality there is absolutely no comparison. But Apple refuses to acknowledge it and refuses to set it up wirelessly so that the teachers can see what their students are doing. Early on a reviewer said that it was the real reason to have an iPhone. That remains true, I use it virtually every day. No matter all the success.. two things remain unsolved at Apple. Properly marketing the i41CX+, and a proper calendar. Steve was dead wrong saying that he had a great calendar. Antiquated as all get out enough to place me in hysterics! Bill
Fretless Bass
"Well, considering the original iPhone didn't have 3G data, an App Store or a camera" I believe this statement about the camera is incorrect, the first iPhone did have a camera. 2MP if I remember correctly...
Gregg Eshelman
Another "Apple invented this" article that doesn't at least acknowledge that the first truly modern smartphones were made by Palm or ran PalmOS. Apple dragged their feet adopting 3G, higher resolution screens (which gave a huge boost to Android phones at 480x640 and higher), NFC and many other technologies their competition grabbed and ran with first. Rather than get with the technical innovation when Android knocked Blackberry down to #2 and shoved iPhone to #3 in the market, Apple chose to waste millions on lawsuits. Then there was Steve Jobs' crazy commentary about people needing to sand down their fingertips to use tablets smaller than the first iPad - while Apple was selling *even smaller* iPhones and iPDA's. There were also smartphones that ran WinCE/PocketPC/Windows Phone before the iPhone, but they mostly stuck with the very dinky 240x320 resolution. Microsoft should have issued a decree that they wouldn't license their OS for any more phones or PDAs with less than 480x640 resolution.