The Apple iPhone at 5: a potted history

The iPhone is five years old today. That’s right: it was only five years ago that Steve Jobs turned the technology world upside down with his company’s take on the smartphone. It feels like it’s been around forever.

To celebrate the milestone, we’ve collected together your favourite memories of the iPhone. We also decided to put together a potted history of the best smartphone the world has seen. From the bombshell of the first iPhone to the commercial behemoth that is the iPhone 4S, from antennagate to the prototype leak scandal, here are the significant landmarks in the iPhone’s amazing history. 

9 January 2007: First-gen iPhone is unveiled

Speaking at the Macworld Conference in San Francisco, legendary Apple co-founder and CEO Steve Jobs unveiled the first iPhone in January 2007.

Apple iPhone 1Apple iPhone 1iPhone queue in New YorkApple iPhone 3G

11 July 2008: The iPhone 3G is launched

It was with the iPhone 3G that Apple also established its now traditional rapid turnaround from unveiling to launch, an approach that depends on the company’s legendary secrecy. Barely a month elapsed between the 3G being announced and hitting the shops, in a multinational launch across 22 countries.

“If you’ve been cautious and waited a year for the second generation of iPhone, your patience will be rewarded,” was our iPhone 3G verdict. “The iPhone 3G improves on the original iPhone’s audio quality, offers access to a faster data network, and sports built-in GPS functionality. You’ll also be getting in on the ground floor of the exciting new world of third-party software written for the iPhone.”

Next page: The iPhone 3GS, antennagate and more >>

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8 June 2009: iPhone 3GS is announced

The 3GS – which is the earliest iPhone to remain available today, and remains popular – was launched with the promise of faster software processing. “The S stands for speed,” said Phil Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of worldwide product marketing, at the unveiling event at WWDC.

19 June: iPhone 3GS is launched

Apple by this point had got its iPhone turnaround down to 11 days, although this time the initial launch encompassed only 9 countries: here in the UK we had to wait until 26 June.

Apple iPhone 3GSApple iPhone 3GSApple iPhone 4AntennagateSiri

The new A5 processor was far faster and allowed for vastly improved graphics and gaming. (Apple claimed it allowed the 4S to process graphics seven times faster.) The rear-facing camera was significantly improved to an impressive 8Mp (although some were saddened that the front-facing camera remained a weedy 0.3Mp) and Apple added Siri, a voice-activated ‘personal assistant’ feature that turned out to be odd, quirkily humorous and not always practical – especially in this country, where local business search was among the features that didn’t work. But it also caught the imagination and struck many users as something that would blossom in the future.

Inevitably, the launch was overshadowed by the death the following day of Steve Jobs.

7 October: iPhone 4S is launched

Just three days later the 4S went on sale in the UK and six other countries. It proved to be a curious combination: a disappointment to many hardcore fans (almost inevitably, after the degree of hype that preceded its launch) but a colossal commercial success.

Carrier AT&T reported that it saw more than 200,000 pre-orders within 12 hours of release. A few days later Apple said that over a million iPhone 4S units were pre-ordered in the first 24 hours. Compare that to the 74 days it took the first iPhone to sell a million, which seemed pretty good at the time.

“Following the launch the reaction to the iPhone 4S was less than impressed, with some analysis suggesting the new iPhone was a disappointment,” we wrote at the end of the year. “However, any negative feedback proved unfounded as the iPhone 4S sold four million in the first three days following the launch.”

Additional reporting by Matt Egan

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